Orienteering is the skill of finding one's way through a series of checkpoints on an unfamiliar course using a map and a compass. Typically a course is set in a wilderness area and the participants are timed as they complete it.
Orienteering challenges both mind and body. The key to orienteering is the ability to make wise decisions, rather than the ability to run like a deer. Hence the name "The Thinking Sport." Out in the woods, you must make decisions and calculations: reading the map, recognizing the terrain, choosing routes, setting the compass, and sometimes counting paces. This combined mental and physical effort makes orienteering consistently challenging and rewarding.
At an Orienteering Event, a specialized, topographic map is used to choose the best route to a series of designated land features (the control points). Each control point has an orange and white control marker, and a distinctive punch which is used to punch a score card. With those controls supplying the reward every few hundred meters, orienteering provides the suspense and excitement of a treasure hunt. The abilities to make decisions and to understand the map and relate it to the surrounding terrain determine how easily the control points are found.
How the Events Work
The Western Connecticut Orienteering Club (WCOC) is a group of local orienteering enthusiasts that organizes "O-events" in this area. There are usually several courses offered at each event and the length and difficulty of the course is designated by a color. If you are a beginner, try the shortest course first, the White course. As you get more familiar with map reading and orienteering, you can then proceed to more challenging courses.
Start times: Unless indicated otherwise, participants can register and start any time between 10 a.m. and noon, but must finish by 2 p.m.
Fees: Regular local meet fees are $5 for WCOC members, $7 for non-members. $3 additional per person for family members.
All events are open to the general public. No experience is necessary--each event has courses for all ages and levels of experience. We offer free instruction for beginners at all events.
What to Wear: In general we tell people to dress for the weather when orienteering. The course for beginners is on the trails, and it is usually adequate to wear whatever is comfortable for hiking. The course for advanced beginners usually goes off the trail no more than 20 yards, and scratches might occur on the legs.
For intermediate and advanced levels, the terrain often is covered by a variety of vegetation and hazards that are unkind to skin: nettles, thorns, poison ivy, and barbed wire. Protection is also needed from various wildlife, including mosquitoes, wood ticks and deer ticks. Therefore, participants on intermediate and advanced courses must wear long pants. We also recommend gaiters and long-sleeve shirts. Since you are certain to be off trail and likely to encounter water your shoes will get muddy and wet. Shoes that dry out quickly are a big plus.
How to Get Started: During the spring and fall, WCOC holds frequent orienteering events. Each event has courses for beginners through experts, non-competitive and competitive. Instruction is
always available. We encourage you to join us for one or more events in the upcoming season. Additionally, our club, along with the nearby Hudson Valley Orienteering club, has been holding training events throughout the winter months. See the Events page for information about those events. Finally, you can try your hand at orienteering at any time using our permanent course set up at Five Ponds on the White Memorial Foundation property in Litchfield, CT. See the Links page for resources that are helpful when learning the sport.