Get Inspired: How to get into Orienteering

A man orienteering in Australia
Fast Answers
Why get into orienteering?Orienteering is an outdoor adventure sport enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
Who is it for?If you like walking, jogging or running and you like to use a compass, you'll love orienteering.
Is there a cheap option?You just need a pair of trainers, or comfortable shoes and suitable outdoor clothes.
What if I want a proper workout?Orienteering is considered a competitive sport by some; the winners go to all the control points in the least amount of time, usually running the whole way.
Can I take it to another level?Join one of the 120 orienteering clubs across the country and start competing. Competitions are held at all levels including the World Championships.
Is there a disability option?Trail Orienteering (or Trail O) can be enjoyed by everyone. It doesn't require speed, but competitors still have to interpret the specialised map.
Is there a family option?Orienteering is an ideal family sport because you can go at your own pace and it caters for toddlers, pensioners and people with disabilities.
So where do I take part?Go to our Activity Finder to get into orienteering near you.

Do you like a mental challenge with your exercise? How about getting wet, muddy and quite probably lost?

Orienteering involves finding your way from one point to another, using only a map, a compass and your brains, with the winner doing so in the quickest time.

It's lots of fun, you decide how you get from A to B, so it can be as much exercise as you want, and it's a fantastic way to teach youngsters how to survive if the SatNav breaks down!


Man orienteering
Orienteering is a stern test of map reading skills, as well as fitness

Orienteering lets you explore parts of the countryside that you might not otherwise see.

Permanent Orienteering Courses are suitable for beginners and can be located in forests, local towns or country parks.

If you want to have a go at the most common form of orienteering, then foot orienteering is for you. However, if you prefer the idea of getting around a little faster, then you could try mountain bike orienteering.

If you fancy trying something completely different, then ski orienteering combines navigation and cross-country skiing!

British Orienteering can help you find a club nearby. You can also learn more from Scottish Orienteering, the Welsh Orienteering Association, and the NI Orienteering Association.

Trail Orienteering (Trail O)

Man orienteering
Trail O is a more laidback version of orienteering

Trail O is a form of orienteering for people of all levels of physical ability, including wheelchair users.

The format eliminates the speed element, but makes the map-interpretation part much harder.

Sites are chosen so they can be seen from a wheelchair-navigable path or area, but they may be quite a distance into the forest or non-navigable terrain.

British Orienteering has a useful list of Trail O events.

Urban Orienteering

Thierry Gueorgiou competing in the Orienteering World Championships 2013
Urban orienteering is becoming an increasingly common sight in towns and cities

Urban Orienteering is becoming a familiar sight in towns and cities and allows you to explore a city in a whole new way.

Urban races also provide fast and intense navigation and challenge a different set of orienteering and navigation skills.

There's a popular urban league in Scotland and there are several high-profile city races in London, Cambridge, Sheffield and Brighton. For a full list, British Orienteering can help.

Orienteering for families

A child down a hole while orienteering
Orienteering can be a great way for the whole family to get outdoors

The beauty of orienteering is that it doesn't matter how young, old or fit you are. You can run, walk or jog the course and progress at your own pace, which makes it a great family sport.

British Orienteering and Sport England run family-friendly 'Xplorer' events in local parks, which are aimed at primary and pre-school children and their families.

At some orienteering events, very young children may even be able to take part on a string course, where they have their own map and follow a line of string which takes them around a set of controls marked by fun characters.


A geocache hidden in a tree
Geocaching foregoes the traditional map and compass of orienteering for a more modern switch

Geocaching is like a high-tech outdoor treasure hunt for the whole family, developing map reading and navigational skills.

It differs from orienteering because you use a GPS to find a small waterproof treasure box (geocache or 'cache') hidden outdoors, rather than a sequence of control points.

Geocaching is a fun, active outdoor activity for people of all ages and there are hundreds of geocaches to find across the UK.

Coaching and Volunteering

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British Orienteering offers a range of coaching opportunities to enhance your knowledge and understanding at every level and may improve your own orienteering.

One of the easiest ways of getting involved is offering to help out with sessions at your local club.

Orienteering is a sport built on a strong foundation of volunteering activities. There are loads of roles that need volunteers, especially during events, so get in touch with your local club to find out about opportunities. JoinInUK can also help you find a club.

What's next?

1. Go to our Activity Finder to get into orienteering near you.

2. Find your local orienteering opportunities by using the British Orienteering,Scottish Orienteering,Welsh Orienteering Association, and the NI Orienteering Association websites.

3. Share your story and inspire others.

Are you inspired to try orienteering? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already... Get in touch and tell us your experience of the sport by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired, visiting us on Facebook or email us on

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.