New to orienteering?

Love the outdoors? Love the challenge of a scavenger hunt? Why not try orienteering, a sport for everyone, no matter your age or level of experience.  

Orienteering is a navigation sport. You get given a map marked with checkpoints, then it is up to you to choose the best route between them. The person who completes the course in the fastest time is the winner. Each event has a new course, so Orienteering always presents a fresh challenge. 

Orienteers use a compass to help navigate and an SI Card which is an electronic score-card to register you have visited all the checkpoints in the correct order.  You do not need these to get started, these can be hired at your first event. 

Orienteering requires thinking on the move. The navigation can be easy while you're moving slowly, but the challenge increases as you try to do it at speed.  The basic skills of Orienteering can be taught in no time at all. A North West club member can teach you at Registration. We provide courses for all levels of ability, so you can choose a course you feel comfortable attempting.

Detailed information about the sport can be found by clicking here otherwise come along to one of our events, approach anyone at the registration area and someone will be more than happy to help you get started. Most events range from $10 - 20. The below is some useful information for your first event. 

Check out this excellent video here for how to interpret and use an orienteering map.

  1. Choose an event - Head to the events page and decide which one you'd like to come along to. Directions to get to each event are always sign posted off a main highway or road.  There is always ample parking available.
  2. Start - Events usually have a 2 hour window in which you can start any time you like between 10:00 - 12:00.  We recommend as a newcomer to arrive just before 10:00 so someone can help you out and get you pointed in the right direction. Even if you have pre-registered online, please come to 'Registration' before you start so we know you have arrived and are participating in the event.
  3. Finish - Once you have completed the course, the last control is the 'Finish' control, and is usually marked with a big flag. Once you have punched the Finish control, please come to the download tent to print your results. This is important: this way we know you have made it back safely and we do not need to set up a search party. For the same reason: If you have started a course but do not finish the whole course, also please punch the Finish control and download your (incomplete) results, so we know you have made it back safely.

  4. What to bring - Clothing you would wear hiking/trail running, a compass (these can also be borrowed from Registration), a watch (to keep an eye on the time during your course), a whistle and some cash. Once you have been to a few events and you're keen to continue you can purchase your own gear i.e. compass, SI Card, control description holder, O-pants and shirts (Grassy Knoll Outdoor is an NZ-based online supplier of specialist Orienteering clothing and equipment). 

  5. What is provided - We provide you with your map and SI Card (small hire fee and must be returned at the end of your course). We can loan you a compass if needed. 

At the bottom of this page, you will find a document, available for downloading, answering the most frequently asked questions what you start this great sport. If you have any remaining questions, please talk to us at an event, or send an e-mail to the North West Orienteering Club.

Course difficulty

Every event will cater for every level of orienteering ability, varying from 'easy' to 'difficult'. Each difficulty level is indicated with a colour-coding system:

  • 'White' courses are very easy: for complete beginners and for children doing a course 'on their own'. Checkpoints (also known as controls) are found on track intersections or for example where two fences meet. Tracks, fences and vegetation boundaries (like the edge of a forest) are known as 'handrails', and a white course follows handrails to complete the course. In the example below, control '2' on the White course is on the crossing of a small track with a bigger track.
  • 'Yellow' course are easy and suit most beginners. Checkpoints are on or close to handrail features such as tracks, fences, vegetation boundaries or streams. In the example below, control '1' is on a slope, north-west of the intersection of the small track and a bigger track. 
  • 'Orange' courses are intermediate in difficulty. The checkpoints are no longer at or near handrails, but by using simple navigation (like contours and compass readings), the checkpoints can be found by using prominent attack points near the control sites. In the example below, control '6' on the Orange course is on a spur to the west of the bend in the track.
  • Red courses are technically difficult and require very good navigation skills and the use of a compass.

The following image shows the differences in checkpoints, depending on the chosen difficulty level:


In general, orienteering is a safe sport, but participation is at your own risk. As with any activity, it is up to each individual to take responsibilities for his/her own actions while participating in any organised orienteering event.

Please comply with the following 'Personal Safety Check' for participants:

  • Obey all instructions and warnings.
  • Wear appropriate clothes for conditions.
  • If participating as a (family)group, always know where your children are.
  • Consider wearing safety glasses.
  • Notify coordinator of any potentially serious health problems.
  • Keep clear of any plant or equipment, farm buildings, and out-of-bounds/unauthorised areas.
  • Avoid disturbing livestock and keep away from all work activities.
  • Be suitably hydrated and/or carry water and/or know if/where water is available on the course.
  • Carry a whistle. The recognised emergency call is 6 short blasts. If other participants hear a whistle signal, they are required to abandon their course and help a participant in need. It is expected therefore that an individual will only use their whistle if they are seriously injured and/or consider themselves significantly lost such that they need immediate assistance from others. If you are injured or become lost, but are still mobile and do not need immediate assistance, it is recommended that in the first instance you try to make your way to a main road/track or a water station or call for help. If you do need urgent help because of an injury or distress, give 6 short blasts on your whistle. Pause and listen for a reply and repeat to allow helpers to locate you.
  • If you hear repeated sounding of car horns this means fire or another major problem. Abandon the course and return to the nearest road and thence to event centre, unless directed to another assembly point or exit route. Notify an event official you are safe.


North West Orienteering Club does not support or condone any access to private land outside of organised orienteering events, unless the access has been authorised in advance by the land owner. Possession of an orienteering map from a previous event does not imply approval for future access.


Similar to foot orienteering but with a bit more strategy involved and a time limit!  A map is given out at the start of each race which has a large number of control points on it worth different amounts.  The aim is to collect as many points as you can within a specified time frame.  Rogaining events range from 1 - 24 hour races.  The 24 hour ones being at a national and international level of competition.  From cities, to farms to forests, rogaining is held in many different types of terrain. 

It's a fantastic type of orienteering to get involved in if you like the idea of competing in a team too.   It's a very social sport as all athlete's start at the same time, generally finish at the same time but it is the number of points / ground covered that differs amongst teams.  It's a popular form of orienteering amongst school's that get involved in adventure racing and for those looking to get out and about on the weekends with a group of friends. 

There are many events held within the Auckland region and most notably is the Auckland Rogaine Series .  This is organized by NWOC members and attracts many people from beginner's to advanced as there is always someone willing to help explain how it all works at each event.   There's also plenty of spot prizes after each race, so your chances of owning some organic apple juice or premium outdoor clothing/equipment from  Bivouac just increased significantly. 

What do I need?

1. Compass - these can also be hired at the events but help put you in the right direction

2. Running / Walking Clothing - there are bound to be a few hills during an event so it's best to be wearing comfortable 'active wear'

3. Friends - if you'd like to compete in a team, bring along some friends or easily make some at an event to race with!

Mountain Bike Orienteering

If orienteering on wheels sounds like a better idea than running/walking, this could be the sport for you.  MTBO is an endurance sport that combines both orienteering and a mountain bike. Route choice and map memory are paramount in this type of sport and navigation is mostly along trails and tracks.  Top level racing requires good technical mountain biking skills.  

It is one of the newer types of orienteering but there are many regional, national and international events.  NWOC has many active members in MTBO, some achieving credible results at national and international level competitions.  Club members have years of experience and knowledge so are more than willing to help introduce newcomers.

For detailed information about the sport click here or contact the club to find out how you can get started. 

What do I need?

1. Compass - these can be provided for hire at events if you do not have one

2. Mountain Bike - you will need to bring your own

3. Helmet - compulsory

4. Tools - recommended for repairs during an event/competition


Useful Links

General links:

Coaching & Training Resources on the Orienteering New Zealand website

Orienteering events all over New Zealand

International orienteering events 

World of O

WinSplits Online results: WinSplits Online is a Swedish-based information service website for split times from orienteering events from all over the world. Most orienteering events use electronical punching and time electronic keeping systems. Thus, participants not only receive their overall time, but also the so called ‘split times’ between controls. This makes comprehensive analysis of the races possible. Looking at your results compared to those of others, you can find out where you made mistakes costing a lot of time.


Auckland Bivouac Rogaine Series

New Zealand Rogaining Association

International Rogaining Federation

Mountain Bike Orienteering:

National MTB Events

International MTB Events 

Example MTB maps