Orienteering – Maps on paper would never lose their charm

In the age of GPS, I just wanted to write about an interesting sport that retains the charm of paper maps. Yes, I am talking about “orienteering”. It is a sport in which participants use a map and compass to navigate from point to point over varied and usually unfamiliar terrain while moving at high speed.

Participants are given a topographic map, which they use to find checkpoints. Originally a land navigation training exercise for military officers, orienteering has developed into many variations. Currently, it is catching up as an exciting outdoor activity among university students.

The term “orienteering” was first used in 1886 at the Swedish Military Academy in Karlberg and meant traversing unfamiliar terrain using a map and compass. The competitive sport began when the first competition was held for Swedish military officers on May 28, 1893 at the annual Stockholm Garrison Games. The first civilian competition, in Norway on October 31, 1897, was sponsored by the Tjalve Sports Club and held near Oslo. The course was long by modern standards, at 19.5 km, on which only three checkpoints were placed.

While we’ve been busy thinking that the era of paper maps is about to end and technology like GPS will only show us the way forward, the growing popularity of a sport involving map and compass among millennials is certainly an interesting jump.

The activity is surely an adventurous activity that gives an adrenaline rush. It’s like entering a lost world, looking for clues and arriving at your destination. The thrill intensifies as teams with similar cards compete to reach the spot. While you need to be smart enough to decipher the clues on the map, a good understanding of geography is required to excel.

While paper maps are almost losing their importance and luster, orienteering is a great way to keep millennials down to basics. After all, the location technologies that we all easily use today owe their origins to those beautiful markings on paper.

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Dino J. Dotson