Try Adventure Racing With Your Family

Team up for a Totally Cool, Outdoor Orienteering Adventure

Father and son cycling - family adventure racing

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If you're looking for an enjoyable fitness challenge to share, check out family adventure racing. It combines the treasure-hunting of geocaching with the physical skills and thrills of biking, hiking, and paddling—then adds a hearty amount of nature and wraps everything up in a big teamwork bow. And even the littlest kiddos can participate.

Expedition races are a family-friendly alternative to other adventure races. These can cover long distances and last 24 hours or more.

A family race can be completed in an afternoon, and anyone who can pedal a bike can participate in teams of two to four people. Some races even allow bike trailers, so that the little kids can join in the fun.

Shorter adventure races ("sprint" or "sport" distance) will allow family teams to participate, too, without having a special family event.

What to Expect at a Family Adventure Race

The race organizers place checkpoints throughout the course, and teams must visit as many checkpoints as possible in the least amount of time.

Most adventure races combine biking, paddling, and trekking/hiking.

Sometimes you'll need to visit the checkpoints in a particular order; in other cases, any order is fine, but coming up with a strategy for getting them all is part of the fun. Family races operate the same way, but with less challenging terrain.

Adventure races often incorporate fun challenges, too. Teams may have to complete puzzles, ride a zip-line, climb a rock wall or tree, or walk across a slackline.

Challenges are usually kept a surprise, meaning you won't know what they are until you're out on the course.

Unlike a 5K or other fun run, you won't be able to preview the course first because figuring out where to go is an essential component of the challenge. The more elite adventure races require serious orienteering skills. For family adventure races, you just need to know how to read a map.

It's also important to know that you have to stick together. This is a team sport, not a relay, and the rules require that team members stay close to each other at all times.

That said, family events are usually flexible. You can skip parts of the course that don't work for you (say, if you have a toddler in a bike trailer or a preschooler who really hates water) and participate just for its fun. Don't worry about your time; enjoy the outing and the team bonding!

Gearing Up for Family Adventure Racing

Almost every event that incorporates water travel (canoes, kayaks, or inner tubes) provides boats, paddles, and life jackets for participants. So you don't have to worry about bringing your watercraft.

When you register for a race, you'll get a list of mandatory gear. It usually includes a bike and helmet, appropriate clothing and footwear, plenty of water, and sometimes a whistle and compass. You might want to bring a waterproof bag to hold your map and "passport" (a piece of paper or a punch card where you will record your visits to each checkpoint).

Entry fees typically range from about $30 to $80 per person. The price helps cover the cost of race elements like boat and supply rentals, course set-up, and after-race celebrations.

How to Find a Family Adventure Race

Search online for "family adventure race" plus your city, state, or region. You can also try the listings at Active.com or at the U.S. Adventure Racing Association (look for family, beginner, or "tenderfoot" events; some beginner events will allow family teams).

Another option is a permanent adventure racing course (PARC). These allow you to try simple orienteering and practice your skills, or have an "anytime" adventure rather than waiting for an event that's only held once or twice a year.

For an adventurous outing without the race component, you can also check out an adventure park.

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