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Letterboxing

Letterboxing is a relatively new outdoor hobby that has puzzle solving and gaming aspects. Letterboxers hide boxes in public places and send other letterboxers clues on how to find the boxes. People then solve the puzzles and log their successful finds in a book.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Letterboxing resources. We have a Letterboxing forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Letterboxing how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Letterboxing books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction To Letterboxing


Welcome to letterboxing! Letterboxes are everywhere. You can find them tucked away in tiny towns and buried deep inside the biggest cities all over the world. Who knows, you might walk right by a letterbox or two every day.




Letterboxing provides you with an opportunity to explore your area. When you are traveling, letterboxes can even guide your adventures. Hide your very own letterboxes to share the places you love with others.




You will soon find that you think about letterboxing all the time. You might even catch yourself planning your route home around the location of the newest clue in your area. Don`t worry. This is normal. People around the world are completely hooked on letterboxing.




Once you figure it all out, share letterboxing with your friends. You might think your comic book loving, computer addicted neighbor could care less. You will be pleasantly surprised when they begin letterboxing daily.




Whether you plan to letterbox solo or you want to get your friends and family involved in a community hobby, letterboxing is perfect. Kids love hunting down letterboxes and finding stamps. If you prefer your alone time, letterboxing helps you escape reality. Who knows, you might meet your new best friend or your future spouse out on the trail.




The benefits of letterboxing are endless. Not only will you have an excellent conversation starter, you:




• Exercise regularly without even thinking about it.


• Get your creative juices flowing by looking at intricately carved stamps and designing your very own.


• Give your brain quite a workout by figuring out some complex clues.


• Meet new people who are also excited about letterboxing.




The letterboxing community is very supportive. Newbies all over the world have access to hints, tips, and suggestions from experienced letterboxers. Who knows, maybe a fellow letterboxer will take you under their wing as you get started in your new hobby.=




What Is Letterboxing?


The concept of letterboxing is simple. Consider the letterboxer as a treasure hunter of sorts. Each letterbox is a treasure waiting to be found. You never know where the treasure might be tucked away. Your local health food store, coffee shop, restaurant, or park could hold countless numbers of letterboxes.




Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art, and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publiclyplaces and distribute clues to finding the box in catalogs, on one of web sites. Individual letterboxes usually contain a notebook and rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox`s stamp and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox`s logbook. Proof of having found the box and letting subsequent letterboxers see who have visited.




Not all letterboxes are outside. With the increasing popularity of letterboxing, many businesses host letterboxes. Other letterboxes are handicap accessible. Indoor and accessible letterboxes open this hobby up to many who would find treasure hunting out of their comfort zones or their abilities.




History of Letterboxing


Letterboxing is gaining popularity at an incredible rate. This global hobby is firmly rooted in England. While the hobby has evolved from its simple origins, modern letterboxing mimics the movement of letters from one box to another. For 150 years, dedicated letterboxes have created, hidden, hunted, and maintained their precious letterboxes. Interest in letterboxing in the U.S. is considered to have started with a article in the Smithsonian Magazine in April 1998.




Types of Letterboxes


Letterboxing is no longer the simple quest for a hidden box full of letters. Modern letterboxes come in all shapes and sizes. Clues vary in difficulty and the rules for each box can vary. When you find a letterbox, follow the rules of the type of letterbox you find.




There are many different kinds of letterboxes, each with some specific distinction. These include:




Traditional Boxes




A normal letterbox, hidden and uses clue to find it. These boxes are the most common type of letterbox. There are approximately 140,000 traditional letterboxes on record. A typical box contains the log book and a stamp. Occasionally, you will find other letterboxes within a traditional letterbox.




Mystery boxes




These are usually traditional boxes, but these "mystery" boxes have either vague starting areas. Clues come in the form of poems, stories, and codes. Many mystery boxes have two sets of clues. The first set indicates the starting location of the clue. The second clue may or may not be as difficult as the first clue. This clue will indicate the location of the letterbox in relation to the starting point.




Bonus Box




The clue for these are usually found in a traditional box as an extra one to find. Usually planted in the same area as the traditional that hosts its clue. Clues can be distributed in any way.




Hitchhikers Boxes




A travelling letterbox, it is placed in a traditional letterbox for another boxer to find. When found, it is stamped just like a traditional letterbox, but is then carried with the boxer to the next box.




Hitchhikers are not to be confused with unidentified stamps in a traditional letterbox. Many letterboxers include an additional stamp to indicate when their box was hidden. This unidentified stamp cannot be logged as a find.




Fleas




Like a combination of a hitchhiker and a cootie. You can either put in a traditional letterbox, like a hitchhiker, or put it on a person, like a cootie. Fleas can be avoided in the same way as cooties, don`t provide anyone with an opportunity to tuck one into your bag.




Virtuals




Online letterboxes; actually a scavenger hunt of sorts through different websites, collecting answers to questions posted as the clues to the box. Answers sometimes are unscrambled or simply emailed to the creator the final answer is put in a blank in a web address, which takes the finder to the image online. While many refuse to acknowledge these letterboxes, they are an excellent way to entertain children or practice writing clues. If you are unable to get out to find letterboxes, virtual letterboxing can keep you entertained. Virtual letterboxes can be logged on some letterboxing websites but will not show in your PFX count.




Limited time Boxes




A letterbox that has only been planted for a short amount of time (Like a few days or a week, any time length the planter wants.). Seasonal clues like Christmas tree ornaments in front yards or holiday specific boxes may remain the same but will only return to their locations during the appropriate time of year. Others celebrate an event and will only remain in their locations until the event is complete.




Basic Letterboxing Equipment


Not only is letterboxing one of the least expensive hobbies to begin, you can get your supplies at any craft store in the country. There are no lessons to take or specialty items to buy. In fact, the list of essential letterboxing gear is quite short:




Signature Stamp




You can make your own rubber stamp or buy one from any craft store. As a beginner, you might opt for a store bought stamp so you can begin letterboxing right away. Your signature stamp should express who you are. Some carve their trail name and a symbol, others buy an oak leaf to indicate their passion for nature. Regardless of which type of stamp you choose, make sure you like your stamp. This is your sign and you will see it every time you stamp in to a letterbox.




Your local craft store might sell the rubber and carving tools for handcarving. You can also find kits online. Get creative. Almost any image can become a rubber stamp.




Ink




There are many types of inks available and even more color options. The three ink types most commonly used for letterboxing are alcohol, dye, and pigment. Pigment is the most popular ink as the colors are rich and the ink itself works well for stamping. Dye based inks dry a little more quickly and work well for stamping. Finally, alcohol based inks dry very quickly for speedy letterboxing. However, their stamping quality is poor in comparison to the quality of ink and pigment.




Small ink pads with raised pads work very well for letterboxing. These tiny ink pads are also easy to keep in a pocket. Larger pads tend to tear, shred, and get ink all over the place.




Logbook




You can use any book with a hardcover. Books without lines will show off the stamps you collect. However, lined books will also work well. Look for thick pages that will not bleed through. Save a page or two at the beginning of your book to stamp your signature stamp and any other stamps you make. The rest of the book can be dedicated to the letterboxes you find.




Pen




Test your pen before you take it on the trail. Many logbooks will be damp when you find them. The wrong pen could tear the log book, bleed, or not write at all. Space pens are excellent for writing in all conditions. A ballpoint pen or a fine tipped permanent marker also work quite well.




Other




You might also consider a shoulder bag or backpack to hold your letterboxing gear. Here are some ideas of other handy items to take along when letterboxing:




• Bug spray


• Sunscreen


• A hat


• Baby wipes (to remove ink)


• A small first aid kit


• Water and a snack


• A collapsible stool




As you letterbox more, you will think of items that will make letterboxing more pleasurable for you. Add these items to your gear bag and share your ideas with other letterboxers.




How To Locate Clues


Before you head out to find your first letterbox, find a few clues. There are many places to find the clues you will use to locate letterboxes.




Online




AtlasQuest offers the most comprehensive database of letterboxes and letterboxers in North America. You can perform location based searches to find clues to letterboxes in your area. You can also map and print clues directly on the site. The forums are an excellent resource for anyone starting a letterboxing hobby.




Letterboxing.org provides clues to many boxes. AtlasQuest links to some of these clues. Letterboxing.org has fewer clues and does not allow users to build profiles, track finds with efficiency, or interact with other letterboxers. They do provide a great source for clues.




Other




You might receive a clue by word of mouth. You can also find clues in annual letterbox catalogs. However, in North America, these catalogs are few and far between. The online resources available are a more efficient way to find letterbox clues.




How To Find A Letterbox


Once you have your clues in hand and your bag is packed, you are officially ready to find your letterbox.




Getting There




Once you pick a clue to follow, you will need to figure out how to get to the starting point. You can do this using online mapping systems like Google Maps or Mapquest. Once you reach your destination, follow your clues with care.




Following Clues




Steps and paces will often confuse the letterboxer. In general, you can count the steps or paces with your normal stride. If the clue tells you to look for a specific tree, log, rock, or doorway in the next step, see if you can locate that item from your position. If not, either try again or reassess your clues.




Letterbox Hiding Places




Letterboxes are usually tucked away where they can`t be spotted by the casual passerby. Look for piles of leaves or neatly arrange sticks to find your letterbox. Some are located in the trunks of trees. Others are hidden underneath rocks or in holes. If you can`t see the letterbox right away, keep looking. A letterbox is not supposed to be easy to find.




Plant Your Own Letterbox


Planting your own letterbox can be a lot of fun. Follow these steps to make sure your letterbox will be a pleasure for other letterboxers to find.




1. Research your location. If another letterbox exists near the location you like, either ask the other letterbox`s owner for permission to plant a box nearby or pick another location.




2. Create your stamp. You can hand carve or buy your stamp. You will find great carving guides online if you choose to make your own.




3. Create your clue. Walk the path and work these steps into your clue. Your clue should reflect the theme. An explanation at the beginning followed by a simple clue detailing the steps will suffice. More complex clues that fit the steps into the story are enjoyable to write and more interesting for the letterboxer looking for your letterbox.




4. Make your letterbox. Buy a watertight box and label it inside and out with “This Is Not Trash, It Is A Letterbox” or something similar. You can reference AtlasQuest website in case someone wants more information. In this box you will place your stamp and a logbook. This might be a ring bound set of notecards or a handmade logbook. Seal everything in ziploc bags to protect the stamp and book from water.




5. Post Your Clues. Post your clue to the online clue databases and watch the finds come pouring in.




6. Reward First Finders. Include a stamped card or a trinket in the box for the first finder. This is their reward for getting to your box first.




7. Maintain Your Box. Check your box periodically to make sure the box is intact and the stamp and logbook are in good shape. Replace both as necessary.




Letterboxing Safety


Follow these safety guidelines to make your letterboxing experience the best it can be:




1. Never go alone. If you do go solo, provide someone with a list of the locations you are visiting. Check in with that person periodically. You never know who is lurking in the woods.




2. Wear appropriate clothes and footwear. Pay attention to the weather. Shorts and flip flops are generally a bad idea in the woods as you will eventually bleed for letterboxing. Keep warm and dry in rain and cool weather or keep cool in hot weather to prevent hypothermia and heat stroke.




3. Eat food and stay hydrated. Enough said.




4. If you plan to meet up with a stranger to letterbox, meet for the first time or two in a very public place. You are not obligated to spend time with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.