Following is a description of orienteering course levels, and the skills required to do them. This is to help you decide which course is right for you. Above all, remember that orienteering should be fun. Choose the course that challenges your current skill level, but is still easy enough to be fun.
WHITE COURSE – for the beginner.
Choose white if you are just beginning to orienteer and have little or no experience. This is the competitive level for 12 years old and under.
What you should know before starting white:
- How to read and interpret map symbols and colors.
- How to orient the map to North, using a compass and/or land features.
- What the basic objectives (rules) of orienteering competition are.
- What to do when lost; how to use a safety bearing.
White is designed to introduce and provide experience in:
- Following linear land features, handrails, such as trails, roads, and streams.
- Learning to relate the map to features on the ground.
- Judging the distance between control locations.
- Gaining self-confidence in map reading.
YELLOW COURSE – for the experienced beginner.
Choose yellow if you have had some experience with orienteering, and are comfortable with the white course. Or if you have done a lot of hiking using topographic maps. This is the competitive level for 13 to 14 years old.
What you should know before starting yellow:
- Everything listed for the white course above.
- How to read contour lines.
- How to select a handrail.
- How to select an attack point.
- How to interpret scale and judge rough distances.
- How to take a rough compass bearing.
- How to make a route choice: safer vs shorter.
- How to recover from an error by backtracking to last known point.
Yellow is designed to introduce and provide experience in:
- Following handrails to an attack point, rather than the control.
- Taking a bearing from the attack point to the control.
- Choose between simple route choices.
- Recognize collecting features and catching features.
- Reading and interpreting contours.
- Recovering using attack points and map features.
ORANGE COURSE – for the intermediate level.
Choose orange if you have had some experience with orienteering, and are comfortable with the white course. Or if you have done a lot of hiking using topographic maps. This is the competitive level for 13 to 14 years old.
What you should know before starting orange:
- Everything listed for the yellow course above.
- How to navigate with or without a handrail.
- How to select and use collecting features and catching features.
- How to aim off.
- How to simplify the map.
- How to follow a compass bearing.
- How to recognize and avoid parallel errors.
- How to read IOF control descriptions.
Orange is designed to introduce and provide experience in:
- Navigating cross-country with confidence.
- Making route choices based on your strengths and weaknesses.
- Recovering from parallel errors and other mistakes.
- Fine map reading while traveling.
- Visualizing contours.
- Judging physical challenges and pacing yourself.
GREEN COURSE – a short course for the advanced level.
Choose this competitive level course if you are an experienced orienteer, and have done several Orange courses with confidence. This is the competitive level for women from 35 to 39, men from 50 to 64, junior boys from 17 to 18, and junior girls from 19 to 20.
What you should know before starting Green:
- Everything listed for the orange course above.
- How to pace count.
- Advanced techniques such as:
- How to attack from above.
- How to contour.
- How to thumb your map.
- How to redlight/yellowlight/greenlight running.
- How to evaluate your physical and orienteering skills.
- How to recover from a wide variety of errors.
Green is designed to provide experience in:
- Pacing yourself physically.
- Recognizing the challenges presented by the course setter.
- Perfecting your orienteering skills.
- Discriminating mapping details.
BROWN/RED/BLUE COURSES – other advanced course designations.
The above courses are all the same technical difficulty as green, and only vary in the physical challenge.
BROWN COURSE – a shorter advanced course.
This is the competitive level for women 60 and over, men 65 and over, and junior girls 17 to 18.
RED COURSE – a longer advanced course.
This is the competitive course for women from 21 to 34, men from 35 to 49, and young men 19 to 20.
BLUE COURSE – the longest and toughest advanced course.
This is the competitive level for men from 21 to 34.