View Full Version : Resupply Questions

03-23-2015, 20:40
I intend to begin thru hiking the AT on or around April 15th. Can I plan on resupplying on a strictly town by town basis without relying on someone back home to send me things on a regular basis. I have many people at home that would be willing, but it seems likes the timing of things would make doing so inconvenient. The last thing I want to do is to have to wait around for a package if I get somewhere early or if my package arrives late....or God forbid both!

03-23-2015, 21:19
Not a problem, nearly everyone "buys on the fly" these days. Unless you need special medications or have food restrictions, there is no need for mail drops. If a town has a PO, it has a store to buy food. Although an occasional box full of homemade Oatmeal Raisin cookies can be nice to get :)

03-23-2015, 21:23
We used a bounce box in 2013 and it was a very unnecessary expense and trouble. We stopped after a while.

03-23-2015, 21:38
You can resupply in towns, no problem. Just get a guidebook so you can plan ahead a few days at a time.

03-23-2015, 22:59
Get awols guide and just resupply in town. The only downside is having to buy a box of an item. Meaning, its cheaper to buy a box of granola bars than individuals. Therefore, your stuck with the same granola bars till the next town. Look up some trail recipes so your not always buying the same junk food. You'd be surprised at what you can make on the trail with some ingenuity. Maildrops are good for keepsakes and homemade fudge brownies. And your correct, planning your logistics around the usps is an annoying hassle. If you don't have special needs, resupply as you go, just keep your budget in check. DO NOT enter a grocery store while hiker hungry. Not only will you needlessly spend double that you should have, but you wont want to carry all that extra food anyhow. If your not in a hurry, go grab a bite to eat, sit down, relax, and plan your next few days in your head over a good meal. Have fun on your hike

03-23-2015, 23:36
I bought a full set of ATC maps and guide books a couple of years ago, 1/2 price I think. I will bring the maps. The guide books are great they describe every twist and turn of the trail, but at 6-7 oz each , I think I can do without and just take AWOL. If I was in a group of 4 or more I would take the guide books. There are 11 different sections of maps. Interestingly there is a town at the top and bottom of each section. It will be easy to carry only 1 set of maps at a time. Other than winter gear vs. summer gear trade outs that's about it.

03-24-2015, 06:55
I use bounces, but only for the dehy dinner meals I've pre-prepared at home. The other stuff (oatmeal, snack bars, Ramen, jerky, etc) I buy along the way.

03-24-2015, 07:08
Like it has been said buy as you go is the way to go. However there are certain locations where it is helpful, not required, to send a package instead of shop. Fontana Dam is one such location that comes to mind. There are threads about this you can look up, or start a new one if you can't find them.

03-24-2015, 07:51
Not the ATC guidebooks -- they have very detailed trail info, but no town info, which is what you need. The AWOL guide or the Companion are the books to take.

03-24-2015, 08:39
I have 4 maildrops setup that are arranged around buying in towns also. My thought is to mix it up as much as possible and I will also know what I am getting in the maildrops. I make up stuff bought in town may or may not be what I like but what is available at the time.

I can only really predict out so far so I stopped at the 4 drops. Buying in Franklin, Hot Springs, Damascus so far.

Drop in Fontana Dam to make it across the Smokies and in Erwin Tn. I also thought maybe a drop in Pearisburg Va where I might be swapping to warm weather stuff

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03-24-2015, 08:40
I will be starting on 4/16 so see u out there

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03-24-2015, 09:16
Right now you have no idea what you'll be wanting to eat out there. Hike for a month and re-assess the situation. Your tastes and needs are guaranteed to change. And you'll get some experience at shopping and finding what works on the trail.

The few boxes I've relied on in the past have sometimes been a source of stress. The worst was arriving into town minutes past close of business at the beginning of a three day weekend, after racing down the trail for days trying to make it on time. Then it turns out there's a store a mile away that wasn't in the guide book, and I didn't really like eating what was in the box anymore anyway. I didn't do many mail drops after that.

You can always take a hybrid approach and mail packages to yourself from a trail town, when you're better at predicting your pace and your needs.

I didn't do any drops on the AT. I handled the situation at Fontana with some serendipity, by getting a 'trail magic ride' into the full-service town of Robbinsville fifteen trail miles before Fontana. Again, it wasn't in the guide book and it was a great solution, recommended by a local. To me it was worth carrying the food the extra 15 miles. Other difficult places I remember carrying a couple days of nothing but peanut butter and white bread. Part of the fun for me was not knowing what I'd be hiking out of town with in my food bag. And sometimes a long, difficult hitch into a town to get food turns into a good story, some trail magic, and maybe a new friend.

03-24-2015, 10:54
Me too starting 4/13 from hike inn Amicola still juggling drops & re supply.
See you on the trail

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03-24-2015, 11:14
I'm not willing to carry the ATC guidebooks and AWOL. The ATC books have great info about the trail, but my stomach tells me to carry AWOL's

03-24-2015, 11:36
I'm doing a section hike from Georgia to Tennessee. I thought about mailing my resupply boxes but was wondering if I could drop them off myself instead of mailing. I'll be dropping a car in Tennessee anyway and driving back asking the trail to georgia.

03-24-2015, 14:01
Most hikers predominantly bought food as they went but had a few mail drops where appropriate (Fontana Dam, Monson, etc). A few hikers had mail drops for their suppers but bought their breakfasts, lunches, & snack on the trail.

I used mail drops almost exclusively. No major problems (other than costs) with this strategy. A couple of times, I had to wait for a later than normal start to get my stuff at the PO. Once, I had to take an extra zero day to wait for the PO (Waynesboro, VA; I was ready for an extra day off).

Chumps Later
03-24-2015, 17:45
I notice short term resuply and long term resuply called out in the guide book, what's the difference? Can I get groceries at short term, or does that mean soda and a candy bar?

03-24-2015, 22:31
Shipping a 10 lb large 12"x12"x6" rectangular box by ground with the USPS costs about $25. That's about $0.15 per ounce. Given the higher prices you'll find in trail towns I don't think the cost of postage is a factor. I found mail drops a bit of a hassle and had to forward several packages several times because I arrived at the mail drop before the package. However I found that by accepting the packages it gave the folks at home a way to support my hike. So, I'll suggest that it's 6 one way, and half a dozen another, and it correct answer depends on your situation.

03-25-2015, 07:49
I notice short term resuply and long term resuply called out in the guide book, what's the difference? Can I get groceries at short term, or does that mean soda and a candy bar?

Speaking as one of the field editors for the Companion, that's sometimes a tough distinction. My personal take is this:

Long term resupply is a "real" grocery store. It might be a small town store like an IGA or other small local chain, or it could be a big national chain, or a Dollar General, up to a super WalMart. But in any case, it's a place where people go to buy their groceries. In some places a large drug store qualifies.

Short term resupply means they have food beyond just sodas and candy bars. In my area in SW Virginia, this means gas station convenience stores, a.k.a. "country grocery stores," for the most part. They have real food -- pop tarts, cheese, tuna, mac&cheese, crackers -- but it's a limited selection and they might run out entirely if a pack of hikers comes through ahead of you. Even if they are fully stocked, we're talking about the kind of place where you could grab a couple of days worth of food and a burger from the grill. Not the place where you have a lot of choices and can resupply for 5 or 6 days.

Again, this is just my personal take on how I make that decision. Hope it helps.

Sly can probaby add more.

03-25-2015, 08:00
Just looking at the AT guide and this on this site, it looks like it'll be fairly easy to resupply without sending a bounce box. I'm planning on resupplying along the way and if family wants to send something or I need something, I'll just plan it out ahead of time. Don't want to stress about having to get to the PO at a certain time.

03-25-2015, 09:02
I'm curious. The problem I often read about with maildrops is getting to the business or more often, post office, while they are open. Is this really a big problem? In my area post offices are typically open during normal busines hours. Is it different elsewhere? And if I were getting to town later than that I'd probably want to find a motel anyway and so could pick up my package the following day.

It seems to me that maildrops and buying as one goes are about equal in convenience/inconvenience, but I've not thru-hiked so maybe I'm missing something. I also know that if I'm hungry enough, I'm not too fussy beyond my vegetarian preference so getting something familiar but boring vs chancing an unfamilar store seems like a wash. Same for USPS hours vs shopping later.

I do know from experience that after a long day of hiking I'd rather flop out in a motel and make only one quick stop for supplies than have to find and then wander through a store looking for something I might want.

Maybe I'm the exception for whom maildrops might work better. I plan (2020!) on using both but probably more maildrops than not.

03-25-2015, 14:47
Yes, post offices are open during the day, sometimes with Saturday morning hours. That can limit you, though, since it's easy to get into town after noon on Saturday and have to wait until Monday morning (or Tuesday on a holiday weekend) to get your food. It also can get expensive to stay even overnight in town if you get there late in the afternoon and want to just resupply and get back on the trail.

Some folks mail to a hostel, motel, or outfitter, which often have longer hours. Definitely call ahead, though, to make sure they still accept mail drops and ask in advance about any fees.

My feeling is that mail drops started long ago when the tiny towns in the mountains had no real services other than a P.O. Nowadays there has been so much growth, these towns are much larger and support all kinds of major services. Big yuppie housing deveopments eventually create big yuppie shopping centers with big grocery stores, in places that twenty years ago were a tiny crossroad with maybe a gas station (and the P.O.).

Of course you can send yourself mail drops. That still works just as well as it always did -- maybe a little better, with additional places to mail them to. But in my experience, the advantages of shopping on the go vastly outweigh any advantages of mail drops. YMMV.

Have fun planning the hike!

03-25-2015, 15:42
It's funny trying to time mail drops, how many times do you have something waiting at the PO only to realize that you are coming into town on a Saturday and the PO closes at noon. Oh the anxiety of racing to that PO, or just dragging your heels until Monday until they open again.

I can't tell you how jealous I am of all of you thru hikers getting ready to push off. April 4th will be a year since I started and the 6th will be 6 months since I finished. It's taken me 6 months to realize that I had a good time, especially in the beginning when all the excitement and butterflies are still propelling you along a path that you are definitely unprepared for but still willing to give it a go!

03-25-2015, 16:48
Thank you for all of the wonderful information. Over the past few days, I have read through all the feedback that has been given and taking notes of everyone's responses. All of these replies have lead to more questions which I will be posting momentarily once I have them written out. Thank you once again!

03-26-2015, 11:08
Help I saw a link to a list of re supply places with itinerary and mor from a hike in 2014/13? Any one remember it? I printed but in portrait and should be landscape.
Thanks Gdad

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