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ISOM Specification

Mainly the IOF revision project ISOM201X. Can include ideas for NZ conventions such as the ones we have for X's and O's. Does not include the sprint spec (that is sure to come!) and does not include MTBO.

MT: Michael Posted: 20 March 2007, 3:25 PM

The symbol sizes have been arrived at by experts after consideration of visual acuity. And assuming offset printing. We choose to use laser printing because of the economics of short print runs. As Selwyn points out laser printing is not as good as offset because under a microscope it is “dotty”. Obviously there is variation between printers, and improvement over time, but it is still frowned on for top international events. In these circumstances I don't believe we should be reducing symbol sizes - but we do have to use all our skills to maintain spacing between symbols.

MT: Paul I Posted: 21 March 2007, 10:05 AM

Ouch ! Yes we do have digital printing problems to deal with, that is why there has been a lot of friendly discussions re the issues.

If these so called very clever experts you speak of are so enlightened then how come there is debate surrounding the ISOM2000 specs in many countries around the world? Is it remotely possible that amoung us, having excelled at various feilds from cartography to graphic design, some of us may have some visual acuity of our own?

MT: Michael Posted: 7 June 2008, 10:42 AM

I see the IOF has started the process to revise the ISOM 2000. The new version is provisionally labelled ISOM 201X with a “preliminary roadmap” showing it to take effect from 2012. A chance to get ankle-deep depressions approved?? Seriously, I would like someone creative to think of a thinner symbol for a small depression. Our windblown sand-dunes create long narrow terrain shapes and its often hard to fit a “U” in. The elongated knoll is ideal for the “ups” (its narrower than a round dot) and we could do with something similar for the “downs”.

MT: Paul I Posted: 7 June 2008, 3:17 PM

We have 'large boulder' and 'small boulder' - I would suggest 'large knoll' and 'small knoll' would give mappers some flexibility. Lets face it, the symbol size on the map represents so outrageous physical size on the ground - it just doesn't fit well in certain terrain types. 2012 seems a long way off.

MT: Michael Posted: 2 December 2009, 12:17 PM

I wonder what's happening to the ISOM revision? A thought I had recently is that thin and thick black lines for rockfaces and cliffs are not easily distinguishable especially when there's no room for the tags. Would it be better to just use black for impassable cliffs, and to show passable rockfaces with the brown (earthbank) symbol. There is no functional difference to the orienteer between a bank made of earth and a passable bank made of rock. There is a precedent in the use of the BROWN dot for a high point made of rock which doesn't have vertical sides.

MT: Alistair Posted: 3 December 2009, 12:31 AM

What would you then do about the gully symbol that uses a solid brown line?

MT: Michael Posted: 3 December 2009, 12:06 PM

Please explain further Alistair. Gullies and earth banks are present at the moment and I think we can tell the difference.

MT: Alistair Posted: 3 December 2009, 1:15 PM

Don't earth banks usually have tags? In steep areas it's not a problem as the gully symbol is perpendicular to the contours. So an earth bank in on a slope in such an area would significantly different to a gully - so long as the line is think enough to differentiate it from a form line… Flat areas are the problem then - if the cliffs etc don't have tags as your original posting specified.

MT: Martin Posted: 3 December 2009, 7:09 PM

errosion gully perhaps, as opposed to an australian gully

MT: Paul I Posted: 9 June 2011, 4:25 PM

anyone heard of any progress with ISOM 201x? According to the IOF August 2010 14th ICOM, Trondheim document (try saying that with a mouthful of food) there are a number of interesting possible issues/changes that are being considered… *Poor Laser printing quality is a threat to the advantages of digital cartography. *Detailed Lidar base maps and Mobile Mapping are a threat to generalisation mapping requirements, encouraging enlargements. *Case studies are being undertaken for more abrasion and water resistant maps. *POSSIBLE change to the following… rocky areas; using a paler black, new boulder field and stoney ground representation.Earth landforms; new graphic for formlines? new special land feature.Vegetation; 3 or 4 levels of vegetation? new graphic representaion for undergrowth, new semi open, and new prominant vegetation feature. Manmade feature; good/bad runability narrow ride, new prominant feature. Water Body; Impassible as per ISSOM, seasonal pond and watercourse. New promnt feature.

So there could be a few subtle changes on the way eventually. I like the possible concept of a difference between the black of tracks, veg boundaries etc, to that of any rock symbol. Also the possibility of getting rid of that horrible green stripe once and for all! I would still have liked find a way of defining difference between very large and small dot knolls. ie, two sizes? Small formline knolls look weak too.

The document states that one of the strengths of ISOM is; KISS (keep it simple and stupid) I'm hoping that was just a typo)

MT: HeadHoncho Posted: 3 July 2011, 11:34 AM

From the IOF:

The ISOM revision project has been delayed.

The work of revising the International Specification for Orienteering Maps has turned out to be more complicated and time consuming than expected, and there have also been other matters that has needed attention.

There has been progress on printing and colour, but the IOF Map Commission is still not ready for the second consultation with the member federations. This consultation was scheduled for late 2009 in the first project plan.

A revised project plan will be published after the commission meeting in France in August.

We are sorry about the delay.

HÃ¥vard Tveite

IOF Map Commission Chairman

MT: Casser Posted: 21 November 2011, 11:51 AM

What do you think of the idea of graduating the the thickness of the contour lines and form lines to show what the height of the bank is where the contour is drawn? In areas where contours are closer together and the frequency of the contours can show the steepness, the contours would have the normal width. In an area that is more or less flat and the contour is not showing a form it would be skinnier. In a place where it represents a steep bank it would be thicker.

MT: Michael Posted: 27 November 2012, 7:28 PM

And it is these issues of scale that are holding up the ISOM revision?

MT: Paul I Posted: 28 November 2012, 3:29 PM

Who would know? It does look like they are putting a lot of thought into the update with lots of trial work on colour specifications for different printing methods as well as some alternative improved area and point symbols etc. Hopefully the delay is because they are consulting with a range of high level mappers and athletes and trying hard not to get it wrong. Potentially ISOM could be a bold game changer or just fiddling around the edges, but one thing for sure, it will be hard to please everybody.

MT: Bryan Posted: 11 January 2013, 9:02 AM

Talked to Adrian Uphill at the IOF Clinic in Masterton on 9th. (Chair of mapping committee, AOF)

He said that he had access (via a password to a wiki page on the IOF web site) to the draft revision of the ISOM specs - it had been out since Oct, 2012.

He had some real concerns with the various options that were proposed and he wondered if/when we were going to respond. It would be nice to get a coordinated response.

Has anyone seen the draft specs yet?

MT: Michael Posted: 14 January 2013, 1:41 PM

I'm sure Stuart would have let us know if he had been advised. The last MTBO mapping specs came out without any consultation so you can guess where I think the blockage lies. Stuart can you enquire?

MT: The Map Guy Posted: 15 January 2013, 10:58 AM

I believe it is imperative that NZOF sees the draft ISOM specs along with Australia. Both NZ and Australia (and probably many other countries)have unique orienteering terrain and their map features have to fit into the specs. Orienteering is a world wide sport - not just Europe or Northern Hemisphere.

MT: Michael Posted: 12 June 2013, 8:56 AM

There's a draft of a new ISOM out for comment. The technical committee has sent it to a list of mappers, and Selwyn has undertaken to coordinate a NZ response. Discussion is going on by email, if you're not on the list ask Greg or Selwyn. I suggest that we NOT use this thread for comment but carry on by email. If you just want a look, go to

MT: Michael Posted: 3 July 2013, 11:08 AM

Selwyn has coordinated a response. In summary 1. After 5 years deliberation by IOf, 5 weeks isn't enough time to properly consider it 2. Disappointment that the obviously popular trend towards more detailed terrain isn't recognised, and there is no real help for those of us using digital printing 3. Concern about the benefits vs effort of an additional runnability level, and about declaring hard-to-cross features as out of bounds. We asked for 5 months to consider the large number of more detailed changes in the proposal.

MT: Michael Posted: 3 July 2013, 11:15 AM

The maps on the JWOC website use relief shading. I think that's just for us viewers, but I wonder whether we should do this for competition. “Seeing” ground shape from contours is a peculiar skill that some people have difficulty with.

MT: hughff Posted: 3 July 2013, 7:57 PM

I think the relief shading is great when the light source is good. I guess the question is whether being able to read contours is one of the essential map skills that would be lost if race maps were changed. I'm reluctant to change but I'd be interested to hear other views.

MT: The Map Guy Posted: 4 July 2013, 12:22 AM

Relief shading only works well if the map is viewed from the bottom. Free 15m contour DEM data is available from Ko-ordinates and can be used to generate Relief Shading. The resulting TIFF file is a Raster image and at 1:10,000 scale would show extensive pixellation.

Has anyone else got an alternation source of high resolution DEM data (hopefully free?

I've successfully produced many maps with relief shading but they have been at 1:30k, 1:50k and 1:60k scales

MT: Rog Posted: 16 January 2015, 11:55 PM

The IOF Map Commission asks for feedback on colour deficiency issues: #map Original Tweet:

MT: Martin Posted: 11 December 2015, 3:08 AM

MT: fraser Posted: 11 December 2015, 8:40 AM

I see 404 Rough open land with scattered trees has changed to 50% yellow to match rough open. The dots slightly reduced and they show an example using green dots now, and have even added a 60% green option which is pretty close to what I had dabbled with.

402 Open land with scattered trees is now yellow with white dots and the green dot options have been added to this symbol too.

There are ocad and mapper symbol files that can be downloaded from this page to test it out

And all course planners take note:

All overprint symbols shall be printed over the map content (transparently). They shall never mask out other map details.

MT: Michael Posted: 12 December 2015, 1:32 PM

(Please excuse me if you have something underway Nick.) National federations have been invited to comment on the “final draft” of a revision of the ISOM. Its not everyone's cup of tea, but any mappers who want to contribute to a NZ view should contact the ONZ Mapping Committee. See that link by Fraser above. Another link that is relevant is submissions to the previous draft, including by NZ.

MT: Michael Posted: 20 February 2016, 11:42 AM

Comments from national federations on the “final” draft of the ISOM revision appear on They include NZ's submission. There's also discussion on Attackpoint at

Michael Posted: 4 April 2017, 11:00 AM

After years of debate, the IOF council over-ruling the mapping committee, and the (maybe coincidental) resignation of the MC chairman, a new mapping specification has been published. From the IOF website: “For IOF events between 1 May and 31 December 2017, both ISOM 2000 and ISOM 2017 could be accepted, but which map standard is used at the event must be clearly stated in the Bulletin(s) for the event. For all events after 1 January 2018, ISOM 2017 should be used unless there are contractual limitations which would prevent this.”

MT: The Map Guy Posted: 5 April 2017, 8:33 PM

Interesting to see what they have finally come up with. On first glance what will affect us: 1. Black north lines are now thinner and 30mm apart on the map at 1:10000 scale (300m on the ground) 2. Water trough (well) symbol is no longer a circle but a square - should no longer be confused with a conspicuous tree 3. Out of Bounds (event) - purple vertical stripe is gone and replaced by a hatching symbol similar to the Dangerous Area (new dimensions) 4. New symbol for a Railway line - a positive move IMHO 5. Symbol 404 (Rough Open with scattered trees) can now have green dots as well as white 6. Small green dashes for a vegetation boundary is an alternative to black dots option if there are lots of competing black features (e.g. sand, boulders, rocks)

No doubt there are other things I have missed. Mostly they are tweaks to symbol dimensions.

MT: mcroxford Posted: 5 April 2017, 11:42 PM

From a runners perspective I think the most significant change is the introduction of a fourth green - symbol 411. The other greens can now be modified to show easier running in a particular direction instead of the old symbol 411. The new fourth green shows impassable vegetation as distinct from fight. This could be used where fight becomes a bingo situation with animal tracks or tunnels influencing the speed of runners passing through.

MT: fraser Posted: 6 April 2017, 10:36 AM

Here is the link to ISOM 2017

They seem to have completely stuffed up the overprinting example on page 12. Both the examples look exactly the same to me.

(Link updated, now being called Version 1)

This message was edited by fraser on 7 April 2017, 12:33 PM

MT: fraser Posted: 6 April 2017, 10:39 AM

They actually have the correct looking image with the announcement

But it doesn't look like that to me in the pdf?

MT: The Map Guy Posted: 6 April 2017, 10:39 AM

I missed the 4th green. I have always maintained there was a fourth green - I have always referred to it as “Hong Kong green” after my first encounters with it there back in the late 1980s. You entered it at your peril, and if you did it shredded your O clothing (and your skin).

MT: mcroxford Posted: 6 April 2017, 10:42 AM

umm…Fraser? The two examples look significantly different to me. Unless they've reloaded a new image since you last looked.

MT: mcroxford Posted: 6 April 2017, 11:05 AM

I was thinking more so of South Island Matagouri or similar where if you can look ahead on the ground and find an animal track before entering you can often pass through fight very quickly. This introduces an element of bingo into the race. It would be clearer to mark it as impassable so that everyone is using the same information on the map to determine their route choices.

MT: Paul I Posted: 6 April 2017, 11:19 AM

There has been some resistance to the proposal to introduction the extra green but to me the option of having an impassable, out of bounds green (like ISSOM) is a good addition. Like mcrox it can be used to remove a bingo area that is impossible to map, or some other vegetation which may result in advantage to some but not others by luck.

MT: fraser Posted: 6 April 2017, 11:25 AM

This is what I see:

Must be a pdf issue. Pretty much sums up the difficulties everyone has with overprint simulation.

95% of events get this wrong in New Zealand!!! Hopefully there will be an improvement on that percentage now the rules are completely unambiguous:

“All overprint symbols shall be printed over the map content (transparently). They shall never mask out other map details.”

MT: Show Profile Paul I Posted: 6 April 2017, 11:43 AM

Agree we are supposed to use OP. Newer versions of Ocad are supposed to have the OP colours set as default. The last courses I did I thought everything was ticked that should have been along the way but only some things worked. Course setting got OP'ed (although the numbers never seem to) but the brown contours never did over green. I guess I made an error or was it because I need to tell the printer. To my eyes sometime I think the maps look clearer when Overprint is not used on the course symbols as long as a lot of careful chopping is done.

MT: Paul I Posted: 6 April 2017, 11:47 AM

ISOM2017 example above also has gone against their own strict rules. Gaps between lines and point symbols must be 0.15mm (about a contour width). Pretty sure those two boulders wouldn't pass any MC critique.

MT: Paul I Posted: 6 April 2017, 12:04 PM

My summary of changes I can see…

Minimum gaps of 0.15 (approx. contour width) seem reasonable to achieve better clarity.
No dark grey option for rock. >411 New Impassable dark green (polarising views - I like it but only for extreme situations to avoid confusion.
103 New thinner, longer dashed, but smaller gapped formlines - ok to me but I have found some situations where it can disappear and so I would have been happy if it stayed as was.
105-106 Thicker earth walls etc makes sense.
108 Closer dots on small ditch an improvement.
202 Slightly narrower passable cliff face - good.
201-202 rounded or square cliff end optional - good.
208 Boulder field, slightly smaller shapes.
210-212 Stony ground dots slightly larger, various densities, surely there is also an individual stone for precise use?
213 Sandy ground, slightly smaller dot - good.
215 New trench - great addition.
302 shallow water body symbols - great.
304-306 all watercourse items thicker - good.
309 Narrow marsh, ever so slightly closer.
311 Water Tank new Square symbol - better than circle to avoid confusion, however in NZ we use the black circle for Tank and a blue circle for cattle drinking water trough.
313 New blue symbol.
402 Open land w scattered trees, can also add green into dots - good.
404 ditto, but there is an error where it states you can fill the white dots with either slow or walk in the text, however then it also states the dot colour can be 50% green… which one is correct?
407 slow running good vis - same as old one!!!
409 Walk good vis - almost same as old one but thickened line from 0.12 to 0.14 - IMO I think this is not dense enough to try and match the low vis green shading a bit more. (30% ave is not high enough).
411 New Impassable green. (OOB)
415 distinct cultivation boundary a little thinner - good.
416 slightly closer dots for black - good, plus a new optional green dashed symbol for very rocky maps etc - good.
417 Prominent tree slightly larger!
419 Prominent Veg feature cross slightly larger!
501-502 All black lines bordering roads etc slightly narrower - good.
508 Narrow ride options, the line itself has shorter dashes and smaller gaps - good.
515 Impassable wall thicker - Good I think, not as thick as proposed ?
516-518 Fences shorter gap for tag position, larger gap on ruined fence, shorter tag - all good.
518 Impassable Fence thicker - Good IMO!
519 Fence crossing point - NO change - IMO this symbol is a little too large.
521-522 Buildings options to match ISSOM - Good.
529 Prominent Impassable line feature thicker - theory ok could be messy?
601 Black North line thinner - good.
3.7 Overprinting Symbols for course setting, slightly reduced size but then wording says they shall be enlarged proportionately to print scale of map - not sure this is very nice!!
708 OOB areas, now use old Dangerous cross hatching. They have gotten rid of old vertical lines. Not sure - cross hatch will look very overpowering on larger areas, but otherwise ok. Lines could have been a little thinner IMO.
520 Olive green settlement now classed as OOB. Another great option to use instead of purple, and aligns with ISSOM.
509 Railway Much better symbol.
511 Major Powerline has better tower symbol. - yay don't have to make our own!

All in all looks like a lot of minor tweaks with a few new and good additions, as well as maybe a couple of missed opportunities for change. Very good that any cliffs etc that had potential to be dangerous were not classified as forbidden to cross - which would have turned our world upside down! Very safe update.

MT: Michael Posted: 6 April 2017, 2:25 PM

The extra green doesn't change much, since the IOF council decreed that the specification should not include any symbols forbidden to cross (except the specific out of bounds ones). And I'm with them (and the many other countries which submitted on that). Danger, and freedom from luck, are course setting issues for which there are plenty of tools available. So if you think you can climb an “impassable cliff”, swim an “uncrossable lake” etc, the specification doesn't stop you.

MT: Paul I Posted: 6 April 2017, 2:47 PM

ahhh strewth Michael I think you are correct. Everyone rejected the idea of the various proposed forbidden to cross, and the IOF decision to overrule was a relief. I had just presumed for some reason that the inclusion of the Impassable new green still stood as OOB - but I think you are right that it does not. That being there is almost no real need for it. I guess we can still accommodate it in places as mentioned but if someone thinks they can get an advantage by smashing through it then we can't stop them. Only legit way would be Olive green of back to the Purple hash or bounding line.

MT: fraser Posted: 6 April 2017, 5:55 PM

Michael: OCAD should be banned from use for course setting because apparently no one in New Zealand knows how to use overprint simulation correctly with it. Condes, PurplePen and OpenOrienteering Mapper, on the other hand, all seem fairly straight forward once the right settings are known.

Sorry for the trolling but hopefully I got my message across. You are correct that you still need to break lines and move numbers but the main point is overprint simulation is a requirement to print maps to specification, it is not optional.

Paul: That is an interesting point about the numbers not having overprint simulation. I notice that with PurplePen too.

Thanks for clarifying about the forbidden to cross features Michael. It does mean that “Impassable fence” may or may not be forbidden to cross depending whether the map uses ISOM2017 or ISSOM which will possibly be the most common cause of confusion for competitors.

MT: fraser Posted: 6 April 2017, 6:23 PM

»404 ditto, but there is an error where it states you can fill the white dots with either slow or walk in the text, however then it also states the dot colour can be 50% green… which one is correct?

The dots are 50% green. Higher up it is saying that this symbol can be combined with green stripe but if that is the case you have to use the white dots version.

BTW you were always allowed to use green dots for 404, as was pointed out to me in this forum. I have used it and it was quite useful. I have never seen it used on any other maps though. It seems good you can use it with open land now too, and it will be interesting if it gets more use.

MT: The Map Guy Posted: 6 April 2017, 10:37 PM

404 with green dots was used in the 2017 Katoa Po Rogaine map for areas which had lots of gorse areas

MT: mcroxford Posted: 7 April 2017, 9:18 AM

As an aside. I was interested in Paul's use of a unique symbol to represent areas of 'scattered vegetation' at Riverhead on Sunday. It would be interesting to hear form the runners who went through it too. The main patch is in the northeastern corner.

MT: fraser Posted: 7 April 2017, 12:56 PM

Ha, I was wondering if the overprint would work when printing that page. Adobe Reader isn't available on Linux, and the Android version I have doesn't have the preview option mentioned.

Interesting uses of the green dots screen.

I note the minimum area/size of the 402 and 404 symbols has reduced quite a bit in the new spec too.

One thing noted in OOM discussion is many of the symbol numbers do not match between the versions which is not ideal.

MT: Michael Posted: 7 April 2017, 1:40 PM

Worse than not ideal. NZ submitted to IOF on this.

MT: Paul I Posted: 7 April 2017, 8:55 PM

Michaelcrox The only feed back I've heard was from the course setter who seemed to like the scattered vegetation dot symbol. As you can see there is a lot of plant growth on this map with a few different senarios. I arrived at using this option as was having a lot of difficulty in one area as the patches became to tricky and complex to map properly and would have no doubt looked complex on the map also, so like every mapper should I was wanting to generalise somehow, but it didn't qualify for slow run or the walk green as those areas were more consistently green whereas the problem areas were more very patchy walk-ish green areas with lots of white ways through… it seemed like a perfect solution and I didn't have the problem of having to adhere strictly to IOF symbols… close enough though I think???

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