Navigation racing and orienteering don’t require very much expensive gear. Minimally, you need a compass, sturdy shoes, a whistle, and clothes appropriate for hiking or running. If you’re participating in a MerGeo Nav Races event, which are typically longer than orienteering races (such as by Cascade Orienteering Club), you’ll need:
- Water bottle or bladder
- A whistle for signaling in case of emergency (three short blasts).
- A compass
- A light
- A watch (or other time-telling device)
- A writing utensil (pencil works best) to mark the checkpoint intention sheets
- Enough emergency blankets (mylar or tyvek wrap or similar) to provide emergency shelter for the entire team
- Extra clothing layers, as appropriate
- And a backpack to carry it all in
If you are a hiker or trail runner, you may already own many or all of these items. However, if you’re just starting out, or are looking to upgrade your orienteering gear to what nav racers prefer, here is a list of shops and products we recommend:
WILDWOOD ADVENTURE OUTFITTERS: thumb compasses
Run by local orienteers out of Woodinville, WA, Wildwood sells several models of Moscow thumb compasses. Thumb compasses are designed to allow you to hold your map and compass together in the same hand with ease. Inexpensive models work well enough for walkers, but higher-end models feature magnetic needles that settle faster and are more stable while running across terrain. MerGeo staff Rebecca and Eric both use the higher-end Moscow compasses. The numbers on the bezel (the round part that turns like a dial) are not important for nav racing or orienteering, many navigate without any numbers on their bezel. Prices range from $26 to $53.
SEVEN HILLS RUNNING SHOP: shoes
Located in the Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle, WA, just outside of Discovery Park, Seven Hills offers a large selection of trail running shoes and knowledgeable, no-pressure, friendly service. While most employees in running shops won’t have heard of nav racing or orienteering, those at Seven Hills are familiar with the sport and can make good recommendations.
Most trail running shoes or day hiking shoes would do just fine at a nav race, and desirable features may vary depending on the terrain (whether it is rocky or soft, for example), but here are a few features to look for:
- Open tread, meaning that the lugs on the bottom of the shoes are spaced out enough that they grip well in soft off-trail conditions and also won’t pack up with dirt
- Tightly knit upper material (not the old school open mesh) to keep pesky, pokey grass seeds from embedding in your shoe (grass seeds are surprisingly sharp!)
- Some kind of toe bumper to protect you from stubbing your toes
Also, you might choose different shoes for a longer events (nav races 4 hours and more) or shorter event (COC events 3 hours and less). Generally, well-cushioned shoes are comfortable for long events and a hiking pace, while competitive orienteers who run might opt for thinner shoes to best sense the ground with and aggressive tread with metal studs. Salomon makes many well-cushioned shoes that are great for nav races, such as the XT Wings 3, while Inov-8 offers shoes designed for orienteering, such as the OROC 280s.
Of course, the most important feature of a shoe is that it fits you well, which is why we recommend that you visit Seven Hills Running Shop for their great customer service.
SECOND ASCENT: gaiters, backpack, headlamp, emergency blanket, first aid kit
Located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA, Second Ascent offers a range of outdoor gear for both hiking and trail running, both new and used, making it a great stop for nav racers. Here you’ll find Outdoor Research gaiters, Osprey backpacks, Black Diamond headlamps, plus emergency blankets, first aid kits, and other similar supplies.