Orienteering gear guide

A guide to essential orienteering kit

Unlike many sports, the equipment required for orienteering is relatively simple and cheap to buy. Below is a general orienteering gear guide, which you can add to later on if you get the buzz and decide orienteering is the right sport to get your body fit, healthy and active.

Running shoes for orienteering
A sturdy pair of running shoes is one of the most essential pieces of orienteering gear.

Orienteering gear guide

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 weather-proof 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 over-trousers. 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.

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.

Map case
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.

Head torch
If you will be competing in any nighttime events then a powerful but lightweight head torch will be essential.

Other orienteering kit
Other kit that is not essential to orienteering can include: a pair of clear lens ‘safety-type’ glasses to protect the eyes whilst running through wooded areas as well as a whistle to attract attention in an emergency.

Orienteering kit checklist ...

  • Compass.
  • Map case and checkpoint card case.
  • Footwear.
  • Base layer top and bottoms — lightweight wicking garments.
  • Mid layer — Grade 100 Polartec Microfleece or similar type garment.
  • Outer layer — weather proof but lightweight outer top and bottoms (Goretex Paclite garments are extremely well suited to the needs of the orienteer).
  • Camelbak (or similar) hydration system.
  • Food — lightweight, high energy bars or gel.
  • Whistle.
  • Protective eyeglasses.
  • Bags of self confidence and determination!

Comments (1)

  • welleaj 'Not sure when this article was written or last updated, but orienteering events very rarely use pin punches and checkpoint cards now - we use one of two electronic timing systems, depending on where in the country you are ! Waterproof maps are also much more common even at local level events. Good place to start for info on local clubs is the British Orienteering Federation website.'

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