Register | Login
Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Free-standing control stands?

in: Orienteering; General

Dec 29, 2023 6:58 PM # 
In an effort to become fully compliant with city code and avoid the (usually futile) need for a park permit, SDO is considering using free-standing control stands for our urban events.

We would love recommendations on cost-effective or DIY solutions for free-standing control placement?

Some clubs seem to be wooden saw horses, but these are awkward, large and heavy for our application (20-30 control sprints).

Sportident offers cone-top inserts, but cones are also heavy:

Has anyone built a lightweight tripod-style stand from aluminum or similar?

Dec 29, 2023 8:06 PM # 
Inspired by GrizO, we got a bunch of small, collapsible traffic cones (something like this) for Animal-O. We cut some dowels and screwed on SportIdent brackets to make "toppers" (inspired by Navigation Games). We haven't tried them for regular use, just for kids, but they would certainly function for a local/casual event. Maybe a bit annoying to have to bend down so much to punch, but a lot less annoying and heavy for the person putting them out than full-sized cones, and you can fit a lot of them into a storage bag.
Dec 29, 2023 9:31 PM # 
I tried many things in my teaching in schools, gyms and outside on concrete and athletic fields where they did not want to have stakes going in the ground. I have used cones with the SI brackets before, used a gym-cone-caddy - still cumbersome. Other times I have used bricks with a drilled hole in them and then inserted my regular light-weight metal stakes (some of the L-shaped from the; they now also carry the mini-stakes they initially designed when I asked for them) as well as other ones I made. I also used smaller cones, but the small cones were too light, whether with the cone-toppers or the stakes, even the mini-stakes in them, were getting knocked over or too easily moved. Bricks worked great, but were not so easy to transport. I had always wished I had some smaller weights, maybe still as heavy as a brick, that would not easily topple, with a hole in them.....
Dec 29, 2023 11:25 PM # 
Gallon milk jug with some sand in it?
Dec 30, 2023 5:20 AM # 
MapRun controls are invisible, weightless, and don't have to be collected after the event.

For actual stands at events (usually Sprint) where we can't put a stand in the ground because it's brick or concrete, we use an icecream container filled with cement and a piece of pipe in the middle for the stand to sit in - see picture. (Heavy though - at most Sprint events we use around 6-12 of these, as most stands can be put in the ground.
Dec 30, 2023 6:01 AM # 
MapRun is not the same and encourages people to not physically visit the site if they get the beep beforehand (or if uploading later, stop miles short of the control and just claim it anyway).

However MapRun does have the added advantage of not necessarily having to apply for a permit if people aren't aware there's anythng going on.
Dec 30, 2023 7:33 AM # 
What do those in the know think of sawhorses like theseas a portable, temporary and sturdy control stand. Brackets made to fashion 2x4s into saw horses seem a good option as well. 31 inches may be a bit low, no?
Dec 30, 2023 9:50 AM # 
For urban street events we use a flat plastic board with a cable and lock - see photo. Descriptions and map should be accurate as the boards are not 3-dimensional and occasionally difficult to spot.

Despite tRicky's rant about MapRun, it is worth exploring.
Dec 30, 2023 4:25 PM # 
Maybe start with this as a base, and add something to hold the marker and SportIdent box?
Dec 30, 2023 10:08 PM # 
It's hardly a rant; it's a fact. One participant at yesterday's event (who is notorious for doing so) claimed a Revise 300 rather than admitting he went nowhere near the control feature, claiming the MapRun pin must have been in the wrong spot (it wasn't because I also did an in-and-out to the same control and MapRun had no problem recognising it).

If it's a low key event then it's perfectly fine to use MapRun. Anything bigger or requiring precise navigation (e.g. sprints) then you need physical markers.
Dec 30, 2023 11:56 PM # 
I've seen light duty folding sawhorses used before for control stands.

This style folds away nicely for carrying and storage.

Maybe there is even a lighter weight version available somewhere.

Something that is also easily securable by a cable lock to another fixed object might be good (and would work with the above folding sawhorse).

Mark asked about a lightweight tripod-style stand. The 3 legged camp stools come to mind but they are too low/short for a control stand. I wonder if you can find a counter top or bar height version?
This version has telescoping legs.
Dec 31, 2023 2:40 AM # 
A few of the ones seen around NZ..
Orienteering Taranaki use these lightweight folding ones that sound like they may suit your task ...
The pack-down plywood sawhorse ones we made when hosting the world cup...
The 2x4 ones ...
The block ones that our course setters seem to like using...
Dec 31, 2023 1:03 PM # 
In the last two, what’s the piece that goes into the hole in the wood and is then offset for the control stand?
Dec 31, 2023 5:19 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I'm interested in this conversation for two reasons:

1) I'm always interested in clever solutions for this issue. Whenever I design urban sprint courses, I'm specifically choosing control sites where I can put a metal stake in the ground, acknowledging that I'll need to use a few cones somewhere (ie: two weeks ago at a campus event, we used 8 cones over 55 control sites, and we did a really good job to get that down to just 8).

2) What piques my interest more are the city code compliance and the eschewing of park permits. I'm curious to hear what sort of urban sprints you can organize without permits by just following city code about how things are placed on the ground.
Dec 31, 2023 9:21 PM # 
Christina, a popular control stake in NZ is made from mass-produced electric fence components. The offset piece at the bottom carries a steel pin and lets you stomp it into the ground.
Dec 31, 2023 9:26 PM # 
Those are often used in the USA as well.
Jan 1, 2024 1:16 AM # 
Gents, what we are discussing in this thread is stands for places where we cannot or are not allowed to 'stomp' anything into the ground.
Sometimes it is pavement or concrete that is the problem. Sometimes it is a municipal or park regulation where they are concerned about a spike-like object puncturing a watermain, cable or gas line, etc.
It is a pretty poorly buried utility if one of our pins can reach it but a rule is a rule.
Jan 1, 2024 1:21 AM # 
Looks to me like it would be free standing if you stomped it into the wooden base instead of the ground. Dual use control stands (depending on terrain) are a bonus.
Jan 1, 2024 1:42 AM # 
Very timely. The "no disturbance of ground" rule has now been applied to our bush event permits. I suspect it is just copy and pasted from rules for urban parks. There are some areas where rules over indigenous heritage prevent any disturbance of soil without a permit and in this situation free-standing control stands will be required. However, in areas where gold seekers with metal detectors are allowed to dig for nuggets, banning our usual control stands is a nonsense,
Jan 2, 2024 6:18 PM # 
The downside of anything lightweight without an anchor is that it's easy to move or blow away.

I was recently told that my local park's regulations about disturbing the ground came with a depth threshold. (e.g. 10 inches might be OK, 14 inches might not).

Depending on your situation, maybe a long metal rod would be rejected, but you might still get approval if you can ensure that you only use short anchoring stakes?
Jan 3, 2024 7:34 AM # 
What I did one time when setting up a training course for friends (when I didn’t have access to standard orange/white O-flags or e-punch receivers) was use 15-inch irrigation flags from Home Depot (I bought a total of 50 of them). They are very cheap and sold in bundles of 10 in a single color.

For this training event, I had the runners mark that they visited the controls by doing a Photo-O, and to ensure they weren’t taking zoomed-in photos, I asked that their hands be in the photo doing a thumbs-up or something to show that they were within 8 feet of the control flag.

The irrigation flags range in all colors of the rainbow except for purple. They are very lightweight, and they should hold fairly firm in hardened desert ground, which I believe most of SDO’s terrain would be.

Now, if you want to be extra technical with the type of event I did and do it in a venue with 4-7 courses, you can apply a sticker with the control number on the flag for easy identification if you can’t already tell the control flag from the location around it. You can also use the timestamp of the photo in the photo library versus the starting time to calculate split times. Or if you don’t want to do something that requires going through somebody’s photo library, you can do what I did for my Eagle Scout Project permanent course, where I put a 3-character code on my wooden poles. If you tell runners to write down the unique code on the flags to prove visitation, it would work just like pin-punching.
Jan 3, 2024 8:41 AM # 
For urban sprints, another option is just to attach the SI unit directly to a fence, lamppost or item of street furniture using steel wire and a gripple (or similar ratcheting device). If you don't have BSF9s and don't want to put the wire through the punching-hole, you can mount the unit on a metal baseplate first (e.g.
Jan 3, 2024 10:49 PM # 
"gripple" - probably what we folks west of The Pond refer to as zip ties or cable ties. Yes, they have more uses than restraining unruly airline passengers.
Jan 4, 2024 4:19 AM # 
Gripples are different to cable ties and are a metal wire with a device that only allows the wire to be pushed through in one direction unless you have the release mechanism (typically a pin).

Something like this.
Jan 4, 2024 8:43 AM # 
Them's the ones. I wouldn't recommend using plastic cable ties; your determined vandal will just twist the SI unit around until the plastic tie snaps.
Jan 4, 2024 9:58 AM # 
Their resemblance to nooses is disturbing...
Jan 4, 2024 1:06 PM # 
I suppose a really determined vandal would just smash the SI unit with a rock.
Feb 10, 2024 12:24 AM # 
In lieu of the usual stands, I drive a 12" galvanized spike halfway into the ground, set a 3' length of 3/4" pvc pipe over the top of the spike, and hook my flags to a hole drilled at the top of the pvc pipe (and clip a hand punch to the flag.

It's not beautiful or light weight, but it's cheap, it works great, and parts are easily replaced. I have no engineering to do to switch between hanging a control from a bush vs one of my stands, the parts are easy to store and carry around, they don't rattle when being transported, and I don't get aluminum residue on my hands. :-)
Feb 10, 2024 9:59 PM # 
DVOA in Pennsylvania does the same as Coyote (using even lighter weight fiberglass stakes sharpened on one end), but Mark's looking for standalone stand ideas, in case you can't pound something into the ground.
Feb 11, 2024 9:06 AM # 
> but Mark's looking for standalone stand ideas, in case you can't pound something into the ground.
So am I. Permit conditions for forest orienteering!
Feb 11, 2024 11:30 AM # 
Gripples are now 100% standard at UK events. They are fiddly to take in when its cold - you need a pin or, er, the end of the gripple wire also works fine unitl it frays.

Vandals can still rip the flag off, but the SI box is much harder to steal, essentially impossible with brute force. Though, in places where the locals carry knives we have lost a few, and tend not to ask for them back.
Feb 11, 2024 3:20 PM # 
We've used free-standing stands for sprints made of schedule 40 PVC. Since the popularity of using PVC for greenhouse and "furniture" applications you can get 5-way fittings like these (

We put 5 pieces of PVC pipe in the 5 directions and caps on the end keep it level/steady and drop your fiberrod/dowel/etc. in the vertical stick. (if you felt the need to secure it, you could drill or screw through both for cable, etc. They're very stable/resistant to topple. We haven't had them blow around or move, but if you had a really windy event and the controls were out in the open, I'd rather weigh down as needed than have all the stands be heavy all the time.)

I've prototyped a version for apartment-dwellers (or others with extreme storage challenges) that uses shock-cords in the legs that pull out and fold up into a compact bundle (that I hold folded with hair-elastics) but I haven't made a whole set of those yet.

Grateful credit to Jon Eaton who designed the adapter. Not only did he post the design for the standard electric fence oval posts - for those staking in the ground, but he modified it for me to use a 1/2" round post (that I had a bunch of and used with the PVC stands.)

PVC stand
Feb 11, 2024 5:31 PM # 
If it does get windy, a barbell weight encircling the upright ought to make it pretty immobile.
Feb 14, 2024 12:29 AM # 
We use heavy traffic cones and make "cone toppers" - pieces of wooden dowel we screw into the control holders.

Ignore the white plastic:

Please login to add a message.