Orienteering Equipment Guide – All You Need to Start

Orienteering map and compass


Usually, sports require certain equipment to start with. When it comes to orienteering, choosing the right equipment is the key. Easier said than done? We give you a thorough guide on investing in the right orienteering equipment to start your activities. 

1. Orienteering compass

You won’t get far in any event without your compass! Compasses come in different shapes and sizes, however, it is best you invest in orienteering-specific compass. These differ from normal ‘hill-walking’ type compasses in a number of ways but an essential feature is quick ‘dampening’ of the needle so that it becomes steady right when you stop at a track junction to take a bearing. Pretty good quality orienteering compasses start from around 18 €.

There are 3 main types of compasses that orienteers are using:

  1. Thumb compass – the most popular compass type. It is being used in close contact with a map enabling you to align the map while running. 
  2. Baseplate compass – classical design compass for general use in any circumstances
  3. Wrist compass – designed to reach maximum usability while keeping your hands free. It is the perfect solution for MTBO, ski orienteering and adventure racing.

Main types of orienteering compasses







2. Orienteering Shoes

For starting out, any normal pair of running shoes will do but with special shoes you will get an advantage in the trace and you are going to be more protected from injuries. When it comes to orienteering gear, a sturdy pair of running shoes is essential. Best orienteering shoes are made with short rubber studs (some have short metal spikes added) and are constructed to be lightweight and durable. Not all events allow metal spikes so think carefully before buying ones.

Orienteering shoes Nvii










3. Clothing for orienteers

Extreme weather conditions can be a huge challenge if you don’t have suitable clothing. It’s very easy to damage clothes in this sport, especially if it does not have high pilling resistance. Besides that it should be elastic and breathable.

If you are running in the woods long garments are highly recommended even in warm seasons in order to avoid insects and dense vegetation.

Comfortable, running tights, jackets, hats and gloves are in the trace and easy to maintain. It is advisable to use multiple thin layers of clothing during the cold weather as then you can take the layers off if you overheat. 

noname On The Move Race Suit UX 19, Black/Light Blue










4. Gaiters for orienteering

When racing though undergrowth (eg. brambles, bracken or nettles), orienteers wear gaiters to add a level of protection. This enables effective protection of your shins when on difficult terrain. There are 2 types of orienteering gaiters – short and long ones.

short and long type orienteering gaiters













5. Control card

Control cards are used for proving that you have visited all control points in the right order. At each control point, there will be either an electronic device to record that you were there, either a manual hole punch device to mark your card. The most popular electronic control card is SportIdent, but don’t rush to buy it. First, make sure what kind of control cards are used in events that you want to go.

control card and sport ident








6. Map case

At any orienteering event you will be issued with a map, so water resistant map case is an essential item! Invest in a tough, decent map case. It helps to keep your map dry in any kind of weather. Some map cases have only one transparent side, so if you are not planning to use description holder – buy fully transparent map case on both sides and keep the control descriptions on the other side.

Orienteering map case










7. Description Holder

Event organisers will also issue a checkpoint description card giving checkpoint grid-references and a brief description of each location. These can be placed inside the map case but many orienteers cover their cards in transparent adhesive plastic and then wear the cards on the wrists or forearms attached by elastic bands.

noname Description Holder

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