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GPS Watches: Sweden now explicitly allows them

In Sweden you may now use your GPS watch actively in order to get faster and more securely from point A to B. Good news from the Swedish Orienteering Federation (SOFT) regarding the use of GPS watches in orienteering competitions for those who have invested in a GPS watch – but is this the right way to go for orienteering as a sport?

SOFT now explicitly allows the use of GPS watches in Swedish Orienteering events (except for IOF events where the IOF rules are valid). The requirement is that the GPS watches do not have a map-function and/or a signal to aid the user in keeping the direction.

SOFT board meeting

After all the discussions regarding the ban of GPS watches earlier this summer (see article at World of O here, here and here), SOFT has now written a note about technical aids in orienteering competitions. This note was discussed on the SOFT board meeting of september 3rd, and approved.

Forbidden technical aids

It is interesting to note (ref article about the matter at the SOFT page) that SOFT agrees with the IOF regarding that forbidden technical aids are not allowed either to be used nor to be carried, however the definition of which aids are forbidden is the difference between the IOF and SOFT point of view.

SOFT assesses the benefit of using of a GPS watch in order to measure distance so small, that the basic idea of orienteering is not affected significantly. The use of a watch to measure your altitude is also allowed according to the same note.

Strong statement

This is actually a very strong statement from SOFT (if the article the SOFT page is in line with the intentions of SOFT) – as it states that you are now allowed to use your GPS watch in competitions in Sweden in order to measure distance. This decision seems to go exactly in the opposite direction of what the IOF wanted to achieve with their ban of GPS watches.

What is your opinion on the new development in this matter?

About Jan Kocbach

Jan Kocbach is the founder of WorldofO.com - taking care of everything from site development to writing articles, photography and analysis.

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  1. Jan, how about setting up a vote to see what kind of gps rules readers here would like to have for national events?

    – total banning of gps units.
    – only logger type units without screen are allowed (IOF rule)
    – allowed to carry, tape over screen, but not allowed to use for navigation
    – this Swedish style rule
    – free use, you can set up old maps as backgroud if you like.

  2. Have SOFT gone mad?

    Why do people want to dumb our sport down? The logical conclusion to this is taped cross country races through the forest – a perfectly valid activity, but not orienteering.

  3. First, I can’t understand the core of the problem (that is going on in German O circles too) These people who are heavily interested in and depend of getting lots of course and running data for their analysis are those who do their hobby (or more) with a very dedication — physical, time and also financial. They’re spending a lot of money for travelling, clothing and other equipment.
    Why is it so unacceptable to use two GPS tracking devices: one with display for training and lower level competitions, and another one without display for the big runs where the former is forbidden?
    Well, this recommends to buy a second device (that one without display). But in relation to all the other investments for practising O, this could be shouldered, can’t it?

    Second, I think that using a device that allows to measure distances, or even showing old maps in the background with coordinates in front, contradicts the idea of our sport. I wouldn’t like to hear about someone who wins by a narrow margin because (s)he has faster fingers and a bigger display with a higher resolution. Anyone likes?