It's sometimes called cunning running, a workout for both body and mind.
"Orienteering is a cross-country race. We have to read a map to find the course," said
Hawke's Bay Orienteering's Steve Armon.
"It is a combination of athleticism and solving problems as you go."
At this week's Hawke's Bay Schools Sprint Championship there were 267 entries.
"They can be all the way down to about year four at school," he said.
"The courses are set to allow for the age groups so there are harder courses and easy ones.
"Sprint just means it's a shorter course - it is not a sprint like 100m on a track. Sprint can still take 15 minutes, or I've just taken 20.
"You can get there any way you like so you've got to work out which is the best way or the best way for you. This is not necessarily a straight line. So that's why I call a problem-solving."
He said intellect was important, but without fitness it quickly fades.
"Having the smarts long-term is more important than your running ability because it doesn't matter how fast you can run it if you are in the wrong place. So you have to be able to read the map and follow the course.
"Any runner knows your brain gets tired before your big muscles do. And so you tend to make more mistakes later in your course.
"You need to stay fit to keep that problem-solving going through the course."
He said at the highest level, orienteers are top athletes.
"Peter Snell became an orienteer."
His club has about 200 members and runs 30 events every year that are open to the public.
"The school events are great events. They are the best advertisement for the sport because parents who know nothing about it come along and can see the kids actually having a blast.
Sometimes it works the other way too. Kids fed up waiting for their parents to finish, decide to have a go themselves."
Orienteer and Anne Baxter said when her daughter was about 12 she hated going for a walk with the family.
"After her first orienteering event she just loved that," Baxter said. "She felt she could run easily because she had something else to do while she was running.
"She was so busy concentrating on the map - she didn't realise she was getting a whole lot of exercise at the same time."