View Full Version : How long will a post office or business hold a bounce box?

11-21-2015, 23:34
Hello Everyone!

I'm trying to find out how long a post office or business will hold on to a bounce box before sending it back to the return address. All I can find on-line is that a post office will hold it for between 14 days to 30 days. Can anyone share their experiences will this? I understand that once you take possession and/or open the package (bounce box) that you have to pay again for shipping (to ship it further north on the AT). Just not sure on how long they will hold your stuff.


11-22-2015, 06:49
Your best bet is to directly contact the business or post office you want to hold your bounce box. Post offices and businesses can have significant differences in how long they will hold a package based on several different factors.

11-22-2015, 07:28
With eta on package, most businesses that deal with hikers arent problem. As said above, post offices can vary so call. Post offices are required to hold general delivery mail some time, they arent required to hold general delivery packages and it varies. Out west, some po are basically size of a closet and they dont hold but a few days due to lack of space. On the AT they are pretty good.

11-22-2015, 09:32
USPS regulations instruct offices to hold general delivery mail for up to 30 days. In practice this means that post offices will hold packages from between 14 and 30 days. If their hike is delayed, thru-hikers should call the PO and let them know approximately when they will be in, or give forwarding instructions.

Typically, post offices that are in AT trail towns are very aware of thru-hikers and go out of their way to hold packages for a minimum of 30 days, and many will simply hold them until the end of the NOBO thru-hike season, especially in the north. In my wife's former office in VT they kept thru-hiker boxes on a separate section of shelving and would return to sender any unclaimed boxes in late October/early November to clear space for the increased holiday season mail. [Late season SOBO's take note: Put an anticipated pick up date on any mail drops for this reason.] If they were sent First Class or Priority, and no one made contact, they will without further info generally be returned to the sender's address as Unclaimed - Addressee abandoned or failed to call for mail. And note that Parcel Select (online) or Standard Post (thru USPS) packages cannot be forwarded or returned without additional postage.

Many USPS employees are supportive and enjoy hearing from thru-hikers as they pass though. One of my wife's USPS co-workers just completed (last week) becoming an AMC White Mountain's 4,000 Footer Club Member - all 48 WM 4,000 footers - and in a single year!

BUT, the USPS is undergoing a lot of changes. As Postmasters retire or leave their office, they are now sometimes being replaced by displaced district office people who have little actual experience running an actual office, or staff from non-trail towns. So there is that chance the person running the office is unaware of what through the years has typically been preferential treatment of thru-hiker boxes.

Private businesses like hostels, etc., are a whole different matter. Call and find out.

Some basic USPS info:

1) Mark all boxes "Please Hold for AT Thru-hiker"

2) If you aren't going to claim a package within two weeks of it's arrival at the PO, CALL and let them know, and/or mark an anticipated P/U date on the package, and/or send a post card to the Postmaster. You do have a list of trail PO's and their contact info, right?

3) Fuel (iso-butane canisters, alcohol, Esbit) cannot be sent Priority Mail or First Class (even if you mark it Ground Only ORM-D). It can ONLY be sent by Standard Post/Parcel Select, marked as Ground Only ORM-D. ALL Priority and First Class mail is considered and treated as air mail by default. Even if just mailing to the next town. Anything that can't fly can't go First Class or Priority because of the way the distribution hub system works, plus the chance of forwarding/return, misrouting, etc., and somehow, even accidentally, winding up on an airplane. You will not be able to forward or have these packages returned unless you provide additional postage.

11-22-2015, 11:53
As 4eyes noted, the PO is only obligated to hold a package for 30 days. But keep in mind that most rural Post offices and business only have limited space to hold packages so you should time you mailings so that they don't sit there for very long.

I do a lot of business with the Gorham, NH PO and have talked to them about this. They've noted that a box which arrives months ahead of the person sending it says they will be there to collect it, there's not much chance of that person ever showing up to claim it.

11-22-2015, 21:40
I have heard of boxes still being at a PO a year later