Orienteering has evolved into a competitive group sport that required navigational skills using only a map and a compass, originating from the Swedish military to teach soldiers how to cross unfamiliar terrain. It's an important skill to learn in case of an emergency that would require evacuation. An orienteering course would originally be set up in an unfamiliar location like the woods, however, with less wooded areas orienteering in large cities is also becoming popular. Every team must locate each checkpoint in order and the fastest team through all of the checkpoints wins. The Amazing Race is a perfect modern example of orienteering at its finest. Couples race around the world using only maps and clues, to arrive at each checkpoint just in the nick of time to avoid elimination, and remain in the running for the million dollar grand prize.
Orienteering originated in Sweden in 1886 as a military training exercise. It wasn't until 1897 it was opened to the public in Norway. Since then it has become a major international sport. There is an Olympic style World Orienteering Championship held every year with gold, silver, and bronze medals. Individuals and groups can now compete on foot, bike, horseback, and even skis.
Races are divided by method of travel, length of the course, individual or group efforts, day or night courses, and the order in which checkpoints must be completed. Teams can compete in a relay race where each team member's time is added together for a group total. The competitors can start all at once or be staggered to prevent congestion on the course. Success on the course can be measured with sheer speed or precision of taking the exact course through the terrain.
A string course can be set up for young children. The goal is the note interesting thing along the course more like an existing nature walk rather than a race, perfect fun for the little ones. Simply mark a course in your backyard or nearby forest with a rope and enjoy watching the kids explore nature. The Boy Scouts of America have an orienteering badge. Many other youth groups have orienteering activities as well.
You can organize your own orienteering race at the nearest National Park or wildlife preserve. Call your local park ranger to see what is allowed in your area.
Build your own orienteering course
- Map of the course and surrounding area
- Method for recording checkpoint verification (electronic, stamp, person, etc.)
- List of checkpoints in the order they should be completed
- Flags or markers for each checkpoint or control
Orienteering can be a great outing for the whole family. It is a fun way to increase and practice your navigational skills. What do you do for family fun in the great outdoors?
Photo Credit: https://mostateparks.com/activity/orienteering