Navigation Basics for Spring Challenge

You will definitely need to be able to read a map - especially if you’re the team navigator! It will also be handy if you know how to use a compass and have practised with it. Particularly for the 6 and 9 hour events, it will make life a lot easier if you can follow a compass bearing. It might sound scary and confusing but it’s straightforward with a bit of practise. You won’t be allowed a GPS device, and normally it won’t help anyway.

I’m no navigation guru so won’t even attempt to give you a 'how to' on this one. Instead here are a few options where you can learn from the best.

  • Your local orienteering or tramping club will be able to help you to learn and practise navigation.

  • Just for Girls Adventure Training run Spring Challenge navigation clinics that are aimed at beginners. Click here for the link to the Facebook page. These clinics are run by Nora Audra, an internationally successful adventure racer and 3 time winner of the 12 hour Spring Challenge. She has also written a super helpful article called Using a Compass 101.

  • As the popularity of Spring Challenge continues to grow there are more and more people who run navigation clinics - chances are there's one in your area.

Our endless fountain of advice, Google, can be handy for some quick research on navigation. It’s also a quick way to get confused! I’ve found that in person, with someone who knows that they’re doing, is the best way to learn. They can walk you through each step and get you started in the right direction!

Again there’s no secret overnight sauce to learning how to navigate. It comes down to getting the basics right - learn about map features, map orientation, how to use a compass, and how to follow a bearing . . . then practise!

  • Enter as many rogaines* as you can over winter.

  • Get your team mates or friends to set up ‘checkpoints’ around home and challenge yourselves to reach these points as quickly and easily as possible.

  • There are permanent orienteering courses set up in some locations. Most maps are available online to download or hard copies can be purchased locally for a small fee

  • Practise with different types of maps - orienteering maps are different from the NZ topographic maps, and often there is an orienteering stage thrown in to Spring Challenge.

  • Practise with maps of different scales. You will receive a series of maps to guide you through the Spring Challenge course and sometimes they are at different scales.

  • Navigating on foot is one thing, navigating while riding a bike is another! Using a mapboard mounted on your handlebars ( is an easy way to keep your map in front of you at all times. Often on a bike you’re travelling much faster so it is easy to miss things!

Mapboards in action at GODZone Chapter 7 2018 by Team St Martins New World Freedom Fitness.

The level of difficulty of navigation for Spring Challenge varies from year to year. I’m not part of the Spring Challenge event team so unfortunately I can’t share any insights into how tricky (or not!) the navigation for this year might be. I’m in the dark and take potluck guesses on where the course will go, just like everyone else.

The navigational skill level required generally advances from the 3 to 6 and 9 hour events. From what I’ve seen in recent years:

  • Being able to read a map is normally sufficient for the 3 hour.

  • The same goes for the 6 hour, but being able to use a compass would come in handy.

  • For the 9 hour being able to confidently navigate with a compass will certainly make your life easier.

*Rogaine - what on earth is a rogaine?​

I like to think of a rogaine as a treasure hunt for big kids. It’s an event where teams of 2-5 people use a map to navigate to checkpoints. There is a certain time limit, ranging from 1 to 24 hours, and the checkpoints are worth different values. You choose your own route to get the highest possible score in the time frame allowed.

The type of maps used and navigation required is very similar to what you can expect at the Spring Challenge event. It’s a great way to train with your team mates and practise your navigation skills. Keep an eye out for rogaines in your area. Google and Facebook make this easy, just search “rogaine + <insert town/region>”.

Happy adventuring!

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