View Full Version : food drops or shopping

10-27-2005, 09:08
I'm not really sure what I am asking here but, when I head north in '07 I was thinking about having pre-packaged food rations waiting for me at certain locations as opposed to buying food as I go. I'm not sure how practical this is or really even how to go about it. I can't see there being too many UPS stores in trail towns and am not sure where else to send my packages to. I know this may all change once I am out there for awhile, but I have very little interest in spending significant amounts of time in town and even less interest in having to do my shopping while I am there. A big part of why I am even trying to make it to ME is to get away from a system of, I'm not even sure what to call it, that IMHO has way too much influence on my life and the lives of many others. I am wondering how many people resupply this way. Any thoughts?

Lone Wolf
10-27-2005, 09:14
Buy along the way. Cheaper in the long run and no hassle. Don't get tied down with Post Office hours.

the goat
10-27-2005, 09:17
also, when you prepackage, you'll undoubtedly tire of what you've already packed for yourself after you been hiking for a while. it's really easy to buy along the way.

The Old Fhart
10-27-2005, 09:17
In the upper right hand corner of this page, click on "featured articles". This will take you to another page where you will find lots of great info listed on the left hand side under "AT Re-supply". You should be able to find most of the answers there. Good luck on your hike!

10-27-2005, 09:36
Im pre-packing mostly.......just got my dehydrator.......have a list of about 30 dinners im going to mass produce.....thats plenty of variety for me......and why do people mail to post offices?? isnt it much easier to mail your drops to where you plan on staying, ie hostel or motel??

Rain Man
10-27-2005, 10:39
... I have very little interest in spending significant amounts of time in town and even less interest in having to do my shopping while I am there. A big part of why I am even trying to make it to ME is to get away from a system of, I'm not even sure what to call it, that IMHO has way too much influence on my life and the lives of many others. I am wondering how many people resupply this way. Any thoughts?

Last year I shipped resupply packages (including money) to my daughter Grass on her hike, and got lots of feedback from her and her hiking buddies.

Based on that and what I read on WhiteBlaze, I think that the urge many hikers have to-do-what-their-hiking-buddies-do is an overwhelming compulsion for many hikers. Not saying that's bad!

I conclude it's not just the trip "to the post office" or "to the market," but rather the socializing and staying with new friends that motivates many hikers who are out in the woods, in the shelter or two before town, hiking down the mountainside with acquaintances picking up momentum towards that town they see, or smell.

Like hikers who suffer an illness or injury or have to take time off, they often skip ahead when they return to the trail, to catch up with friends. That's more important than any purist or misanthropic feelings they started out with.

I hear and read over and over that the people are the best thing about the trail/hike. It does seem true for most, but of course not all, long-distance AT hikers, IMHO.

Thus, be flexible. The people seem to affect hikers sometimes as much or more than the weather and mountains... and resupplies.

Just my armchair psychology, worth all you paid for it. LOL



10-27-2005, 11:20
Just about everyone says "Buy along the way." They say it's cheaper and more convenient. There are a few notable exceptions, however. Ken and Marcia Powers pre-packed and shipped. I believe Brian Robinson did, too, during his speed hikes. Maricia Powers wrote than she enjoys the pre-trip planning process, including making the spreadsheets and assembling the packages. Fu Man, a SOBO whom I met last year in the Smokies, had pre-purchased FD food and was having his mother mail it to him. HYOH, I guess.

I'm planning to pack and ship. Reasons: 1) I don't like Kraft Mac & Cheese and a lot of the convenience foods I see for sale in small shops 2) I am fond of organizing things ahead of time and this kind of planning work gives me something to do this winter and next spring 3) my husband has offered to be the base camp support and I'm not at all worried that he'll lose interest in the project and abandon me partway through my hike. :-) 4) I don't like to shop and am looking forward to a six-month vacation from shopping and meal planning. (Any other moms out there suffering from figurative kitchen burn-out will know where I'm coming from.)

But, I'm also planning to only put together about a month's worth of the stuff ahead of time so that if things change, we can change. Time will tell how all this works out...

10-27-2005, 12:08
Buy along the way. Cheaper in the long run and no hassle. Don't get tied down with Post Office hours.====================================
For the most part I agree ...but there are a few places where food is not easy to get without a shuttle or bus ride. Namely ...Harpers, Bear Mountain and Glencliff.

Other than that ...buying along the way allows you to vary your diet. You WILL get tired of some foods and if you buy them all in advance there's not much you can do about it.


10-27-2005, 12:33
Buying along the way is probably simpler, and it gets faster with time. My first shopping trip on the trail took about 1.5 hours. [!] I was slow and disorganized and inefficient. My last one was about 20 minutes. You'll learn more about what you like and what you need over the course of a day, and your shopping will become much, much easier, so you can still get out of town fairly quickly if you so desire. And as with most things trail-related, some practice beforehand doesn't hurt a bit.


10-27-2005, 15:15
The more i hike, the less i plan for them.
But the 1st few times, i prepackaged a lot and shipped to POs.
If you have the time and are into doing that, you'll probably eat better and spend less time shopping and re-packaging.
If you don't want to be bothered: just go hike and do it along the way.

10-27-2005, 15:38
Buy all your normal food along the way. Cheaper, easier, and allows for flexibility. If you're going to mail youself stuff, only mail yourself "fun" foods that you can not find on the trail. For instance, dried curried bananas. Can't buy them in stores, but yummy, and lightweight (cheaper to mail). Just my thoughts.

10-27-2005, 17:59
My Plan allows for 6 mail drops*, the largest is 7 days (for the smokies) average is for 5 days, so about 32 days of food by mail. The rest is to be bought along the way, and my almost 400 miles of section hikes say that is an easy way to go, less being tied to a schedule: POs closed: Sunday, holidays, 1/2 saturday or more, after 5:00 PM or earlier, etc. Most:hotels, hostels, etc are open 7 a week & have longer hours.
I'll be buying about 140 days of food along the way. The mail drops are to increase variety as all the dinners & breakfasts are home cooked & dried food. Some of the lunches I am shipping are home cooking.

* one additional drop has just non food items.


Jack Tarlin
10-27-2005, 18:52
One point that needs to be mentioned....

Many hikers that pre-purchase and pre-package the majority of their food often discover later on that they've learned to absolutely loathe a lot of their food after a few months on the Trail, yet they're stuck with it as it's all been pre-bought and boxed up.

Many times, I've seen hikers dread their maildrops because with hundreds of miles yet to go, they discover they're totally sick of Ramens, Pop Tarts, Peanunt Butter, you name it. Instead of looking forward to getting a box from home, sometimes people dread it, but they're stuck. Either they end up eating stuff they hate, or they very expensively replace it with stuff they actually want.

I think for most folks, buying en route seems to work better: People buy and consume what they really want; they also have the option of trying out new things that they've seen other hikers eating. If you rely totally on pre-purchased stuff, you're pretty much stuck with it, and there's really no way of knowing in February or March what you'll want to be eating in September.

I understand your wishing to spend little time in towns, but remember, most Post Offices are in towns....you have to go in there anyway. There are many ways to expedite your town time; I always make a "To Do/To Buy" list the night before I get to a town. This serves two purposes: It makes my town errands and shopping go a lot faster, and it greatly decreases my chance of forgetting something important (Batteries, new boot laces, whatever).

Lastly, buying food en route means you'll be less dependent on operating hours of small-town Post Offices, and you'll have a much lesser chance of arriving in a town to discover that the P.O. is locked and closed for a few days. If you buy most of your food en route, this generally won't be a problem; nearly all markets are open 7 days a week.

By all means check out the Maildrop/Re-Supply information found in the "Articles" section of this website. Many folks have found this information extremely useful for their planning.

10-27-2005, 19:10
Has anyone done a thru with maildrops and been pleased with it? It seems that a majority of people on this site are really against maildrops. I plan to do about half and half. My mom is going to send me packages that will include things I can get in bulk at home cheaper and in better quality. Then I will pick up things to fill in the gaps along the way. I really like vegetables and am getting fairly good at dehydrating, so I'm going to have her send my veggies to me. We also have an awesome health food store here where I can get really good dried fruit in bulk so she'll be sending that. Plus I can go to my local sav-a-lot and get basics like rice, pasta, etc in large quantities really cheap. Less fuss on the trail too. Just my .02

Hammock Hanger
10-27-2005, 19:36
I did not read each and every response to your post so this could be rhetoric...

2001 I sent out re-supply boxes like every 8-10 days with food and extras. You have no idea how much money was wasted as most went into hiker boxes, not to mention the postage.

2002 I sent a couple of boxes out at some stops where the PO was directly on the trail and I was making changes to the pack, lighter gear, winter gear... maps. I bought most of my groceries at stops along the way. It was a much better system. I got more fresh foods, more variety and spent way less money. Things went in my pack and not hiker boxes. There were times when it was slim pickin's but only occasionally. It made me be creative. It also meant repackaging in town but that wasn't that big a deal.

WARNING: Do not go food shopping before you eat!! I went to the grocery store hungry and bought $40. worth of food, (what was I thinking!!!) People in the parking lot got a good laugh as I tried to get it all in my pack. I ate as I repackaged. It was quite comical. My pack was way too heavy as I headed up into Vermont. I stopped at the first campsite and pigged out, and shared.

Good luck with whatever you decide. Sue/HH

10-27-2005, 20:06
Definitely read Jack's article on this site.

I resupplied completely via grocery stores and was happy, and friends went completely via mail and were happy. It worked great for my friends to call home and say they would be in X town around Y day, then tell them what and how much to send. It solves the always-Ramen problem. Plus sealing everything up for Maine when you haven't finished Georgia yet means you'll have to guess at how your appetite is going to change. But don't think the store/mail debate is either/or; you can be happy whichever way.

Although I wouldn't necessarily say that resupplying at grocery stores was cheaper from my observations. The cheapest way (assuming you're not mailing food from Buenos Aires or something) is probably a combination of both. Then you won't be stuck sometimes having to resupply at gas stations and paying $0.73 for a package of Ramen unlike me (in Fort Montgomery, NY).

10-28-2005, 07:50
Has anyone done a thru with maildrops and been pleased with it?

Well, yes, I resupplied some times with mail drops, and other times at the store. I was basically happy with my decision. It depended largely on what the options were in a particular town.

Like other posters, read the resupply advice in the articles section.

10-28-2005, 20:31
Buy along the way. Cheaper in the long run and no hassle. Don't get tied down with Post Office hours.I'm with LW on this one. I started out with food drops. I got a 15 pounder at NOC and the post office was closed for Easter weekend so I couldn't bump box any ahead. I also had to buy peanut butter and bagels so I hiked out with over 20 pounds of food. One thing I ate with every meal was TVP (textured vegtable protein) and that is all I got in my food drops after NOC except an occassional can of Moxie. I liked the the different foods and frequent change in diet I got from purchasing along the way. Prices were all over the place but it was cheaper than food drops. I don't remember anywhere where something good to eat wasn't available. In Duncanon the only place I found food was a gas station but I found enough variety to make it to the next town. TVP provided all the protein I needed on the trail and I pigged out on steak, hamburg, ice cream and pizza when I hit town. Another trick, every time I passed through a town I would purchase a giant sub sandwich and eat it for dinner my first evening out.
:dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance :dance

11-14-2005, 18:37
I am planning on mail drops for my 07 thru hike, I will cook and dehydrate my main meals, with a large variety of home cooked meals I'm not so sure I would get tired of them! and I doubt I'll be mailing raman noodles & I hate pop tarts to start with, so those won't be in the box,

Since I haven't done this before, just how expensive are food drops? you can get the priority mail flat rate boxes which are about $7.00/box, doesn't matter how much it weighs, just how much you can squish into the box. I don'tknow if I can get a whole weeks worth in the obx or not - will have to experiment, but on the whole, I think home cooking/dehydrated will be much better than 'mac n cheese' on the road

11-14-2005, 19:26
on the whole, I think home cooking/dehydrated will be much better than 'mac n cheese' on the roadI agree, but you don't have to buy mac n cheese unless ou like it. Grocery stores have lots of lightweight decent meals.

11-14-2005, 20:56
I agree, but you don't have to buy mac n cheese unless ou like it. Grocery stores have lots of lightweight decent meals.
Well, I didn't do any dehydrating to speak of, maybe a pound of beef jerky.

But on my walk in 1993, I relied mostly on post offices. I admit I may be a special case. I had cooked and fed myself for many years before marrying at age 34. My wife was 10 years younger than me. I shopped and mostly cooked for us and our kids for 30 years or so before I left for the trail.

I made the decision to hike quite late. I began thinking about it the previous December. I began serious planning in late January. I used as many newspaper coupons and sales as I could find. I negotiated with an independent supermarket for a discount on staples.

I worked out a basic generic version of Lipton dinners and other convenient foods, using pasta, instant brown rice, bouillon cubes, spices and such, I tested it and mixed it together for my evening meals. It was my favoite meal for six months and I never tired of my concoctions. But then, I had been cooking for my self and my family for decades. I knew what would work and what wouldn't.

For breakfasts i concentrated on coffee, made on the trail jam, biscuits, instant oatmeal, tang, and sugar.

I could write a book on my experiences -- and should -- but probably won't get around to it. I'm too busy raising money to provide buffers for the AT in theatened Maine.

Anyway. I knew from experience and a week or two of experiments, what I would like to eat on the trail for six months. At least I ate the stuff I concocted with more relish than the stuff I bought along the way. How did I discover whether to buy or send? I just read the datea book and Wingfoot's trail guide. If a post office was closer to the trail than the nearest serious grocery store, I sent stuff to the post office. If a store was closer than a post office, I made do with whatever the store had to offer.

Despite postal costs, and a late planning start, I suspect that by careful shopping, use of coupons and sales, and concoctoring in Maine I saved money, and enjoyed my food more, than if I had bought along the way.

If anyone is interested, I'll post my basic recipes again, though they were pretty simple and most can probably work them out, themsleves. I used generic carbohydrates, rice and pasta. The basic rule is simple. Two units of water for every unit of rice, pasta, oatmeal and such.

My additions to these basic mixtures were raisins, dried fruit, brown sugar, bouillon cubes, cheeses of various kinds, dried basil, other spices, and a variety of fresh, canned and dried fishes and meats.