Letterboxing: Getting Ready for the Hunt

Letterboxing has been around forever (well, at least, a few hundred years), but I just learned about it within the past year.  Though I’ve been interested in trying it out with my son, it somehow seemed a bit overwhelming just to get started.  But now I’m ready to begin.  If you’re new to letterboxing, like I am, I’m going to provide you with the basic information here to help you get started.   It’s actually pretty simple.

What is letterboxing?  Basically, it’s a treasure hunt.  Someone has gone out (to a park, a nature area, or some other public place within a city) and hidden a plastic container or metal box filled with a stamp and a logbook.  Then he or she has created clues to help others find the box.  These clues are put online for others (you and me) to follow in order to  find the hidden box.  Clues may be straightforward instructions, a riddle, a rhyme, or may require the utilization of a compass.  There are thousands of boxes hidden throughout the United States.

What do you need to participate in letterboxing?  You really only need a few things to get started…

  1. Rubber stamp:  You’ll need to either buy or make a rubber stamp in order to participate.  This is your “signature stamp.”  We created ours by cutting out a design on a rubber eraser with an exacto knife.  You’ll use this stamp to mark in the logbook (there is one in each letterbox) to prove that you’ve found the box.
  2. Ink pad:  For use with your rubber stamp.
  3. Logbook:  To record your finds.  We’re going to use a small unlined spiral-bound pad of art paper (thick paper is reportedly better).  When you successfully locate a box, you’ll mark your log book with the stamp provided in the box.
  4. Pencil:  To record the date and location of your finds in your logbook, and, if desired, to write down any notes.
  5. Plastic bag:  To hold your rubber stamp, ink pad, and pencil (prevents ink from spilling into your backpack or bag)
  6. Compass (maybe):  This is not necessary unless you decide to find a box hidden with clues which use words such as degrees, bearing, or heading.
  7. Backpack or bag:  To comfortably carry all these items, as well as drinking water and snacks.

How do you select a letterbox to go out and find?  Simply go online.  Following are the two largest websites.

  • Letterboxing North America:   To find out where a box is hidden in your area on this site, under the “Letterboxes” tab, select “Search Clues.”  Fill out the information to find a box hidden in the region where you live.  Select a box name, and there you’ll find the clues.  Read through to determine if the clues are appropriate for the individuals who will be participating in the hunt (for kids, direct clues will be better than a riddle, at least until the kids are older).
  • Atlas Quest:  On this site, to find letterboxes hidden in your area, look under the “Letterboxes” tab.  Select your state, and then your city.  I found a lot more letterboxes in my area using this site than the Letterboxing North America site.  Again, read through to determine if the clues are appropriate for the individuals who will be participating in the hunt.

Interested in learning more about letterboxing?  First, I highly recommend you read this short pamphlet, Letterboxing 101.   Then browse through the two main websites for letterboxing that I listed above (Letterboxing North America and Atlas Quest).  Both sites provide a wealth of information for the newbie.

We’re going to go on our first letterboxing treasure hunt in a few days, and I’ll report about how it goes.  Wish us luck!


  1. Jackie says:

    Have you ever done geocaching? It sounds like letterboxing is geocaching without the GPS? I wonder if there are letterboxes in smaller towns. Hmmmm.


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      We’re going to try geocaching next. I think letterboxing will be more fun, as we’ll be using clues to find the box instead of technology. I actually heard about geocaching first, and downloaded the iPhone app months ago, but then a friend told me how her kids love letterboxing. But then, with geocaching, there is actually treasure to find. I see benefits to both. After we try them both, I’ll compare our experiences here!


  2. engchick23 says:

    How cool! I actually heard about this only a few days ago from a dictionary site that chose “letterboxing” as its word of the day, so I’m glad you posted about it! I love the idea of using unique stamps to mark your success; I’ll take any excuse to get use rubber stamps! Maybe this activity will improve my directions skills!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂


  3. malaysiagirl says:

    Nice post. We just started Letterboxing yesterday with my 8 year-old. It was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon for all of us. Really like your blog. Our afternoon adventure is posted at dunnfamilyhikes.wordpress.com


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      I enjoyed reading about your adventure. Thank you for sharing! I hope our outing this week is as fun as yours (though I do hope we’ll be luckier with the stamping part).


  4. Lisa says:

    This sounds like so much fun! I think I will have to try this with my kids too 🙂


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Lisa – It is supposed to be a fun way to teach local history, too.


      1. Lisa says:

        sounds even better! thanks!


  5. Way back end of last May, we did a toddler hike in the Redwoods – following your favorite path. There at the end, inside the rotted out center of an old redwood tree that was next to the shelter, was a geocaching box. I was really excited, b/c I’d heard about it, but have never done it (or seen a box.)

    I’d never heard of letterboxing (aside from aspect ratio of movies. LOL) This sounds awesome! And sounds like exactly something we should get into as well. For my little 3yr old, I’m sure just the excitement of the hunt & the find of the “buried treasure” will be stimulating in itself. But even more exciting as she gets old enough to start providing the answers to the clues!

    What a fabulous idea Linda!!! Thank you so much for, yet again, inspiring me! I can’t wait to find out how it goes w/ Cy!!!


    1. A Nature Mom says:

      I want to try geocaching soon, too. I downloaded the iPhone app months ago, but still haven’t used it. Maybe I’ll get around to that soon, too!


  6. admin says:

    Well I learned something new! I’m going to check it out!


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