Skip to main content

How to make a sprint orienteering map – beginner’s guide

This tutorial tries to be the simplest “first-time-mapper” guide.


  • Select an area suitable for sprint orienteering. A combination of park (or forest) and city (with low intensity traffic) usually works best.
  • An area of 0,3 km2 is usually enough for a sprint orienteering competition. This size will also ensure the area will fit into an A4 format in scale 1:4000. (The area can be of course bigger and the printing format as well. The 0,3 km2 and A4 format were chosen because these are easy to handle.)

Map specification

  • Follow rules of the latest specification for sprint maps approved by International Orienteering Federation (IOF) – International Specification for Sprint Orienteering Maps (ISSprOM). The latest specification can be downloaded from the IOF MC webpage.

Software and hardware

  • Download the latest version of the free program Open Orienteering Mapper for desktop and also for Android phone/ tablet. This program creates files with extension .omap
  • You will need a desktop computer and a phone/ tablet running on Android.
  • Android devices that support thin styluses are best for drawing maps, as for example Samsung S Pen. However you can also draw with “thick” stylus or your fingers (which is clumsier). A suitable stylus is for example Adonit Dash which can be used on any Android device and is thin at the same time (there are other suitable brands too).
  • GPS chip that is built in phone/ tablet is usually accurate enough. If not, consider getting external GPS – GPS logger. Garmin GLO is a popular choice.
  • There is also Ocad, very good software for making orienteering maps. It is subscription based, usually suited for professional map makers.
  • You can also draw maps with “real” pencils (and scan this drawing afterwards and use it as a template). However we consider the advantages of phone /tablet mapping superior and focus on that technology.
  • Open Orienteering Mapper is a program being voluntarily developed by orienteers. If you are a programmer, your contribution to code is very welcomed. OpenStreetMap is a different project focused on mapping the world. Both get mentioned here, do not confuse them.

Base maps

  • Get as much base map material as possible.
  • Try local municipality or government mapping authority to get base map material. Usually such materials are provided to sport clubs for free.
  • Best base maps are: Ortophoto – aerial imagery (pic. 1), LIDAR – laser scan (pic. 2), Technical city maps in vector format (pic. 3), OpenStreetMap data, old orienteering maps (either vectorized or scanned), other maps (old orienteering maps, tourist maps, plans, etc).

  • All base maps should be georeferenced in the same coordinate reference system as the .omap file (see chapter Mapping). If your base map files are not georeferenced – adjustment of templates needs to be done in Open Orienteering Mapper.


  • Prepare on desktop .omap file for fieldwork with Android phone/ tablet.
  • The .omap file shall contain all acquired base maps (either as bitmap templates or as vector templates). This will enable you later during fieldwork to switch between base maps and derive from them as much information as possible.

  • Make sure your .omap is georeferenced (usually in UTM coordinate reference system), so you can use the power of GPS in your Android device. UTM coordinate reference system can be used all over the world, however UTM zones are different with different longitudes. 
  • Fill these coordinates into “Geographic coordinates”. Push the “Calculate” button and your UTM zone will get calculated (see picture).

  • Orienteering maps are oriented to the magnetic north. Calculate declination with “Lookup” button. Copy, paste this number from the pop up window of Magnetic Field Calculator website into the field “Declination” (see picture).

  • Make sure your .omap is using the right map specification

  • Transfer your .omap file (with templates) to your Android device. All .omap and template files have to be in a folder with the name OOMapper.
  • When mapping in field you can either draw the whole map in vector on-site or you can make notes and vectorize map later. Making notes is done in Open Orienteering Mapper into a blank transparent template and is called scribbling.
  • Once in terrain keep in mind that orienteering map is for runners that want to get across as fast as possible, so passability and runnability are the main criterions.
  • When finished transfer the modified .omap file back to the desktop. Do the final touches there.

  • In the rare case you are mapping with “paper and pencil”: Combine all acquired base maps into one printout. Print it in scale 1:2000 with a grid pointing to magnetic north. This grid also serves as an alignment when adjusting as a template later (crosses on pic. bellow). Laminate it onto a board. Scotch tape drawable plastic folie (for example Mylar) over your board. Use micro pencils to do field notes. Use a compass to make bearings. Pace to measure distance. When finished, scan your field notes and adjust it as a template in the desktop Open Orienteering Mapper. Redraw.

How to download a georeferenced orthophoto

There are several options:


  • Download program SAS.Planet. Don’t be taken by surprise, the web is in Russian. The program itself can be switched into English.
  • When opening the downloaded aerial image in Open Orienteering Mapper use the EPSG 3785 code. Downloaded accompanying projection files shall be in the same folder.



  • Use Ocad (paid), which has a neat function that downloads Google Satellite Maps.


  • If you can get along with lower resolution and no georeference: Make a screenshot of an aerial image and adjust it “manually” in Open Orienteering Mapper.

How to download OpenStreetMap data

  • Click on the Export button. File with name map.osm shall be downloaded.
  • Import this file into Open Orienteering Mapper: File/ Import/ OK


  • The most valuable base map material is LIDAR. LIDAR is a data set of points collected by laser equipped aeroplanes. 3D models, relief shading, vegetation density and other products can be derived from LIDAR.
  • Many countries offer these data for free (Spain, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden …). Other countries for a fee (Czech Republic, Germany, …). Google your country and LIDAR to see if it is available at your place.
  • With these programs you generate georeferenced base maps that you can open as templates in Open Orienteering Mapper.
  • Some countries have already premade some base maps from LIDAR and converted them into computer generated orienteering maps. These map servers are called MapAnts and base maps can be downloaded also from there. There are MapAnts in Finland, Spain, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand.


  • The final map shall also contain: North lines, Name of map. Scale. Date of completion. Credits.
  • This all can be added within Open Orienteering Mapper (desktop version).

Course setting

  • Download the free software Purple Pen and read About, FAQ on its website. 
  • Create a new event and adjust your .omap
  • Add courses and controls.


  • You can print either directly from Open Orienteering Mapper or export to other formats that suit your printer. You can print /export also from Purple Pen.


  • Don’t be afraid to ask for support, orienteers are keen to help. You can join the Facebook group Orienteering Mappers Int. Try search function first and then ask.
  • Other options for questions (email) are Map Commission IOF, which is an expert IOF body on orienteering maps or a Federation that is close to your place (each Federation usually has an expert body that focuses on maps).
  • Share your maps #orienteeringmapping

Author: Aleš Hejna
Map Samples: Jiří Vištejn