July 2013

By Robin Farr

Letterboxing is a mix of art, journaling, solving mysteries, and hunting for buried treasure. It’s similar to geocaching, except that instead of finding an object and leaving one in its place, you’re collecting a stamp in your journal and leaving your stamp in the journal you’ve found. You’ll find it to be a great family activity that will help you get outdoors by giving you a destination and a purpose.

Letterboxing Basics

The premise behind letterboxing is simple: Participants hide small boxes in various places and then share clues as to how to find them. Inside the box will be a notebook where finders can leave their stamp and a unique stamp (usually hand-carved) that the finder can stamp in their own book as a record of having found that letterbox.

Most letterboxers have a signature stamp that represents them (or their family or team), and the stamps are often hand-carved. Sound complicated? It’s not! Check out this stamp-carving tutorial for a how-to. Of course, if you prefer to use a store-bought stamp that’s okay too.

To find out more about letterboxing and what’s involved, check out this letterboxing FAQ.

What You Need

You don’t need a lot of equipment to go letterboxing, just some simple supplies:

  • Rubber stamp (usually hand-carved or custom made)
  • Notebook
  • Ink pad
  • Pencil or pen
  • Compass (optional)

You can also choose a trail name, which is the name other letterboxers will know you by and the one you can leave when you find a letterbox. Have fun with it! Pick something that represents your family and who you are or what you like.

Playing by the Rules

Letterboxers follow certain rules – etiquette, really – that you should be aware of.

  • Respect your environment. This includes the land where you’re searching for (or placing) a letterbox, and everything on it, such as plants, vegetation, animals, and public and private property.
  • Put the letterbox back where you found it, and pack it properly. Letterboxes are designed to be waterproof, but that only works if you seal it up again when you’ve finished collecting your stamp. And make sure to put it back in the same spot so others can find it using the clue the planter left.
  • Be stealthy. Letterboxers don’t reveal what they’re doing if someone spots them finding a box, so have a story handy so you don’t give anything away.
  • Don’t post or share solutions to clues or pictures of other letterboxers stamps.

Ready, Set, Search!

Ready to hit the trails? Great! Finding clues is easy and there are a few websites you can use to search for boxes. Atlas Quest lists letterboxes all over North America (so you can do this when you’re travelling, too) and you’ll find that there are lots of letterboxes around Calgary. Letterboxing North America also has a list of letterboxes placed in Alberta (and elsewhere around the world, too).