Becoming better at orienteering

I wrote this article about Design in Orienteering a couple of years ago. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope it will help you think through the challenges involved in becoming better at orienteering.

The challenge of learning to orienteer

At the simplest level orienteering is about enjoying running around a course with a map, but to master it there are many concepts and skills to develop. It is worth bearing in mind when we try to explain orienteering to people, that we are asking them to learn and apply, to some degree at least, the following:

  • learn two visual languages – maps symbols and control descriptions
  • develop spatial thinking to interpret maps
  • develop the ability to visualise that information in 3-D
  • build a personal terrain library to give the building blocks for visualising better
  • learn strategies to analyse that information and apply it to moving through the terrain
  • learn to relate that 3-D information to their perspective as they move though the terrain
    and as they move through their visualisation of the terrain and as they use it to relocate from mistakes
  • build a high level of overall fitness.
    No wonder it takes a long time to get good at orienteering

Quick Start translated to German

The Quick Start page has been translated to German using DeepL translator. DeepL is very good, but a native speaker who knows orienteering well will be able to improve the translation. If you can help improve it please do contact me via the Contact page.


Quick Start in other languages has been checked by an orienteer who is a first language speaker to ensure it reflects the terms and language used in the sport accurately. Thank you to all those who helped.

If you can get your club or orienteering association to make a link to Better Orienteering that would be great. More than 50 people have contributed material and every effort has been made to acknowledge all contributions.

If you use material from Better Orienteering please attribute it clearly and include a link back to this website. Orienteering is a sport that relies on a high level of trust and fair play. Please apply the same fair play to learning about orienteering skills as to using them in races.

Thank you,

Duncan Bayliss

Think about your orienteering from different angles

With orienteering there is always more to learn.

It can help a lot to think about orienteering navigation from the perspective of a range of different orienteers. You can take ideas from Better Orienteering and compare them to how you have been orienteering and you can also compare what you know to to ideas put forward by others.

The British Orienteering Coaching Conference 2021 included a very interesting presentation by Mark Nixon and Paul Murgatroyd.

Mark Nixon’s discussion of Plan, Picture, Direction (and Distance) is very helpful. It is really valuable to work out where you are making mistakes in that cycle. A small amount of time not spent making a robust plan can lead to a large error on a leg. Not stopping to add detail to your Picture (or visualisation) can lead to a time consuming error. Mark’s suggestion is that for very experienced and elite orienteers, mistakes in planning account for more time losses than in actually executing the leg.

The slides from the talk are here:


As we get more orienteering practice again after lock down, you may be experiencing the familiar problem of repeating mistakes you have tried to learn from many times before – it is just how orienteering is, but it shows how it is always helpful to think systematically about how we are orienteering, because as Mark points out, simply doing orienteering doesn’t necessarily make you better at orienteering!

You can relate Mark’s discussion back to the model of orienteering used across Better Orienteering: Plan, Picture, Direction – see below:

In creating a simple model of orienteering – Plan, Picture, Direction, I had included Distance under the heading of Direction without directly stating it. The challenge is to have something simple enough to remember and use when orienteering, but which can be related back to a lot of concepts. Following Mark’s comments I think it is helpful if Distance is now also mentioned alongside Direction.

The simplest way to remember the model is to have the cycle set out in the central column and the left hand column in mind when orienteering. The right hand column is an expansion of what is in the central column to link it to concepts discussed across Better Orienteering. It shows how there are several processes required at each step of Plan, Picture and Direction.

This model is a synthesis of insights from many sources, published and unpublished. Published sources include work by Kris Jones, Martin Lerjen, Michel Guergiou, Thierry Guergiou, Jan Kocbach and Duncan Bayliss. You will find their work included and referenced across Better Orienteering.

See in particular the Advanced and Beyond Advanced towards Elite skills sections of Better Orienteering.

Many other orienteers have commented on the model and helped refine it including Lynne Walker, Tony Callow, Andy Clough.

How has Better Orienteering helped you?

Better Orienteering is now 2 years old. Over 40 people have contributed content. The Quick Start page is available in many languages. Many people are using Better Orienteering, even though we are still in Lockdown in most of the world.

It would be great to hear from you what has been the most helpful content on Better Orienteering.

When orienteering starts up again after lockdown, some more videos will almost certainly be added, particularly at the Intermediate and Advanced level.

Do you have suggestions for what else could be included that would be helpful?

It would be good to hear from people using the website. You can use this Contact link.

Duncan Bayliss, April 2021

Quick Start page is now available in other languages

The Quick Start page of Better Orienteering is the best place to start with the website. It gives a quick overview of what is included to help you find something helpful to improve your orienteering

A lot of the explanation of orienteering on Better Orienteering is very visual with videos and map extracts and diagrams, but it can help to start in your own language.

The Quick Start page is now available in these languages:

Others languages are coming:

Do share the link to the Quick Start page in your language, with your club and your orienteering association to help others in your country find

Up to now, most people accessing Better Orienteering come from English speaking countries. The Quick Start pages in other languages are intended to help people from more countries find the website and benefit from it.

Duncan Bayliss

Help spread the word about Better Orienteering

Better Orienteering is intended to help people start and get better at orienteering, including helping experienced orienteers think about what they can do better. With orienteering, there is always room for improvement!

It includes explanation of skills and tips for navigation across a wide range of abilities from Beginner to Advanced. It has more than 30 contributors and includes over 40 videos built into structured discussion of orienteering skills. But people need to know it is here and how it can help them develop their orienteering navigation.

There are a range of ways that you can help share Better Orienteering.

Here are a few suggestions and links that can help. Copy and use the links set out below, and include mention of when you share a link. It would also be great if you share with me how you have shared Better Orienteering.

The text and graphics on Better Orienteering are copyright Duncan Bayliss, except where attributed to other authors. Much material has been included with other authors’ permission and copyright remains with them.

Always attribute Better Orienteering as the source and include a clear link to whenever you re-post, share or link to any of the material included on the website so that others can see that material in the context of a structured discussion of skills. You can use one of these images with a link – (scale it to fit your web page or newsletter as needed):

Get your club or association to link to Better Orienteering

The best page to direct people to is Quick Start with this link:

Here is an example from Badenoch and Strathspey Orienteering Club, who are lucky to have some of the best orienteering terrain in the UK!

Share the Better Orienteering YouTube playlist

Teenagers especially, like to learn by watching videos. A lot of orienteering skills and concepts can be shown very quickly and effectively in videos.

Better Orienteering Playlist contains the learning videos used across Better Orienteering ordered from Beginner to Advanced. Please include a link to the complete playlist when linking to specific videos you find helpful. These videos are all made by elite or very experienced orienteers who give good advice on how to orienteer. You will help save others from potentially spending hours looking at unhelpful videos that give some pretty poor advice on how to orienteer – there are quite a few out there.

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Share the Skills Matrix

The Skills Matrix (8 pages) is a structured overview of how orienteering skills develop in stages from Beginner to Advanced. It helps people see where they are on their orienteering journey.

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Below is a directly embedded version of the pdf of the Skills Matrix. Many websites will support this (if they are created with WordPress), meaning the viewer can scroll through the document directly on the screen without having to follow a link to a new Tab or Page. This functionality does not work on Android and a web-link appears instead.

Always include a clear link to

Share the Better Orienteering Summary among your club

Better Orienteering Summary (52 pages) is full of web links back to the website and resources. It includes on the first page a link to where the most recent version can be downloaded, so once the link is posted people can always access the most recent version.

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When promoting Permanent Orienteering Courses, you can link to here

It includes this excellent video by SLOW: Permanent Orienteering Courses – Discover an Outdoor Adventure

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When sending out event details you could link to the Beginner page or the Quick Start page

Newcomers to the sport can then quickly find explanations they need

You can also link directly to downloads within Better Orienteering

You can link directly to these downloads (as well as to the pages that contain them), for example, the Beginner’s Tips, Basic Navigation Routine Tips and Skills Tool Kit. They are scaled for reading on a smartphone.

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Do mention with the links, so people know where to find more and of course you can share the link on social media. Always include a clear link to

When sending out training details why not include a link to the Race Analysis page?

Build Plan, Picture, Direction into club training and coaching sessions

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Help translate Better Orienteering Quick Start page

It would be great to have a good quality translation of the Quick Start page into Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, German, French and Spanish. It is about 750 words.

Many people from these languages will be able to watch the videos and read some of the website with no problems, but it helps them get started if there is a page in their first language. If you can help with this, please do get in contact. Thank you! The translator of the page will of course be credited clearly on the page.


More contributions welcome

If there is anything else you can contribute or think should be included do get in touch

Duncan Bayliss, Wrekin Orienteers, UK

September 2020

Privacy and data protection

If you make contact with the form on the Contact page, you agree that you are 18 or over and that correspondence is for the purpose of discussing or contributing to

Your email will not be shared with anyone else. You may receive a reply if you have asked a question.

If you want to keep up with new material as it appears on Better Orienteering then use the Follow link on the Home page.

Your email will not be shared with anyone else and you will receive an email from the website when a new blog post is made. This is likely to be no more frequent than one email every 3 or 4 months.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Better Orienteering is One Year Old

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to this skills project.

Whatever stage your orienteering is at, there is something for you

People have used the website from all around the world.

Better Orienteering keeps growing. More than 30 people from 9 countries have contributed material – guides, maps, videos. There are now over 40 instructions videos linked within Better Orienteering, going from the Irish Orienteering Association’s ultra clear guide to the basics -10 Elements of Orienteering, to intermediate and advanced skills with the SLOW Get Up to Speed series and videos from O-Ringen TV.

Over the last months much material has been added. If you haven’t looked at Better Orienteering for a while, there is new material in almost every section. Here are some of the highlights:

Some highlights

Goran Andersson kindly allowed some pages from his excellent book, Cool, Awesome, Educational – Orienteering in Simple English to be included. The new edition is now 88 pages and includes very useful explanations of orienteering and training exercises in full colour.

Skilling Up by Richard Sansbury has been linked in the Basic Navigation Routine section.

Know Your Sport Leaflets a series by David Jukes of BKO have also added to Basic Navigation Routine section, covering the basics of many aspects of our sport.

Orienteering Australia’s comprehensive map reading training exercises are linked too:

Two series of videos from O-Ringen TV have been built into the skills section, and also listed under the Videos Tab.

Thanks to Simon Eklov of O-Ringen TV, for permission to use them and encouragement to keep building Better Orienteering. Personal favourites are the videos with Janne Troeng demonstrating how to tackle some difficult legs in terrain near Uppsala. Here is one:

and this one with Mats Troeng talking about what has happened to maps since 1965:

This short overview can’t thank everyone and is far from comprehensive and many others have contributed including Kris Jones with a process model of orienteering which he kindly allowed to be adapted into the Plan, Picture, Direction model used across Better Orienteering.

If you are finding Better Orienteering helpful, please do ask your club/ association to link to Better Orienteering from their website.

Better Orienteering is and will remain free to use. An incredible amount of time and effort has gone into the content linked from it and built into by many authors, all giving their time to help others get into the sport they love. They are mentioned across the website.

Thank you for your interest in getting better at orienteering and helping others get into our sport and get better too.

Duncan Bayliss, May 2020

Better Orienteering Copyright Duncan Bayliss, 2020

Please see the Fair Use Policy and mention Better Orienteering in any mentions of material you find here. Copyright for linked material remains with the authors and creators of that material and you should seek permission from them for other uses.

Better Orienteering a guide to orienteering skills

This short article for British Orienteering Newsletter includes some suggestions for what you can try to keep your skills up to speed.

The article: Armchair Orienteering

Or head straight across to the Games section or the Learning Videos

Other Lock down activities – Contribute on skills? – Do more analysis?

Chris Smithard has compiled a list of orienteering things to do under lockdown that is worth checking out at On The Red Line

Lockdown competitions are on:

Contribute – While we are under lock down, maybe you can contribute to Better Orienteering? Over 30 orienteers from 9 countries have shared skills material here to help others get better at orienteering and the resource is much better than it could be otherwise.

Do more analysis – Maybe now is a good time to look back through some races and do some more systematic analysis. What are your persistent weaknesses and how might you improve on them?

  • Orienteering clubs, please do link to Better Orienteering from your club websites and mention it in club communications.
  • If there is anything you would like added, please do make contact, so that Better Orienteering can be as useful as possible.

Finally, do consider contributing.    See Contact and Contribute

I am grateful to the many experienced orienteers who have already made contributions to Better Orienteering.

Better Orienteering is a collaborative project to help newcomers start orienteering and to help existing orienteers improve. It aims to help people start and get better at orienteering, world-wide

Fair use policy

Please do link to this site from Orienteering Club websites so beginners and improvers can easily access material on skills. Do give your feedback on how helpful you have found the material here so it can keep improving. 

You are welcome to copy and use the Free Downloads as is without modification.  If you refer to specific downloads or content from Better Orienteering, on a club website, you must include a web link back to Better Orienteering so that the material can be viewed in its original context. You should attribute Duncan Bayliss as the author and Better Orienteering and its web address as the source.  e.g  Downloaded from Better Orienteering by Duncan Bayliss,

Please contact me Duncan Bayliss for permission for any other use of material on Better Orienteering (Use the Contact page).


Permission to re-use material included in Better Orienteering contributed by other persons such as photographs and map extracts, should be sought from the original authors/ producers.


Duncan Bayliss, 2019

Copyright notice and acknowledgements

This website is copyright of Duncan Bayliss All text written by Duncan Bayliss, copyright Duncan Bayliss, unless attributed to other authors. All rights reserved.

I have sought to state the sources for all linked material such as videos. Thank you to Sarah Brown (SLOW) for permission to include the Get Up To Speed videos and the Irish Orienteering Association for permission to include the 10 Elements of Orienteering videos. Copyright for all linked material rests with the original authors and producers, it is only linked to on this website. I am grateful for permission to include copyrighted material on this website including maps, map extracts, control symbols, map features and images. It has been immensely helpful that many orienteers have generously shared ideas and allowed material to be included here so that others can enjoy our sport.

Particular thanks must go to Martin Bagness (Warrior OC) (Maps in the Skills Tool Kit), Rod Postlethwaite (Wrekin), Peter Jones (Wrekin) (Map extracts in the Better Orienteering header and skills summaries) and Peter Bayliss (Wrekin) for permission to use map extracts.

Thank you!


The photographs in Better Orienteering are mainly by kind permission of Steve Rush (BOK) Copyright for photographs included on BetterOrienteering remains with the photographer as attributed.

For more of Steve’s orienteering photographs see:

The photographs on Better Orienteering are mainly of people orienteering in the UK and are intended to give a good overview of orienteering in practice. If for any reason you would like a photograph in which you feature not to be included on Better Orienteering, then let me know via the Contact section and it will of course be removed.

Contributors are acknowledge in the text of the website where their contributions appear.

The section Contact and Contribute gives a fuller list of acknowledgements.

New posts to Better Orienteering

New Bolg posts to Better Orienteering appear at the top of this page.

As new content has been added, it has been listed below:

20 June 2019 New verion of Skills Tool Kit published under the Intermediate section

CompassSport article about Better Orienteering added to the front page. July 2019

Sept. 2019 New video What is an orienteering map? By Andy Paterson of Clydeside Orienteers added to Beginner page.

Sept. 2019 New video, 10 elements of orienteering, by the Irish Orienteering Association, on the Beginner page

October 2019 Teaching section added aimed at pointing teachers to resources to use alongside Better Orienteering in teaching orienteering.

October 2019 Skogsport article added to front page.

November 2019 Article by Kris Jones, UK Elite, on orienteering navigation and a Process Model added to Further Articles section.

November 2019 Better Orienteering Navigation Model explained graphically and incorporated across the website.

December 2019 Better Orienteering Summary added. A web-linked pdf to use alongside the website. Sections of the summary link back to the website.

January 2020 Orienteering Jargon. Basic Glossary of terms/ jargon and links to online glossaries of orienteering jargon added as Tab under Suggested Reading and Resources.

January 2020 Common errors added to Race Analysis, structured by level of skill under heading Optimising your performance – a Catalogue of errors

January 2020 Cool, Awesome, Educational – Orienteering in Simple English new edition of Goran Andersson’s excellent guide linked to. Sample pages included with permission of Goran. This guide is now 88 pages and includes very useful training exercises in full colour.

January 2020 Orienteering Fitness, some suggestions added as a Tab under Suggested Reading and Resources.

February 2020 Skilling Up links by Richard Sansbury added to Basic Navigation Routine section

February 2020 Know Your Sport Leaflets by David Jukes of BKO added to Basic Navigation Routine section

April 2020 2 series of O-Ringen TV videos linked to. Thank you for permission and encouragement from Simon Eklov of O-Ringen TV.