Quick start

Basic Navigation Routine – Intermediate + Skills Tool Kit – Advanced Strategies and Beyond Advanced

Better Orienteering aims to help you get better at orienteering. It introduces orienteering skills in a structured way and includes videos and free downloads. It makes available self-help resources you can work through in whatever way you find most helpful. There are suggestions below for where to start depending on your prior experience or needs – from Beginner to Experienced.

Better Orienteering works through a set of ideas that will help you join up your skills effectively and use them reliably when orienteering. That is why this website, and the summary that accompanies it, are not just a list of skills.

Photo: Steve Rush BOK

If you are a newcomer who has not been orienteering before, or you have only been a few times, have a look at the Beginner section.

If you have been orienteering a while and want to build a solid basis for good navigation then look at the Basic Navigation Routine section under the Skill Levels menu. Also have a look at the Skills Tool Kit under the Intermediate section

If you are unsure of where to start, or are more experienced and have been orienteering a bit longer and you have hit a point where your orienteering is not improving then after browsing Better Orienteering you could try the self-diagnostic questions under: How well am I orienteering? It will help you identify the building blocks you need to get in place to improve.

If you are a teacher, the Teaching section will help you start finding resources. See also Books and Resources. There are videos and downloads throughout Better Orienteering that may help you, once you are clear on the level of material you are needing.

If you are in the military, this short guide to using the Better Orienteering website and resources may help.

The “Orienteering for the military” guide is not official, it was written in consultation with several ex-military personnel who are good orienteers, to help you find the material on this website that will be most useful to you. It discusses the development of your orienteering navigation in 3 broad stages and suggests how you might start to link orienteering navigation skills to other navigation challenges that are outside the remit of this website.

If you prefer to learn by just watching videos, I suggest you download the Better Orienteering Summary below then head to the Learning Videos Playlist and binge away! Hopefully you will then come back to the structured sections on skills.

Learning Videos Playlist

Better Orienteering Summary

You can download and use this summary as you work through Better Orienteering. It is a web-linked pdf so that when you click on headings or diagrams within it, it automatically opens the relevant web page on Better Orienteering. Feel free to share this summary widely as a way for people to access what is on this website.

Download this summary to use as you work through Better Orienteering

(Note: throughout Better Orienteering, text in bold is for emphasis. Links are in blue text)

What is included and linked to on Better Orienteering?

Better Orienteering Navigation model

Better Orienteering is based around this navigation model. The different elements of this model are explored in a structured way throughout Better Orienteering, applicable to different skills levels: Beginner, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Beyond. Understanding this model in more detail is mostly applicable to orienteers progressing through Intermediate level and beyond, absolute beginners need not worry about it.

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 sports there is.  Nothing else combines 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.

Contents list

Below is a fuller list of contents on Better Orienteering. This is mainly included for more experienced orienteers navigating this website looking for something specific. The headings correspond to Menu items of the website. The list is a good overview, but content keeps being added to Better Orienteering, so there is more content when you explore different sections.


Video – Start Orienteering a Newcomer’s Guide

New to orienteering? Some tips – a visual summary

IOF 3 videos

  • The Map
  • Planning your route
  • Finding your way

British Orienteering Newcomer’s guide

Introduction to map symbols

ISOM 2017 map symbols – Maprunner

IOF control descriptions 2018 – Maprunner

Colour coding explained

Orienteering world-wide 

Video – Orienteering more than just running

Where can I try orienteering?

British Orienteering Events list

Ollie O’Brien’s events map

Forestry Commission Permanent Orienteering Courses

Example of a permanent orienteering course

British Orienteering list of permanent courses

Skill Levels

Basic Techniques

Basic Navigation Routine a visual summary

Why this guide? An overview of Better Orienteering

Routines, concepts and strategies

Remember the basics, have a firm navigation routine

Fold the map

Orient the map to north

Break every leg into 3 parts

       Traffic lights

Video- Setting the map

Go steady to number 1 and get into the flow

Orienteering is about navigation much more than it is about running

Stay in constant contact with the map and compass

Video – Using the compass

When you become unsure of where you are, relocate yourself straight away

Only run as fast as you can think

You vs the navigation    

Don’t simply import your navigation techniques from other scenarios

Spend more time running with maps


It is easy to lose time but very difficult to make it up

 Everybody makes mistakes all the time

Anticipate errors and enjoy continually relocating

Video – Aiming Off

Treat every leg as a new beginning

Ignore other people never talk

Route choice – Look at the options for a leg, weigh them up, then commit

 Video – Route choice

 Know when and how to simplify

 Video – Simplification


Orienteering styles do vary, there is no one right way to navigate

Identify a virtual corridor to track within

Control flow is important but difficult to execute well

 Have the bigger picture in mind

Decide what type of leg you are facing

The right approach for the course in hand

Every map is wrong and orienteering maps are amazing

More certain vs Less certain features

Improve your distance estimation

Beyond Advanced

How to join it all up

It doesn’t have to all be in words

Improve your mental maps

Video – Intricate Contours

Feeling the terrain

Develop an extended race routine

Conclusion – how far can you take your skills?

2 articles by Tierry Geourgious

 Video – Last run of the king

How well am I orienteering?

How well am I orienteering? 3 self-diagnostic questions

Race Analysis

Review your route and performance afterwards

A catalogue of errors

Do practice, don’t only race

Race analysis table

Suggested reading and resources

Books and Resources

Better orienteering as a download

Other free downloads                


Useful websites on orienteering and other resources


 British Orienteering

World of O


SLOW Get up to speed videos

Orienteering USA

Orienteering Australia

Video – An introduction to orienteering from NEOOC

Orienteering Canada Skills





On the Red Line

British Mountain Bike Orienteering


O Maps at World of O

Routegadget UK

Open Orienteering Map UK

Duncan Bayliss, 2019