Encyclopedia of Sport: Every sport from around the world
Topend Sports Logo


Orienteering refers to a family of sports in which participants are required to navigate a course of unfamiliar terrain with a help of a map and a compass, testing both endurance and navigational ability. The sport was developed as a training exercise for military personnel in Sweden, later evolving into a competitive sport of its own.

map reading map reading

Based on the mode of travel, orienteering is classified into different types, some of which are, Foot orienteering, Car orienteering, Canoe orienteering, Mountain bike orienteering, Mounted Orienteering and Ski Orienteering. The most popular of all are the foot, mountain bike and the ski versions. Biathlon Orienteering combines orienteering with shooting.

The main types of orienteering format is freestyle (classic) style and point orienteering. Freestyle orienteering involves navigating a set course with a predetermined sequence of control points, where the objective is to complete the course in the shortest time possible while following the prescribed route. Point orienteering focuses on accumulating points by visiting as many control points as possible within a time limit, with participants choosing their own route and point values associated with each control (Rogaining is an example of point orienteering).

An orienteering course consists of multiple control points. Each contestant is handed a orienteering map of scale at least 1:10,000 with start, finish, and all control points aligned in reference to magnetic north. Participants also carry a thumb or protractor compass for aiding in navigation.

Athletes start and navigate the course individually against a clock, and should visit all control points before reaching the finish point. Each athlete carries a card which has to be punched at each control point to ensure the course was completed. The athlete to finish the course with the fastest time is the winner.

Orienteering is currently not a part of the Olympics. The highest level of international competition for the sport is the World Games.

Similar Sports

Related Pages

send us a comment Any comments, suggestions, or corrections? Please let us know.

Sport Extra

Check out the 800+ sports in the Encyclopedia of Every Sport. Well not every sport, as there is a list of unusual sports, extinct sports and newly created sports. How to get on these lists? See What is a sport? We also have sports winners lists, and about major sports events and a summary of every year.

 → How to Cite