When I moved into my current neighborhood, my orienteering began.

The last time I held a compass was in primary school so I basically started with nothing. So I put on my wellingtons and grabbed my cheap market compass and dove into its mysteries with my husband.

Our local orienteering association arranges weekly checkpoint runs from the end of April to the end of September.

On the first checkpoint you have guides to help you around, so you don’t need any prior knowledge – the main point is intrigue. Some years they also host orienteering schools where they go through the theory and practice of it all.

They have different routes in length and challenge levels and they also have something called Tethered Trails where they drag a line from tree to tree so there’s no chance of getting lost. This way you can completely focus on reading the map instead.

Usually it’s somewhere downtown or in an inhabited forest area. I suggest you choose a familiar place at first.

You fill out a card with your name and planned trail on it. At the end of the day they collect the cards back so they know you’ve returned.

I case you get lost or if you’re not a hundred percent sure where you are on the map, ask other orienteers.

Checkpoints are marked with flags that can either be seen from far way or they can be pretty well concealed. A discovered checkpoint should be marked with an Emit device, so afterwards you get to know your time. This isn’t mandatory of course, you can just go for a orienteering run, for fun.

What kind of gear do you need to begin?

The compass is the only special kind of gear you need. Other than that, it’s just weather proper shoes and clothing. You can either rent or buy an Emit. A one time fee for orienteering in our association is 5 euros. Emit rent is 2 euros and attendees under 18 are for free.

So what’s the appeal?

It’s for all ages and shapes and sizes. It doesn’t state anywhere that you need to run. And as we and extensive studies know, being out in the wild lowers stress levels and blood pressure. It’s a small threshold hobby and there’s no limits to how far you can advance.

Lately there’s been lots of talk about how young people should rediscover nature and hobbies in general.

This hobby also combines individual efforts with team spirit.  It’s also practically free. Owning a car/moped isn’t necessary but obviously it helps. But cycling or just running to your local destination is fine. Or just car pool!

Orienteering can be a family experience and you can build whole summer vacations around it.

After each performance one tends to go over the route choices with other orienteers. And what a wonderfully social bunch they are!

You can focus on different elements on different orienteering trails

I usually have my two doggies with me on my runs so I need to concentrate on reading the map and the terrain. When I leave them at home, I can pick up the pace.

There are, of course, different variations to this hobby, like skiing, cycling and even driving. Many municipalities have their own checkpoints.

Technology also has a place in all this

MOBO is a mobile application for each city’s checkpoints for Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Check out the free app and give orienteering a try!

//Anna

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