View Full Version : Is no mail drops possible?

02-21-2004, 22:38
I'm planning my first thru hike for this spring. However, I like to plan as little as possible. Can you get to Maine with little or no maildrops?

02-21-2004, 22:52
Can you hike the trail without maildrops? Probably yes, but it might be very inconvienent.

You need to do some planning. For example, Glencliff is a popular place to pick up (mail drop) warm gear and supplies before the White Mountains. And, but for Hiker's Hostel, you can't even buy a soda in this community. So, if you don't pick up warm gear then, that means that you need to get to an outfitter before hand. So, do you want to take time in Hanover to go to West Lebanon, or do you want to buy the warm gear in Manchester Center and carry it all the way from there. Do you need to resupply food at Glencliff? If you don't, then that means that you need to carry food from perhaps Hanover to Kinsman Notch or Franconia Notch and go into North Woodstock for resupply.

Other tough places to resupply include Fontana Dam and Port Clinton. There are always work arounds, but it generally means spending more time off the trail.

How are you going to resupply maps? Sound silly to carry the Maine maps with you all the way from Georgia.

Do you have any special needs, such a medications, or special foods?

02-21-2004, 22:58
you can buy maps at
happy hiker gatlinburg tn
bluff mtn outfitters in hotsprings,nc
MRO in damascus va

02-21-2004, 22:59
I made it in 2003 with 3 maildrops. They were Harpers Ferry, Bear Mountain and Glencliff. Reason for those was that I knew getting to a grocery store wasn't very easy. In retrospect, I could have made it without those drops.

One thing you may want to consider though, if you haven't already, is a bounce box.

Moon Monster
02-21-2004, 23:06
Absolutely it is possible, though you may want one or two drops or a bounce box for maps and clothing like Peaks said.

Without drops for food, you will be occasionally limited to convenience store type issue. If that's OK with you, then no worries--after a few weeks on the trail you will have all the experience you need to interpret the Companion/Handbook and plan ahead on hitting good places to buy food along the trail. By convenience store type food, I mean Ramens, liptons, cheese, bagels, tortillas, peanut butter, mac n cheese, snickers and the like. Nothing fancy, but certainly appetizing for a thru-hiker without dietary concerns.

Baltimore Jack's article on resupply (located here in the archives) is also useful for planning on where resupply might be limited.

02-21-2004, 23:21
I don't see why you couldn't thru without any maildrops. I only had one that I needed/planned and that Fontana Dam. Even Fontana can be avoided by extending to Newfound Gap/Gatlinburg (an easy hitch). I did thru-hike seven years ago so services have changed since then (most likely more of them). Also I must admit that I had about a dozen other unplanned mail drops in my hike as my girlfriend sent me care packages with food and things. At each placed she mailed me a package though I could of easily resupplied in that town. I say go for it! Just do a little planning for some of the more isolated stops that some of the previous posters mentioned. You can even send yourself a maildrop to these areas while on the trail.

I also got a care meal of McDonalds and a few suds in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness thanks to Lone Wolf.

02-22-2004, 03:21
Wow, in my Saturday night rush to post a question, I had forgotten about changing maps along the trail. That is something I will need to take care of, without a doubt. But it seems as though, if you are willing to deal with the lack of variety at local shops, and if you dont have any special diet or medical needs, everyone has agreed that it is possible to rely on your own purchases for food along the way. Let me know if you have a strong objection to this. If not, I'm going to avoid the postal service.

02-22-2004, 13:22

Just factor in more time. Its gonna take more time to get a ride sometimes and you may have to hitch 8 or 10 miles to get to a place with a market when towns like glencliff and port clinton only have a PO. And know that you're hike will be different from many other folks. When folks are pulling 25 mile days to get to the PO before it closes, you won't have to worry about it. When folks pick up their maildrops and hit the trail again, you may be on your own waiting for a hitch for food. Its not good, or bad, it'll just be different. If you are OK with that then GO FOR IT!

Several people didn't have drops this year. It is possible

02-23-2004, 10:17
OK, so you want to hike the trail without mail drops, and presumably without a bounce box.

As A-Train points out, your hike is going to be different than others. And, as he says, that's not good or bad. Everyone's hike is different.

For your resupply at Fontana, you will probably need to stay at the Hike Inn (or whatever the hostel is there) and get shuttled into and out of town for supplies.

You need to figure out a work around for Port Clinton.

You need to figure out a work around for Glencliff. That could be going to EMS in West Lebanon and buying warm gear, and then carrying enough food from Hanover to get you to North Woodstock.

At Bear Mountain, you will probably need to get into Fort Montgomery for supplies.

So forth. Just read the Handbook or Companion and figure it out.

Maps: You will probably need to buy them from outfitters as you go along. Just hope that they have them. Again, use the Handbook or Companion to figure out where they are.

Finally be prepared to hitch often off the trail, and hitch back. Undoubtably you will need to go further off the trail than most for supplies.

02-23-2004, 15:28
i did no maildrops with little to no inconvienience. in retrospect, i probably would send one to fontana (lived off of pop tarts and chef boyarde for a couple days) bear mountain (it was a hot and miserable highway walk to limited groceries) and glencliff (you dont need one, but why not send one from hanover and make life easier) and not to start an uproar about preparedness and responsibility, but you dont need maps. just the data book and the companion. there is a white blaze every quarter mile. also i never fussed with a bounce box, but to wing it a bit more, you can assemble the food boxes for bear mountain and fontana at the resuply point one ore two stops prior. save on postage etc... the hitch from port clinton to the market was no big whoop for me. your gonna be so hung over when you wake up in port clinton anyway, its good to have something to do the first half of the day! and when you get to hanover nh, you may want to assemble some boxes for the remote maine parts, since the co op in hanover is the bomb. but if you want to you can discard all this and just go out there, and you will do fine.

02-23-2004, 16:55
Many folks have done it.

I rather like the saying "moderation in all things" except I would change it to "most things."

I think mail drops are WAY overdone by many people. They tend to make your life tougher rather than easier if you're constantly trying to coordinate them. Most folks don't even complete their hike anyway, and so many waste a huge amount of effort, time and money planning and mailing beforehand. Most tend to get sick of the food they'd planned the winter before.

I did very few maildrops, and wish I had done less. Based on my 2001 hike, on my next hike I'd only do maildrops in Port Clinton, Bear Mountain, and Delaware Water Gap. (Any good places to buy food in Delaware Water Gap these days?) I bypassed Glencliff, although many folks send warm clothing there.

Based on the experience of most folks, you might want to do a drop at Fontana. I had too much stuff sent there, though, and not being a picky eater, I figured I could have got enough food in the store there.

I never had maps, and didn't miss them.

The necessity of mail drops is as much a factor or your personality as it is practical considerations, but when it comes to maildrops, for me it's "When in doubt, leave them out."

Lone Wolf
02-23-2004, 16:57
I've done 5 thru-hikes with no maildrops except for maps and colthing. Buying food along the way is very easy.

02-23-2004, 17:13
How about planning mail drops as you go by using internet cafées along the way (sorry for being totally ignorant, are there any in the trail towns?) ,placing orders from internet retailers to be delivered to locations further up/down the trail? Maybe that's even a common way to do it?

02-23-2004, 18:47
How about planning mail drops as you go by using internet cafées along the way (sorry for being totally ignorant, are there any in the trail towns?) ,placing orders from internet retailers to be delivered to locations further up/down the trail? Maybe that's even a common way to do it?

I guess I didn't see many internet cafes, but there was internet access in lots of libraries along the way. For most of the mail drops a person DOES do, putting them together in an earlier town along the trail probably makes sense. One thing to consider, though, is if a town has a Post Office, odds are the town will have most or all of the items that you've just had mailed to yourself.

Your idea might work great for new hiking poles, tents, and the like, though, or other items not found in the town your mailing to.