University of Maine students and community members enjoy free boat and stand up paddle board rentals on Saturday, Sept. 21, during a Paddle Fest on the Stillwater River in Orono. The event was organized by the University of Maine to encourage people to get outside and earn points for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Campus Challenge.  Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

This fall, the University of Maine is competing against universities across the country for the title of “Most Outdoorsy” school. Students, faculty, alumni and community members can all participate in the monthlong challenge.

Running Sept. 16-Oct. 13, the competition is called the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Campus Challenge. Participants earn points by participating in outdoor activities, which they then log on the free AORE Campus Challenge app.

“The average person is spending 8 hours or more in front of a screen every day and only spending a few minutes in the outdoors,” said Chris Bartram, assistant director for Maine Bound Adventure Center at UMaine. “This is really a way of getting people outside, teaching them better habits, teaching them how to recreate.”

The app allows participants to share photos and words of encouragement, and see how universities are ranking up against each other in real time.

The 98 participating universities are divided into two categories — Division 1 and Division 2 — based on size. As of Sept. 23, UMaine was in second place for Division 1 schools, ranking just below Texas Woman’s University.

“We’re really close,” Bartram said. “It’s exciting and nerve-racking. I definitely think we can win it.”

To participate, all you need to do is download the app, select the university you’re supporting and start logging your outdoor activities, which can range from stargazing to rock climbing. To log an activity, the app asks that you take a photo and describe the activity.

Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

Most outdoor activities count, barring traditional team field sports. You must be active for a minimum of 30 minutes, and you can log up to five different activities each day.

Once you submit an outdoor activity through the app, you’ll have the option to share your photo on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure your Facebook post is set to “public,” and use #AORECampusChallenge #ACC to help spread the word.

“We’ve had really good participation so far,” said Lauren Jacobs, who coordinates UMaine’s Outdoor Leadership Program. “Anyone who feels an affinity for UMaine can sign up.”

“It adds a little extra motivation,” she added. “Some of my students have talked to me about it and said that it’s made them think about ways to get friends or roommates who aren’t as outdoorsy outside. It’s a good way to bring people into the outdoor community.”

Even Bartram, who is immersed in Maine’s outdoor community every day because of his career, finds that the challenge has pushed him to get outdoors even more often.

“I’m finding excuses to take breaks in my day and go out for 30 minutes of activity,” Bartram said. “It really works.”

To help get people outside and earning points, UMaine has organized a series of outdoor events that are open to the community.

Last week, the university hosted a kick-off event with a zip line, giant swing and portable climbing tower on the Orono campus. And on Saturday, a few hundred participants attended a “paddle fest” on the Stillwater River in Orono with free kayak and canoe rentals.

Upcoming Campus Challenge events include: a nighttime 5K run with headlamps, a day of petting zoo and cat yoga, and a presentation by outdoor educator Abby Rowe. To learn more about the events, visit

At the end of the competition, the school with the most logged outdoor activities will win the title of “most outdoorsy school” or National Outdoor Champion. Other prizes include “Outsider of the Year,” regional winners, recognition awards and free gear.

“I hope people want to get involved and represent Maine,” Jacobs said. “I hope people want to hop on and help us earn points. We gotta beat Texas.”

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...