Mapping Standards

IOF Mapping Specifications

The IOF have mapping specifications for each discipline of orienteering as follows:

  • Foot: International Specification for Orienteering Maps (ISOM)
  • Sprint: International Specification for Sprint Orienteering Maps (ISSOM)
  • Mountain Bike: International Specification for Mountain Bike Orienteering Maps (ISMTBOM)
  • Ski: International Specification for Ski Orienteering Maps (ISSkiOM)

ISOM 2000 is currently under revision with member nations asked to present submissions to the IOF Map Commission. A submission by Orienteering Australia was presented in December 2008 (OA_ Submission).


The mapping specifications provide a standard symbol set for use worldwide. In particular, for IOF events deviations from the specifications are permissible only with the approval of the IOF Map Committee.
The mapping specifications set out the content, accuracy, generalization and legibility that is required for an orienteering map. Legibility of the map is paramount and takes precedence over other map requirements.
Pursuant to ISOM the scale for a foot orienteering map is 1:15000 although for age classes 45+years and 16-years a scale of 1:10000 is recommended. If a 1:10000 scale is to be used it shall be a strict enlargement of the 1:15000 map. For educational purposes large scale maps such as 1:2500 are acceptable.

Maps should be printed on good quality, possibly waterproof, paper with a weight of 80-120gsm. Maps should not be larger than is necessary. Maps larger than A3 should be avoided.

Off-set spot colour printing is recommended for all IOF events. Other printing methods, such as 4 colour off-set or digital laser, may be used if legibility, colour and line widths have the same quality as printing with spot colours.

A 'Checklist for Controlling the Map Making of Major IOF Events' is available at the Documents for Event Advisers page. The checklist is recommended for use by controllers of Australian events, particularly for Level A Events.

OA Rules, Policies and Guidelines

The Competition Rules for Orienteering Australia Foot Orienteering Events contains rules at Section 15. Maps, which include

  • Maps and course printing to be drawn to IOF mapping specifications
  • For Group A events (Aust Champs – Long, Middle, Sprint & Relay, Aust 3 Days and National Orienteering League Events), map deviations need approval of the OA Mapping Chairperson. Other events need approval of the relevant state mapping officer.
  • The map scale for the Australian Long Distance Championship race should be 1:15000. If the map is ‘particularly detailed’, 1:10000 is recommended for classes M/W-16 years and M/W 40+ years. For M/W Elite junior & senior and M/W 17-39A age classes a scale of 1:10000 requires approval of the OA Director, Technical.
  • Map Symbols for Orienteering Maps Aust Ed April 2014.pdf
  • Map Symbols for Orienteering Sprint Maps Aust Ed April 2014.pdf
  • Control Descriptions Jan 2004.pdf

The  OA Operational Manual contains mapping policies and guidelines as follows:

2.8 Guidelines for Engaging a Mapper                  

 Orienteering Australia has developed guidelines to assist member organisations in establishing a clear (and legal) relationship with an individual who undertakes the development or updating of an orienteering map. The guidelines should be used as part of a risk management framework to minimise the likelihood that the organisation and the mapper are exposed to unforeseen risk.

A ‘Framework Agreement for Engaging a Mapper’ forms an attachment to 2.8 and provides a starting point for an agreement between the orienteering organisation and a mapper.

2.9 Mapping of Rock Features     

Although the policy predates ISOM 2000 and must be used in conjunction with the rules set out in ISOM 2000, it provides a useful explanation to mapping rock features in Australia. It was prepared by Alex Tarr, an experienced and respected mapper in Australia and a member of the ISOM2000 Project Team and Reference Group.

2.10 Digital Printing Policy      
For International events in Australia (World Cup, World Championships, World Ranking or equivalent)

ISOM 2000 recommends offset spot colour printing for all IOF events.  Other printing methods may be used if colours and line width have the quality as printing with spot colours.  Any request for a variation from offset spot colour printing would need to be approved by the IOF Map Committee.

For Group A events (Australian Championships: Long Distance, Middle Distance, Sprint & Relay), National Orienteering League and Australian 3 Days

Approval for digital printing must be obtained from the OA Mapping Chairperson at least 6 months before the event.

For Group B and C events

Approval for digital printing made at the State/Territory association level.

Guidelines for approval
Digital printing will be approved when it can be demonstrated that there will be ‘no significant loss’ of line quality, legibility, colour appearance and map durability for the competing orienteer.

Maps with the following terrain will require a demonstrated high standard of digital printing before approval is given:

  • Significant areas of bare rock, especially those with small areas of bare rock amongst other detail
  • Complex contour features e.g. gold mining

Note that complex maps printed at a larger scale (such as 1:10000) are more legible and more likely to be suitable for digital printing. However approval from the Director, Technical, is required for M/W Elite junior & senior, and M/W 17-39A age classes in the Australian Championships to use a scale other than 1:15000.

Mapping Deviations

A map with deviations from the mapping specifications may lead to unfair competition hence the use of standardized map symbols and specifications must be appied. Under OA Competition Rules it is the responsibility of the Controller 'to check that the map conforms with the IOF standards'.

In Australia some recent map deviations have included:

  • non standard symbols used for horse jumps - use the fence symbol
  • sprint map scale of 1:3000 - must be 1:4000 or 1:5000
  • vegetation area symbols too small - leave off the map or redraw with respect to minimum dimensions as specified
  • man made feature not defined - the definition of the symbol must be given in the map legend ie pole
  • ISOM fence symbols used on a sprint map - sprint maps only have two fence symbols: Passable and Impassable
  • North lines not at the correct spacing on a 1:10000 scale map - often results when a 1:15000 scale map is printed at 1:10000; lines should lie between 20 mm and 40 mm on the map
  • map scale of 1:10000 using 1:15000 size symbols for some point features - a 1:10000 scale map is a strict enlargement of a 1:15000 scale map.
  • undefined brown dot screen used presumeably for Broken ground - if the symbol represented Broken ground then the dots should form a random pattern
  • two symbol sizes (brown cross) used for Termite mounds with the smaller symbol being undersize - only one brown cross size is permitted as specified
  • length of dash line too short for Ruined fence - use dash length as specified
  • Less distinct small path symbol drawn at a wider width than specified - draw at specified width
  • Undergrowth screen drawn at the wrong line spacing - draw to specification