Explorers Connect

How to Plan Your Own Treasure Hunt

How-to, Wild Night OutWild Night Out

OS GetOutside champions, The Meek Family, love to find new ways to make maps more fun. Try their mappy treasure hunt game and discover more about map reading.

The need to read a map and navigate using a compass these days is dead, right? Wrong!

It turns out that in an age where everything is digital, ubiquitous, wireless and available via a touch screen, the dying skill of being able to navigate safely out on the hills and mountains is, quite literally, putting lives at risk.

Learning about bearings and grid references might sound a bit boring, but understanding the use of a map and compass doesn’t have to be a formal or serious business (it could be, of course). A less threatening and more enjoyable way – particularly for families – could be to use a map skills-based treasure hunt to teach the basics whilst having fun at the same time. Follow this step by step guide to plan your own.

1. Create some clues (simple activity cards)

As this is not a regular treasure hunt, but one designed to teach and consolidate map-reading skills, the activity cards should be designed to take participants through a progression of concepts and skills, covering:

  • Map symbols

  • Four figure and six figure coordinates

  • The National Grid

  • Using a compass

  • Understanding contour lines


It is important to include tips/help on the back of each activity card to provide the support some participants might need. Remember, the aim of the treasure hunt is to develop map-reading skills, so you want EVERYONE who takes part to be able to complete it (supported or unsupported by tips/help).

The reverse of the activity cards showing Help!

The reverse of the activity cards showing Help!

We tried to create activity cards that would appeal to children, using a Minecraft theme to help with this. Other themes might be more appropriate for your treasure hunt.

If you are wanting to create your own map-reading treasure hunt (instead of using the one we've created), then the map reading tips on the OS website have all of the materials and explanations you need to be able to create your own activity and help cards.

Laminated activity cards

Laminated activity cards

You could use string to hang your cards outside

You could use string to hang your cards outside

3. Prepare the map

When the activity/tips cards have been placed, mark the locations on the map that participants will use. In the treasure hunt we set up, the locations were just representative of a general area in which the cards could be found, not specific or accurate locations. We wanted to encourage a bit of navigation using the map to find the initial area, but ensure some ‘hunting’ was necessary.

4. Remember the answer sheet!

Before you can set participants off on the treasure hunt, make sure that they have an answer sheet on which to record their answers. This could just be a blank piece of paper – nothing complicated is needed here. The answer sheet we used is included at the end of this post.

5. Set the treasure hunters loose!

Your treasure hunt is set up. The clues are in place. Your participants have a map and record sheet. All you need to do now is set them loose!

You could add offer a small prize of some sort to help incentivise participants to complete all of the activity cards – and lead to some happy participants who felt suitably rewarded for their efforts.

Happy mappers with their treasure hunt loot

Happy mappers with their treasure hunt loot

Don’t limit your treasure hunts to the outdoors!

The standalone nature of this treasure hunt (the activity cards are discrete and there is no set order in which to complete them) means it lends itself to almost any environment, indoors or outdoors. In fact, we recently ran the same treasure hunt inside Blackburn Cathedral as part of an NHS health and well-being conference – we did, honestly!

Happy mappy treasure hunting!


There are so many ways you can go wild at night. Anyone and everyone can take this opportunity to make some amazing memories to treasure forever. To get your imagination going, we’ve gathered together some ideas, stories, and how-to guides to help you design the very best Wild Night Out for you.

Everyone needs a Wild Night Out!