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Gear up for letterboxing
posted by May 15, 2015 : John

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Over there, Dad!

It's the beginning of Letterboxing season and that means I'll be even more successful in getting the kids to go hiking. Maybe Amy will even come out. Heck, it's a return to the family fun we had last year.

Though not the first letterbox adventure in 2015, Henry and I had a great couple of hours in Weowna Beach Park. In spite of being the middle of urban sprawl, this 80.5 acre park has the feel of being in the mountains. There's miles of trails, bridges, a creek, and a ravine. We chased the "Breakfast Buffet" series of letterboxes and found two of the four hidden in the park. There's another series we'll be back for later.

At this point you're thinking, "SWEET! I need to get out there and find some letterboxes!" or "Uh... what exactly is letterboxing?"

If it's the latter, read "Letterboxes are aid." Don't worry. I'll wait.

Great. Now you're all about getting out for some serious letterboxing. Here's what you're going to need. (All these are Amazon or REI affiliate links. Click here for more info..)

Get a little backpack for your letterboxing gear. Make sure it's small enough the kids can carry it, but big enough you can, too. It's a good bet you're going to have to carry it at some point. The REI Tarn 18 and the smaller REI Sprig 12 would both be plenty big. (The Tarn 18 would be good for first backpacking trips, too.)

Throw some gardening gloves in the pack. Most of the letterboxes you're going to look for will be partially buried, under rocks or logs, or hidden in the duff. That means you're going to be rooting around. Gloves will prevent finding pricklies, cuts, and "EW! I touched a slug!" I'm a fan of cheap, Nitrile gardening gloves. A six pack will set you back $11 and will be worth way more.

Inevitably, you will touch a slug, get muddy, or otherwise get nature on you. And you'll need to clean the letterbox's stamps. Baby wipes work great. (Baby wipes and duct tape can solve 90% of the world's problems.) Get packs with a small number of wipes like these so you aren't carrying a brick around. Plus, you're more likely to leave them in your backpack.

Get a flashlight. You might not be hunting letterboxes in the dark (unless you really want a challenge), but you will be looking in dark places. Since you're going to let the kids use the flashlight go for one that's both water resistant and shockproof. You can't go wrong with a Maglite 2xAA light. It'll last forever and you'll be able to light up anywhere.

Not because you're itchy, but because you don't want to put your hand in a hole, get a back scratcher. Nothing fancy is needed. You could use a stick. But your kids will love getting to use telescopic bear claw. They're not super durable so go with the four-pack. (Bonus: You can finally reach that itch on your back.)

This one is weird, but... Bring some Ziploc bags, quart-sized. Sometimes you find a letterbox that's a little wet because the box or bag is failing. Dry it off the best you can and drop in a dessicant pack. (I save the ones I get in random purchases for this purpose as well as leaky summit registers and my camera case. However, if you really want to buy them, you can bet Amazon sells them.)

Once you find the letterbox you need an ink pad to use with the 'box's stamp. And since some stamps look better in different colors, get a multi-colored stamp pad. (Bonus: This one is washable!)

Don't forget that after stamping your book you need to leave a mark in the letterbox's log. We use a self-inking, custom logo stamp with, of course, the moosefish logo. It makes it really easy (and less messy) for the kids to stamp the log book. (Go for the 1" size. 2" is too big for many logbooks.)

But wait! What are you going to put your stamps? You need a notebook. Nothing fancy, but if you want the kids to think they're being adventurous get something like field notes. Each of our kids has their own notebook, plus we have a family notebook. (Note: Waterproof journals like Rite in the Rain notebooks would be perfect except most inks you'll use are water-based and won't stay.)

Now you're ready to head out. Use AtlasQuest to find a letterbox near you and see what's been all around you all along.

If you want one of those antiquated hardcopy books, check out The Letterboxer's Companion.

And after you've been well and truly hooked we'll talk about carving your own stamps and placing letterboxes. Stay tuned.

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