- Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the legend and the symbols.
- Make sure you understand what contour lines are and what they represent. They are the brown squiggly lines you see on the map. They represent elevation in the landscape. As a beginner, it is essential to know you that the closer the lines are together the steeper the landscape. If you understand contour lines you can avoid danger areas of steep landscape as well as minimize the amount of climbing your team does between checkpoints.
- Know how to use a compass. Learning how to orientate your map using your compass to fit the land will help you ensure you are always travelling in the right direction. Also, particularly if you are racing in dense bush or at night, you will need to learn how to take a bearing off a map and then be able to follow your compass in order to reach the next checkpoint. Get someone who knows what they are doing to teach you and practice whenever you can
- Make sure you understand the scale and what this means. Scale refers to the relationship between the size of the map and the actual size of land or relative distance. Knowing how far it is to the next checkpoint can significantly help you work out how long it will take you to the next checkpoint. This way you can let your team know what to expect. for example the navigator will be able to say ... the next checkpoint is about 5km away .. but our next thing to look for is a road off to the left in about 500 meters.
Join your local orienteering club and get some help. Also check out your local area as a few places have orienteering maps and courses permanently set up and available for public use.
Duder's regional park in Auckland has a great orienteering course all set for anyone to try.