Los Angeles Orienteering Getting Started FAQ

How do I get started?

1 - Read the orienteering 101 page or our LAOC Basic Training for an overview of the sport

2 - View our list of Events and decide which to attend. All events will offer a beginners course - typically designated white or yellow

3 - If the event is a DIY you will need to register to get the map and further instructions. You will then go to the location and do the course any day/time that it is accessible, and use a GPS application on your smartphone to track your performance. After completing the course your results will be uploaded and comparable with competitors

4 - If the event is in person you are recommended to register in advance, and plan to arrive close to when the courses open. Someone will be available to walk you through the check-in process, and provide introductory orienteering training if you request it

Do I need to be a runner?

No! 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.

Can I bring kids?

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.

Can I bring my dog

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 or Yellow) 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.

What is the cost?

DIY events are typically free. The fees listed below are for in person events.

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!

What types of payments do you accept?

Our online preregistration system connects to Paypal.
Payment at the event site can be made by cash or check. We do not process credit cards on site because many of our sites have limited to no internet connectivity.

DIY events are typically free.

I prepaid but can't come. Can I get a refund?

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 pre registration closes are handled on a case-by-case basis.

What are the types of courses and classes?

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.

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.

What should I bring?

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: Either a baseplate compass with a stable needle, or a thumb compass. Buy specialized orienteering equipment from any orienteering supply vendor, or Amazon.
Buy your own estick here.

How can I avoid long lines at in person events (DIY events not included)?

Step 1: Preregister AND prepay
Participants who register online are preassigned a bib and estick. If you have prepaid you can quickly pick these up and go straight to the start. The line is slower for those who still need to pay. If you don't preregister, you will have to fill out paperwork on site and wait in line to pay and have your entry processed.

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.

What is an E-Punch/E-stick and how do I use it?

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.

At Registration
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 ($2). 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 E-Punch 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 E-Punch 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. 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.