Below is a general orienteering gear guide, which you can add to later on if you decide the sport is right for you.
Running shoes for orienteering
A sturdy pair of running shoes is one of the most essential pieces of orienteering gear.
For starting out, any normal pair of running shoes will do but shoes such as the Salomon XA Pro II which is lightweight, comfortable and incredibly tough are recommended. If you want to get really serious, specialist orienteering shoes are available with short rubber studs (sometimes with additional short metal spikes) and constructed from lightweight but durable materials. Not all events allow metal spikes so think carefully before investing your cash.
Clothing for orienteers
Invest in some clothing that will protect you not just from the elements but also from the undergrowth. For many events ‘base layer’ type garments are ideal as they are tight fitting and therefore unlikely to snag on undergrowth and will wick sweat away from your skin while you race. Full length trousers and tops are ideal even in hot conditions as the will protect your skin from sticks and thorns.
In addition to a base layer you may need to carry a thermal mid-layer and waterproof outer-layer depending on the weather conditions during your event. Weight is critical to any clothing that needs to be worn or carried so consider a ‘100 Grade’ micro-fleece Polartec top and Gortex Paclite jacket and overtrousers. Just like shoes, if you really get into the sport then specialist nylon orienteering suits are available.
Gaiters for orienteering
Many orienteers wear gaiters as an added level of protection from racing through undergrowth such as brambles, bracken or nettles. Gaiters are protective layers for the lower legs and ankles, which adds the extra benefit of stopping trouser legs snagging on undergrowth.
Compasses for orienteering
You won’t get far in any orienteering event without your compass! There are many different shapes and size of compass available, but consider investing in an 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 as soon as you stop at a track junction to take a bearing. Orienteering was born in Sweden so visit those Swedish outdoor specialists, Silva, to see the range of orienteering compasses available.
At any orienteering event you will be issued with a map. This map won’t be of much use to you if you let it turn to papier-mâché so look after it! Invest in a tough, decent map case. Event organisers will also issue a checkpoint card which needs to be clipped at each checkpoint you visit as well as 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 forearms attached by strong elastic bands.