Better Orienteering a guide to orienteering skills

This section gives an overview of what is contained on Better Orienteering website and how it came about. The Home page is where the latest Blog posts appear. The Quick Start section will help you find the skills section that is most relevant to you.

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.

Better Orienteering includes a lot of original material created by Duncan Bayliss of Wrekin Orienteers, UK including explanation of key skills, free graphical summaries for download such as the Skills Tool Kit and Better Orienteering summary.

Better Orienteering also integrates a lot of material from other contributors including videos and free downloads, to make the resource stronger and useful to a wide range of skill levels.

  • 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.

See the Quick Start section for your quickest route into Better Orienteering – skills from Beginner to Advanced and beyond

The free web-linked Better Orienteering Summary will help you get the most value from this website

Better Orienteering is written and edited by Duncan Bayliss of Wrekin Orienteers in the UK. Better Orienteering has 40+ videos, free resources, free downloads and many links to where you can find out more. It includes material from the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Australia and contributions from more than 30 orienteers, many of them elite competitors. Many thanks must go to all the contributors who have shared so much excellent material that makes Better Orienteering much better than it could be otherwise.

See the Quick Start section for which part of Better Orienteering is right for you, or keep reading below for an overview of the Better Orienteering website

Duncan Bayliss, 2020

What is included on Better Orienteering?

The aim of Better Orienteering is to provide an easily accessible resource that will help orienteers think about how they navigate and how to improve their orienteering technique.  It offers a structured way to think about orienteering skills and how you can progress through them.  It also acts as a guide to many excellent resources available to help you learn more about orienteering skills and training.  

From Beginner to Advanced and Beyond there are skills discussions, free downloads, videos and more to help you, all structured by skill levels.


This video Start Orienteering, is the first of the Get Up To Speed series produced by SLOW (South London Orienteers) – You will find the other videos linked to as you work through Better Orienteering

The Get Up To Speed playlist on YouTube includes:

Think Fast, Run Hard, Go Orienteering
Setting the Map
Using the Compass
Attack Points
Large Contour Features
Route Choice
Intricate Contours

On Better Orienteering there are several series of videos showing you how to orienteer as a beginner and then to help you as you improve. These 10 videos from the Irish Orienteering Association introduce the basic ideas and techniques you will need.

There are other videos covering more advanced skills integrated across the Better Orienteering website.


There are free downloads explaining the basics you need to start navigating well and there are links to many useful sources on orienteering, including many resources which are free to view or download. Individuals and clubs are welcome to download and use the free downloads.


Finally there is structured discussion of orienteering skills from beginner to advanced, to help you develop as an orienteer, based on a model of orienteering navigation, which is discussed in more detail in several places.

Routines, concepts and strategies

The term “skills” actually covers several different things, so it is helpful to break it down a bit further. This guide summarises the – Routines, Concepts and Strategies – that I have found most helpful from personal experience and from talking with many other experienced orienteers.  It also deals with some of the most common errors and how they come about.  For the purposes of this guide these terms are intended to mean the following:

Routines are the ways of solving navigation problems applied to every race and/ or every leg.  These should become reliable habits that give the basis for all your navigation. This includes for example, always keeping the map oriented to north.

Concepts are the ways of thinking about navigation challenges and how to solve them. They give you a Tool kit of skills to apply as needed. They include concepts such as Aiming Off and Catching Features.

Strategies are ways to implement the concepts you know, to maximise the chances of success. These Strategies include race preparation and how you handle mistakes. It also includes how you can plan routes to avoid errors in the first place and how you can play to your strengths.

This means that your skills operate on several levels from the near automatic use of basic techniques to being able to apply the right navigation concepts as needed and on to how to manage your psychology to make it work for you not against you.

Thus, whilst at one level navigation is potentially fairly simple, at its higher levels it is one of the most complex things we can do. If it was easy none of us would ever get lost!

There is, of course, some overlap between Routines, Concepts and Strategies and they are applicable in different ways as your orienteering improves.

For some orienteers this will all seem obvious.  However, for others, even if they have been orienteering a long time, I hope there will still be some helpful insights.  It is surprising how many orienteers are still making lots of basic errors after 5 or more years of orienteering, but that is not inevitable. It can be immensely satisfying to have mistakes free runs but for most orienteers they remain elusive.  However, by keeping your technique smooth and minimising losses it is possible for most orienteers to substantially improve.

Plan, Picture, Direction – a navigation model

Better Orienteering is built around this Navigation Model. It is returned to and explored in later sections.

Better Orienteering builds understanding of the whole process of orienteering, from preparing for a race, to how to navigate, to analysing your performance afterwards.

Once you move beyond being a Beginner, Better Orienteering introduces a Basic Navigation Routine.  These are the techniques that must be mastered and work like clockwork as the basis for all your orienteering. Skills are then explored in manageable stages through Intermediate to Advanced and beyond

To get most value from this guide and the discussions of techniques and skills, you will have to be really honest with yourself about what you are doing wrong.   You can start with How well am I orienteering? Also see the suggestions under Race Analysis .

Finally there are suggestions of helpful Resources, many of which are free to view or download and links to websites and books on orienteering.

Where do I start?

See Quick Start for your route into Better Orienteering

Why this guide?

This guide was produced to create an easy to access resource for orienteers to find good material on how to navigate and how to improve. It draws together a lot of excellent material from many countries in one place. It has only been possible due to the generosity of many orienteers who have agreed to their videos and other material to be linked to in Better Orienteering.

Use this overview to track where you are in progressing through Better Orienteering

You can download a web-linked version of this overview graphic to share. It links back to sections of the Better Orienteering website:

Better Orienteering, after the Beginner section, is mainly aimed at club level orienteers of all ages, who have some experience and are seeking to improve.  My aim has been to summarize the key techniques that prove most helpful on a regular basis, so that they are easy to remember and apply consistently.

Once you read beyond the Beginner section, some familiarity with a range of very basic orienteering navigation techniques is assumed, such as how to take a bearing, and how to read contours.   The discussion of techniques on Better Orienteering is not intended to be exhaustive, just a structured framework covering the essentials, that you can then build on.

There is much more material in Suggested Reading.   

The only route to getting better is to make mistakes, understand what went wrong and seek to avoid repeating them. 

Improving at orienteering is largely about understanding what mistakes you made, how they came about and how to watch out for them in future.  Better orienteering then becomes a matter of routines and habits to set you up for a reasonable run, whilst being alert to a catalogue of potential errors.

Orienteering is one of the most demanding sports there is, combining the high level of physical challenge resulting from running through terrain and the intense mental challenge arising from detailed navigation.  I amazed that after 40 years of orienteering there is still more to learn and much to re-learn.  The typical learning curve for new orienteers is at least 3 to 5 years to get their navigation up to a high standard and combine it with good fitness, but once you are hooked it becomes addictive.  Then you need to keep your skills fresh with practice.

Photo: Steve Rush BOK

I hope enjoy reading more on orienteering skills in whichever section is most helpful for you.

Duncan Bayliss

Articles about Better Orienteering website

These articles give an overview of how Better Orienteering came about.

CompassSport article

This article in CompassSport the UK orienteering magazine gives an overview of how Better Orienteering came about and what it aims to do.

Skogsport article

Skogsport the Swedish Orienteering Association’s magazine ran an article on Better Orienteering in October 2019.

You can download the article in Swedish here:

A translation into English of the Skogssport article is here:

Privacy and data protection

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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.

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, betterorienteering.org

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.

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.

Duncan Bayliss, 2019, 2020, 2021


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.