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  1. What is letterboxing?
  2. Where are letterboxes hidden?
  3. What do I need to letterbox?
  4. What is a signature stamp?
  5. Do I need a trail name?
  6. What's the difference between a trail name and an alias?
  7. What kind of logbook should I use?
  8. Where can I acquire letterboxing supplies?
  9. Where do I find clues?
  10. I clicked on a clue and got an error message! Help!
  11. How far is a pace?
  12. How do I use a compass?
  13. What happens if a box is missing?
  14. How do I get letterboxing started in my area?
  15. Can I record finds for boxes that are not listed on AQ?
  16. How do I hide a letterbox?
  17. Do I need permission to hide a box?
  18. Is it okay to use a store-bought stamp?
  19. How do I carve a stamp?
  20. Should I put the letterbox in a plastic bag?
  21. How do I list a mystery letterbox?
  22. How do I delete or edit a listed letterbox?
  23. How do I change the type of a letterbox?
  24. Are there any rules?
  25. Can I show off my stamps?
  26. What are PFX counts?
  27. What about other types of counts?
  28. How do hitchhikers work?
  29. What is a postal?
  30. How can I make a postal?
  31. What do I do with my postal once I finish making it?
  32. Should I be cautious giving my postal address to people over the Internet?
  33. How can I sign up for a postal?
  34. What is the difference between a postal single and a postal ring?
  35. What's a postal tracker?
  36. How do I find postals that are open for signups?!
  37. What's up with the chick logo?
  38. How does AQ mail work?
  39. How are PFX counts calculated?
  40. Why can't I archive mail I sent to another member?
  41. Why is the distance to a letterbox always too small?
  42. Can I create two accounts with the same e-mail address?
  43. Who is the webmaster here?
  44. How can I help support Atlas Quest?
  45. How can I get notifications for newly listed events in my area?
  46. How can I meet letterboxers in my area?
  47. What are virtuals?
  48. How do you create stealthy containers?
  49. Do cooties have a logbook and box?
  50. National Park Service (NPS)
  51. Why are the names of letterbox types listed on Atlas Quest different than those used in England?
  52. What is a Cuckoo?
  53. How can I prevent postals from going missing?
  54. What are the English names for all the different letterboxes?
  55. Is there a Code of Conduct in England
  56. Are there any other guidelines to follow in England?
  57. Tennessee State Parks
  58. Nashville Metro Area
  59. Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
  60. How do I list Cuckoo/English Parasite finds/plants on AQ?
  61. How do I list a Wanderer Box?
  62. Missouri State Parks
  63. North Carolina State Parks
  64. Audubon Properties
  65. How many letterboxes are in America?
  66. Are there images of stamps and letterboxes that can be used for articles?
  67. Who can I interview for a letterboxing piece?
  68. How do I change my trail name?
  69. I can't log into my account. What do I do?
  70. Washington State Parks
  71. How do I list an exchange?
  72. What is a 'tagged' letterbox?
  73. How do I adopt a letterbox?
  74. How to I hide my personal travelers on the event listing?
  75. Indiana State Parks
  76. What happens at events?
  77. What container should I use for planting?
  78. What's the difference between the planters, owner, contacts and carvers of a letterbox?
  79. Who runs LbNA?
  80. How can I see who has listed me as an exchange?
  81. How do you find out information about cooties that do not have a logbook?
  82. Is it possible to record an exchange for each of someone's signature stamps?
  83. Where do I find the supplies I need to begin letterboxing?
  84. What is a random/surprise postal and how do you receive one?
  85. Can I use my web capable cell phone to browse AQ ?
  86. What do the envelopes represent in your mailbox?
  87. What is a letterbox's status?
  88. What to do after finding a damaged box?
  89. Is there a right side and a wrong side to PZKut?
  90. Why do we place letterboxes?
  91. How has letterboxing changed over the years?
  92. What browsers are supported by Atlas Quest?
  93. Can you make a spell check available?
  94. Can my child or children create an account?
  95. What is snowboxing?
  96. How do I search the help pages?
  97. How do you put a letterbox together?
  98. What is expected in a help entry?
  99. Is it possible to change the theme displayed on Atlas Quest?
  100. How do I change the size of the font?

What is letterboxing?

Letterboxing is an intriguing pastime combining artistic ability with "treasure-hunts" in parks, forests, and cities around the world. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by cracking codes and following clues. Small boxes are hidden in various locations--usually outdoors, though many are planted indoors as well--and the creator of the box will release clues so others can go out and find them later. The box is expected to have a logbook that finders can log into and a unique stamp, usually hand-carved, that the finder can stamp into their own personal logbook as a record of all the letterboxes they've found. Most letterboxers have a unique stamp to represent themselves, called a signature stamp, that they stamp into the logbooks found inside letterboxes so others who find the letterbox later know they found it.

Where are letterboxes hidden?

Letterboxes can be hidden almost anywhere. Most are planted in scenic, outdoor areas, but others have been planted in bookstores, libraries, zoos, pubs, coffee shops, cemeteries, playgrounds, and one was even planted in the Smithsonian while another was planted at Disneyland. Where one can plant a letterbox is limited to only your imagination, though for legal or security reasons, you should avoid planting boxes in some locations such as national parks or airports and, well, Disneyland.

What do I need to letterbox?

To start finding boxes, all you need is a clue such as those provided on Atlas Quest. It's also recommended that you have a signature stamp, a logbook, an ink pad, and something to write with. The signature stamp is what you'll stamp into the logbook you find in the letterbox. Many letterboxes contain ink pads, but you should always bring your own since most do not, and even if they do, the ink pad in the box could be frozen solid, dried up, and otherwise incapacitated. Most letterboxers carry several small ink pads with varying colors. Having something to write with is nice so you can write in the logbook the date and perhaps a comment about the weather or experiences in finding the box. And you'll want your own, personal logbook so you can record all your finds with the stamp found in the letterbox.

Many boxes require a compass to find, so a compass should become part of your regular letterboxing kit. They're cheap and lightweight, and directions for using them can be found in our compass tutorial. You'll find gloves invaluable for those times when you need to reach your hand into deep, dark holes that letterboxes are so frequently found in. Depending on the location and circumstances, you may also want to bring water, snacks, sunglasses, hat, mosquito repellent, cell phone, flashlight, first-aid kit, and anything else that would ensure your safety, comfort, and general well-being.

What is a signature stamp?

A signature stamp is a unique stamp that represents yourself in some manner, and can be stamped into logbooks you find to show you've been there. Most letterboxers will urge you to create a hand-carved stamp rather than a store-bought one because we enjoy seeing what others can create. No artistic talent necessary! Carving a stamp is surprisingly quick and easy to do with the right guidance and tools, and our stamp carving tutorial is an excellent place to get started. Many first-time letterboxers, too eager to get out and start finding letterboxes before carving a signature stamp, will use their thumbprint. Many experienced letterboxers who forget to bring their signature stamp have been known to use this method as well!

Do I need a trail name?

Trail names are optional, though a growing number of letterboxers are adopting them. Part of it is just for fun, though others have made the argument that for personal safety and security, it's best not to be too loose with your real name. If you choose to go with a trail name, though, consider that it might follow you around for a long, long time to come. Don't select one you may regret later.

What's the difference between a trail name and an alias?

A trail name is the normal name that other letterboxers will know you as. An alias is like a secret identity—another trail name that nobody knows is you. Letterboxing is a very secretive hobby so it's not surprising the some letterboxers have adopted one or more aliases for any number of reasons. Read SpringChick's An Alias Among Us for more details about aliases and reasons you may or may not want to choose one for yourself.

What kind of logbook should I use?

New letterboxers always have a barrage of questions about logbooks. What size should they be? What should go in them? In a nutshell, it comes down to what you want to do. Every letterboxer has their own way of doing logbooks. Some people stamp finds onto index cards that can be sorted and easily carried. Others create diary-like journals where they paste in pictures of the hike or the clue itself along with information about the date and time, who they hiked with, or any other notes they care to take. For less-ambitious folks out there, they might only include the stamp image with the name of the box and the date it was found.

Those who use index cards generally save them in a photo album. You can add, remove, or rearrange pages from some types of photo album. Obviously, you can insert photos from the adventures right alongside the cards with the stamp images. This method has the benefit that you're not carrying the entire logbook with you on the trail, which means you're not carrying as much, and if it starts raining or you fall in a creek only the cards you have along get wet. On the downside, if you run into another letterboxer on the trail, you won't have your logbook along to show off. You could keep it in the car, of course.

Others prefer to use an heirloom-quality book of some sort, perhaps leather-bound. A collection of unique hand-carved stamp images can be very impressive when collected in a fine volume. The fact that the book has been carried over many trails just adds to its character.

If there's one thing most letterboxers can agree on when it comes to logbooks, it's to use one with blank, white pages. Lined pages look tacky—lines are for writing between, not for stamping on—and stamp images show up best on white pages. Also, if you're into making your own paper, you might reconsider for your logbook. Home-made paper tends to be grainy and doesn't stamp very well. Outside of that, it's really up to you and your imagination!

Where can I acquire letterboxing supplies?

Rubber stamp stores have many of the supplies letterboxers will need—especially the ink pads. Carving supplies can be more challenging to find since most rubber stamp stores actually expect you to buy rubber stamps rather than provide supplies to carve your own, though they usually have something for carving. Arts and crafts stores such as Michael's carry lots of useful supplies, though the employees that work there may not be familiar with carving tools! The carving blocks and carving tools, contrary to what you might think, are not located in the stamp aisle. Most likely, you'll find carving materials in the same area where you'll find stencils and calligraphy items. Don't ask why—nobody has a good answer for that and it may rank as one of the world's most enduring mysteries.

You can also find online sources at great prices such as MisterArt.com. One low-cost alternative many letterboxers prefer to use for carving blocks is PZ Kut, which can be purchased at Stampeaz.

Where do I find clues?

The largest selection of clues can be found at Letterboxing North America (also known as LbNA). Atlas Quest has thousands of clues easily accessible from the city directory, many not found on LbNA. The Simple Search and Advanced Search pages on Atlas Quest give you many more options for searching letterboxes near you. Many other letterboxers keep personal websites that list their clues that you can frequently find with Google searches or by viewing their profiles on Atlas Quest. Still other clues are often hidden in plain sight, embedded into otherwise innocent sounding posts on talk lists or by following a picture link. Other clues are by invite only (typically called word-of-mouth or WOM clues, though the clues aren't always delivered verbally). Most clues, until the Internet age, were passed along as word-of-mouth clues. Some letterboxes are listed on geocaching.com (choose "Letterbox Hybrid" from the "All Geocaches" drop menu).

Clues are everywhere, and with experience comes an ever wider variety of clues at your disposal. Becoming an active letterboxing participant and interacting with other letterboxers through e-mail and message boards is important to gather the widest variety of clues possible.

I clicked on a clue and got an error message! Help!

Many letterboxes are listed on Atlas Quest while the actual clue is hosted somewhere else, and occasionally, these remote sites go down for limited periods of time. Maybe an upgrade is in progress, maybe a server crashed, maybe a lot of different things—but you wind up getting some sort of error message when clicking on such a clue.

The easiest solution is to try back later and get the clue when the remote site comes back up, but if you're in a pinch and absolutely must get a clue, you can try accessing a cached version of the clue. Atlas Quest regularly scans and saves the text of remote clues, and the saved version of the clue is accessible by clicking the 'View Cache' button on the letterbox details page. It'll be at the bottom of the block of buttons on the right side of the details page.

How far is a pace?

Depends on who you ask. Most letterboxers will use the term pace and step interchangeably, and unless a clue states otherwise, it's best to assume that one pace is the same as one step. Many individuals, especially those with military backgrounds, say one pace is equal to two steps, so if you're having trouble finding a box using the one pace equals one step rule of thumb, try the one pace equals two steps rule of thumb.

Paces and steps, obviously, are dependent on a variety of factors including the terrain and height of the individual doing the counting. This is where it helps to know who planted the box. Is it a child or a full-grown adult? With experience, you'll figure out the size of specific letterboxer's steps in comparison to your own, but the vast majority of the time, your counts will come out within 10% of almost anyone else's counts.

Many times the clues will indicate whether a pace is one step or two. It may vary depending on the planter.

How do I use a compass?

A complete tutorial on using a compass can be found in our compass tutorial.

What happens if a box is missing?

Frequently, especially for new letterboxers, it can be difficult to find a letterbox and the box is actually still there waiting to be found! With experience, you'll improve your letterbox finding skills. You'll note small cracks or suspicious, unnatural-looking piles of rocks or twigs that beginner letterboxers frequently overlook. Even when you know you're looking in the correct area, it is often difficult to find small boxes.

If a day comes when you have trouble finding a letterbox, however, and it will happen to everyone at some point, try to contact the owner of the letterbox. If no contact information is provided in the letterbox, it may be listed in their clues. Both Atlas Quest and LbNA provide mechanisms for contacting members, so you can also try contacting the person who planted the box through those websites. If all else fails, you can post messages asking for the person to contact you or ask if anyone knows how to contact such-and-such person.

As a side note, it's usually best to say that you weren't able to find a box, not report that it's missing because you'll feel pretty silly afterwards when somebody reports back later that no, the box is still alive and well. After that happens a time or two, you'll find yourself reporting boxes you weren't able to find rather than reporting that a box is missing. Unless you've found the box previously and know for a fact exactly where it should be, the safer option is to report not being able to find a box. The owner of the box may even reply with tips and suggestions for where your search may have gone astray!

How do I get letterboxing started in my area?

If you are unfortunate enough to live in a sparsely populated letterboxing area, don't give up! There's a saying among letterboxers: "Plant them, and they will come." You can still actively participate in letterboxing by planting letterboxes—a fun pursuit in its own right. Many letterboxers plan trips around finding boxes and frequently will leave behind letterboxes of their own along the way. As letterboxing continues to get more press in newspapers, magazines, or television, others in your community will want to check out letterboxing. It's important that you've already seeded the area with letterboxes because you want to get them hooked! It can be discouraging to do a search for letterboxes in your area and nothing turns up. Many people who would love to letterbox might see that and never consider the hobby again, so seed your area with lots of letterboxes.

If you really want to get the ball rolling, you can even try talking to your local newspaper and see if they would be interested in creating a letterboxing article. Many parts of the country exploded after a small article in the local paper. Perhaps you can ask your local stamp store to hand out pamphlets about letterboxing.

Letterboxing is a fast-growing hobby, however, and with or without your encouragement, it will come. Seeding an area with letterboxes, however, is the quickest and easiest way to get others hooked on letterboxing. It might take a year or two before things really get moving, but it will happen!

Can I record finds for boxes that are not listed on AQ?

Since the day Atlas Quest went online, the number one feature request was the ability to list a letterbox as a find even if it isn't listed by the owner on Atlas Quest. Seeing as it's not a feature essential to the use of Atlas Quest, however, the option accessible only to Premium Members. If you are a premium member and try to record a find for an unlisted letterbox, Atlas Quest will show you a list of other unlisted boxes that people have recorded finding and allow you to add one of them or, if the box you found is not in that list, allow you to add a new one. The find will then be listed in your logbook and, if it's a traditional letterbox, count towards your F-count like any traditional letterbox.

For non-premium members, the answer is simple: You can't. You still have the option, however, of contacting the owner of the letterbox and ask to have his or her boxes listed. Often, the owner is more than happy to oblige. You can even offer to list the letterbox on the person's behalf—Atlas Quest does supported adopted letterboxes, and you can ensure the creator of the box still gets the appropriate credit. Do not list a letterbox without the author's permission. If someone is caught adding letterboxes that they do not have permission to add, the letterboxes will be deleted and the offending account suspended.

There is one exception to this rule: A few times each year, this premium member feature is opened for non-premium members to take advantage of. These days are variously called Free Listing Day or Hat Day since a theme featuring many of the premium member hats shows up on designated dates. What dates? It's random—it could happen on any day, and with absolutely no warning. Many non-premium members are valuable members of this community, and Free Listing Day is designed for them. Members who regularly check Atlas Quest and are active message board participants will likely be able to take advantage of Free Listing Day while those who log in infrequently will likely miss it.

If having an accurate found count is important to you, however, becoming a Premium Member is your best option. For just pennies a day—less than a pint of Ben & Jerry's best each month—you'll be able to record finds of unlisted letterboxes.

How do I hide a letterbox?

At a minimum, you'll want to include a small logbook and stamp in a weather-proof container. A pen or pencil is also useful. The logbook should be double-bagged in Ziplock bags since 'weather-proof' tends to be a relative term. The cheap supermarket varieties will work in a pinch, but for quality weather-proofing, you'll want the industrial brand freezer bags, and you'll want to double-bag it.

A small number of letterboxers include an ink pad, though it's not recommended since they can freeze in the winter, dry up in the summer, or leak and make a real mess of your letterbox. Letterboxers should always carry their own ink pads, so it's never necessary to leave one in boxes you've planted.

Others may include 'first finder' prizes that are for the first person who finds the box to take. Some letterboxers leave self-addressed stamped postcards so finders can mail updates about the letterbox.

Once the letterbox has been planted, write up some clues to lead people to the box and start distributing them. The variety of clues range from straight-forward to mind-numbingly complex that Albert Einstein would have trouble figuring out. Most clues in the United States are distributed through the Internet through websites such as LbNA or Atlas Quest.

And then wait for people to start finding them. Don't panic if nobody finds your letterbox immediately. It can take time for people to get out there and find your box, but letterboxers will come.

Do I need permission to hide a box?

Permission to hide a box is an excellent thing to acquire since you'll know the powers-that-be will help protect and maintain your letterbox. Without permission, they may learn of your letterbox anyhow and decide to confiscate it. Despite the advantages in asking for permission, most letterboxers feel it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, and that's the standard in use today.

However, if a certain area is known to prohibit letterboxes such as national parks, it's considered bad practice to hide one there. Not only may you incur the wrath of the land managers, but your boxes are bound to have a short lifespan since the park personnel will remove your letterbox as soon as they learn about it. If you want your letterbox to live a long and happy life, avoid planting it in areas where letterboxing is prohibited.

Is it okay to use a store-bought stamp?

Of course! A letterbox is more than just a stamp, and people will appreciate your box if it's hidden in a scenic area or takes them to an unusual location, so don't let the lack of a hand-carved stamp stop you from hiding a letterbox.

Most letterboxers do prefer finding hand-carved stamps, though. A common feeling among many letterboxers is that the only thing worse than a poorly-carved stamp is a store-bought stamp. In fact, most letterboxers enjoy finding a hand carved stamp even if the carver displays no talent at all, so long as he puts forth the effort. The only unforgivable sin in stamp carving is not caring; just stabbing an eraser a couple of times with the point on a pair of scissors and calling it a stamp is not acceptable.

If you intend to plant letterboxes, it's strongly urged that you give stamp carving a try. Stamp carving is a fun hobby in its own right, and it is probably easier than you think! Read our Stamp Carving 101 tutorial for more details.

A third option is a custom-made stamp, what the Brits call a "bespoke" stamp. You can go to the counter in an Office Depot or Staples office supply store and give them a design (either on paper or on computer media) and for a fee they will make it into a stamp for you. The process used results in the very best in unique rubber stamps, but it can be a bit expensive for planting letterboxes in the woods where they may eventually get lost or thrown away. Besides, many letterboxers prefer the unique nature of a hand-carved stamp over the automated perfection of a bespoke stamp.

How do I carve a stamp?

In general, there are two popular ways to carve a stamp: Using gouges or using a hobby knife (X-Acto). Eventually most carvers end up having both tools on hand, but a gouge carver will still use a gouge for nearly all carving and only use a hobby knife for a few details, while a hobby knife carver will use the hobby knife for nearly everything and only use a gouge for removing bits of rubber that have already been sliced with the knife.

For a primer on gouge carving, read our Stamp Carving 101 tutorial for details and tips on carving stamps, where to acquire carving tools and materials, and even how to mount the stamp after you've finished carving it for a truly professional look.

For a primer on razor knife carving, visit Rubber Stamp Carving Tips by Kirbert.

If you're just starting out, it's generally agreed that gouge carving is easier for the beginner.

There are other ways to carve stamps, of course. Some use a Dremel grinding tool. Some use a pencil in which the eraser has been yanked out and the little aluminum ring has been pinched a little. But the gouge and razor knife methods are the most popular.

Should I put the letterbox in a plastic bag?

A recent trend in some parts of the country is to put a one-gallon or other large plastic bag (e.g., Ziplocks) around the letterbox—please do not do this. Plastic bags are flimsy by nature—even the freezer bag versions—and will not hold up against sharp sticks, insects and rodents, and the general wear and tear that letterboxes are subjected to in the outdoors. A plastic bag around the letterbox will not last long and needs constant replacement. Even worse, once it has gotten holes, it can fill with water and mud putting the letterbox into an even more hazardous position than with no plastic bags at all.

Additionally, plastic bags do not have the camouflage properties a normal letterbox container usually has, and using them outside of the letterbox will put the box at an increased risk of accidental discovery.

The letterbox container should be the first defense to protect the contents of your letterbox from environmental elements. Containers have proven track records in this regard, but their most common failure is allowing moisture into the box. Plastic bags should be the second layer of defense against this moisture, but they are fragile and need protection from the other environmental elements that the container can provide.

A good general rule of thumb is when in doubt, try a different location. If you find that your box is soaked each time you check on it, then there is a good bet that your hiding location might be too low. No amount of good plastic containers or bags will change whether you are at or below sea level! Try opting for the higher, dry ground and your box will stay dry.

How do I list a mystery letterbox?

Any traditional letterbox that doesn't include a city is automatically listed as a mystery box. If it has a city listed, then it will not be a mystery box.

How do I delete or edit a listed letterbox?

You should rarely ever need to delete a letterbox. If a letterbox goes missing or is retired, you should change the status of the letterbox instead. This way, those who have found the letterbox can still record it as a find. However, if you ever do need to delete a letterbox—for instance, you accidentally added a box twice—drill down to the letterbox's details. (If you perform a search for a letterbox, clicking on the name of the box will get you to this screen.) Assuming you are logged in and have the authority to delete the letterbox, you will find a 'Delete Box' link near the upper-righthand corner of the window in the shape of a prominent red X.

To edit a letterbox, look in the same location except click the picture of the pencil in the upper-righthand corner. This will allow you to edit almost any information about the letterbox in question.

How do I change the type of a letterbox?

This question almost invariably has its roots in a letterboxing gathering where you carved a special box just for the gathering, then afterwards convert it into a hitchhiker (or some other type of letterbox) to be unleashed upon the rest of the world at large.

You cannot change the type of a letterbox, and there's a good reason for that. If you plant a temporary letterbox at a gathering, people will want to record it as a find on Atlas Quest. Later, after you turn it into a hitchhiker, people who find it will want to record it as a hitchhiker. If you simply change the letterbox type, however, people who found it as a real letterbox will end up getting credit for finding a hitchhiker that they really did not find and not getting the proper credit for finding a traditional letterbox. Even worse, if someone who was at the gathering that found it as a traditional letterbox ends up finding the hitchhiker, they won't be able to record finding both versions of the letterbox.

The solution, in this case, is to list the letterbox twice: once as a traditional letterbox and once as a hitchhiker. The traditional version should be listed as retired once it's played its role while the hitchhiker can be listed as active. That way, people can record the find for the correct type of box that they found, and if they find both types, they have a way of recording it.

It doesn't really matter what type of letterbox you are starting with and into what you have converted it. The theory is still the same. An event stamp that becomes a traditional letterbox, or a personal traveler that becomes a hitchhiker, or for any other combination of letterbox types, the process is still the same. Mark the old version as retired and list the new version as if it were a completely new letterbox.

So Atlas Quest does not allow you to change the type of a letterbox once it's been listed. Instead, the recommended method is to retire the old type, and list a new type.

If you inadvertently list a box incorrectly, just delete the incorrect listing and relist the box correctly.

Are there any rules?

Yes, there are. Use your common sense and don't put yourself or others in a position of danger. Don't harm the environment while looking for or planting a letterbox. Most of these rules are common sense type of things, but they are critical for the long-term survival of this hobby. For more details about etiquette, conventions, and how to stay safe, check out our Letterboxer's Code of Conduct.

Can I show off my stamps?

Yes, you may show off your stamps, but please remember that some people do not like to see a stamp image until after they find it. They want the image to be a surprise and earn the right to see the image. So before you start showing your stamps to everyone, ask to make sure they want to see your stamps first.

In the (rare) case that a particular stamp image may also be the clue for the location of the box, you may want to reconsider "showing off" this stamp as it might be a true "spoiler".

What are PFX counts?

PFX is a numbering system used by letterboxers to quickly communicate the number of Plants, Finds, and eXchanges. Plants are the number of boxes you've planted, finds are the number of letterboxes you've found, and exchanges are the number of other letterboxers you've met and exchanged images of your signature stamps.

How to count PFX counts is one of the many aspect of letterboxing about which consensus has not been reached. Some rules of thumb are:

  • You may never count a found letterbox more than once
  • You may never count as a find a letterbox you've already counted as a plant, or vice-versa
  • To count as a new letterbox, it must have a different stamp, in a different location, with a different clue

They say nothing is ever black and white, and counting PFX counts is no different. What if you find a box but the stamp is missing? Does it still count as a find? Or you find the box with the stamp, but the logbook is not there? Everyone has a different opinion on how such gray areas should be counted. So count it how you think is fair. Letterboxing has no PFX police to hand out tickets, so do what you think is right.

However, there is one particular issue that seems straightforward to some but seems to cause much confusion to others. If you carve a stamp or create a letterbox, then give it to somebody else to plant, it is he or she who planted the letterbox.

It is unclear why there is interest in claiming dubious P-counts, but if others wanted to know how many stamps you carved or letterboxes you created, there would be an S-count (i.e. Stamps carved) or a C-count (i.e. Created boxes) or some other count. P stands for Plant; thus, a P-count should be the number of letterboxes you've planted.

Some believe that the person who carved the stamp should get the credit because it took more time than the actual planting of the box. Keep in mind, however, that a hand-carved stamp is optional. If someone hides a letterbox with a hand-carved stamp, they can still count it as a planted letterbox. Do they lose that P-count if someone else actually carved a stamp for them? Why should the rule change just because someone else carved a stamp—a step that was completely optional in the first place? Additionally, there are some very clever clues out there that took an enormous amount of time to create. It does not matter. The person who planted the letterbox should get the P-count.

Don't think of this as a lost P-count—it's actually an opportunity for another F-count! Seeing step number two above—a rule that's been around from the very beginning—if you try to count a box as a plant, you've disqualified it from counting as a find when you later go try to find the letterbox yourself. You would be shortchanging your F-count!

So unless you actually planted the box, let it go. There are no awards for the most letterboxes planted. Have the person who planted the letterbox and who wrote the clue add a note to the clue giving you due credit for carving the stamp where credit is actually due, but don't count the letterbox as part of your P-count. You'd just be fooling yourself.

What about other types of counts?

Some letterboxers include other types of counts such as HH, V, R, P, S, and dozens of others. Some you can probably guess—HH for hitchhiker, V for virtual boxes, and P for postal boxes. Some can be rather silly—R for rescues when the letterboxer has found themselves in a situation necessitating a rescue or S for snakes, serpents, and other reptiles spotted on the trail. You won't see a complete list of possible counts—they're largely personal in nature and new ones are created and abandoned all the time.

How do hitchhikers work?

Hitchhikers are letterboxes that travel from box to box with no permanent home of their own. They're also known as parasites in some circles, though in the United States the term hitchhiker is the standard. A hitchhiker includes the same basic components as a letterbox: a rubber stamp and a logbook either in a very small container or bag. It is found inside a host letterbox.

Stamp your personal signature stamp and the stamp of the host letterbox in the hitchhiker's logbook. Stamp the hitchhiker in your logbook and the host letterbox's logbook. The finder typically takes the hitchhiker and plants it in another letterbox.

Hitchhiker Etiquette Tips
  • When planting a hitchhiker, make the stamp, container, and logbook small so it will fit well in a letterbox.
  • When moving a hitchhiker to another letterbox, don't cram it in the letterbox. Wait until you find a container big enough for it to fit.
  • When logging in to a small hitchhiker logbook, try to minimize the number of pages used. Consider stamping in only a portion of the stamps and try to squeeze images on as few pages as possible.
  • If you know you won't have an opportunity to replant the hitchhiker in another location, don't take it. Leave it for the next finder to move it along. The goal is to move the hitchhiker along, not to have it sit in someone's bag at home.

[Source: Silent Doug's articles on hitchhikers that had been at letterboxing.info.]

Added 12/2007: Hitchhikers have now started to travel in postals. As with all HHs, if you question if it is only to travel in one type of box, contact the owner prior to changing box types. Many postal HHs stay with the ring they start in (And sometimes do not have their own logbook), while others jump from postal box to postal box (These have seperate logbooks). They may also jump from postals into traditional letterboxes if the owner allows this. A good rule of thumb, "When in doubt, ask the box owner." mff

If you're considering launching a hitchhiker, you may want to consider making it a flea instead. A flea is much like a hitchhiker except there are more possible ways to move it, including just slipping it into some other letterboxer's pocket while he's not looking.

What is a postal?

A postal, often referred to as a PLB (short for Postal LetterBox) is a stamp and logbook mailed from person to person. A postal should contain a stamp (usually handmade) and a logbook (often handmade). Sometimes, the creators of a postal include extra goodies—either for the recipient to use while they have the box or to keep such as key chains, certificates, small toys, stickers or pictures, but putting extra items in the box is by no means required.

The box itself is usually not a plastic container, as in the case of traditional letterboxes. Some people use padded envelopes, some people use cardboard boxes, and some people use tubular containers. A postal is limited by only your imagination.

How can I make a postal?

Once you decide on a theme for your postal, carve or purchase your stamp and prepare your logbook. Because this box won't need to withstand the same elements as a traditional letterbox in the wild, you can experiment with unusual logbook construction techniques, papers, sizes and more. When creating a stamp and logbook for your postal, size is not as important as it would be with a traditional letterbox that must be hidden in public places.

Do keep in mind, however, the more weight you add to the box, the more expensive it becomes to ship. Many postal participants strive to keep the weight reasonable so that shipping is affordable to all recipients. Generally, if a box is heavier and more expensive to mail, it's a good idea to let potential recipients know that information before they sign up and to mark the heavy attribute when listing the postal.

What do I do with my postal once I finish making it?

First, decide how many people you want to mail your box to. Be aware that the more people you mail your postal to, the longer it will take for the box to come back home to you. Shipping can take up to 2 weeks between recipients. In addition, a postal that has a long list of recipients has a better chance of getting lost in the mail, accidentally misplaced or forgotten about by a recipient, or sent to the wrong address (perhaps because a recipient moved and forgot to notify you of their new address). Because these types of accidents can happen, the creator of a postal often asks the recipients to use USPS delivery confirmation or check-in with them via e-mail upon receiving a postal. If the creator of the postal knows the last location of the box and where it is headed next, then they have a better chance of making corrections to addresses or other modifications to the recipient list.

Next, you list your box on Atlas Quest as a postal, just like you would a traditional letterbox. You can use the section for clues to leave instructions for recipients to e-mail you their postal address and trail name. Once you have listed your postal, go to the Postals message board and post a message about your box. Your post can include any information about the postal that you want to list. You can also list it on the Yahoo Groups postal talk list.

Once your sign up list is full and you have everyone's postal addresses, create a list with the order that recipients should receive your postal. Some people go from east to west across the United States, and other people make a list in the order that recipients signed up. Print the list and include it in the box so people will know who to send it to after them, or else ask recipients to e-mail you as they receive the box to get the next person's address. By asking the recipients to e-mail you, it is easier to track the box and you won't be passing around everyone's address among recipients. Be sure to include delivery instructions such as delivery confirmation, first class mail, or priority mail in the postal box so that the recipients will know what method of shipping to use to mail the box. Then seal the box well and mail it to the first recipient.

Should I be cautious giving my postal address to people over the Internet?

Yes! Always! All of the usual precautions about providing personal information to people whom you have met online should apply to postal letterboxing. If the thought of your address being circulated to dozens of people that you do not know leaves you feeling worried or uneasy, consider opening up a Post Office Box or not participating in the postal part of letterboxing. Parents and guardians should monitor their child's participation! By allowing your child to participate, you essentially let everyone know you have children and what their address is. That said, many postal letterboxing participants are active and well-known participants in the letterboxing community and they seek only to expand the hobby in fun and interesting ways. When signing up for a letterbox, be sure to send your address only to the person organizing the box. Do not post your postal address on any message boards. If you decide to participate in postal letterboxing, you do so at your own risk.

How can I sign up for a postal?

Usually, the owner of a postal will create a [/aboutlb/wiki/browse.html?gCatId=41 tracker] for it indicating if it's part of a ring or just a single and any rules or restrictions associated with the postal. Sometimes they may post a message on the Postals message board or on the Yahoo Groups Postal Letterboxing talk list asking for participants. When you see one of these messages, read it thoroughly to make sure you want to participate, then follow the creator's instructions to sign up for the box. The creator will then typically send you a confirmation e-mail with additional instructions for the postal and what to do next.

In addition, you can also request to be added to the Newbie Pool for new Postals by emailing Littlemonkey. The Newbie Pool is a pool of postals used for the express purpose of introducing people to postals. Signing up for the pool requires only that you provide your trail name, real name, mailing address, and an e-mail to contact you. You will NOT be required to make a PLB for the pool- it is not a 'ring' in that sense. Two or three other 'newbies' will be in the pool with you, as well as an experienced mentor, and you will each receive a few postals that you will pass amongst yourselves to 'experience' what postals are all about. After you 'graduate' from the Newbie Pool, you should be more than ready to fully participate in postals!

What is the difference between a postal single and a postal ring?

In a postal ring, each recipient makes a postal. So instead of one box going around to a handful of people, every person involved in the list gets a box created by everyone else. Postal rings are often built around a theme, such as games, books, pets, or movies and each person's stamp and logbook must relate to that theme.

A successful ring usually has a list of participants with their addresses arranged in any order the ring creator decides. Each participant sends out the postal that they receive to the same person on the list. For example, let's say Fred, Joe, and Andy are in all participants in the same ring. The postal Fred made would be sent to Joe. Joe's box would go to Andy, and Andy's box would go to Fred. After they have all stamped in, they each mail the boxes back out again in the same order. Fred would have the box that Andy made, and would send it out to Joe. Joe would have the box that Fred made, and would send it out to Andy. Andy would have the box Joe made, and would send it out to Fred. And the process repeats until everyone in the ring has received all of the postals that make up the ring and the postals finally return to the original owners.

As you can see—in the case of Fred, Joe, and Andy—each person paid for shipping three separate times. Be sure that if you get involved with a postal ring that you can afford the shipping costs of however many participants are involved! If 15 people are signed up in the ring, you will need to pay shipping for 15 different postals. It can get expensive if you aren't careful.

What's a postal tracker?

A postal tracker is a listing of boxes and people. It is most often used for rings, but has been used for singles. Postal trackers make it easier to see all of the boxes in a ring and there for making it easier to log finds. When a new tracker is listed it is advisable to reorder the tracker so that people are not confused by where the boxes are.

How do I find postals that are open for signups?!

Besides watching the Postals message board closely for new announcements, the Advanced Search page for trackers will get you everywhere. A tracker is Atlas Quest's way of keeping track of postals (among other options) sent among a group of people. Narrow down your search so only open and limited postal trackers that are still available show up. Currently available postal trackers

The results page will display the status of the tracker. Those marked as open are available for anyone to sign themselves up, and those listed as limited means that spots are open, but you must contact the owner of the tracker to be included. Closed trackers are still active but no longer accepting new participants, and retired trackers are already over.

What's up with the chick logo?

You mean Marjorie? Back in the early days while developing Atlas Quest, Amanda started taking amusing pictures of the chicks in common letterboxing situations. Just for kicks, mind you, but when Ryan saw them, he realized that a couple of the pictures could fit with the tutorials on the site. They were so popular, Amanda and Ryan looked for other places to put the chick—now named Marjorie since she's yellow like margarine. It became a theme of sorts. After deciding on the name Atlas Quest for the website, Amanda and Ryan thought it would be funny to have the chick holding the world on its back—just like the Greek legend of Atlas. Next thing you know, Marjorie had a full-time job on Atlas Quest as a mascot.

How does AQ mail work?

Back in the early days of Atlas Quest, it was hosted on a shared server that often ended up being identified as a source of spam. Consequently, e-mail was extraordinarily unreliable. To combat this problem, AQ mail was developed so people could be certain that when a message was sent to another member, you could be sure it would not end up in a spam folder or never delivered at all.

Today, Atlas Quest has a unique IP address and runs on it's own little server, so e-mail is considerably more reliable. However, it is still useful since not everyone signs up with a real e-mail address, and even those that do often change addresses but forget to update their account information here. You'll also find an astounding lack of spam since most spammers are not inclined to take the time to create an account on Atlas Quest to send spam, and if they do, they're quickly banned and the spam removed from the AQ mail system.

So AQ mail is here to stay. However, some people still prefer to receive and reply to e-mail off of Atlas Quest. To support those people and to preserve the privacy of their real e-mail addresses, Atlas Quest uses a pseudo-address in the form of trailname@atlasquest.net. (Please note that the address ends in dot NET.) To learn more about how this works, check out the information at http://www.atlasquest.net. It contains everything you need to know to use your special AQ e-mail address that you should know before you start using it.

How are PFX counts calculated?

Atlas Quest does not use the standard PFX counts as described on the Letterboxing North America website. AQ counts all traditional boxes (normal and mysteries, both listed and unlisted) that you are listed as the author or planter as a plant. All traditional boxes you record as finds count as finds except if you are already getting credit for it as a plant or if you've already recorded a find on it. Exchanges are counted as expected—one for each exchange you enter.

Why can't I archive mail I sent to another member?

It's mostly a function of how the software was developed. When you send AQ mail, a single copy is stored in the database that the recipient could read. Originally, there was no option available for viewing sent mail, but that was a feature many members asked for. And thus, the sent folder was created. The quickest and most efficient method of implementing this feature was to allow you to 'peek' into everyone else's mailbox for messages that you sent. As far as AQ is concerned, there really is no such thing as a sent folder! Internally, messages are stored in the inbox folder, the archive folder, the trash folder, or a deleted folder—and that's it. The deleted folder cannot be accessed, but it is not relevant to this particular question, so I'll set discussion of it aside for now. The messages in your sent folder were actually retrieved by Atlas Quest out of other members' inbox, archive, trash, and deleted folders. Internally, there is no such thing as a sent folder.

And that is why you cannot archive a sent message—it does not actually exist as such. That is also the reason you cannot delete a sent message—it would be deleting mail out of another member's mailbox and, like the post office, once a piece of mail is sent, it is the recipient who has complete control of the letter.

But remember—you can archive any message you receive. The easy way to archive a 'sent' message is to send a copy to yourself then archive it. While filling out the form to send an AQ mail, include your trailname as a recipient making sure to separate your trailname with the other recipient with a semicolon. The message will show up in your inbox and, since you are the recipient, you will have the power to archive the message. Or rather, archive your own copy of it. If you were to check your sent folder, you'll notice two completely independent copies of the message were sent out—one to the original recipient and a second copy to you. You can only archive the copy that was sent to you.

Now for the curious among you, why does Atlas Quest keep track of a deleted folder you will never see? The masses demanded a method to 'delete' a message rather than just move it to their trash folder. Since the sent folder actually looks in all the other members' mailbox for messages from you, it would not show messages you sent if they were truly and totally deleted from Atlas Quest, so the deleted folder was created as place holder for old mail to die. Kind of like a mail pouch on its way to the incinerator—it's been marked for deletion, but has not yet been permanently destroyed. The sent folder will only show messages you sent within the last week, so Atlas Quest will permanently delete messages older than that from the deleted folder.

In a nutshell, that Sent folder is a cleverly created virtual folder. It does not really exist on Atlas Quest, and therefore you cannot archive or delete messages from it. For archiving purposes, however, you are more than welcome to send a copy of a message to yourself and archive that instead.

Why is the distance to a letterbox always too small?

Atlas Quest calculates distances based on the "as the crow flies" principle. Since the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, the calculated distances will always be shorter than actual driving distances along windy, anything-but-straight roads. Typical driving distances are about 20% longer than the quoted distance, but this can vary greatly depending on the terrain and available roads.

Can I create two accounts with the same e-mail address?

No. Atlas Quest uses your e-mail address to identify you. For instance, your e-mail address identifies you in the event that you have forgotten your trailname and/or password. Also, if you send AQ mail from your e-mail address, Atlas Quest needs to associate your e-mail address with your account, and if more than one account uses that e-mail address, Atlas Quest will not be able to figure out who the mail is from.

In a nutshell, every account on Atlas Quest must use a unique e-mail address. And sorry, there are no exceptions. However, you don't need an e-mail address at all for most features on Atlas Quest. It's convenient at times, but many people use AQ regularly without entering an e-mail address at all, but any feature that requires the use of a verified e-mail address will not be accessible.

Who is the webmaster here?

The Green Tortuga, a.k.a. Ryan Carpenter. While he might be the mastermind behind the operation, however, there are a lot of supporting actors and actresses who've helped contribute ideas, comments, and tested various features. For technical help, Wes—a former mastermind behind letterboxing.org—has been invaluable. For ideas and suggestions, Amanda from Seattle has been a driving force of inspiration. But ultimately, it's the Tortuga that makes the final call on features and changes.

How can I help support Atlas Quest?

If you think of any ideas to improve this site, share them! Depending on the complexity and changes required, it may take months before new feature can be added. And other ideas may ultimately be chucked for insurmountable implementation details or set aside for higher priority ideas, but all ideas for improvements are read and seriously considered.

Financial help in the form of subscriptions or purchasing goods and services through our affiliates will help fund improvements. The hosting expenses itself are not too bad, but the only reason Ryan can work full time, every day of the week, rarely taking a day off from monitoring and running Atlas Quest is because he does not have a 9-to-5 job to occupy his time. The plus side, of course, is that he can be around to answer questions, develop new features, and keep the site running smoothly. The down side, of course, is the lack of income, and it's help through premium memberships that Ryan can purchase food, clothes, and other necessities without having to get a real job.

Premium members are often very helpful in testing new features. Since they do help keep Atlas Quest financially afloat, premium members sometimes get sneak previews of up-and-coming features and can kick the tires for problems before the feature is realized to a wider audience.

How can I get notifications for newly listed events in my area?

Event notifications have, for now, been piggy-backed onto letterbox notifications. Any event that matches the location for your favorite letterbox searches that you have set up for notifications will also notify you of events too.

If you want event notifications but not newly listed letterbox notifications, do an advanced search and include search criteria that will be very unlikely to match a real letterbox (such as clicking all of the letterbox attributes). The event will still match—it only checks that the location is correct since the rest of the attributes do not apply to events—and will disqualify letterboxes from matching.

Yes, it's an ugly hack, but it works and can be used immediately instead of having to wait until a better implementation is completed. =)

How can I meet letterboxers in my area?

First, start communicating with other letterboxes though websites such as this or the LbNA talk lists—especially boards dedicated for the region you live. Atlas Quest has boards for every state and province in the United States and Canada along with a message board for every country supported. Many of the busiest regional boards are on the Yahoo Groups! talk list and new ones seem to pop up all the time including boards for the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes area, New England, and others.

In addition to the AQ boards for states and provinces, one of the best comprehensive lists of regional talk lists elsewhere can be found on Silent Doug's website. See http://www.letterboxing.info/ (then "Links" section for "Discussion" and "Regional" Groups.) Most are Yahoo Groups! and you'll probably need to join the group to view all contents and post. To thwart spammers, some groups may have been set up to moderate first postings, so be patient if you try to post and nothing happens right away.

Additionally, when you find a letterbox, e-mail those responsible for planting the letterbox and fill them in on the status of it. It's a great way to introduce yourself and start forming connections with the letterboxing community.

The next step is to hide letterboxes yourself. Thousands of people letterbox, but the vast majority never hide a box. When people start looking for your boxes and either cuss your clever clues or rejoice at finally finding your box, they'll remember you. =) They'll also frequently e-mail you to give you updates about your box.

And finally, go to letterboxing events. Events and gatherings occur all over the United States and recently even started happening in Canada. Invariably you will meet some of the very people you've been talking to through e-mail and message boards and finally be able to put a face to the name.

On rare occasions, you might bump into other letterboxers on the trail. You'll recognize them because they will usually all be studying a piece of paper and acting 'suspicious.' When confronted, they will usually offer some lame excuse about looking for mushrooms or bird watching. Don't be fooled—they're letterboxers in disguise. Bumping into letterboxers on the trail is fairly rare, however, and it is possible to go months or even years without ever crossing paths with another letterboxer on the trail.

What are virtuals?

Virtuals started as a way to search for letterboxes online. It would pose a question, series of questions, problem, or many other types of conundrum for you to solve. By solving the virtual's clues, you create a password or passkey that is then used to 'unlock' your reward—a virtual image (sometimes a scanned hand-carved stamp, sometimes a hand-drawn image, and sometimes a digital image), which you can then save as your record of finding the virtual.

The earliest known virtual as the online version of the Kimball Library Letterbook, created by The Orient Express in 1998. Not only is this the earliest known virtual, but also the original letterbook (creating a letterbox using an old book as the container). The Kimball Library Letterbook was a physical letterbox planted in a library in Randolph, Vermont, that also had a virtual quest version for those who were not able to get to Vermont to find the actual letterbook.

Virtuals have been discontinued on Atlas Quest, but you'll still find some on personal websites that are out there (example: Lone R's Virtual Letterboxes). See also, virtual letterbox sources listed under Miscellaneous in the Atlas Quest Link Directory. In addition, there's a Virtuals Group where you can discuss them and learn how to create your own.

How do you create stealthy containers?

Camouflage:

There are different ways to make your container more stealthy and ultimately less likely to get found by accident or mistaken for trash.
  • Camo duct tape - one of the cheapest and fastest ways is to simply wrap your container well in camo duct tape.
  • Paint - These paints are made specifically for plastic: Rustoleum Painters Touch or Krylon Fusion.
  • Bags - Cloth bags made from camo-cloth (regular maintenance needed to replace worn out tattered bags); Plastic bags covered in camo duct tape.
  • Silk leaves - buy silk leaves at a craft store and use a hot glue gun to attach them liberally to the sides and top of your container. Ivy leaves work well, and can usually be found in stores. Avoid getting glue on or in the box's opening seal, of course!

Pre-made boxes:

Dixie has pre-made containers for sale, using Krylon Fusion Camo Paints.

Discussions and articles:


Do cooties have a logbook and box?

Normally yes, but sometimes not. Cooties without logbooks move a lot faster, as only the cootie image needs to be taken. If the cootie is registered on Atlasquest, you can log your find there and see who else has "caught" the cootie.

The original Cooties were created with a logbook just like a letterbox so that the owner could see who has received the Cootie. It also helps to have a logbook so that when the Cootie is passed on, the passer will know who has already had it so that it is not given to you again.
Camp Fire Lady

National Park Service (NPS)

Up until October 2007, the answer was generally no. But the NPS has apparently softened their stance. See their guidelines on "GPS activities":

http://www.nps.gov/policy/GPSguidance.pdf

Yes, letterboxing is addressed in the policy.

The NPS controls not only national parks, but also national monuments, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Paramount Ranch, and quite a bit of other land. You can locate land managed by the NPS here.

Yes, they do occasionally check LbNA and Atlas Quest for rogue letterboxers. If you want your letterboxes to live long and happy lives, do not plant in any land under the jurisdiction without approval.

Some people assume that national forests are part of the National Park Service. This is not the case. They are two completely independent bureaucracies, and there are no known policies against letterboxing in national forests. For more information on distinguishing between the different agencies see How can I find out what agency manages the park and if they permit letterboxing?

Why are the names of letterbox types listed on Atlas Quest different than those used in England?

Letterboxing started out in England in 1854, and grew on Dartmoor. See History of Letterboxing As the numbers of letterboxes increased those planting them added a few twists to the traditional box and Bonus Boxes and Cuckoos were invented. When letterboxing travelled across the pond to America, first the names were changed and then American folks added more twists of their own.

What is a Cuckoo?

The American name for a Cuckoo is a Hitchhiker. What is a hitchhiker?

How can I prevent postals from going missing?

Sad but true, some postals go missing. A postal with many signups can take up to a year or more to reach all of those signed up for it. In that time, people move, leave the hobby altogether, become overwhelmed, or suffer a change in their personal circumstances that inhibits continued participation. An address that accumulates many postals, that do not get sent on, becomes known as a "black hole." Just like with placing a box in the wild, loss is one of the risks of the hobby.

There are some techniques for decreasing missing postals. You can limit the number of initial signups to decrease the time period, then send it out again for more. Some postal creators will only send special postals to people they already know. One of the best methods is to ask each person write to you, after they receive the box, for the next destination's address. You then write the next recipient to confirm both the correct address at the time of the mailing, and that the recipient is ready and still interested. This is much better than sending out a long list of addresses, one of which may go stale by the time their turn comes up. But it does take more work on your part. If you track via AQ it is easier. You get a note when the recipient logs the find, which reminds you to send a confirmation note to the next signup on the Postal Tracker list.

In a postal ring, the ring organizer should keep track of the postals' progress around the ring and be alert for pile ups. Ring participants should pay attention to the status of the person they send to. Both can monitor the progress via postal trackers with the receipt grid. If boxes accumulate at one address, and are not moving on, you should politely bypass that address until it is resolved. You can always catch up later. However, make sure that you communicate with the ring leader about how you're handling a situation.

If postals do get held up, and the recipient is not responding, sometimes the best approach is to be very polite and encouraging, assume that something has happened beyond their control, and politely ask if you can help. Life happens to all of us. Some postals have been recovered after sending prepaid, easily returned envelopes or boxes to the problem address.

Unfortunately, postals also do sometimes become lost in the mail. It is a very good idea to write your address on the logbook with the words Return Postage Guaranteed. Some ring leaders and box owners will require delivery confirmation so that boxes can be traced if they are lost.

What are the English names for all the different letterboxes?

American name - English name


Explanations of the different types of boxes can be found by clicking on the links under their American names.

Is there a Code of Conduct in England

Yes, in principle it is the same as the Code of Conduct on Atlas Quest but more itemized.

CODE OF CONDUCT
  1. Digging holes in the ground is illegal, and absolutely FORBIDDEN. No box should be placed in a hole in the ground, and the soil surface should not be disturbed when looking for a box.
  2. No box should be placed in any animals earth, set or warren, even if it appears to be disused. (Offenders may be prosecuted)
  3. If a box is placed in a hole in a dead tree, make sure that it is not likely to cause harm to rare lichen, moss, insects etc
  4. Avoid putting a box on heathland where it may disturb a ground nesting bird
  5. All boxes must have a contact address (email is fine) or telephone number
  6. Do not place a box in any monument, nor any site of historic or archaeological importance
  7. Avoid public resort areas
  8. Boxes should be as sturdy as possible and an unobtrusive colour, but NOT wrapped in plastic bags or sheeting. – Animals eat it!
  9. Respect other people’s property and privacy
  10. Do not leave litter (aim to leave a site tidier than you found it)
  11. Try not to disturb vegetation or wildlife when planting or looking for boxes
  12. Be aware of the security issues of leaving boxes following recent bombings
  13. Follow the country code

Are there any other guidelines to follow in England?

Mostly it is just letterboxing common sense. The land is managed for different reasons in the various letterboxing areas. For example on the North York Moors the land is managed for grouse shooting and so letterboxers in that area would adhere to the following notice:-

''In order that attention isn’t drawn to our activities, please move to a different area if there is any sign of a shoot or land management in progress. The grouse shooting runs from August 12th until December 10th.''

Tennessee State Parks

The Tennessee State Park system has a "strict" policy concerning off-trail land use, including both letterboxing and geocaching. If anyone wishes to place a letterbox in any state park, they must first follow the proper permit procedure otherwise the letterbox will be pulled.

How do we know this? An employee e-mailed Green Tortuga after pulling two letterboxes that were planted without the proper permits. After inquiring about what the 'proper permit procedure' is, he did not get a response, so you might try asking around at the state park you're interested in until you find someone that can help.

Original source of policy

Nashville Metro Area

Yes, but there is a permit system. The permit application is for caches, but the guidelines for letterboxes would be the same. No one may "hide" an item on Metro Nashville government park property without permission. The geocaching community in Nashville came to the parks department for permission and went through a proposal and approval process. I take the applications and keep the paperwork on file for safety and security. A volunteer in the geocache community routinely checks the cache sites for the parks department for location accuracy, park and people safety, and container approval and reports back to me. Each approved cache has a Metro permit
affixed to it so Park Police know it is safe.

Nashville Area Parks
Original source of policy
Permit Application

Ruffner Mountain Nature Center

Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, located near Birmingham, Alabama, does allow letterboxing, but you must get permission to plant the letterbox first.

The contact person at Ruffner Mountain is Marty Schulman. He is the only Nature Center employee that handles letterboxing and geocaching. He will require you to show him the box and its contents for approval, and then he will go out on the trails with you to approve the actual location where the box is to be hidden. A good idea would be to find the spot where you want to hide your box and make notes on how to find it before you meet with Marty at the Nature Center.

Ruffner Mountain Website
Ruffner Mountain Letterboxing Policy
Original source of policy

How do I list Cuckoo/English Parasite finds/plants on AQ?

Just check for the American name in the American-English translation and then log your find/plant under that name.

How do I list a Wanderer Box?

Wanderer Boxes as we have them in England are not really known in America. Bonus Boxes on Atlas Quest are mostly listed under traditional boxes. Green Tortuga suggested Wanderers should be listed as a traditional box with a note added on the clue page to explain that it is a Wanderer and how to deal with it.

Missouri State Parks

Missouri State Parks do allow letterboxing as long as you get permission first. An official permit can be found at:
MO State Park Permit Application (PDF file)
Missouri State Parks Website       
Missouri State Parks Policy: (PDF file)

North Carolina State Parks

Letterboxing is allowed BUT it requires a Special Activity Permit which costs $30 every three months to maintain. Source of information was an e-mail from Crowder's Mountain State Park (Gastonia, NC) Superintendent, Larry Hyde on 12/14/06 after pulling letterboxes from the park that did not have permits.

NC State Park Special Activity Permit

Documented policy is no longer located on any state park website but can still be viewed here.

Audubon Properties

Unfortunately there is no copyright on the name Audubon. Many different organizations and businesses call themselves Audubon and they are not related. Each would have a different policy. You have to use the words before and after Audubon to find the specific organization you are asking about.

This is an absolute and definite maybe. The website for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island describes a resounding "no letterboxing" policy. However, thethreecs, a member here on Atlas Quest who is currently employed by the Massachusetts Audubon says they have no statewide policy about letterboxing and each Audubon location is autonomous and some allow it while other don't.

Special note: The Caratunk Refuge in Seekonk, MA is under the jurisdiction of the RI Audubon Society and is subject to the "not allowed" policy despite its location in MA.

So ask before you plant. Rhode Island Audubon locations seem to not allow it while Massachusetts Audubon locations may or may not allow it. The policies of other states are unknown at this point.

Original source of Massachusetts policy (posted to the Premium Members Only board and therefore only accessible to premium members)
Audubon Society of Rhode Island

How many letterboxes are in America?

We don't really know. Thousands of new letterboxes are planted around the world every month, and there is no single source that catalogs them all. Atlas Quest and Letterboxing North America (LbNA) are the two biggest online sources of clues, but thousands of clues are passed around as Word-of-Mouth (WOM) clues, are listed on personal websites, and have alternative methods of distribution. If you must pin down a number, be vague. Say something like "there are in excess of 25,000" letterboxes in the United States. If you want precise numbers, you can check out the Statistics Page here at Atlas Quest, but please note that they only refer to letterboxes listed on Atlas Quest. Thousands and thousands more exist.

Are there images of stamps and letterboxes that can be used for articles?

Do not use photos of stamps, letterboxes, or clues without permission of the box's owner. We put a lot of effort and work into our letterboxes and are very protective of them and how they're presented in the media. Usually, it's not hard to find someone more than willing to share their creations, but it's considered bad form to publish photos and clues of another person's letterbox without permission.

Who can I interview for a letterboxing piece?

Contacting people who've planted letterboxes in the area you cover is your best option, but you can also ask for people who might be interested on an appropriate message board on Atlas Quest. In most cases, posting to the state where your readers or viewers are located would be the best board for posting such requests.

How do I change my trail name?

You can change your trail name from the Account Info page, which can always be found under the My Page menubar option. All plants, exchanges, and finds will automatically work with the new name, as if the old name never existed. Your old trail name will be unavailable for other members to use for one month to give people a chance to learn about your name change.

Please note: You must be logged into your current account in order to change your trailname on the Account Info page. If you are not logged in, you will be asked to log in. Log into your current account to change your trail name rather than register a new account.

I can't log into my account. What do I do?

Make sure you are using the correct trail name and password. Passwords are case sensitive. If you've forgotten your trail name or password, you can have your trail name and a new password e-mailed to you from the Lost Password Center.

Ideally, you should log in from the Secure Login page. That insures that your password to sent securely from your web browser to Atlas Quest and no other people could intercept your login information, but some browsers—especially those on PDAs or cell phones—may have trouble connecting to Atlas Quest securely. If you have trouble accessing the secure page, try logging in from our Insecure Login page.

If you try to log in but Atlas Quest returns to the login page with no error messages at all, the problem is probably due to cookies not being enabled. Atlas Quest uses cookies to identify you as you move from page to page on the website. When you first access the website, Atlas Quest sends your browser a unique identifying number that is saved as a cookie. For each page you visit on the site, your browser will return this unique code to Atlas Quest so the site knows whose preferences to lookup, whose favorite searches to show, and so forth. When cookies are not enabled, your browser does not save this unique code and will not send this code to Atlas Quest. As far as Atlas Quest can determine, it thinks you're a completely new person and will send your browser another unique identifying code (which also gets ignored!). Without cookies, Atlas Quest has a severe short-term memory problem and cannot remember you beyond the one page you are currently viewing. Thus, it will continue trying to get you to log in over and over again.

To enable cookies in Firefox:
  1. Select Tools from the menubar of your browser
  2. Select Options... from the drop down list
  3. Click on the Privacy button
  4. Check the box to Accept cookies from sites

Is the browser already set to allow cookies? In that case, something else is blocking the cookies. Some people have experienced problems with Norton security software, for instance, blocking cookies and if you can change the setting to allow Atlas Quest to set cookies, you will be able to log in.

Washington State Parks

Washington State Parks expect letterboxers to follow the permitting system established for geocachers. In order to place a letterbox on State Parks' property, an individual or organization must obtain a Geocache Placement Permit from State Parks. Any letterbox located on State Parks' property that does not have a permit on file is subject to removal from its location, and after notification of the owner (if known), may be disposed of within 10 days.

Washington State Parks supports and encourages these recreational activities in state parks as long as participants follow the placement guidelines and you have a current permit. The permits are free and easy to fill out. You can find information and a link to permits by following the link provided:
Washington State Parks Activities . Please fill it out and submit it to the park where your property will be located.

Washington State Parks
Official Policy and Permit Application: Good as of June 6, 2006

How do I list an exchange?

The most straight-forward method is the Manage Exchanges option which you can find under the People menubar option.

If you've signed up for an event, you will be able to do a mass addition of all other people who had signed up for the event. After returning from the event, log in and go to the listing for the event you attended. At the bottom of the signup list is a button that allows you to easily add other attendees from the event.

If you exchanged with just one person, you can add them as an exchange from their profile. Look for a button near the top-right side of their profile that reads, "Add as Exchange," and click it.

What is a 'tagged' letterbox?

A tagged letterbox is one that you want to identify with a certain characteristic later. When you run a letterbox search or view a letterbox, a small, colored icon shows up next to the box name of all boxes you've thus identified, a nice reminder for whatever it is you wanted to be reminded of. For example, you might tag a list of boxes that you think look particularly interesting so in later letterbox searches, you won't accidentally overlook them. Or another tag could mark mystery boxes that you've solved.

Using the Advanced Search page, found under the Letterboxes menubar option, you can even perform searches that will return only letterboxes you've tagged (or haven't tagged) with a specific color/shape.

Premium members have up to eight different tags (each with a different color) that they can use. Without a premium membership, you'll only be able to make use of four of them. You can tag an individual box from the box details page, tag multiple boxes from a search directly from the search results page, to set the tags while recording a find on a letterbox.

You can set the text for each tag option wherever you can add or remove tags from a box such as on the box details page by clicking the pencil next to the submit button. That's the edit button for text.

As for why you may want to tag letterboxes, that's up to you. Many people use it for different reasons, but here are some common ones:
  • Tag letterboxes you plan to find soon
  • Tag letterboxes that look particularly noteworthy
  • Tag letterboxes you've already attempted
  • Tag letterboxes from a specific event that you plan to attend
  • Tag letterboxes along the route you plan to follow on your next vacation
  • Tag letterboxes based on what part of your city they are located in
  • Tag mystery letterboxes you have solved but have yet to look for

Related Questions

How do I tag and untag letterboxes?
How do I remove all tags of a certain color from all of my boxes?

How do I adopt a letterbox?

The owner of a letterbox can transfer ownership to you if he or she agrees to allow you to adopt their box. They can change the ownership by editing their box's listing.

How to I hide my personal travelers on the event listing?

If you want to hide them from yourself—you won't be finding your own personal travelers and therefore don't need to see them listed—mark your personal travelers as found. The list automatically hides all boxes you've already found, including your own.

If you want to hide your personal travelers from others, you have several options.

  • Mark the personal traveler with a status of unknown, missing, or retired. Only active travelers are included in the list.
  • Remove yourself from the signup list. Only personal travelers of attendees will be displayed.
  • Change the owner to someone else. Atlas Quest assumes its the owner of a traveler that carries it, so even if you're the carver, planter, or author, as long as you are not the owner, Atlas Quest will not include it with the event.

Indiana State Parks

Yes, but there is a permit system. Information Bulletin #46 is for caches, but the guidelines for letterboxes are interpreted in the same manner. These rules became effective January 1, 2005. Each state park has an interpreter with discretion in administering the policy. The number of permitted caches and letterboxes is determined by density, and depends upon the available land area within each property. Placing letterboxes in dedicated nature preserves or other ecologically sensitive areas is not permitted.

Brad Bumgardner, park interpreter for Pokagon State Park, contacted speedsquare August 24, 2006 about an un-permitted letterbox located in an acceptable location within the park. Several informative and friendly emails were exchanged. Pokagon permitted a gathering of geocachers. A letterboxing event with letterboxes permitted for a short period of time may be permitted with prior approval.

What happens at events?

There are different kinds of events.

The mini-meet. A mini-meet is a small gathering of letterboxers for the purpose of exchanging stamps, stories, and advice. Usually people meet in coffee shops, restaurants, or a local park. Not a lot of organization involved in a mini-meet, just a desire to meet other letterboxers for a couple of hours.

The event. A true 'event' is much more involved. Many people attending, workshops, demonstrations, and raffles can all be expected at an event. Some events last more than one day, or have multiple stages like day letterboxing and night at the pub—kid-friendly and kid-not-so-friendly. Events usually have an itinerary that helps attendees plan their day.

Tips for Attending an Event
Tips for Planning a Gathering
Event Planning Checklist

What container should I use for planting?

People use a variety of containers for planting letterboxes. Any container that is watertight and durable is a good choice.

Popular containers include:

  • The general consensus is that Lock & Lock brand (see image) and Snapware (see image) are the premium containers for use outside because of their durability, waterproof seal and locking tabs. There are more and more knockoffs of the Lock & Lock style food storage container appearing all the time, such as Snapware's MODS (see image). Generic versions can be found at Dollar stores, but the quality may or may not be up to par.
  • Rubbermaid Lock-Its (see Rubbermaid page) - similar to lock & locks - 4 flaps and a gasket
  • Rubbermaid SealNSavers (see image) -- once preferred, but experience shows not as reliable as expected.
  • Ziploc containers (see image) -- the twist/screw-top containers sometimes work well, but they are easily damaged by objects set or falling on them.
  • Freezer bags covered with camo duct tape (see tutorial) (logbook still needs to be in a inner bag) Caveat: rodents tend to chew through them and insects like to inhabit the fold-over parts.
  • Pill Bottles (see image) -- avoid the smallmouth screw top type, it's too hard getting a logbook in and out, but the push-and-twist cap type are good. Test the pill bottle by filling the kitchen sink with water and placing a heavy object on the pill bottle to hold it under water for a couple of hours. Put a dry piece of tissue or paper towel inside. If after 2 hours the tissue/paper is dry your container has passed the test.
  • Old Thermos containers (see image) -- the short widemouth kind.
  • Screw-top containers (see image) -- such as for facial cleansing pads, jewelry cleaner, Citrucel, peanut butter, mayonnaise etc.
  • Film canisters - not the grey and black type (see image) they leak (try the kitchen sink test), use the clear film containers (see image)

Other container ideas:

  • Commit containers (see image) Micro container. Size of a film canister. Smoking cessation lozenges. See lorax's post about their water tightness.
  • Decon containers (see image) designed to hold military decontamination kits. Available at military-surplus stores, decon containers are small and watertight. It's a good idea to sand off the warnings molded into the plastic lid, and peel off (or cover up) the military warning label on the container. Caveat: experience has shown that some finders have a hard time getting the lid back on properly i.e. tightly.

Not recommended:

  • PVC pipe (see image) Strongly NOT recommended. They can alarm non-letterboxers because they look like pipe bombs. See the Wandering Pirate post Don't touch anything that looks like this unless you have the clues for it and that you know that is in fact what you are looking for.
  • Gladware containers (see image) -- they are easily damaged/warped by objects set or falling on them, by UV light, by the freeze-and-thaw process.

If you plan to use a container that once contained food, you should take steps to get the food odor out – many animals have a keen sense of smell. Various methods for deodorizing your container are discussed in the Atlas Quest boards.

A very effective idea is to combine two containers into one. For example, you can take two small peanut butter jars and tape them together bottom-to-bottom, or tape the lids together top-to-top. Put the stamp in one end, the log in the other. The result is a long and slender container that fits neatly in many nooks and crannies. Taping two film canisters together bottom-to-bottom is also a popular idea for a very small letterbox. Some prescription pill containers come with a cap that goes on either of two ways, and this cap can be used to combine two containers into one long assembly without even using any tape.

What's the difference between the planters, owner, contacts and carvers of a letterbox?

Find reports will go to everyone associated with the letterbox except the carvers, including the person who listed the letterbox if they are not already listed as the planter, owner or contact.

Only the planters receive credit for a plant. Some people like to count any letterbox they've carved the stamp for as a plant, but Atlas Quest does not for two reasons: (1) A hand-carved stamp is optional and it seems odd to get credit for planting a letterbox for a feature that's optional, and (2) if you later find the letterbox with your stamp, you can still record it as an official find. If you were getting credit for the box as a plant, you would not also be able to claim credit for it as a find.

Likewise, as much as we appreciate those who've adopted and maintain a letterbox, those are adopted letterboxes and do not count towards your P-count. However, they may count towards your F-count if you went out and found the box yourself.

The owner of a letterbox may change, sometimes quite often, and ownership can be revoked or transferred by the listed planter or owner. The carver of a letterbox cannot transfer ownership of the box to someone else—unless, of course, they are also a planter or owner.

Finally, there is a 'secret' piece of information included with every letterbox listing—the person who originally listed the box in the first place. Their name won't show up anywhere on the listing; it was originally designed to find people who list letterboxes without permission. However, if they have received permission to list the boxes, it also assumes you have permission to edit the boxes as necessary, and therefore the original lister of the box can also edit the boxes. Anyone designated as the owner or planter can edit clues, but not someone listed as a carver or contact.

If the carver, planter, or owner do not have accounts on Atlas Quest, leave the appropriate option blank and give credit where credit is due directly in the clues.

Table summary (powers and privileges):
Status Notified of a Find Credit for the Plant Edit the clue Transfer Ownership Expected Use
Owner Yes No Yes Yes The person who maintains the box
Planter Yes Yes Yes Yes The person(s) who physically planted the letterbox
Lister Yes No Yes No The person who listed the box on Atlas Quest
Carver Yes/No No No No The person who carved the stamp. By default, when a carver is added to a box, he or she is also added as a contact automatically, so most carvers will get notifications of finds, but this does give them the ability to opt out.
Contact Yes No No No People who should be notified whenever a find or attempt is recorded

Who runs LbNA?

The domain name for Letterboxing North America is owned by Choi but a group of people known as the LbNA webmasters administer the website. Most of them aren't webmasters in the traditional sense of the word. The coding for the website and the most public face of the webmasters is Choi. If you are having problems with LbNA, he's the best person to contact.

How can I see who has listed me as an exchange?

The short answer: You can't.

The long answer: Atlas Quest will accept anything people enter as an exchange, regardless of whether the account exists on Atlas Quest or not. Some couples or families with individual signature stamps may share an account on Atlas Quest. Sometimes more than one person may share the same trailname but only one can have a specific name as an account on Atlas Quest so the person who you exchanged with may not be the same person you see listed on Atlas Quest. Or perhaps people who enter you as an exchange misspell your trail name and therefore it will not link to your account. Therefore, you can't search other people's exchanges to see who links to you. It's too prone to errors.

How do you find out information about cooties that do not have a logbook?

At the bare minimum, every cootie should have a name attached to it. It can be on the container or written on the back of the cootie itself. Children make a great deal of cooties and often do not mark them, so it's easiest just to go to the event board or regional board where you "caught" the cootie, describe the cootie and ask who made it and if it can be logged.

Thus the need for an attached logbook so you know who created it and who to contact about your find.

Is it possible to record an exchange for each of someone's signature stamps?

Some people have several signature stamps or signature stamps that change over time. At it's essence, however, exchanges are between people, not simply an exchange of stamps. Atlas Quest will only record who you have exchanged with and not how many times you've changed with them. One exchange per person.

Where do I find the supplies I need to begin letterboxing?

There are a number of sources, but you might start at Atlas Quest and the Marketplace toolbar. Stampeaz sells PZKut as well as other carving materials, including beginner's kits. They also carry carving tools, blades, and stamp mounting foam.

  • Carving material: PZ Kut, MasterCarve, Speedy Carve is available at Stampeaz, the "Pink Stuff" by Speedball and other supplies are also available at Dixie Graphix and then there is Nasco Safety-Kut, try the dollar store for white erasers, magic rub erasers and pink pearl erasers, which also work well.
  • Carving tools and medium, logbooks, inkpads and markers can be found at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and A.C. Moore.
  • The most popular containers are probably Lock & Locks. They can be found in some department stores such as Meijer in the Midwest, at Target, Walmart and Albertson's or ordered online through Dixie Graphix operated by Dixie a letterboxer here at AQ or at Heritage Mint. Dougerware can be found at dollar stores.
  • Camotape can be found at Walmart, Meijer, Gander Mountain, Bass Outlet, Canadian Tire (paint aisle) and L.L. Bean.

If you are watching your pennies, don't forget to look for the 40%-off coupons in your Sunday paper advertisements. Hobby Lobby runs online coupons you can print out.

Don't forget to look in specialty art supplies stores and in the fine art department of campus bookstores. Dollar stores and clearance aisles or bins will yield some great finds. Ebay is a great source of inkpads at reasonable prices.

What is a random/surprise postal and how do you receive one?

NOTE: The surprise postal program has been suspended until further notice as all of the postals have gone missing.

A surprise (or "random") postal is a postal letterbox that does not have an official sign-up list. The creator sends it to a fellow postal letterboxer who is not expecting it. That person then stamps in just like a normal postal, and sends the box onto someone else at who is not expecting it. The surprise postals are NOT a part of any postal ring (although they may have started their lives as part of a ring).

To increase your odds of receiving a surprise postal, your name and address should be on the surprise postal list. In October 2006, Trekkie Gal took over the maintenance of the 'official' list. The reason the list exists is that not everyone wants to receive a surprise postal. Some people just don't have the time to deal with any extra postals that they didn't sign up for. Some people have a set amount that they are willing or able to spend on postage in a given month, and any extra postals would put a strain on that budget. To be on the safe side, you should send surprise postals only to the people on the list. It is best to always get the next address for a surprise postal from Trekkie Gal.

To have your name added to the list, please send Trekkie Gal an message including your name, mailing address and an alternate email address. You should complete a newbie ring OR 5 postals before signing up.

Can I use my web capable cell phone to browse AQ ?

In this day and age most basic cell phones are capable of surfing the web, although some carriers may charge extra fees to do so. These cell phones are capable of using Atlas Quest. This comes in handy when you are out on the trail and want to look at clues, search for boxes, or just needing to catch up on recent posts on the message boards.

Ryan has programmed Atlas Quest to be a very fast loading site. In fact, for the first several years, he created, managed, and updated the site over a dial-up connection! There are very few pictures and multimedia stuff to bog down a cell phone's simple Internet browser. This means that things should load fairly quickly. With that being said, Ryan does not guarantee that any feature will in fact work over a cell phone, as the site was never created for, and/or tested using one.

Some problems you may encounter while using a cell phone
  • Drop down menus may or may not work, including the menu bar found on the top and bottom of all AQ pages except clue pages.
  • The screen will most likely be displayed in an unconventional manner as it is simply too small to display the pages as they were meant to be seen.
  • You may not see the images in Atlas Quest's Themes

For devices with e-mail capabilities, you can also run location-based searches through e-mail.

What do the envelopes represent in your mailbox?

In your Mailbox's folders (Inbox, Sent, Archives, Trash) you will see little envelopes to the left of the messages. These envelopes represent different things and can quickly tell you about the status of a message. In your sent folder, these envelopes indicate the status of the message in the recipient's inbox.
New Mail A new, unread message
Old Mail An old, read message
Reply A message you have replied to
Forward A message you have forwarded

NOTE: If a Person has their preferences set to forward their mail directly to their personal email account, the message you sent them will immediately be marked as read!

What is a letterbox's status?

Letterboxes often go missing, are retired, and otherwise inaccessible. We do not delete such boxes from Atlas Quest since they can still show up in online logbooks here or perhaps the box is expected to be replaced. In any case, keeping the status up to date allows the owner to indicate the current accessibility of the letterbox.
Status What it means
active An active box means that, as far as the owner of the letterbox knows, the box is alive and well ready for visitors
unavailable A box marked as unavailable means the owner of the letterbox knows the box is gone-regardless of the reason (maintenance, floods, seasonal, etc.)--but is expected to be replaced within one year.
retired A retired box not only is no longer there, but the owner of the box never intends to replace it (or doesn't intend to replace it for over a year).
unknown An unknown status means just that-the owner of the letterbox has been unable to confirm the status of the box. It's probably been reported missing by someone, but nobody has been able to confirm if the box truly is missing or if the letterboxer just missed the box.

Some people ask if they can be more specific about why a letterbox is missing. Is it gone temporarily due to maintenance? Was it confiscated by the authorities? This desire is understandable, but to the person who wants to find your letterbox, it's irrelevant. They need to know if the box is still there or not. From a finder's point of view, that is all they need to know.

If you wish to include additional information about why a letterbox is missing or when you intend to replace it, include such information in the clues for the box.

What to do after finding a damaged box?

Repair the box the best you can. Re-hide it well. Contact the owner of the box and let them know of its damage. Do not take the box out of its location for maintenance unless you have permission from the owner.

Is there a right side and a wrong side to PZKut?

Yes! There is a right side to PZ Kut. When you first receive it, there will be a letter (either "A" or "B") written on one side to identify both the grade of the material and the wrong side. As soon as you receive a sheet of it, dot the entire lettered side with a sharpie marker, or draw squiggles all over, so you can see which is the wrong side when you cut it up into smaller pieces.

If there is not a letter or if it has inadvertently been cut off at some point, hold the carving block diagonally up to the light. One side of it, if you look carefully, will have slight indentations running along the length of it. That is the wrong side. You want to carve on the side that's free of the compression crimps from the extruder.

Why do we place letterboxes?


How has letterboxing changed over the years?

*1854 James Perrot left a calling card in a glass bottle at Cranmere Pool, Dartmoor and invited friends to find it.
*1888 A small tin box replaced the original bottle. Visitors left self-addressed postcards. The next person to visit the letterbox (except if it was a same-day visitor) would retrieve the postcards and mail them back from their hometown. And so the activity gets named "Letterboxing".
*1976 Tom Gant created a guide map pinpointing the fifteen letterboxes in existence, at which point letterboxing began to boom in a big way.
*1980s Commercial rubber stamps and a notebook are used instead of calling cards or postcards. Clues are published in a clue catalogue or by Word of Mouth (WOM).
*1998 Smithsonian publishes an article called "They Live and Breathe Letterboxing"
*1998 April 24. Max Patch planted by an orienteer in Hot Springs, NC. The first box planted in the U.S.
*1998 April 30. Prayer Rock is planted in Vermont. This is the first hand carved stamp planted in the United States (there is some dispute as to whether Max Patch or Prayer Rock should be classified as the first).
*1999 Letterboxing North America, the original source of online letterbox clues, is born.
*2001 Feb 21. Probably Canada's first letterbox: Beaver Mountain Provincial Park Letterbox, Nova Scotia, Canada (Antigonish) Adopted by Jiggs in 2006
*2002 March 16. First postal letterbox.
*2002 LB hiders can post and maintain their own clues on the LbNA site.
*2004 The Atlas Quest letterboxing website is born!

History of Letterboxing (AQ)
Cranmere Day (AQ)
First State Letterboxes (Mark & Sue)
A Short History of Letterboxing on Dartmoor (Silent Doug)

What browsers are supported by Atlas Quest?

Firefox is the recommended browser. It's a solid browser that works on almost all types of systems including PCs and Macs with an extensive source of extensions to customize your needs. It's also the main browser the webmaster, Ryan, develops the site with so is the most unlikely to experience problems.

Internet Explorer, however, is the most used web browser, and Atlas Quest works well with all versions of IE equal to or greater than 6.0. If you use IE 5.5 or lower, you will need to upgrade. If you use Windows XP or Windows Vista operating systems, it is recommend that you upgrade to version 7.0 or greater. While IE 6.0 will work on Atlas Quest at this time, it is a very buggy piece of software that does not comply with many technical standards, so support for version 6.x will eventually be phased out as the number of people using it decreases.

The latest versions of Safari, Opera, and Chrome should work without any trouble. Ryan does test the site occasionally with these browsers but usually only to find cosmetic problems. Firefox and Internet Explorer are tested much more thoroughly.

For those who prefer the Mac, the latest versions of Firefox and Safari should work fine. Ryan does not own a Mac, however, and therefore does almost no testing at all with Mac versions of the browsers. Firefox should work well since the browser also works on a Windows machine which is extensively tested. Older versions of Safari are known to have issues and will not work well.

Do not use Internet Explorer for Macs. Microsoft has stopped supporting IE for Mac and the browser is terribly outdated. Atlas Quest will not work with IE on Macs and never will. While Atlas Quest generally should work with Netscape, since official support for that browser has stopped, we will no longer try to support Netscape. Eventually, the Netscape browser will fail to work correct, and we will not try to make it work. The browser is dead, and you should change to some other browser before this happens.

To log into Atlas Quest, you must have cookies on your browser enabled. Most of the website should work fine if JavaScript is disabled, but there are a couple of features that rely heavily on JavaScript so it is recommended that you leave it enabled.

Can you make a spell check available?

Yes and no. No, Atlas Quest does not directly support a spell check, but that's because most modern browsers do that for you. This has two main benefits: (1) when the browser supports the spell check, it will work for all websites, and (2) you can add your own custom words to the spell check dictionary once and they will work for all websites.

As a result, Atlas Quest itself does not support a spell check and there is no intention of ever doing so. Using your browser's spell check is a much faster, more robust option.

If you use Firefox (the preferred browser of Atlas Quest), make sure you've upgraded to at least version 2.0. There is a built-in spell check that automatically checks text you submit into forms and underlines unknown words with a dotted red line. Right clicking it will provide suggested alternatives or allows you to add the word to your dictionary.

Internet Explorer does not include a built-in spell check (not yet, at least, but it probably will in the future). However, you can install the ieSpell add-on to work with Internet Explorer.

Google Chrome also supports spelling error correction too.

The Opera web browser has a spell check available, but you will need to install a dictionary for it to work. Check their site for details and documentation.

The Google Toolbar also includes a spell check button for all your browsing needs.

Can my child or children create an account?

The terms of service require members to be at least 13 years of age. There are legalities involved with allowing children under 13 years of age to register accounts such as requiring parental permission in writing that Ryan cannot and does not want to handle. Additionally, this website is considered a PG-13 site so some material may not be appropriate for younger children. By all means, take your children letterboxing—it's a great family activity—but they should not be allowed to run loose on Atlas Quest just as they should not be allowed to run loose and letterbox on their own.

Some parents create accounts to log their child's finds, and this is allowed. The account belongs to the parent, however, and not the child, until after the child turns 13. The parent is responsible for all matters pertaining to the account. If children under 13 are found to be using the message boards, AQ mail, and other services, the account will be frozen or deleted.

What is snowboxing?

Snowboxing is a popular sub-category of letterboxing, most common in Upstate New York, east of Lake Ontario. This area averages over 150 inches of snow a season, and so letterboxing in the white stuff is practically inevitable, as "the season" can last nearly 6 months!

Snowboxers "gear up" in snowmobiling suits or ski pants, and often use snowshoes to reach remote boxes. A short stick or ski pole is used to chip away any ice holding a letterboxer in place. Speedy stamping is often necessary as markers and small ink pads can freeze in the severe cold. Many snowboxers wear mittens which open at the fingers so their hands can remain warm while stamping in. Common hiding places for snowboxers may include the inside of an evergreen or in an ice fishing shanty.

Besides avoiding frostbite, one major challenge in snowboxing is avoiding leaving an obvious path right to the hiding spot.

One popular snowboxing celebration is Desperately Seeking Sun, an annual event held in this region, where weather-resistant boxers can meet up and accomplish some boxing before the spring thaw.

How do I search the help pages?

From the main Help page, you can use the search box on the right side of the page. Type in the terms you want to search for. By default, it will search for those terms only in the questions in the help. If you check the indicated box, it will also include answers that match your search terms. Also, words that are three letters or less are generally ignored by the search engine as being too common. Think of search terms that are four letters or longer. Only the first 100 matching results are listed.

Without any qualifiers, the search will assume you want to find entries that have any of your keywords in them. So if you search for National Park Service, it will return entries that have the words national, park, or service. An entry only needs to have any one of those three words to match. If you want to search for entries that have all three words, you should include the phrase in quotes (e.g. "National Park Service") which returns all posts with that entire phrase.

Additional qualifiers can help you narrow down your search further:

+ A leading plus sign requires that the word be in the search results.
- A leading minus sign requires that the word not be in the search results.
( ) Parenthesis are used to group words into sub-groups
* An asterisk added to the end of a word will match all words that start with the same word it has been added to
" A phrase in double quotes will only match entries that have the entire phrase in it

Examples
apple banana find entries that contain at least one of these words
+apple +juice find entries that contain both of these words
+apple -macintosh find entries that contain the word "apple" but not "macintosh"
+(apple banana) -macintosh find entries that contain "apple" or "banana", but not "macintosh"
letterbox* find entires that contain "letterbox", "letterboxer", "letterboxers", "letterboxing", etc.
"some words" find entires that contain "some words of wisdom", but not "some noise words"

How do you put a letterbox together?

Here are 2 quick tutorials that will help you put a letterbox together:

Urban Letterboxing 'Beginner's guide' (flash tutorial)
A visual tutorial that includes: 1. Making a stamp 2. Making your box 3. Finding a box

Lone R's Make a letterbox
A visual presentation of the basic elements of a letterbox: container, stamp, logbook (and a couple of other items for good measure)

What is expected in a help entry?

Questions should be concise and simple, and answers should only answer a single question. If it answers more than one question, you should add two separate questions.

The question should be answered in the help database. Supporting links to other websites are encouraged and in some cases highly suggested, but the answer should be provided without requiring someone to follow a link elsewhere. Besides the convenience factor of bringing multiple sources of information into a single location, the answers in the database are searchable. Links to other locations do not get saved and therefore are not searchable. If you just want to link to information on other websites, the Link Directory is better suited for that task.

Providing links to the source of information—especially about land management policies—is highly recommended. This helps verify the authenticity of the information and allows people to check if the policies may have changed over time.

Opinions are discouraged—help is for factual information and not personal opinions. Your opinions can be written to the message boards. The fact that a feature is controversial is fine to mention—that is a fact, after all—and even a description about why a feature is controversial is fine, but your personal opinions are better expressed in other locations.

Is it possible to change the theme displayed on Atlas Quest?

The theme is often set to reflect an upcoming holiday or date of significance. The theme may change several times a month. Ryan is always planning and adding new themes to keep things fresh and interesting. If you would prefer to pick your own theme, you can change that from your Preferences Page. If you have manually changed the theme and you want to revert back to the automatically-changes-randomly default, you must return to the Theme Preferences page and choose the clear option.

Users can also create their own themes to use and share with others. Ryan wrote a tutorial for creating websites that includes tips on how to create your own themes.

How do I change the size of the font?

To change the size of the font for easier viewing go to the Usability Page, part of your account's preferences.

For those not logged in or without accounts, you can also press Ctrl + or Ctrl - to increase and decrease font size respectively with the latest versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer, and this method will work on all websites—a nice trick to know for navigating the web.