Exercises for Improving Orienteering Skills
(many based on those used at the 2011 OUSA Convention)

For each exercise, an objective is stated then the exercise is described.  Naturally, the exercises use maps.  This page contains exercise descriptions and sample map segments for some of the exercises.

Total Relocation
Objective:  To quickly find your location on a map

This is done as a small group.  Maps are marked with several control points; however, no control flag is placed at the control point.  So, obvious (easy) control points should be chosen.  Each person in the group gets a map but only one person (the leader) looks at the map.  The leader takes the group along some indirect route toward but not all the way to the first control.  The route should have a few twists and turns.  When the leader stops, everyone else in the group looks at his/her map, determines their location and runs to the first control.  Switch leaders after each control.

First Control
Objective:  To develop a routine to move quickly and accurately to the first control

A map has been prepared to show the start, one control and finish for 5 different map segments.  The finish for the first segment is the start for the second segment; the finish for the second is the start for the third and so on.  The control for each segment has a flag; the start and finish have only streamers.  Two, three or four runners start at the same time; one of them says "go"; all then flip over their map, orient it and run to the control and punch.  Map segments have been rotated on the page; but  a blue north line for each segment shows the direction of magnetic north.  Upon reaching the control, you should walk to the finish and turn the map face down; you should not look ahead at the next segment.  Here is a sample group of map segments:   First Control

Attack Point Identification  (2013)
Objective:  To get better at picking attack points

Donut Orienteering.  Maps have been prepared with the area around a control blocked out.  Find an attack point for each control and run to it.  Then, using careful compass reading, navigate to the control.  You can go to the controls in any order;  or a sequence may be specified.   Here is an example:  Donut-O

Compass Use  (2013)
Objective:  To make effective use of the compass

Fog Orienteering.  Maps have been prepared that block out the map on either side of the connecting line between controls.  Use only the compass to navigate to the controls.  This may be done in two versions, one in which narrow corridors between controls are blocked out and one in which wide corridors are blocked out.  Here is a sample in which narrow corridors are blocked:  Fog Orienteering

Route Choice
Objective:  To pick the best route in the least amount of time

Leg Splitting.  Mark a map with several long legs.  Identify attack points along the way that will make the long leg into several short legs.  This may be done as a written exercise or done in the woods.

Keep the Pen Moving (written exercise).  Using any map from a previous competition, draw the plan of your route without letting your pen stop.  Ask another orienteer to analyze your routes.

Circular Map  (2014)
Objective:  To practice reading contours

Make multiple version of a course that are all comparable in terms of length and difficulty.  Draw these courses on small circular maps that have had all elements other than contours (and perhaps vegetation) removed.  The maps are NOT oriented on the page and there are no north indicators.  Using only the contours, find your way around the course.  Keep the map oriented using the land forms.  You may trade maps with someone else who has a different version and try a second time.  This sample has vegetation in addition to contours:   Circular Map

Corridor O  (2012)
Objective:  To navigate using only the compass and contours

Maps consist of a serpentine strip, showing a twisting, turning loop which shows the land about 40 meters wide around the loop.  The maps show only contours (and perhaps vegetation); all other elements,including north lines, have been removed.  Traverse and punch at any controls that you find as you go around the loop; control locations are not marked on the map.  You may traverse the loop in either direction.  In this sample, two small pieces of road are the only black features on the map:   Corridor Orienteering

Line O  (2012, 2015)
Objective:  To stay in contact with the map

Maps have been prepared that show a twisting turning line from the marked start  to the marked finish.  You are to follow the line, punching at any controls that you find along the line.  This exercise may be done in two versions:  one in which a normal map is used, the other in which all trails have been removed.  For an extra challenge, take a pencil with you and mark the locations of all controls that you find on the map.  This sample uses a normal map:   Line Orienteering

Determining Up/Down  (written exercise)
Objective:  To practice figuring out which way is uphill and which way is downhill

A map has been prepared in which a series of arrows have been drawn.  You are to determine if each arrow is going up or down or level or a combination thereof.  Evaluate the entire length of each arrow.  Write your answers on a separate paper and compare then to the answers which will be provided.  Here is a sample map:   Up and Down

Distance Evaluation
Objective:  To estimate distance traveled

Using the 100 m length that is marked off by orange flags, count how many paces you take while walking, running slow, and running fast.  You should count each time your right foot hits the ground and start your walk/run on your left foot.

Do the same exercise using a long shallow reentrant or a gently sloping hillside on which there is a 100 m length marked off.  Again, count your paces while walking, running slow and running fast both uphill and downhill.  Write down the numbers for future reference; these may be used in subsequent events (if you remember them) to help you judge distances traveled.

Map Simplification (2012)
Objective:  To practice identifying the major features needed to navigate to a control

On a blank sheet of paper, draw a simplified copy of the provided map with a course already on it.  Put on your map only the major features that are needed to get to the control and the control itself.  Do this for each leg of the course.  Then, use the hand-drawn map to navigate around the course.  Take the copy of the provided map with you ... just in case.

Memory Duo
Objective:  To pick out the most important features to memorize a leg of a course

Work in pairs, using one map.  Partner A memorizes the first leg and hands the map to partner B.  Then, A leads B to the first control without consulting the map.  While following A to the first control, B memorizes the second leg.  At the first control, B hands the map to A; B then leads the way to #2 while A follows and memorizes the next leg.  Continue switching roles at each control.  The key to the memorization is picking out the major features that are needed to navigate to a control.

Mass Start
Objective:  To do mass starts and run with a group, with forking

There is an A course map and a B course map and the courses use forking.  Each person at the mass start has either an A or B course and is to go through the course s/he has,  After completing one of the courses, each runner should return to the start for the next mass start and run the other course.  The two mass starts are are 30 minutes apart; there may be additional mass starts if groups show up later.

Super String O
Objective:  To practice punching faster

A string-O course is set up, looking just like one for 3- and 4-year-olds, except with lots of regular controls. Each person starts on the course in a normal interval start and tries to finish as fast as possible, punching at every control.  The idea is to try to make your punching action at each control as smooth as possible.

Pathless-O (2012)
Objective:  To practice using contours and vegetation features in terrain association; also to practice using the compass and making distance measurements.

Find the controls in a normal cross-country orienteering course using a map in which most of the features that would be drawn in black have been removed.  If you are thinking of doing more than one exercise, do this one first - the other exercises will show the trails, roads, etc. which would partly defeat the purpose of this exercise.  Here is an example map:  Pathless

Hiker's Quest   (2014)
Objective:  To practice finding a good attack point dynamically when some obvious choices have unexpectedly bad vegetation problems.  To practice dealing with a map whose vegetation is out of date.

Given a map that contains only trails, roads, open spaces, streams, buildings and north lines, find your way around a course.  Controls are on standard features and the control descriptions specify what to look for; however, none of the control features are shown on the map and none are on trails.  The idea is to find a good attack point using the little information that you have with one hint.  Hint:  It is possible to reach each control without going through dense vegetation; although you need to deal with a little light green or slow undergrowth in a few places.   Here is an example map:  Hiker's Quest

Course Setters Test   (2014)
Objective:  To practice finding control locations with no marker and placing controls correctly, according to the control description.

This is done with a partner.  Choose as your partner someone who has similar orienteering ability and speed.  Each partner is given 2 or more control flags, a map showing where these are to be placed and control descriptions.  The maps are different.  Both partners are started at the same time; their task is to place the control flags properly (in the center of the circle as the description states) and return to a designated location (shown on  both maps) as soon as possible.  At the meeting place, they exchange maps and go pick up the control flags placed by their partner.  Then, both return to the start.  When both have returned to the start, they critique the placement of the controls by their partner.   Here is a sample map:  Course Setter

Short-term Memory-O  (2015)

Objective:  To practice navigating without constantly looking at the map.

 At the start, you will be allowed to study a map showing the start and the location of your first control; you may study this map until you are ready to start.  You must navigate to this control without a map.  You will be allowed to take with you only a set of control descriptions and a punch card.  When you reach the first control, you will find a small piece of a map showing the location where you are and the location of the next control.  You must navigate to this next control without a map.  This process will continue until you have reached the last control where you will find a map showing the location of the finish.

Memory-Vector-O  (2015)

Objective:  To practice remembering key terrain features that will help in navigating the course and to practice using bearings and distance measurement.   

At the start, you will be allowed to study a regular orienteering map showing the entire course to be covered; you may study this map until you are ready to start.  You must navigate this entire course with a map that contains only control circles and lines connecting them.  The circles and lines will be drawn exactly as if they were on a normal orienteering map.  You will also be given a set of control descriptions and a punch card.  Here is an example:  Vector-O  

Partner Relocation

Objective:  To practice relocation.

This is done with one partner.  Each person is given a map but with alternating controls - partner A's map shows controls 1, 3, 5, etc.; partner B's map shows controls 2, 4, 6, etc.  The partners are not allowed to look at each other's maps at any time.  The two partners go together to all controls; A goes to the first control and B must follow along on his/her map.  Then, B goes to the second control while A follows on his/her map.  This alternating of navigation continues until both reach the finish.  Each partner gets a punch card and must punch at all controls.