I helped my girl scout troop earn their letterboxing try-it this year. I know they liked it, but I really fell in love with it. I love the creativity of making stamps and seeing the ones that we find. I love having a purpose for visiting new parks and historical places. And I love being on a treasure hunt with my daughter, spending time with her having outdoor family fun. I just love it, and I hope you do too.
So what is letterboxing?
Letterboxing is a treasure hunt, of sorts. It’s similar to geocaching, if you’ve heard of that. In letterboxing, a person will hide a box in a public place and post clues to find it (see the website links below). The box will usually have a notepad and a rubber stamp. You will need to bring your own notepad, rubber stamp, and an ink pad, then when you find the letterbox, you mark your stamp in their notepad and mark their stamp in your notepad. You may also choose to write down the date and location where it was found to keep a nice record of it.
You have to very carefully wrap everything back up and hide the letterbox right back where you found it, ready for the next person to find it. Be sure their stamp and notepad are wrapped up so they will be safe from rain and moisture. All of this is very secretive so that people who don’t know about letterboxing won’t take the box or think you’re doing something wrong.
Caution! Always be careful when you are letterboxing. Snakes and other critters like to hide in the same holes where letterboxes are hidden. So use a stick to check the hole before poking your hand in there.
How do I get started?
The first thing in letterboxing is to get or make a stamp to use. You can easily buy one at a craft store that suits you. I enjoyed making mine.
My girls made stamps using a wooden block and sticky-back foam shapes. Stick the foam shapes to the blocks and you have a ready-made stamp. We also experimented with using a foam sheet, cut to size, and drawing on the foam. Make sure the impressions left from the pen are deep enough to keep the ink out of the grooves and it will work great too. Any writing needs to be written backwards which made it even more fun.
I got a little more fancy and carved a stamp using the Speedball Speedy-Carve Stamp Making Kit. It comes with a sheet of rubber, two cutters, tracing paper, and instructions. I used the tracing paper to copy the girl scout trefoil symbol, then made it come to life using the included cutters.
Other than a stamp, you simply need a notepad, an ink pad, and a pen.
How do the boxes get there?
Devoted letterboxers hide the boxes for others to find. They do this to keep letterboxing alive. They keep track of their box, replace the notepad when it is full, etc. If you want to hide a letterbox, you can too. My troop created a letterbox to hide on the girl scout campgrounds. We used camo duct tape to disguise the plastic container and included my trefoil stamp and a notebook. So every year when we go camping, we can look at the book to see who has found it.
How do I find them?
There are two big websites to check for clues to letterboxes in your area. They overlap a little bit, but you should check both to see all of the letterboxes.
These websites also have much more information about letterboxing. I’ve only scratched the surface. This is a great activity to do at home or away. Letterboxes are hidden all over the world. Now go have your own letterboxing adventures!