Monday, March 23, 2009

Letterboxing 101

"Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art and puzzle solving." ( Letterboxing is a relatively old activity that dates back to 1854 in Dartmoor, England when a gentleman left his calling card inside a bottle by a pool of water. Our family began letterboxing back in November of 2006 after reading about it in an issue of Family Fun Magazine.

One of the reasons I love to letterbox is because it allows us to explore areas and find new places that we didn't know existed. When traveling, it's easy to find boxes in the city you'll be visiting. I am often asked, "What is letterboxing?" so I thought I would give my version of letterboxing 101.

The first thing you need to do is a bit of research and understand what letterboxing is and the proper etiquette involved. A couple of good websites to check out are:

With some basic knowledge of the hobby under your belt, it is time to come up with your trail name. I suggest signing up at Atlas Quest and making sure no one else has your name. This website allows you to search for letterboxes and record your finds. We have one trail name for our entire family.

The next step would be to collect the items that you will need in order to letterbox. One of the things that I love about this family activity is that it is fairly inexpensive. Once you have the items you need, you will only have to pay for the gas it takes to get you to the boxes. Michaels is a good place to shop for your supplies as they carry scrapbooking items.

Here are the items that we use:

You need a log book to record the stamps that you find in the boxes. I like to go back after a day of letterboxing and add the information about the boxes - location, date, weather, etc. You can also add stickers and treat it as a kind of scrapbook.

Writing utensils are important to bring along because the letterboxes do not contain these items. I like to use gel pens (and I'm in desperate need of some new ones!). When you find a letterbox and put a copy of your personal stamp in their book, you will also leave a short note - at the very least you will leave your trail name and date.

Some letterboxes have ink pads in them, but most do not. You will need to bring your own. I use a simple black ink, but there are many colors out there for you to choose from.

The most important item you will need is your stamp. Most letterboxes contain handmade stamps. That is where the artistry of the hobby comes into play. We bought our stamp (we also used store bought stamps for the letterboxes we planted), but at some point in the future we will attempt to make our own. A couple of sites that explain how to go about making a stamp:

Make Your Own Stamps

Rubber Stamps

I also bring along some extra Ziploc bags when we go out letterboxing. The boxes are left out in the elements and sometimes the items inside can get wet if a bag has ripped or been lost. Just yesterday I had to replace a bag because Sully accidentally ripped one as he was opening it.

And there you have it. That's really all you need to get started. When the weather is pleasant on the weekends, I make a visit to Atlas Quest and search for letterboxes in the area (of which there are MANY!). I print out directions and clues, pack up some snacks, and we head out for some family fun. We have discovered many wonderful parks that we would never have known about if not for letterboxing. I have always enjoyed hiking and I love that we can combine such a fun activity with enjoying the great outdoors. Many of the parks that we visit also have playgrounds. After we have found our boxes, we let the boys play for a while before heading home.

Yesterday, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went letterboxing. I had printed out clues for two different spots in the same area, but we were unsuccessful in locating one of the parks. The second park had three letterboxes, but we were only able to find two. This happens to us fairly often, but it's all part of the adventure. It's not as fun when they're too easy to find!


There were lots of birdhouses around.

1st letterbox

(Stitch is a special visitor who is going to Disney with us - the boys wanted him to join us on our letterboxing adventure.)

Sometimes the boxes will be hidden under branches.

Connor and Owen take a break with the third letterbox.

I hope this entry has helped you understand letterboxing a bit more and perhaps piqued your interest to try it for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. carissa, that sounds like so much fun!!! I have to see if I can get Kevin into it. I know the kids would love it!


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