View Full Version : Maildrop boxes

04-11-2004, 16:02
OK, silly question, but will the post office accept any cardboard box for mailing. I have some recycled boxes from work that have company logos, pictures on them. Will this confuse scanning devices or be rejected for other reasons.

04-11-2004, 16:07
Greaver - why bother with recycled boxes. Go the the USPS website. You can order Priority Mail boxes, tape, labels, envelopes all for free. Lots of different sizes and shapes available. They will deliver them right to your front door. Or if you are doing just a few drops, get them directly from your local postoffice. Can't find a better deal than that.

Hammock Hanger
04-11-2004, 16:43
OK, silly question, but will the post office accept any cardboard box for mailing. I have some recycled boxes from work that have company logos, pictures on them. Will this confuse scanning devices or be rejected for other reasons.

I believe they will take all boxes except liquor Sue/HH

04-12-2004, 01:25
Checked out the site but only saw smaller boxes. By the way, how much more is priority mail tcompared to regular mail?

04-12-2004, 01:35
Wow, I didnt realize how expensive sending packages was. Its looking like 12-18 bucks per package!

04-12-2004, 06:41
Greaver - look under the business section. The selection is much larger. I mostly used the two square boxes. The Box7 is what I used for food maildrops. It was big enough for me to fit up to 6 days of food in it. You need to pack it well but it will fit. I used the box4 to handle small drops such as maps and meds. The cost between Priority Mail and First class is usually only $1 - $2. Trust me, you want to spend that money. Priority will get to you in 3-4 days as opposed to 7-10 for First Class. If you want to bump a maildrop up, you can do that at no cost with Priority as long as it hasn't been opened. Finally, take a look at the many posts regarding maildrops vs buying locally. I'd suggest limiting your drops to those locations where you can't buy locally. It's easier, quicker, and cheaper than doing all maildrops.

04-12-2004, 08:04
Wow, I didnt realize how expensive sending packages was. Its looking like 12-18 bucks per package!

Good reason not to use a bounce box, or rely too much on mail drops.

04-12-2004, 08:41
I believe they will take all boxes except liquor Sue/HH

That's interesting. Before my hike, I was told that liquor stores were excellent sources for strong maildrop-sized boxes and thus most of my boxes were originally used for various liquors. Have things changed in the past 4 years?

P.S. Why use recycled boxes? It's called choosing not to waste. It helps the environment, society, and, IMHO, fits with many peoples' ideals of the trail. If you already have boxes that work, why discard them for others?


04-12-2004, 09:08
you go Howie!

i recycle old coffee boxes & use them....they have logos on them & a faint hint of coffee (ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) smell......

Never had a problem shipping @ USPS.

In fact, gonna use this type box for a mail drop for 1st week of May.

Juan Valdez...eat your heart out! :D

Uncle Wayne
04-13-2004, 07:53
Our local postmaster informed me that they would not accept any box that had any type of print on the outside except for the addresses. I re-used a box that had come from Cabelas which had their logo and normal advertising / printing etc on the outside. I had to tape over all areas of the box that had printing visible. :-?
So you'd better check before arriving at the postoffice with just any type of box. They did furnish the tape however. I don't know if our local guy was just being a pain in the ass or what but I've seen other people taping boxes inside the post office for the same reason.

And my experience with 2 to 3 day priority mail has proven it's not worth the difference, especially on small packages (2 pounds or less). On 3 different occasions, to 3 different locations in the USA I've been able to match or beat the Priority mail delivery by using first class mail and with a substantial savings. The first time was by mistake. I mailed a 1 pound item, paying the $3.20 price, to Grant's Pass, Oregon and forgot to include a sheet of instructions that I should have. An hour later I mailed the instructions in a standard envelope with, at that time, a 32 cent stamp at the same post office. I emailed the person who was expecting the package what had happened and asked him to let me know which arrived first, the Priority mail envelope or the standard envelope. They both arrived the same day. On two other occasions I tried the same thing with basically the same weight package and first class envelope. The first class letter arrived a day early in Boston and the same day in San Antonio. Go figure.
I never use the 2 to 3 day priority mail now. I asked the postmaster how that could have happened and his only explanantion was FedEX delivers for the USPS on the weekends and they had messed things up. I didn't tell him that all 3 of my packages had been mailed on a Monday and received by Thursday at the latest. :D
Larger mail drop type packages may get different treatment, I don't know.

04-13-2004, 10:51
That's interesting about the no marks or labels on the outside of the box. That must have changed for security reasons since my hike (2000). I'll have to double check before I go hike the next time.

To the best of my knowledge, Priority is the equivalent of 1st class mail for boxes. When it comes to maildrops, Priority usually costs between $1-10 more than standard and travels much faster (usually 4-5 days rather than 7-10). Another real advantage of using Priority with maildrops/bounce boxes is the ability to forward the package for free. If you arrive in town and don't need the package, you can forward it to the next town up the trail (you can forward it anywhere, as many times as you want for free, so long as you don't accept and open the package). I used that service more than once on my bounce box.


04-15-2004, 09:46
Some of it depends on your local PO. Mine doesn't get too excited about reused boxes. I do black out or remove the old addresses and try to remove any barcodes.
What they do get excited about is if you try to reuse a box that was originally marked for any kind of chemicals; ie, don't get a box from the grocery store that held bleach and is marked as such... they won't take it.


The Old Fhart
04-15-2004, 10:01
Take any used cardboard box and open both the top and the bottom. You'll then see that there is one corner where the four sides are connected by gluing. Just rip the seam apart, fold the box inside out, reglue or just tape the corner seam, and you have a clean unmarked box. This is quicker than trying to remove or cover existing labels, logos, and warnings on the box.

TJ aka Teej
04-15-2004, 10:59

Maildrop boxes behind the scenes at the Caratunk Post Office. Over in Monson a new larger PO was built just because of the huge amount of thru-hiker maildrops. Note of warning: don't bounce a box between these two towns, you'll hike into Monson long before the mail you sent from Caratunk catches up to you!

Jack Tarlin
04-15-2004, 12:14
A few added comments:

I'm working briefly at an Outfitter's that happily receives and safeguards hiker mail. A few things I've noticed:

* If your box/parcel weighs more than 3 pounds, it may well be cheaper to send it UPS rather than US Mail
* If you DO send it UPS, or if someone else does, BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that it's addressed correctly: Remember that UPS parcels CANNOT go to a post office or be sent "General Delivery". They must be sent to a business or residence with a real address, and not a Post Office Box address
*We've received several boxes that were sent UPS but addressed "C/O General Delivery, Hot Springs, NC" The post office notified us, we collected the boxes, and happily re-united them with their owners. If you ever get to a Post Office and discover that your mail isn't there, be aware that in many trail towns, UPS packages addressed "General Delivery" may be re-routed to the nearest UPS service provider, in most cases, an Outfitter or perhaps a hostel or hotel.
*On ALL hiker mail/parcels, make sure the recipient's real name is on the package; make sure there's a return address; make sure you put on an "ETA date"; make sure all labels are secure (it's best to have plastic wrapping tape placed over them); if your address is handwritten, make sure it's legible. Double-check your Zip Code or the box might go missing. You might also want to clearly state on the box "Please hold for A.T. Hiker" as some places have separate places for thru-hiker mail.
*Be aware of pertinent (and many new) rules/regulations regarding what can be shipped/mailed, and what cannot. Breaking these rules, either intentionally or accidentally can result in large fines. This especially applies to stoves, fuel bottles, cannisters, etc. If you are unsure of whether or not an item can be sent, ask first.
*Some places will provide you with boxes, labels, tape, etc. Many expect you to bring your own. Some places charge for these materials. Be aware that these items cost money, and providing these items for hundreds of hikers a year can be expensive; if you're ever asked to help pay for your packaging items, don't gut huffy about it.
*Keep a list of your expected maildrops with you; this will prevent you from going to a post office and requesting mail that doesn't exist (believe me, it happens!) You should also keep track of which drops/parcels merely contain food, and which contain vital stuff---maps, medications, eyeglasses, new Credit Cards, Traveller's Checks, etc. This way, if you have to "blow off" or re-route a parcel, you'lll know exactly what you'll be sending elsewhere or doing without. Very frequently, if hikers arrive in a town over the weekend, they'll blow off a maildrop and buy food in town, rather than wait 2 days til the P.O. re-opens. You obviously don't want to do this if there's something important in that box; therefore, it's important you always have a rough idea of which box contains indispensable stuff, and which ones don't.
*Always have good photo I.D. with you when you collect mail; some places are strict about this; this is for YOUR protection.
*Likewise, some places will turn over mail to friends, relatives, etc. if you can't get there to pick them up yourself, but some will not, especially US Post Offices. Be polite if this happens; they are merely obeying rules and regulations that were put in place for YOUR safety and security; they want to make sure mail gets delivered to the right person
*Lastly, try whenever possible to send mail/parcels to NON post-office addresses, (outfitters, motels, hostels, etc.) as these places are open 7 days a week, and you don't have to worry if you arrive in town on a weekend or holiday.

Hammock Hanger
07-09-2004, 12:29
Ouch!!! I just wasted a few bucks. Since I had destroyed my 2002 Thru-hiker Handbook I used my old 2001 book when checking for hostels that accept maildrops. Bad idea. The Hiker Paradise in Gorham does not accept maildrops. Unfortunately that was one of my important ones as it had the stuff I did not want to carry thru the Whites. Now I have to re-ship it to the post office.

So remember, use CURRENT sources of info and check with the facility even if the book say they do, in case there has been a change in policy.

My fault for not doing the above. SO now I can kick myself all the way back to the PO where I will have to pay for Priority. Sue/HH

07-09-2004, 13:02
used boxes with logos and markings??

the next time the cashier at your supermarket says "paper or plastic?"
say PAPER...use this brown paper (inside out) to wrap your box...