Posted on 8/08/2015 by Chris Stevenson

The rules of rogaining are pretty explicit:

R7. Navigational Aids

(a) The only navigational aids that may be carried on the course are magnetic compasses, watches and copies of the competition map.

(b) The possession of other navigational aids, including pedometers, altimeters and GPS receivers on the course is prohibited except when event organisers provide a means by which information on the devices cannot be accessed whilst on the course.

Despite this rule, many people, the author included, carry navigational aids which, these days, come in many forms. I normally wear a GPS watch and a foot pod. I also carry a smart phone with GPS (I am sure when the rules were written GPS watches were not so prevalent.) The other thing to note is that a smart phone including a GPS is a really good safety measure. If a team, either lost or injured, can relay its GPS coordinates to the Hash House then search and rescues would be simple.

One view, may be that I should simply not carry such devices during an event, but the reality is that I really enjoy a post-event review of my track which highlights speed and small (hopefully) errors. In many respects having a GPS during an event is of little benefit, but in one respect there is a real risk of cheating. GPS can be used to track distance and there is a significant risk that people who carry a GPS will use it for distance reckoning rather than relying on the imprecise science of pace counting.

I think we understand the problem, but what should we do about it? My view is that using a GPS device in any form during an event is rightly banned and should be viewed as cheating, but given that so many rogainers currently wear GPS I am not sure that a strict enforcement of the current rule is the right solution. Possibly the best solution is to modify the rules to say that GPS devices may be carried but must not be worn and teams consulting these devices outside of an emergency situation will be disqualified for cheating.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others.

5 Responses to Cheating?

  1. Julian Ledger on 19/08/2015 at 8:29 pm says:

This is a timely post as devices with navigation aids built in are becoming ubiquitous. Next generation – why would anyone need to be able to read a map when your phone, watch or built in car system gets you there.

The rule needs review and I think that except for championship events that some flexibility is needed. The devices are very cool and I have certainly got enjoyment from downloading my Garmin Fenix 3 back home to have a better look at the route. Agree with Chris that measuring distance is the main potential benefit and should be explicitly noted as outside the rules.

I wear a watch in the only intention to overlap my gpx with the map and do my post race analysis. I agree that the downside of it if people uses it to track a distance. Maybe we could ask the rogainers to put their watch in their backpack rather than on their wrist (and use another simpler watch if needed). I have never been to major championship but I presume you can be disqualified on the spot with a GPS watch on your wrist …

I don’t think it is the rules that fall short. The rules state competitors can only carry such devices if they are not accessible during an event and organisers can verify this.

It’s just at most non-championship events, organisers don’t enforce the rules. That is, carrying all devices in sealed tamper-proof plastic bags is not enforced. I have attended a number of championship events and organisers have enforced these rules at all of them.

Personally I don’t have a problem with the lack of enforcement at non-championship events. Firstly, because of the benefits outlined in other posts; secondly, because these devices are good training aids and a number of competitive teams use non-championship events for training purposes; and lastly but importantly, it’s nice to be part of a sport where participants and organisers compete and are involved for the love and enjoyment of the sport itself.

I’ve participated in every rogaine event in NSW (bar one) for the past 5 years, as well as a number of ACT events and never have I seen nor heard of cheating by any competitive team.

If newbies to the sport get comfort from these sorts of devices then go for it, particularly if it encourages them to join our sport and experience the wild outdoors!

The suggested solution is a good one, I think. (i.e. OK to carry, not OK to consult.) As with most rogaine rules, enforcement by honour system should be sufficient (except maybe for championship events).

It’s possible to purchase so-called ‘GPS loggers’, which will record your track and any waypoints you mark, but offer no form of navigational assistance (no interface other than a few buttons and status LEDs). I use one. They have the added benefit of being light-weight and able to record for the full duration of a 24-hour event.

I do think this issue should be addressed. For anyone who’s serious about improving their rogaining, a post-event GPS track is invaluable for learning purposes! My weaknesses became very apparent once I started recording tracks. (Their commonalities were remarkable.) I’ve definitely improved as a result.

Tamper proof plastic bags (for any GPS devices on the course) are the simplest solution. We just need to remember to explain them in notes prior to the event, provide them at registration, and remind competitors at the briefing.

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