Understand TrailO in 5 minutes

Posted on | October 26, 2016 | Category: News

What is the difference between TrailO, TempO and PreO? Get a good grip on the differences with the help of this brief overview.

Trail Orienteering, also known as TrailO, is an orienteering discipline just like FootO, MTBO and SkiO. In Trail Orienteering, competitors use an orienteering map to follow an accessible track. On the map is shown a number of controls placed within view of the track. In the terrain, 1-5 flags are placed around the area where the control is centered on the map. The competitors have to use the map and the control description to decide which one of the flags, if any, is placed correctly.

Just as FootO has different formats such as Sprint, Middle and Relay, so TrailO has two individual formats, PreO and TempO, and a relatively new relay format called TrailO Relay. The main difference between PreO and TempO is the number of timed controls.

At a timed control, the competitor is seated looking at a cluster of flags. The competitor is given a set of map samples, 2-3 in PreO and 4-5 in TempO, showing the area they are looking at with one control circle plus control description on each. At the time they see the first map, a stop-watch is started. Then it is about making the right decisions as fast as possible. Each wrong answer adds 30 seconds to the time.


  • In PreO the course typically consists of 20-30 untimed controls and one timed control station with 2-3 tasks.
  • Because competitors with full mobility have an advantage at the untimed controls, PreO competitions offer two different classes: an Open class which anyone can enter, and a Paralympic class only for people with a permanent disability that significantly reduces their mobility. In TrailO you compete in one these classes regardless of age and sex.
  • The competitor with the most correct answers at the untimed controls wins. In the case of a tie, the one with the fastest time at the timed controls will win.


  • TempO has timed controls only, typically 24 tasks at 6 separate stations in the terrain, although this can vary.
  • Since mobility has no influence on the competitor at timed controls, all participants compete on level terms.
  • The time spent on the controls is added up, with 30 seconds added for each wrong answer. The competitor with the shortest time wins.

TrailO Relay

  • The TrailO Relay is a three-person relay.
  • Just as for PreO, the TrailO Relay has one Open class and one Paralympic class.
  • The relay has a PreO section and a TempO section on each leg.
  • The time spent on the TempO part is calculated and 30 seconds is added for each wrong answer. For each wrong answer in the PreO part a 60 seconds penalty is added. The team with the shortest time overall after the three legs will win.


An example of a TrailO control. The map sample is the solution. At a competition, the red dots showing where the flags are places would not be on the map. The letters in the second row of the control description tells how many flags you find around the control. A-C therefor tells, you will see three flags A, B and C.

The maps used in TrailO are drawn and printed according to either the ISSOM or ISOM norm. The map scale is normally 1:4000 or 1:5000.

Trail Orienteering was recognised as an official IOF discipline in 1992. The first ever World Cup in TrailO was held in 1999 and replaced with the World Trail Orienteering Championships (WTOC) in 2004. The WTOC are organised annually.

Still in doubt? The best way to resolve that is to go to a TrailO event and experience it in real life!

A further introduction to Trail Orienteering with tips and tricks can be found here.

One of the PreO courses at WTOC 2016. The competitor walks along the track from the start to the finish and solves the controls on the way.


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