Frequently Asked Questions
New to Orienteering?No problem. Here's information you'll need to begin.
First, read the information on this page to understand more about what orienteering is.
Second, check out the Events page to see which event you would like to participate in.
Third, take a look at the event details section to see which courses will be offered and register for the event.
- What is Orienteering?
- What is the cost?
- Do I need prior experience?
- What are the types of courses and classes?
- What should I wear and bring?
- What if it rains?
- How can I avoid long lines at the event?
- What is E-punch/ E-stick?
- Can I bring kids?
- Can I bring my dog?
- Can you send me a map?
- I prepaid but can't come, can I get a refund?
- What do all these terms mean? (An Orienteering Glossary)
Orienteering is an organized sport for individuals, navigating a course by hiking or running to find your way through the trees and fields. Map Reading, Navigation and Route Choice are the key. Orienteering is a sport for everyone, regardless of age or experience. At advanced levels it is very competitive. Others, while learning, often go in small groups. It is done at your pace, whether you run or walk it's about the satisfaction of finding your own way.
Orienteering, the sport, is not GPS, is not backpacking nor Adventure Racing nor topo reading. It is not following a line with a compass and pace counting, although it will improve all those skills. It is detailed map reading and fine navigation using your best route choice. Courses are graded by their challenge to navigation skills. A good topo reader could possibly start with an Orange course, and stay with it until in top results for several events, learning skills along the way. There are categories for casual hikers through elite athletes. You can walk or run, just don't lose yourself! Bring a friend or family. And unlike many sports, at EVERY EVENT there are special courses for beginners.
Per Person fees:
$5 member youth
$8 member adult (age 21+)
$10 non-member youth
$13 non-member adult
One Child, 10 years and younger, is FREE per paying adult, otherwise the youth fee is charged
For groups who register online, each participant will get a course map. Maps may be limited for groups registering at the event.
Equipment rental fees:
$2 E-stick rental (mandatory for each entry unless you have your own, or the event is Urban O)
$2 compass rental (based on availability)
$40 charge for a lost estick
LAOC is a non-profit organization. Fees collected are used for permits, insurance, additional supplies, labor, and mapping to provide more orienteering opportunities!
You don't need any prior experience with orienteering to come to an event and go out on a course! At every event, we have a free Beginner's Clinic during which you'll learn the basics of orienteering. It lasts about 15-20 minutes. When you check in at the event, just mention that you'd like a lesson on the basics and we'll be happy to oblige!
White (Basic) - 2-3 km or approximately 1-2 miles in length with very little climb and mostly on trails with very little route choice. Great for children 8-10 yrs or new orienteers. This is the course to take for a first experience. You NEED the time to learn how to interpret an orienteering map.
Yellow (Intermediate) - More decision making with routes still primarily along trails, but controls may be off trail. Length approx 3-4 km or approx 2 miles with increased climb. Great for beginning adults or children ages 10-14. Don't move up a level until you can win this course.
Orange (Advanced) - 3.5-5 km or 2-3 miles with increased climb over yellow. More route choice and off-trail navigation. Great for adults with some off-trail skills or older experienced children 15-18 yrs. Don't move up until you feel you could complete this using just the contour lines.
Long Orange (Long Advanced) - Same as Orange with added length (varying) to appeal to adventure racers. Great for those still building off-trail skills but wanting more running/climb.
Brown (Short Expert) - Length varies based on climb. Typically 3-5 km. Expert orienteering, difficult cross country navigation. Typically designed for older orienteers who prefer shorter length but still challenging navigation.
Green (Medium Expert) - Length will vary based on climb but is typically 4-6 km. Expert orienteering, difficult cross country navigation.
Red (Long Expert) -Length will vary based on climb but is typically 6-8 km. Expert orienteering, difficult cross country navigation.
Blue (Longest Expert)- Length will vary based on climb but is typically 7-12 km. Expert orienteering, difficult cross country navigation.
For more info, check out CAOC's great breakdown of courses.
Clothing: Long pants, long sleeve shirt, sunscreen, hat and sturdy shoes. Gaiters are recommended, especially for advanced courses.
Other supplies: Water, a compass, and snacks for after your course. A whistle is recommended - only for emergencies. The signal is three blasts in a row.
For the long term: you want a either a baseplate compass with a stable needle, or a thumb compass. Buy your own Estick (SI 5 or later works fine) at any orienteering supply store, some of which are listed here
LAOC events operate rain or shine. We will only cancel an event if conditions are hazardous for participants. If we feel the need to cancel an event, we will attempt to contact those who preregistered and post a notice on the event page on the website. Those who prepaid will receive credit toward a future event. Historically, cancellations are very rare.
Step 1: Preregister AND Prepay
Participants who PAY online are preassigned a bib and estick. Just quickly pick these up and go straight to the start. The line is much slower for those who still need to register and/or pay.
Step 2: Arrive late
The vast majority of participants show up early, so lines are very long when registration opens. The line is usually gone by about 10:30 or 11:00 am.
Step 3: Improve your skills
Start lines are longer for courses with more participants. The more advanced courses generally have fewer participants, so advancing above yellow will get you started faster.
Electronic punching (EP) is an electronic means of calculating the time it takes one to complete an orienteering course, and also checks that one has visited all of the proper controls in the correct order on the course. It is used in place of standard pin punching and paper punch cards. The following describes how to use EP on an orienteering course.
Each individual or group going on a course needs to have an EP finger stick (also called an SI card, e-card, chip, dibber, etc.). If you do not have your own finger stick, you will have to rent one at registration (generally $1-3). At a local meet, you may be directed to an e-punch table to be added to the competitor list. Be sure your name, course, and e-punch number are entered so the organizers can determine who's on a given course (and check that everyone returns safely).
At the Start Area
Request a start time from the Start official. Then, while you're waiting for your start time, be sure to clear and check your finger stick before going out on your course. The CLEAR unit deletes any old data on the card that may cause confusing results, and the CHECK unit confirms that the card has been cleared and is ready to be used. It takes about 6 seconds to clear the card, and less than one second for a check.
When you are told to start, or when your start time has arrived, be sure to punch the START unit before heading out on your course. This writes your start time to your finger stick.
On the Course
Visit each control in the proper order (if it's a point-to-point course). Be sure to check that the control code on the unit matches the control code on your course. Insert your finger stick at each control unit, and wait until you hear a beep and see a flash on the unit. It usually takes about a second. If there is no beep or flash, the unit may be malfunctioning; if so, punch the edge of your map with the pin punch attached to the control flag to prove that you visited the control.
If you punch a wrong control by mistake, or punch controls out of order, it does not matter as long as you eventually punch all of the controls in the proper order. Thus, for example, if you find and punch control #4 before control #3, it is okay as long as you then find #3 and punch it, and then revisit #4 and re-punch it before continuing on to #5. Also, it does not cause any problems if you happen to punch a control that is not on your course.
Remember to punch the final control on your course–that is, the last control before the Finish, often called the "Go" control. It is sometimes very close to the Finish, and may be easy to overlook.
At the Finish
Punch the FINISH unit at the Finish line. This writes the finish time on your finger stick.
After the Finish
Then go directly to the EP table and download your results. To do that, place your finger stick in the download unit until it beeps (which can take several seconds). You will be told if you completed the course correctly and what your time was. You will receive a printout of your splits. You may keep your map and the splits printout.
Keep In Mind...
Be sure to check in at the EP table whether or not you finish your course, or if you decide not to go out on a course after you have entered your name in the competitor list. If you do not check in, you will be listed as a missing runner, and we will have to initiate a search for you.
Also, please be aware of course closing time, at which time the control flags will start being removed from the park. It is discourteous to the organizers not to return to finish by course closing, because we start to worry whether you are lost or injured, and have to keep a group of orienteers around to do a search party if you do not return.
Yes, children of all ages are welcome with adult supervision. Many parents will go out with their children or "shadow them" on a course. Shadowing is following along behind just to make sure the child does not run into trouble and to assist when necessary.
Taking your dog for a run on your orienteering course may seem like a great way to exercise the dog and have fun. However, experience has shown that dogs and competitive orienteering are generally incompatible. Orienteering is generally off trail and there are many hazards that could hurt your dog. If you are a recreational orienteer on a beginning-level (White) course that stays on trails, bringing the family pet may be appropriate if park regulations allow it, the dog is used to crowds, and you are planning to walk, rather than run or jog. Dogs may also be appropriate at urban orienteering settings, such as city streets, city parks, and school campuses. Please use common sense. Many of LAOC events are held on private property and may or may not allow pets. Please check with the event director before the event to discuss your particular situation. Southern California has some extreme heat, so please use caution in exercising your pets in these conditions. Bring a lot of water and keep in mind that dogs often do not let you know when they are in trouble.
For liability and copyright reasons, LAOC does not make any maps available, other than at events.
If you notify us of non-attendance prior to the closing of preregistration, we will cancel your registration and provide a refund or credit towards a future event. Cancellations after preregistration closes are handled on a case-by-case basis.
Blue - A color name commonly given to very long expert course
Brown - A color name commonly given to a short expert course
Classic - The standard point-to-point course format at many LAOC events. Classic courses generally take about 60-120 minutes. They involve a combination of technical navigation and route choice problems.
Control - (1) A location that a participant is expected to visit. (2) A physical orange and white flag placed at the location a competitor is expected to visit.
Control Code - A unique alphanumeric identifier which is placed on a control and in the control descriptions so that a participant can be sure they have found the proper control location.
Control Descriptions - A list of information that describes control details. Includes the control code, feature, and location on the feature where the control is placed.
Control Number - Indicates the order in which controls are to be visited on a course.
COOL - California Outdoor Orienteering League. Our scoring league for school age youth. Runs from October to March.
Discovery - An LAOC term. Used to describe an event where controls are not placed and instead participants answer a question about the surroundings to indicate they visited the control location. Commonly used for urban events.
E-punching - Electronic equipment that is used to show you visited a control location
E-stick - A small stick that is worn on your finger and is necessary for e-punching.
Green - A color name commonly given to a medium length expert course
LAOC - The Los Angeles Orienteering Club
Long - A standard point-to-point course format with a slightly long time frame (75-120 minutes).
Middle - A shorter point-to-point course format (30-60 minutes) emphasizing technical navigation through complex terrain.
NOW - Stands for National Orienteering Week. A week set aside in September by OUSA to promote the sport of orienteering.
O - Shorthand for Orienteering
Orange - A color name commonly given to an advanced course
Orienteering - A navigation race. Participants use a map and compass to find their way through unfamiliar terrain to control points.
OUSA - Orienteering USA. The National Governing Body for the sport of Orienteering.
Pin punching - A manual method for showing you visited a control location. Uses a marking device that makes a pin pattern on a card.
Point-to-point - A course requiring the participant to visit the controls in a specified order.
Punch card - Used with pin punching. A card that is carried by the participant on which they punch patterns to show they visited control locations.
Red - A color name commonly given to a long expert course
Rogaine - An ultra-long time limit score-O. Rogaines have time limits of up to 24 hours and often use standard topo maps instead of orienteering maps. Rogaines often require team entry, especially for the longest time limits. Named for the Australian founders of the sport - Rod, Gail, and Neill.
Score-O - An event with a time limit as opposed to a set course. Controls are worth score values and participants strive to obtain the highest score within the time alloted.
Splits - The amount of time that is taken between controls
Sprint - A very short course (10-30 minutes) featuring fast decision making. Often held in an urban, built-up environment as opposed to a forest.
Urban - Used to describe a course run primarily on streets as opposed to in a park or forest.
Waiver - A legal form stating that the participant is responsible for their own safety and will not hold LAOC or landowners liable.
White - A color name commonly given to the easiest course
Winsplits - An online service that analyzes and compares the splits for all participants on a course.
Yellow - A color name commonly given to an intermediate course
What did we miss? Contact us with any terms you want defined.