View Full Version : Is it practical to hike the trail without mail drops of food?

01-31-2004, 01:07
I was wondering if it is not only feasible but also practical for a thru hiker to get all of their food along the trail from local stores? My problem may be that I won’t have a dependable source to send me my mail drops. I know that at times store selection may be limited and that also you will have to divert several miles off the trail into local towns to re-supply. In your opinion though would this be a waste of time or would I be able to get to most towns close enough to the trail to where it would not be a big hassle?

If you did do mail drops, how many did you do and how many days worth of food did you include in them? If I can find a reliable person to send them to me I plan on sending around 10 to 12 with around 6 days of food in each. Also, what towns did you send yours to?

Thanks for any advice.

Lone Wolf
01-31-2004, 01:29
Mr. Dworak. I've done 5 thru-hikes. I never had a food drop. It is feasible and most practical to buy as you go. You're gonna get 15 different answers but I am right. :) It's the stress free way to hike the AT.

01-31-2004, 01:31
For some great information on this...go to the search function...and type in
Baltimore Jack Mail Drops...it will give you in depth discussions on this.

If it was me I would not, but just use a bounce box sent priority mail for just a few locations.

01-31-2004, 02:20
Most places you stop or hitchhike to will have a supermarket which will allow you to purchase oatmeal, grits, powdered eggs, cereal, powdered milk, cereal, dried fruits, bacon bits, cooked bacon, sausages, tuna, mussels, oysters, clams, packaged chicken, ground beef, turkey, ham, dried hummus, pasta, couscous, rice, gravy mixes, instant pasta sauces, instant potatoes, candy bars, trail mix, nuts, fresh fruit, natural peanut/other nut butter, pita bread, tortillias, crusty fresh bread, olive oil, italian dressing & on and on.

Plus stop by the local deli, subway or diner for a sandwich to haul in for the first night out. What happens to those mail drops if you get off the trail or your tastes change from 2 to 3 months ago when you where planning. Not to speak of the hassles of having to be places at certain times...how about you decide on a side trip or get sick?

max patch
01-31-2004, 08:46
Its not only practical but preferable.
Lone Wolf is 100% correct.
Tracyam obviously hasn't hiked the AT if she thinks that all you're gonna find are 7-11 type stores.

01-31-2004, 10:13
This is a huge question and it gets batted around every year. Can you make it without maildrops ...Sure. But do you really want to ...Probably Not. What it comes down to is how dependant you want to be on the small town markets to have the types of foods and supplies you want/need. Another factor is how many days worth of food do you want to carry on average.

I think a more relevant question might be HOW MANY maildrops do you really need. I can think of at least 3 places where access to a good food store is not easy ...Harpers Ferry, Bear Mountain and Glencliff. Just know that as you get farther north a lot of the smaller towns do not have a Food Lion, Kroger, Publix or Albertsons type food store. You're buying your food at a gas station convenient store. Yes, you can get foods there but most likely they won't be what you are used to eating.

For my wife's hike in 2001 she used around 21 maildrops, which in retrospect was too many. On my hike last year I had 3 actual "Food Maildrops" and used a bounce box. I did get sent some "CARE Packages along the way but they contained my maps/Handbook pages and often some home made cookies or other goodies. Everyting else I bought along the way. If I had it to do all over again I'd go with the same plan.

01-31-2004, 10:55
It's the stress free way to hike the AT.

While section hiking, I always found some of the NOBO's really stressed out trying to get to the post office before they closed. I noticed that some really had to do high mileage days to get there on time. I figure that if you should not use the mail drops to solely resupply you, but as a bonus.

I ran into one that had to hit Port Clinton P.O. and did almost 30 miles on friday to get there before they closed on saturday. You dont want to do that in rocksylvania!

01-31-2004, 11:09
If you self-dehydrate staples or even entire meals, have special dietary needs, have prescription drug issues, disposable contacts, or you want to get the maps and guidebooks as you hike north (or south), you will need some way to resupply other than buying in town.

If none of these are issues for you, then most likely you can do without maildrops or bounce boxes--except in a handful of places where the buy-in-town resupply options are thin.

Baltimore Jack has a thread on here somewhere which gives a lot of better advice on specific towns where maildrops might be the most advantageous.

01-31-2004, 15:13
Would you like to wait in Gatlinburg, Tenn from Saturday at 12:01 pm until Monday at 9 am to wait for a mail drop? If you don't, buy your food in stores. The only place where a mail drop is more practical is in Harper's Ferry and Glencliff. Sending packages to hostels is smart, but keep the maildrops few and far between.

01-31-2004, 23:25
I think you should under your circumstances of being a veggie HOYH ! I respect your feelings toward receiving your choice of food...however for more traditional hikers heed the advice of LW and other hikers who know what they are talking about.

01-31-2004, 23:42
backrobber..why would you send mail drop to gatlinburg PO when the Happy Hiker accepts packages is open 7 days a week and is closer than the PO????????? so with very little pre-planning you will not have to wait in g'burg.

02-02-2004, 10:02
First, most thru-hikers say that if they were to hike the trail again, they would use fewer mail drops.

If you want to minimize the number of mail drops, then I suggest that you do some planning. Also, plan for flexibility. Read Wingfoot's handbook or the ALDHA Companion and figure out where you think you want to resupply. Now, does the nearest store have what you are looking for or not? For example, what are you going to do at Fontana Dam? The store there isn't that great. So, if you don't depend on mail drop, then that probably means stocking up with enough at NOC to get you over to Gatlinburg. Do you mind hitching off the trail to get into and out of Gatlinburg? Some do, some don't.

The answer all depends on how you want to do your hike. Some people don't mind hitching off trail often. Other do.

If you don't have someone to mail your drops, then I suggest that you make up your own mail drop along the trail and mail it to yourself. For example, Glencliff is a popular place for a mail drop. To insure that it gets there on time, you need to mail it from Manchester Center.

Do you have any special needs? Myself, I needed slide film. Slide film is not readilly available anymore, so it went into mail drops. How are you going to refresh your trail maps? I guess you could buy them periodically at outfitters along the way, but a bounce box might be better.

02-06-2004, 15:03
Of course it's practical to hike the trail without food drops. Of course it's practical to hike the trail with food drops. Whatever you want to do, just take the time to think about it and plan it.

Our experience during our '03 hike was great. We had 16 "mail" drops, which weren't mail drops at all. None of these drops were at post offices. All were at hostels, hotels or outfitters. If you look in the guidebooks, there are numerous businesses listed that will hold packages for you. Almost all of these are open longer hours, and both Saturday and Sunday, thereby avoiding the "race to the post office before it closes". Just my experience.

TJ aka Teej
02-06-2004, 18:30
Our experience during our '03 hike was great.Welcome to Whiteblaze, Undetirmined!

02-06-2004, 23:55
In 1999 I did not use any mail drops. This was in 610 miles of hiking. Even the little store at Fontana Village was adequate for me but then I am on a see-food diet. Vegetarians and those with special needs might have trouble. I never had to subsist on convenience store food or boxes of dry cereal that had to last for days or anything like that. Part of the fun of my hike was not planning everything to the last detail. To spice it up, no cell phone, no maps, no mail drops. The uncertainty was part of the antidote to the humdrum life I had been living to that point.

Also, it was kind of nice to get into the stores and rub elbows with the locals a little not to mention the people met hitching to the stores. In Bland VA I had my pack and hiking poles underneath my shopping cart and somebody stopped and asked why I brought my golf bag into the store. Once you tell them it's a backpack and you get talking that's when it is really fun. You should have seen the stares when I had my pack leaned up against the garbage can outside while I was getting rid of all the packaging. Again, more fun discussions. Personally, I think the locals were envious. :D

I'm straying off topic here, oops.

Flash Hand
02-07-2004, 00:39
I will plan to thru hike the AT northbound with One Leg. He will be supported.. I will be on my own flexible hike. I use my stragety I learned from this website, my experience at outward bound and some survival experience.

Out of food? DONT PANIC. If you are panic, your dream will be over. The human body can survive with water for two weeks without food... Just make sure your next stop, find a food.. but you wont die without food, but with water for two weeks.

I am not sure if dehyrated potato have same nutrional supplies as grown potato from the ground. I was told that potato is everything what human needs. You can survive a year on just potato and water. If I can be able to plant potato on Cast Away Island, and ill never need to hunt for seafood.

All you need to worry about is to hike safely, dont get slip on rocks, watch out for mountain lions over bears, mice or spiders. Take extreme caution on ticks. Then youll do fine.

One Leg and I will be hiking from Springer Mountain on March 22. I pushed the date back from April start to March 22 start.

Flash Hand :jump

02-07-2004, 00:40