7 Tips for Preparing for a Long-Distance Orienteering Trip: Essential Advice for Success

July 01, 2024 7 min read

Embarking on a long-distance orienteering trip can be an exhilarating experience, combining physical endurance with mental challenge. Proper preparation is essential to ensure that you're ready for the demands of such an adventure.

A map, compass, and GPS laid out on a table. A backpack filled with supplies sits nearby. A checklist of essential items is pinned to the wall

Equipping yourself with the right knowledge and planning can make your journey both enjoyable and safe. From mapping out your route to ensuring you have the necessary supplies, careful planning is the key to success.

1) Carry a detailed map and compass

Having a detailed map and compass is essential for any long-distance orienteering trip. Relying solely on GPS devices or smartphones might be tempting, but batteries can fail or signals may be weak.

High-quality maps provide vital information about the terrain. Topographical maps show elevation changes, water sources, and vegetation types, helping you plan your route effectively.

Alongside your map, a reliable compass is crucial. Know how to use it to navigate accurately and consistently. It's a skill that can prevent you from getting lost in unfamiliar areas.

Together, maps and compasses help you maintain your course even in bad weather. Bad visibility or unexpected obstacles won’t hinder your progress as much when you can fall back on these tools.

Study the map beforehand to familiarize yourself with key landmarks and routes. This preparation will make field navigation easier and less stressful.

2) Equip Yourself with a GPS Device

A hand reaches for a GPS device next to a map and compass. A backpack is packed with supplies for a long-distance orienteering trip

When preparing for a long-distance orienteering trip, having a reliable GPS device is essential. It helps you navigate through unfamiliar terrain, keeping you on track and ensuring you don’t lose your way.

Choose a GPS device that is sturdy and waterproof. Durability is important, as you may face various weather conditions and challenging environments.

Ensure the device has a long battery life and consider carrying extra batteries or a portable charger. Running out of power in the middle of nowhere can leave you stranded.

Familiarize yourself with the GPS device before the trip. Understand its functions and practice using it in different scenarios to build confidence.

Download detailed maps of the area you'll be exploring. Preloaded maps can be a lifesaver, especially in areas with limited internet connectivity.

Keep the device securely attached to your gear. This can prevent accidental drops and ensure it’s always within reach when you need it.

While GPS devices are extremely useful, remember to carry a traditional map and compass as backups. Technology can fail, but a map and compass provide a reliable alternative.

3) Pack lightweight and high-calorie snacks

A backpack with high-calorie snacks, a map, compass, and water bottle laid out on a table

Energy is crucial during a long-distance orienteering trip.

Opt for snacks that are high in calories yet lightweight. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are excellent choices. They pack a lot of energy without adding much weight to your gear.

Energy bars and gels can also be beneficial. They provide a quick boost when you need it most. Choose options with a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Dehydrated meals can be a good option if you're planning multi-day trips. They are light and easy to prepare. Make sure to bring enough to meet your daily nutritional needs.

Remember to account for your hydration needs. Pack electrolyte tablets or powders to replenish lost minerals and maintain energy levels.

Variety is key. Mixing different types of snacks keeps your diet interesting and ensures a broad spectrum of nutrients. Choose non-perishable items to avoid spoilage.

4) Wear moisture-wicking, quick-dry clothing

Choosing the right clothing is crucial for a long-distance orienteering trip. Opt for moisture-wicking and quick-dry fabrics. These materials help keep you dry by drawing sweat away from your skin.

Avoid cotton as it retains moisture and takes longer to dry. This can leave you feeling clammy and increase the risk of chafing. Synthetic fabrics like polyester or specialized blends are more effective.

Layering your clothing is also important. It allows you to adjust to changing weather conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating layer, and finish with a breathable outer layer.

Proper clothing selection can help regulate your body temperature. It keeps you comfortable throughout the trip. Investing in quality moisture-wicking and quick-dry clothes will enhance your orienteering experience.

5) Bring a portable water filter

A person sets up a portable water filter near a stream, surrounded by a backpack, map, compass, and other orienteering gear

When embarking on a long-distance orienteering trip, ensuring access to clean drinking water is crucial. Carrying a portable water filter is an excellent way to achieve this. These devices are compact, lightweight, and can effectively remove impurities from natural water sources.

Water filters come in various forms, such as pump filters, straw filters, and gravity filters. Choose one that suits your needs and is easy to use. Pump filters are reliable but may require some effort, while straw filters are convenient for immediate use.

Using a portable water filter not only keeps you hydrated but also helps reduce the amount of water you need to carry. This can lighten your load significantly. Ensure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and maintaining your filter to ensure its effectiveness.

While considering safety, a reliable water filter minimizes the risk of waterborne illnesses. This is vital when you are far away from medical help. By filtering water from streams, rivers, or lakes, you can stay hydrated and healthy throughout your journey.

Remember to pack extra filter cartridges or parts if your trip is lengthy. Filters can become less effective over time, especially with frequent use. Being prepared with spare parts ensures continuous access to clean water without interruptions.

6) Carry a first aid kit

A first aid kit is being packed with essential supplies for a long-distance orienteering trip. It includes bandages, antiseptic wipes, scissors, and pain relievers

A first aid kit is an indispensable part of your gear for a long-distance orienteering trip. You never know when you'll need to handle cuts, scrapes, or blisters.

Your kit should include adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and gauze. It's also vital to have pain relievers, insect bite relief, and any personal medications.

Consider packing a small manual that provides basic first aid instructions. This can be incredibly useful if you're untrained in first aid.

Compact and lightweight first aid kits are widely available and perfect for long-distance activities. Packing a well-stocked kit means you'll be prepared for common injuries and health issues during the trip.

7) Use trail running shoes with good grip

A pair of trail running shoes with good grip on a rugged terrain, surrounded by a map, compass, energy bars, water bottle, and a backpack

Wearing trail running shoes with good grip is essential for a long-distance orienteering trip. These shoes are designed to handle rough and uneven terrain, providing stability and preventing slips and falls.

Trail running shoes typically have rugged soles that dig into various surfaces like mud, rocks, and loose dirt. This can give you more confidence as you navigate different terrains.

Look for breathable materials in the shoes to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Wet feet can lead to blisters and other foot problems, which can be a major hindrance on long-distance trips.

Ensure the shoes fit well and offer good ankle support. Proper fit reduces the risk of injury and increases your overall comfort during the trip.

Test the shoes on shorter hikes or runs to break them in before your trip. This helps avoid any discomfort or surprises when you're out in the field.

Understanding Long-Distance Orienteering

Long-distance orienteering involves navigating through varied terrains using maps and compasses over longer distances. Proper preparation and knowing what to expect can greatly impact your success.

Defining Orienteering

Orienteering is a competitive sport where participants use navigational skills to find their way from point to point in diverse and unfamiliar terrains. This is typically done with the aid of a detailed map and a compass.

Participants must choose the best route to each checkpoint, known as controls. Efficient route selection and navigation are crucial. Unlike simple hiking, orienteering tests both physical endurance and mental acuity. You must constantly adapt to changing environments and make quick decisions on the go.

Types of Orienteering Courses

There are several types of orienteering courses, each with its own unique challenges and rules. Traditional Foot Orienteering involves running across rugged terrain to locate checkpoints. Night Orienteering, done in the dark, relies heavily on your navigational skills.

Score Orienteering gives participants a set amount of time to find as many checkpoints as possible, each with different point values. Rogaine combines long-distance navigation and strategy over extended periods, often requiring teamwork.

Selecting the right type of course for your skill level and interests is essential. Knowing what each format entails will help you prepare appropriately and enhance your overall experience.

Technical Preparations for the Trip

Before embarking on a long-distance orienteering trip, it's essential to focus on having the appropriate gear and mastering navigational skills. Both of these elements are critical for your safety and success in the wilderness.

Choosing the Right Gear

Selecting the right gear can make or break your trip. Comfortable clothing suitable for diverse weather conditions is essential. Opt for moisture-wicking materials to manage sweat and waterproof gear for rain protection.


  • Choose durable, waterproof boots to protect your feet from rugged terrains and moisture.
  • Ensure your boots are well broken in to avoid blisters and discomfort.


  • A lightweight, sturdy backpack with adjustable straps and multiple compartments can significantly ease carrying essential items.
  • Consider a waterproof cover for the backpack.

Additional Gear

  • Pack a compact sleeping bag with a suitable temperature rating.
  • Include a small, lightweight tent for overnight stays.
  • Bring a portable stove and cooking utensils if you plan on cooking meals.

Navigational Tools and Techniques

Navigational tools are vital for keeping you on track. A topographic map of the area and a reliable compass are non-negotiable.


  • A compass must be precise and easy to read, with clear markings and a rotating bezel.
  • Practice using the compass with the map to improve your accuracy in the field.

GPS Device

  • Although not a substitute for a map and compass, a GPS device can be a helpful backup.
  • Ensure it's fully charged and pack extra batteries or a portable charger.


  • Master basic orienteering techniques such as taking bearings, orienting the map, and estimating distances.
  • Familiarize yourself with landmarks and contour lines to navigate effectively.

Having the right equipment and skills will greatly enhance your ability to navigate and endure the challenges of a long-distance orienteering trip.

Physical and Mental Conditioning

A trail runner stretches, packs a backpack, checks a map, and fills a water bottle. They adjust their compass and tie their shoelaces before setting off

Preparing for a long-distance orienteering trip requires both physical endurance and mental fortitude. These aspects are critical to ensuring your success and enjoyment during the journey.

Building Endurance

To build endurance, incorporate regular cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling into your routine. Aim for at least three to five sessions per week, gradually increasing duration and intensity.

Strength training is equally important. Focus on exercises that build core strength, like planks and leg lifts, and include weight training for your legs and back. This helps in navigating the varied terrains encountered in orienteering.

Adequate rest and recovery are crucial. Ensure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep and include rest days in your training schedule to prevent injury.

Mental Focus and Strategies

Mental preparation is just as vital. Practice map-reading skills frequently to become proficient in visualizing routes and making quick decisions under pressure.

Develop a strategy for maintaining focus during long periods of solitude. Techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises can help manage stress and enhance concentration.

Simulate race conditions in your training. Practice with the actual gear you will use, and in similar terrains, to build confidence and adaptability.

Remember, mental resilience is built over time. Regularly challenge yourself with new courses and varying conditions to improve both your mental agility and orienteering skills.