To organize or participate in an orienteering event, some equipment is required, which varies depending on the nature and complexity of the event.

To organize a simple event (a training session, for example), you will only need maps with the courses, control flegs to mark the location of the control points and a system for recording passage at the points (control cards and punchers or an electronic system). Those who wish to participate will only need a compass (and even this is optional).

However, there is a relatively large amount of auxiliary equipment both for the organization of more complex competitive events and for the orienteer to approach the sport in a more advanced and dedicated way.

Below we list the most common equipment/material for the practice and organization of orienteering events.


Although it is possible to practice orienteering with any type of map, as an organized sport orienteering is practiced with maps created exclusively for that purpose. These maps are accurate, detailed and prepared for a “human scale”, that is, the terrain elements that appear on the map are those that a person, when moving in that area, can easily observe.

Orienteering maps are drawn by Orienteering Cartographers, according to a set of rules well defined by the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) that aim to standardize the map making throughout the world.

To find out more about the orienteering maps, visit our page Maps.


A compass is the only navigation aid allowed to help with orienteering (GPS devices are prohibited), although it is not mandatory. At various stages of young athletes training it is important not to use a compass.

A compass is a device with a magnetic needle that is attracted to the Earth’s magnetic pole. Orienteers use it to orient the map to the north by matching the compass needle with the north lines on the map.

To find out more about the orienteering compasses, visit our page Compasses.

Control systems

There are different systems for recording passage at the control points and the race time, from a simple control card to electronic control devices.

To find out more about the different control systems, see our Control Card and Punching, SPORTident and EMIT pages.

Control flag

A control flag identifies on the ground the element in the center of the circle on the map relative to each control point on an orienteering event.

They are usually made of fabric on a wire frame in the shape of a triangular prism. Each of the three square fabric faces is divided diagonally in half, consisting of a white upper triangle and an orange lower triangle.

The competition rules require that, in official competitions, the sides of the control flags are 30 x 30 cm.

To find out more about orienteering courses, see our Orienteering Courses section.

Control description holder

Holder for the supplementary control description (normally provided by the organization before the event).

The most common control description holders are for use on the forearm. They are generally made of resistant and light material.

To find out more about Control Descriptions, see our Control Descriptions (description of all its elements) and Control Description Learning Games sections.

MTB-O map holder

To transport the map in MTB-Orienteering events, it is essential to use a map holder, which adapts to the bicycle handlebars.

A good map holder must allow it to be rotated quickly and easily, allowing the orienteer to orient the map whenever there are changes in direction.

There should also be a quick process for attaching the map to the map holder, as orienteers normally only have one minute for this task before the start.

Normally map holders are not sold with a compass, but it will be important for the orienteer to have a system to adapt a compass.

Orienteering clothing

Shirt and trousers

The equipment used in Foot Orienteering can vary depending on the taste of the orienteer, the level of intensity with which they compete and the type of course. However, in general, there are some characteristics that are transversal to all of them.

The shirts are generally quite light and fresh, but must be resistant. Although it is common for orienteers to use the same type of jersey regardless of whether it is a forest or urban route, in urban events it is also common to use normal running equipment as there is no need to protect the body.

Regarding trousers, there are two types: full or short, with the use of one or the other being more of a matter of preference for the orienteer. The trousers, for obvious reasons, should be very resistant, but cool.

Orienteering socks

It is very common in Foot Orienteering to cover terrain with low vegetation, bushes, etc. To protect the lower legs from these elements, there are special knee-high socks that are usually reinforced in the shin area.

Nowadays there are many manufacturers selling this type of socks.


Some orienteers prefer to better protect their shins by using, instead of the socks described above, specific orienteering gaiters, which have a higher level of protection than high socks, but are usually heavier and warmer.


Any sports footwear can be used to practice Orienteering. However, for surfaces where more grip is required, it is common for orienteers to use shoes with spikes (small aluminum spikes) which provide much better grip, especially on wet and slippery surfaces.

For orienteers who are prone to sprains, there are shoes with side protections built into the shoe itself.