Getting Started With Letterboxes
You don't need much to start a rewarding hobby in letterboxing. To start finding your first letterboxes, you'll want to carry the following items:
- A logbook to record your finds. Something sturdy that can handle the rigors of being knocked around inside your pack is necessary. Use a logbook containing white, unruled, acid-free paper for best, long-lasting results. Most people prefer logbooks at least 5½"x8½" but no larger than 8½"x11½". A spiral-bound logbook is nice because the pages lay flat, but they're also more likely to bend and get caught up with other stuff in your pack.
- An ink pad to stamp with. Ideally, the ink pad should have a raised surface so you can easily ink up stamps that are larger than the ink pad. Most letterboxers carry a variety of colors of small ink pads or markers, but if you choose to carry only one color, make it a dark one such as black. Bright colors such as yellow tend to fade over time when used with stamps that have had darker colors applied earlier. Our Art of Stamping tutorial may give you ideas of what to use and how to get the best results.
- A pen or other writing implement to sign logbooks or take notes.
- A compass. While not all letterboxes require the use of a compass, sometimes it's easy to lose track of your direction and a command such as 'turn north at the junction' might be difficult without one! If you're not sure what to look for in a compass or how to use one, check out our Compassing 101 tutorial.
- A signature stamp to stamp into the letterboxes you find. You'll want to select something that compliments your trailname. Most letterboxers usually start with a store-bought stamp, but when you get a chance, try carving your own rubber stamp. It's easier than you might think, and you'll end up with a unique, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Keep your stamp as small as possible—not all logbooks you find will have a lot of room for a stamp image. 1"x1" is a good size. Generally, anything larger than 2"x2" will start causing you problems.
- Clues—you can't find a letterbox without them! Check out our Simple Search for a variety of search options to find letterboxes near you, or an Advanced Search for more complex queries.
If you ask around, you'll find plenty of other suggested items to take with you. A cell phone for emergencies or to 'phone a friend' if you have a question about a clue, for instance. For longer hikes, you'll likely want a few snacks and water. Maps of the area can certainly be your friend. Depending on the season, insect repellent might be considered one of the '10 essentials.' These types of items are important, but none of them are directly related to letterboxing. Consider where you'll be traveling, your skill level, and pack appropriately.
Use Leave No Trace principles while looking for a letterbox. You should not have to dig around or trample vegetation to retrieve a letterbox. Keep your wits about you. Don't walk off a cliff because you had your nose stuck in a clue. Pay attention to where you're going so you can retrace your steps back if you have to. Most clues will not give directions for returning to the trailhead.
When you find a letterbox, stamp the rubber stamp found in the letterbox into your personal logbook, and sign and use your signature stamp in the logbook in the letterbox. Congratulations! You're now a letterboxer!