Orienteering made easy in Thailand: get started with these 3 things

Get started with orienteering in Thailand

Orienteering might make you think of things like scout and hiking. Actually, orienteering is a serious sport that is competed internationally!

In Thailand, the sport of orienteering has been growing with the start of the Thailand International Orienteering Championship along with other activities, especially those supported by VSANO. But what is orienteering and how can you get started?

Orienteering: a navigation sport

Orienteering is, in the simplest definition, running with a map. You use this map to navigate to the given checkpoints. A compass is often used.

Unlike in a running race, the route is not marked, and it’s your task to choose the best route to the next checkpoint (also called a control). But like in a running race, the fastest runner wins (with the prerequisite that all the checkpoints are visited in the given order; otherwise it’s called a mispunch and the result is not valid).

Forests are traditional places for orienteering.
Orienteering is traditionally played in forests.

Orienteering can also be played on a bike or on skis, or (in theory) by any kind of transportation. There’s also a kind of orienteering called trail orienteering where you choose the correct marker; such a competition is based on the number of correct answers instead of the time of finishing the course.

Chiang Mai, Thailand is perfect for urban orienteering.
Thai cities often have winding, narrow street networks, which is ideal for urban orienteering. Pictured is the old town of Chiang Mai. Photo by Raphael Mak.

An old sport with constant evolution

Orienteering has its roots in the military exercises in Northern Europe. In Scandinavia, people would (and still do) practice shooting on skis while navigating, an important skill of national defence during the snowy winter. In the late 19th century, Scandinavian runners and skiers started turning orienteering into a specific sport activity.

For the first hundred years of the sport, orienteering was almost exclusively played in the forest. But as the 21st century started, the sport started to be played in the city as well. Now urban orienteering has become a popular sport activity in Asia, for example in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.

You can practise orienteering with apps like Metrunner.
You can practise orienteering with apps like Metrunner.

How can I start orienteering?

Orienteering can be done simply with a map and a course (a course contains a series of checkpoints where you need to go to). Thus, you can play orienteering even when going to the supermarket (i.e. try to find the fastest way to go there). But there’s more to orienteering than finding directions on Google Map. (Without using the direction feature of course; don’t cheat!)

Find your nearest practice course on Metrunner. There are plenty of courses throughout Thailand with checkpoints which you can run, visit and get points. Your phone will automatically record your visit with GPS; with the AR (augmented reality) mode, you can see the control marker on your phone too.

There’s a competition called Songkran Challenge, that you can play on your mobile, which has been extended due to COVID-19.

Get started with these 3 things…

Get started with orienteering by practising these three things: direction, location and route choice.

Orienteering marker in the forest
In an orienteering race, you can find markers like these. But you need to navigate to the checkpoint first.

1. Direction

Direction is often helped with a compass, but to navigate faster, you can practise orientating yourself only by the surrounding objects and features. Try matching these objects and features (e.g. roads and buildings) with the map; then, turn your map accordingly so the directions align. You thus have your map orientated (i.e. you have set your map) and it helps you a lot in identifying the direction you need to go to.

2. Location

Location is a more delicate matter. Try matching the relative positions of the objects with the map, and rule out any locations that you can’t be in. This takes practice.

3. Route choice

Route choice is to find the fastest way to your destination (the next checkpoint). The shortest way is often the fastest way, but it’s not always so. Hills are obstacles that would affect your choice; how fast you can run is another (you can’t run in the jungle as fast as on a road, obviously). Even the complexity of features can affect how fast you can navigate.

Str8 Evo
Compass is helpful in orienteering, although it’s not always required in races. (Pictured: Str8 Evo compass)

Try orienteering in Pattaya: TIOC 2021

From 26 December 2021 to 2 January 2022, there will be the Thailand International Orienteering Championship and training camp in Pattaya. This is a good chance for you to try orienteering (we have courses of varying technical difficulties from easy to hard)! We can teach you as well if you want us to.

Email info@metrunner.com if you’d like an online briefing about orienteering. In cooperation with the Thailand Orienteering Federation, we can arrange for training courses for you too. If you’re ambitious, you can inquire about joining the Thailand team as well; the team will compete in the Asian Orienteering Championships in South Korea in May 2022.

Sign up now at https://met.run/e/pattaya2021. Hope to see you at orienteering!