Each orienteer is given a 1:50,000 topographic map with the various control points circled. Each point has a flag marker and a distinctive punch that is used to mark the scorecard. Competitive orienteering involves running from checkpoint to checkpoint. It is more demanding than road running, not only because of the terrain, but because the orienteer must constantly concentrate, make decisions, and keep track of the distance covered. Orienteering challenges both the mind and the body; however, the competitor's ability to think under pressure and make wise decisions is more important than speed or endurance.
The orienteering area should be on terrain that is heavily wooded, preferably uninhabited, and difficult enough to suit different levels of competition. The area must be accessible to competitors and its use must be coordinated with appropriate terrain and range control offices.
a. The ideal map for an orienteering course is a multi-colored, accurate, large-scale topographic map. A topographic map is a graphic representation of selected man made and natural features of a part of the earth's surface plotted to a definite scale. The distinguishing characteristic of a topographic map is the portrayal of the shape and elevation of the terrain by contour lines.
b. For orienteering within the United States, large-scale topographic (topo) maps are available from the Defense Mapping Agency Hydrographic Topographic Center. The scale suitable for orienteering is 1:50,000 (DMA).