our Better Nature Home
Compass for letterboxing  

Tap into the natural desire to explore, solve mysteries and collect things through Letterboxing. More....

printer friendly page

Humans are naturally inclined to hunt and gather.  Letterboxing taps into these traits.  It is a fun and inexpensive way to explore the outdoors.  Using clues and a compass, adventurers search for one of 22,000 small, weatherproof boxes hidden in public places nationwide.  Each box contains a logbook and a special rubber stamp.  When you find it, you make an imprint of the letterbox stamp in your personal logbook, and leave an imprint of your personal stamp in the letterbox logbook.  On the way, you can enjoy the surroundings. Solving the mystery leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and the “prize” of collecting a new stamp imprint.

According to letterboxing legend, the hobby started in England in 1854.  A National Park guide left a bottle by a pool, with his calling card inside and an invite to those who found the bottle to add their own card.  Eventually, visitors started leaving a self-addressed postcard or note, hoping it would be returned via mail by the next visitor.  Thus the name “letterbox,” which is what Brits call a mailbox. 

The hobby caught on in the U.S. in 1998 after an article appeared in Smithsonian magazine.  Letterboxes can now be found from Aruba to Zimbabwe.  Local letterboxer Margaret Morrissette says, “We have been taking our three children (ages 2 ½ to 5 ½) letterboxing for a while now, and they love it.  In fact, when we are home, the youngest often asks "go hiking, get stamps?"  We have found many amazing places and things while letterboxing.”

Letterboxing supplies
Letterboxing is a fun way to hunt for treasure and explore the outdoors. There are more than 300 letterboxes hidden in Windham County alone. The only gear you really need is a rubber stamp, ink pad, notebook, compass, pencil and baggie.

The only gear you really need is a rubber stamp, ink pad, notebook, and a compass.  You can use a simple pocket compass like the Suunto A-10 ($13).  Your personal rubber stamp can be purchased or carved by hand.  You can use a family stamp, or each seeker can have their own.  Ink pads made of raised foam, with waterproof ink that dries instantly are available at craft stores.  Recommended pad brands are Archival Ink, Ancient Page or StazOn.  The ideal logbook has acid-free, medium to heavy weight paper with a smooth finish that will capture a good imprint of the stamp.  In a day pack, bring along drinks and snacks, a pencil or waterproof pen if you want to add a comment about your experience finding the letterbox, and insect repellant. It is a good idea to bring along few freezer Ziploc style plastic bags (pint or quart size) in case a bag in the letterbox is no longer waterproof, and some paper towels or a rag to clean off the box and your hands.   Pick a trail name for logging in – it can be your real name, or a unique moniker like “Clueless.” It is a good idea to print out the clues and a trail map if one exists before beginning your quest.

Letterbox location clues are posted on the Internet, or passed around by word of mouth.  Two popular websites, <www.letterboxing.org> and www.atlasquest.org, list more than 300 letterboxes in Windham County alone.  You will find information about the general location and degree of difficulty, along with clues.  For example, some of the clues for a box hidden on the Putnam Airline Bridge are: “On your left you will see the stone lined area where the stream comes out. Go to the edge of that and take a reading of 30 degrees. Take 8 steps to an oak tree.” 

The CT DEP has stashed a series of 32 letterboxes, one in each State Forest.  If you verify visiting at least five, you can earn a patch.  Earn a walking stick by visiting 30.  At www.ct.gov/dep, type “overview of letterboxing” in the search box for more information.

Letterboxing is a grass roots activity with no governing body or official sanction.  There are some generally accepted codes of conduct.  The first is “Leave no trace” - i.e., leave the area as is or in better shape (e.g., by removing litter.)  Reseal the box so contents are protected from the elements.  Replace it in its original location so it is completely hidden from view, to avoid spoiling the fun or making it vulnerable to vandals.  Use common sense when it comes to safety, and manage your pets.  After you have found a number of letterboxes, you might want to create and hide your very own. 

Practice common courtesy, and ALWAYS ask for permission before placing a new letterbox or geocache. Either could have an unintended negative impact on sensitive habitats and natural or cultural resources. It is actually illegal to place a cache on National Park Service land without first obtaining permission. In a post-9/11 world, the lids of letterboxes and geocaches should always be labelled as such. Help make letterboxing and geocaching an educational and entertaining experience, while preserving our environment for future generations of explorers.

Links and More Information:

Originally published in the Villager newspapers on August 29, 2007

Fun kids games and activities
Fun Kids Games!

grief, illness, caregiver
Love, Loss & Gratitude

  Our Better Nature

HOME | Site Map | Contact | Contact webmaster about text link ad placement

If you experience problems with the website/find broken links/have suggestions/corrections, please contact me!
The purpose of this site is to share information with anyone interested in environmental protection.
Feel free to link to it, or to print hard copies for personal or educational purposes (see permissions) with a citation for the author. I have no responsibility or input on articles written by other authors.
No permission is granted for any commercial use or reproduction online.
Appearance of ads on this site does not constitute endorsement of any of those services or products!
If you are interested in placing text links or other ads on this site, contact the webmaster.
©2007 Chimalis. Original photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without the permission of the photographer.
See disclaimer, necessitated by today's sadly litigious world.
Last updated October 25, 2016

HOME | Conservation | Open Space and the Outdoors | Pollution Prevention | Wildlife | Contact | Search