What skills do I need?

Rogaining is the sport of cross-country navigation. Unlike other endurance sports, there is a requirement for sustained mental ability throughout the event, in addition to physical ability.

The skills required of a good Rogainer include:

Pre-Event Route Planning

Typically entrants are given their maps 2-3 hours before the event begins, to allow for route planning. As teams are allowed to visit controls in any order with the purpose of maximising their team score, the ability to read a topographic map of unfamiliar terrain, understand it, and work out an efficient route that maximises team score and is within the physical abilities of each of the team members is invaluable.

Deciding which controls to visit first, or leave to last, to do during daylight or night-time, options for extra controls if the team is going well, or those that could be dropped if progress is slower than expected, if and when to rest are explored. Does a return to the Hash House for a hot meal work on this course, or are there not enough route options for that?

Experienced teams spend their route planning time to work up alternative strategies, measure distances, estimate times and scores. They have a good idea of how fast they can travel in different country and at different stages of the event. Prior to starting the event each team submits a ‘flight plan’ of their (initial) intended route. This is kept as an aid for organisers if any team fails to return.

Navigation Skills

If there is one thing regular Rogaining will develop, it is your navigation. Many participants have been initially drawn to the sport by a desire to improve their navigation skills.

The same map reading skills used for route planning are in constant use on the course. Competence with compass use is an essential and easily learnt skill. Detailed route finding skills are needed to efficiently move from one control to the next. The best route is not often a straight line. Different techniques are used in day and night, steep or flat, open or bushy country.

Learning to maintain ‘map contact’ (being able to show exactly where you are on the map at any time) is a highly valued skill to acquire.

Inevitable a control will not be found where it was expected. Being able to read one’s surrounds (if we’re not on that spur, then where are we?), and to be able to ‘relocate’ so that the team again has map contact are often hard learnt skills. All the more difficult in the early hours of the morning.

It is well recognised that the tortoise and the hare are alive in the Rogaining community. Teams that have planned well and navigated carefully will frequently outscore physically fitter teams who cannot capitalise on their speed across the ground by accumulating points.

Comprehensive VRA Rogaining manual here...

SARA Tips and Tricks here...

ACTRA Navigation and Rogaining Skills Notes here...

Physical Fitness and Stamina

With events several or many hours in length, over hilly and often untracked country, physical fitness and stamina are important for both enjoyment and safety. Recognising the abilities of each of the team members is a key to an enjoyable event. Proper preparation is also important. If you don’t do much regular exercise and then participate in a 6 hour event, it’s going to hurt.
  • Undertake adequate pre event exercise
  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing
  • Eat and drink well beforehand and carry suitable food and drink on course
  • Recognise dehydration and low blood sugar in yourself and team mates and address promptly
  • Walk at the pace of the slowest team member and rest together if necessary
  • Watch for heat stress and sun burn and manage preventatively
  • Carry basic first aid including snake bite bandages and blister control
  • Attend to ‘hot spots’ promptly. Don’t let them develop into blisters

Read the manuals suggested above to get more information.

Team Player Skills

At its heart, Rogaining is a team sport. Choose your partners well. The demands of an endurance event requiring continued mental alertness can tax relationships. It’s hard not to be your ‘real’ self in the bush, in the middle of the night. Although event organisers make every effort to ensure events are safe, to identify risks and provide back-up help and assistance, it is ultimately down to individual participants to manage their own health and safety in the first instance. This means actively monitoring your own and your team mates’ condition, talking about it and changing your plans if necessary as a result of those discussions.

It’s also effective to have all members fully participating in the navigation. Make each member lead to a control in turn. Talk strategy and how you will find the control. Take compass bearings separately and then confirm with each other, to avoid mistakes.

Take advantage of individual team strengths.

Competing in teams also has practical benefits. You can, and are expected to look after your team mates. Traveling in teams increases the resources available in an emergency and this is important when you may be several hours walk away from assistance. It is a Rogaining rule that team members must travel together, remain in voice contact and ‘punch’ the control together. Your team must also give assistance to any other team in need of help.

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