Orienteering in Stockholm

Orienteering in Stockholm

Lisa Ferland discovers orienteering in the forest outside of Stockholm is a great family activity that exercises both the mind and body. You can test it out yourself in the city until October 31.

Our thumbs held our location on the map folded in our hands. We were in the middle of the woods with nothing but large rocks and hills to orient ourselves. Where were we? Was the bend on the map the same as the bend on the path ahead? 

By getting lost, we were exercising our map reading muscles in our orienteering course. The entire family was figuring it out together. Of all of us, my eight-year-old son was the most adept at map reading.

Orienteering in Stockholm as a family activity

Most Americans have never heard of orienteering, but almost every Swede has. There is something wild and rebellious about running through the forest nothing but a compass (sometimes only your thumb) and a map and racing against the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint. 

When invited to join our local orienteering club in a suburb outside of Stockholm, we gladly accepted it as our next family activity. Most activities and sports for our kids don’t allow parents on to the field. Orienteering welcomes everyone. 

During each training, I learned how to read a map along with my kids.

We also learned a fun activity where the leader counts to four and everyone runs to hide behind a tree, bush, or rock. If you are seen, your name is called and you’re “out”. You get to then run up next to the leader and you’ll have a harder time hiding next time. The kids loved it and you can easily replicate this on your next nature walk.

orienteering in stockholm run

The five basic tenents of orienteering are:

1—Study the map and understand the route. The triangle symbol is your goal, and circles along the path are control points. You need to check-in at each control point in the proper order before you reach the goal.

2—Learn where you are on the map (orient yourself). This can be as simple as using your thumb and rotating your map.

3—Plan your route to the goal. The most direct path between each control point is not always the easiest. There are often obstacles you need to consider. For instance, it may be most direct to go directly over the hilltop in front of you, but that’ll tire you out faster than if you went around. You need to plan your route to suit your physical capabilities for the entire race.

4—Travel from A to B. Keep your map oriented in your direction.

5—Check-in at each control point.

In essence, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure cross-country race.

orienteering in stockholm start

Requires both mental and physical skill

Orienteering is very popular in Sweden because people of all ages can participate and compete. It combines both mental and physical abilities and sharpens your strategic decision-making skills. It’s a cross-country footrace that can be accomplished in many ways. There is no set track or trail to follow.

Two athletes may take completely different routes between control points depending on their athletic ability and speed. Trudging through a thick forest may be the shortest distance, but it may take longer than running around.

Orienteers are nature lovers, and most orienteering competitions take participants through forests, around lakes, and streams.

orienteering in stockholm forest

Orienteering in Stockholm

Hittaut.se is bringing the love of orienteering into the cityscape and has over 3,000 control points located all over the city of Stockholm.

To register the checkpoints, you need to create an account with hittaut.se and download the app. Tap when you’re at each location and follow the map.

Stockholm’s course expires on Oct 31, 2019, so be sure to get out there and explore. You’ll need to navigate around the many waterway obstacles of the city, tunnelbanan, and of course, buildings and parks. 

For me, the best part of orienteering is doing it as a family. My kids love the feeling of a treasure hunt and “blipping” into each control point. If you enjoy orienteering in the city, then you’ll definitely love it out in the countryside.  

Learn more about orienteering in Stockholm here: https://www.orientering.se/provapaaktiviteter/hittaut/stockholm/

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Author: Lisa Ferland

Lisa Ferland is the Assistant Editor of Slow Travel Stockholm and mother to one ninja warrior and one dancing firefly who often trade descriptions regularly. Follow her writing at lisaferland.com or on Instagram.

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