Letterboxing is an adventurous, clue-based activity focused on hiking and exploration that anyone can participate in. Search for letterbox clues in your area at Atlas Quest or letterboxing.org and search by location. A list of letterboxes will load, and you can choose to open whichever set of clues you like. You can either read the clues directly off a mobile device or print them out. The first clue will give you a starting location. From there you will begin your letterboxing journey, but before you start the adventure, make sure you have the right tools and know the proper etiquette.

Your Trail Name

Letterboxers Baby Bear (left) and Silver Eagle hosting the 12th Texas Annual Letterboxing Event.

Letterboxers Baby Bear (left) and Silver Eagle hosting the 12th Texas Annual Letterboxing Event.

A trail name or  call name is what you refer to yourself as when you are on your adventure. It is also what people write in the letterbox’s logbook, which contains all the names of people who have visited the letterbox.

“Pick a good trail name and signature stamp since it will define you as a letterboxer,”  letterboxer Steve Yates says.

Yates chose “Silver Eagle” when he had to pick a trail name during a Native American themed camping trip with his daughter. He continued to use it in his letterboxing adventures because of the emotional connection. Once you start making your mark on the letterboxing community with your own trail name, people will recognize you by that, so choose wisely.

Tools for the Job

Tools for making a stamp.

Tools for making a stamp.

The basic tools you need to letterbox are a stamp book, stamp, inkpad, compass and the clues. The clues are the most important part, because without them you might never find the letterbox, so come prepared.

In general, letterboxes are hidden in the woods. Because of this, one may encounter poison ivy, bug bites and uneven terrain, says letterboxer Mark Pepe, whose letterboxing call name is “Silent Doug.”  

The best way to protect yourself from poison ivy is to avoid the plant altogether,” letterboxer Mark Pepe says.  

Bring simple bug spray to defend against the common pest. Wear proper hiking clothes  layer up if it’s cold and spray yourself with bug spray. Bring water to stay hydrated.

Finding the Box

Inside of Letterbox at NEMO lake in Kirksville, Mo.

Inside of Letterbox at NEMO lake in Kirksville, Mo.

Letterbox containers come in many shapes and sizes, but it can stay hidden for a long time. Often the box can be very difficult to find even if you are looking right at it.

“In order for a box to last a long time, it not only needs a durable container but a well-disguised one,” Yates says.

Types of containers include Ziploc bags covered in camouflage duct tape, film or pill canisters, Lock ‘n’ Lock containers or other food containers.

Be apt on your orientation skills. Some clues will require you to follow ordinal directions. Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Also, many smartphones come equipped with a compass app, and learning how to use your compass can be very helpful.

Re-Hiding the Box

In the haste of your new find, don’t forget to remember to return the box. Furthermore, replace the box exactly where you found it, and make sure it is well hid.

“Replace letterboxes better than you found them so they stay hidden,” Yates says.

When finding or re-hiding the box, be covert. Open the letterbox in a manner so no stranger sees what you are doing. They may not respect the box once you leave the site.

Be Exclusive  

Stamp found inside of the Hornsby-Bend Letterbox.

Stamp found inside of the Hornsby-Bend Letterbox.

Be cautious of with whom you share the golden experience of letterboxing.

“Keep letterboxing a secret except to those you feel will embrace it well. Often people will letterbox without following the proper etiquette, and they are not prepared. They lose interest and cause boxes to get lost, therefore ruining the experience for others,” Yates says.  

Simply put, do not reveal where a letterbox is once you find it so the letterbox will remain an adventure for future letterboxers.

Have Fun on your Letterboxing Adventure

Letterboxing is exploration, and now you are prepared for the journey. If you would like to know more about the history and practice of letterboxing you can go to letterboxing.uservoice.com, and if you would like to learn more about the letterboxer Silver Eagle check out his page.