Aiming Off

By Steve Gregg

The last important orienteering technique that I will discuss here¹ is the concept of "aiming off". That's the idea of purposely aiming to the right or left of the exact spot on a linear feature you are heading towards, so that when you hit the linear feature, you will know which way to turn to reach the precise location you are looking for.

This technique is most commonly used when you are running fast on rough compass towards the linear feature, with the intent to use something on the line to precisely reestablish your position. After all, there is no need to aim off if you are orienteering precisely, and know exactly where you are on the map at all times.

So aiming off is a strategy that is either used in very bland terrain, where it's difficult or impossible to keep track of your exact location, or is used at the start of a long leg in complex terrain, where you want to be able to run fast without slowing down to read the map precisely.

Just don't get too sloppy with your compass work when aiming off! This strategy is a spectacular failure, for example, if you end up to the left of the location you are trying to find, even though you intended to aim off to the right.


¹ This is the third article in a series about orienteering techniques. Reprinted from the May-Jun 2003 BAOC Bulletin.