Does the warmer weather have you looking for a fun outdoor activity that your family can do for free? Then you might want to look into letterboxing. It’s an outdoor treasure hunt game similar to geocaching, but there is no expensive equipment to buy. Letterboxing combines treasure hunting, puzzle solving, and a bit of art into an fun-filled activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It allows you to explore places you would have never known existed, sometimes right in your own hometown! As an added bonus, you get to enjoy the fresh air and get a little bit of exercise.
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At the most basic level, a letterbox is a container containing a logbook and a rubber stamp. The container is hidden, usually in a wooded setting, and clues are distributed to help others locate it. Letterboxes are commonly hidden in parks along trails. However letterboxes in urban settings seem to be gaining popularity.
Each letterbox participant has their own signature stamp, either purchased or store-bought, that they use to mark the letterbox logbook and prove they were there. They then use the stamp that was in the letterbox to stamp their own logbook as a record of their adventures.
Letterbox clues can range from simple to complex. Sometimes the clue flat-out tells you where the letterbox is located. Other times, you may have to solve a puzzle to figure out where the letterbox is located. I have seen clues hidden in a poem, clues that are in Morse code, clues that require you to use a compass, and clues that are hidden within a word puzzle. You will be amazed at the creativity of some of the letterboxing clues!
To get started letterboxing, you will first need to come up with a trail name. You may want to choose something that represents you or something that is important to you. My husband’s trail name is Viktor Viking. My husband is of Norwegian descent so we always joked that he is descended from the Vikings. My name is Teardrop Fan, because my dreams of finally owning a teardrop trailer came true last year 🙂
Get creative with your trail name! Coming up with the perfect nickname can be a lot of fun. Each member of our family has their own trail name and signature stamp. However, you can also just have a trail name for your entire family to make things easier.
To get started letterboxing, you will need a signature rubber stamp to mark the logs, a logbook of your own, a stamp pad, and a pen.
You can either purchase a rubber stamp or carve one of your own. To the left, you can see the signature stamp that I carved for my husband to use when we go out letterboxing. Many people choose to go with a storebought stamp though when they are first starting out and that is perfectly fine.
Your logbook can be as simple as a small spiral bound notebook filled with blank paper. If you are artistic, you can make your own logbook from cardstock. I have this inexpensive book binding machine that I use to make letterboxing log books for the kids.
As for myself, I don’t keep a traditional letterboxing logbook. I typically take sticker sheets out on the trail with me and stamp the images on those. Then when we get home, I cut out the image, peel off the back, and stick it into my letterboxing scrapbook, along with pictures of our outing and any notes about the day’s fun.
One benefit of doing it this way is that, if you don’t get a clean impression the first time, you can just stamp it again and the mistake won’t be in your logbook.
Each time we go out letterboxing, we take along a messenger bag that holds all our supplies. It is also a good idea to include small first aid kit and some hand sanitizer.
We also like to bring along a small package of baby wipes so we can clean off our hands if we get ink on our fingers. We have started including tweezers in our pack, in case any gets a tick. Be sure to bring a snack and water bottles for everyone if it will be a long hike.
There are two main websites where you can find clues. Both sites allow you to search by location, so it is easy to find letterboxes that are nearby. I like to search both sites as some people choose to list their letterboxes at only one site or the other.
To search on Letterboxing North America, click on either clues or search for boxes. The clues link will bring up a clickable map that you can use to navigate to the exact area you want to visit. The search for boxes link will allow you to narrow your search by city or other criteria. I prefer to use the map as it has the letterboxes grouped by county.
To search on Atlas Quest, use their search box on the right side of the home page. You can also select the simple search link from the top menu. Atlas Quest will return all letterboxes within a specified distance from the location you search.
I advise you to sign up for free accounts with both sites so you can log your finds. It is a nice way to keep track of where you have been.
And that’s really all there is to it!
For more information, here are a couple of great books on letterboxing that you can check out.
Have your been letterboxing? Do you have any questions about getting started with letterboxing? If so, leave me a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP.