Orienteering may be presented in many forms. However, there are two major types: Cross-county and Score. Other types of events include Line, Relay, Night, Bike, and Canoe. Most events are cross-county especially for national (A-meet) and regional (B-meet) as well as local events (C-meet). Variations in the types listed are left to the imagination of the organizer.
Cross-County Orienteering Every competitor must visit the same controls in the same order, therefore it is a direct challenge in route choosing and sheer stamina. Usually there are between six and twenty controls situated in varying degrees of difficulty and over courses of different lengths, depending on the level of the competition. Each control is ringed in red ink on the master map and the order in which it is to be visited is also clearly marked. (Note: the top of each number should be to magnetic north.) Sometimes the finish is at the same place as the start, but this is not essential. All the controls must be clearly described on the description sheet.
Score Orienteering The area chosen for this type of competition is dotted with a large number of control points, care being taken to ensure that there are more controls sites than can possibly be visited by any one person or team in the allotted time. The near controls carry a low point value, e.g. five points, while those at a greater distance and more difficult to find carry correspondingly higher point values. There are a number of ways in which the competition can be run. Pair work is a method by which teams can work in group and it is up to the leader to decide which members of the team should be sent to find which controls. Another method is to work along as in cross-county orienteering. The competitor must decide for himself the strategy to use in order to gather as many points as possible in the allotted time (usually one hour). One method is to work one's way out to the high point controls as rapidly as possible, perhaps picking up a few low value controls in the process and picking a route in which a few more lower point controls can be picked up on the return. A penalty system must be devised to take into account those team members or individuals that exceed the allotted time. For example, deduct one point for every ten seconds late.
Line Orienteering This form of orienteering is staged in much the same way as cross-county orienteering in terms of master maps, starting intervals, etc., but there is one major difference: No controls are marked on the map, only the route. The competitor transcribes this line on his map then seeks to follow it as carefully as possible over the terrain. At various points along this line, hidden controls are sites, the location of which is known only to the organizer. The competitor will only find a control by following the line. As in cross-country orienteering the fastest man around the course is the winner. A penalty is of ten to fifteen minutes is given for each missed control. Also, an interval of three to five minutes should be given between competitors to prevent one from following the other.
Route Orienteering Similar to line orienteering, only the route is marked by streamers in the woods. The competitor will mark on their map the location of each control. A penalty is given for distance from the correct locations.
Relay Orienteering This is the most popular team competition. The number of legs in the relay depends on the number of persons on a team. All the rules and regulations concerning cross-country orienteering apply to relay orienteering except that a competitor may run only one loop. The first man of the team will run with a map with only one loop on it. Upon finishing this loop, the next competitor on the team will start, and so on until the last person finish. The simplest way for the organizer is to arrange the course in a clover leaf pattern, with each loop begun from a common start area.
Night Orienteering This type of competition, whether based on a score or cross-country format, demands a high degree of skill in judging distance and compass work. The courses are set in daylight over much easier terrain, with shorter distance between controls. They are run in darkness with the using of flashlights. The controls are marked by a small lamp or reflexing tape.
Sprint - This type of competition is short cross-county events, often held in city parks and other more urban settings. Map scales are usually 1:5,000 or 1:4,000.
Bike or Canoe Orienteering This type of competition, whether based on a score or cross-country format is done on either a bike or canoe. Street Orienteering is done on streets, not in the woods.