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March 2021 - Orienteering

The coolest sport you've never tried!

Orienteering is an exciting outdoor adventure sport suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The aim is to navigate between checkpoints or controls marked on a special orienteering map. There is no set route so the skill and fun come from trying to find the best way to go. In competitive orienteering, the challenge is to complete the course in the quickest time.

Chris Smithard, international orienteer for Great Britain and founder of Virtual Orienteering, gives us his tips on how to get started in the sport.

What is orienteering?
The aim of orienteering is to find a series of checkpoints on a map as quickly as possible. We have a range of different courses from easy to hard and from short to long depending on your experience and fitness levels. They can range from 1.5km to 20km. We orienteer in many different places: forests, mountains, parks, streets, moorlands and we use specially drawn maps from scales 1:40,000 to 1:15,000. Orienteers range from 8 - 100 years old!

What is the best way to start orienteering?
Find a local event to go along to, most are perfect for beginners - don’t be put off by the word ‘event’. They are generally very informal. Visit British Orienteering for more information on local events. With current restrictions, permanent orienteering courses might be best as these use marker posts that are always in place. You can find your local course and download the map from British Orienteering.

Do I have to be a runner to orienteer?
Definitely not! That’s the beauty, you just go at whatever speed you feel comfortable and enjoy the challenge.

Do I need to be a member of a club to go orienteering?
Anyone can turn up to events that are put on. Check the details on the host club’s website and if you’re not sure just send them a message. However, you will need to be a member of a club for National Championship events.

What basic skills do I need for orienteering?
A sense of adventure is required! Experience of reading maps will help but if you love being outdoors and going to new places then orienteering is the sport to try!

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