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Planning Retirement Online

Out of The Box - Orienteering                              August 2008

This is our new regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.







Orienteering is one of those sports that hasn’t become mainstream. Its events rarely make headline news and because it takes place away from main roads and major venues, it is not the sort of activity you accidently come across.


This is a shame because orienteering is a terrific sport and perfect for people who want to do something out of doors and are excited by the thought of taking up something completely new in later life. It is also ideal because it is fun all year round, not just in the summer.

Anyone can take part, it really doesn’t matter how old or fit you are as you can walk or jog the courses and progress at whatever pace suits you.

What is it?

Orienteering is a sport that exercises both the mind and the body. Its aim is to travel between specific control points marked on a special map; you have to work out the best course and route for your personal ability and then do it! An electronic card is used to confirm that you have visited all the controls in the correct order and to record your times.

Orienteering can take place anywhere from remote forest and countryside to urban parks and school playgrounds. The easier routes follow footpaths and set tracks; the most challenging orienteering takes place in areas which has demanding terrain and few paths.

There are lots of different types of orienteering events, including local, district, regional, national and championship events. There are also night events, relays and score events. Regional clubs run special training events and summer evening, Saturday morning and occasionally some “come-and-try-it” events.

The most common type of event is a district event which offers a range of courses varying in their length and difficulty. The courses are colour coded from white (1 to 1.5 kilometres) and yellow (1.5 to 2.5 kilometres) all the way up the challenging brown courses which are up to 10 kilometres in length over really challenging ground.

There are also some permanent courses for beginners.

Specific age classes make it more fun for those of us who prefer not to be shown up by super fit keen youngsters! You can enter classes specifically for your age group; which go up in five year blocks. For instance, the classes for 50 and over is M/W 50; for 55 and over it is M/W55; if you are 60 you can enter the M/W 60 section, or the M/W65 section if you are over 65; if you are 70 and over you can enter the M/W 70 class. There is also the M/W21 class which anyone can enter.

What do you need?

To take part in an event, like any sport, you will need a little bit of equipment, but the good news is for orienteering it really is all very simple. What you need to take part is:


  • Comfortable clothes for walking or running in, that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Trainers or walking shoes, preferably weatherproof and with a good grip.
  • A lightweight waterproof, if the weather forecast is poor.
  • Money for your entry fee
  • A compass is always useful but not strictly necessary if you are orienteering on a White, Yellow or Orange course. You can often buy a compass at the event, if you want one. Starter compasses cost less than £10.
  • A safety whistle is sometimes compulsory, especially for the more challenging courses in difficult terrain, but you can usually buy that too, if you need to.
  • A red pen to mark your course on your map and a transparent A4 plastic envelope to put your map in if the maps are not pre-printed.  At larger events courses will have already been printed onto the maps so you will not require a red pen for these events.


One of the biggest plusses about orienteering is that it seems to attract a friendly group; many people say they have found an entirely new social life after taking up the sport.

There are over 120 orienteering clubs across Britain, so you will certainly find one near you

Why not contact the (01629 734042) and find out more?

And if you do decide to give it a go, do tell Laterlife what you thought and how you got on; then we can pass your tips on to others.



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