View Full Version : About Mail Drop Boxes

11-06-2002, 20:34
Usually, how big is a maildrop box for 1 person for a 5 day supply? I would like to know the dimensions any of you used as well as usual weight and shipping cost? When using the bounce box concept, how many days should be allowd for delivery. I expect to be using Priority Post.

Hammock Hanger
11-06-2002, 21:12
My first year out I had a maildrop every 5-7 days!! I hardly ever did any local food shopping. -- Second year out I only got maildrops when I knew I would be in an area with little chance of local re-supply.

We mainly used priority mail, most times it was only a few cents higher then regualar postage. I will say I never got to a PO when my package hadn't arrived.

For a 5-7 day resupply of food, tolitries, film, etc weres usually packaged in a 12x15x2 Priorty Mail box. Found in most PO lobbies for free. My husband says that when I was in the south the fee was less and increased as I moved north. (He was mailing from FL) He says the average cost was close to $12.00.

The sad thing is that there were times the first year out that I would put more then half in a hiker box. A lot of money down the drain.

Not that you asked but I thought I would put in my extra 2 cents and let you know I spent way less the second time out. I bought locally, didn't need to put stuff in hiker boxes or pay postage. (I still used maildrops just cut it down by 2/3rds.) Hammock Hanger

The Weasel
11-06-2002, 21:30
Don't use priority mail, it's a waste. Use parcel post, and ship 2-3 weeks before you plan on starting, covering your first 30-45 days of trekking, with you home shipper doing follow up mailings. Parcel post was a lot cheaper and worked fine for me.

Hammock Hanger
11-06-2002, 22:31
you are right on schedule and don't want any changes.

Jed only paid .50 to 1.00 over regular mail at any given time and sometimes less. I always had my mail within 3 days and could make changes and stuff...


11-07-2002, 08:09
I'd have to disagree with The Weasel when he says Priority Mail is a waste. Yes, it is slightly more expensive than Parcel Post. However, it will allow your ground control person to ship packages closer to the date you'll need them. They can throw in anything extra you might need instead of having to ship a second package. Also, if you need to bounce a mail drop up the trail, you don't pay extra if the box was shipped Priority (as long as the box hasn't been opened). If you shipped it Parcel Post, you will pay to bounce it. Finally, if you ship Priority Mail, you can get all your boxes, tape, shipping labels for FREE from the Postal Services website. That alone makes up any difference in price between the two.

11-07-2002, 08:49
Which towns make the most sense for mail-drop resupply?

11-07-2002, 10:15
For those of you who (like me) have difficulty with measurements, I used boxes about the size of a Sam Adams 12 pack box for my resupplies. Depending on how many zones you have to ship across, parcel post may make sense. For me, shipping from Illinois to the south, each mail drop cost in the $10-15 range. I had 3 maildrops from Springer to Damascus: Walasi-Yi, Fontana, and Erwin. In retrospect, I would only send a maildrop to Fontana and even that isn't all that necessary. It was nice, though, to get good, homemade dinners, jerky, and dried fruit.

Below is what worked for me, walking at a pace which is comfortable for me. You may go faster or slower. I was walking in May, which has lots of daylight and hence makes for easier, longer days. I don't think you really have to maildrop in the south, except for perhaps Fontana. NOC (Wesser) has pretty minimal supplies, but it is only a day and a half walk to Fontana and you won't want to carry provisions for the Smokys over Cheoah. You can easily pick up enough for the walk to Fontana, where you can pick up a maildrop. I resupplied first at Walasi-Yi, which got me to NOC. After the Smokys, it is another day and a half to Hot Springs, where you don't need a maildrop at all. From Hot Springs, it is about 4 days to Erwin. You certainly don't need a maildrop here either. From Erwin, it is another 6 days or so to Damascus, but you can stop by Kincora (I wish I had), where the hostel people will help you get a few provisions for the walk to Damascus. Or, you can hitch into Hampton from Watuga Lake (2 days before Damascus).

SGT Rock
11-07-2002, 11:40
A few people on the net have helped shape how I decide to resupply. A couple of articles are excellent for giving some guidance over and above a list of post offices and towns in a thru-hiking guide:

http://www.newsushi.net/at_resupply.html. I like Howie because in a lot of ways we have a similar hiking style, except I think he had too many zero days for my taste.

http://www.trailquest.net/atresupply.html. Although it has been out there a while, I just found out about this one from this board (cool eh?) and consider it a lot better than "just the facts". It is from Jack with multiple recent hikes as a frame of reference.

So I'm planneing a few real mail drops, a couple of gear mail drops, and the rest will just be maps and jerky.

11-07-2002, 12:13
Why not use a bounce box for maps, etc? It should be alot cheaper than maildrops from LA. Of course, this doesn't get you jerky, but you could also put a month or two supply of jerky in the box and just get two or three resupplies of jerky during your trip.

11-07-2002, 12:34
i pretty much agree with chris and jack's resupply notes. however, my plans for 2003 are to not plan food maildrops at all, at least up to harpers ferry. in 2000, i found my boxes could have gone directly into hiker boxes as everything i needed or wanted was available in nearby towns or stores (where i would go anyway) at about the times i needed. of course my diet on the trail was extremely simple. gorp, noodles, jerky, powdered milk, snickers, crackers, etc.

btw - a great place to get very sturdy boxes is in dumpsters behind liquor stores. however, the size is more suited to resupply 2 hikers.

SGT Rock
11-07-2002, 16:56

Actually I have thought of putting the maps in the box and forgoing almost any mail drops. My conncern is making the bounce box into a monster. So far I've planned a towel, soap, shampo, some town clothing, a knife shapener, tape, extra paper for journals, maybe some perscription meds, envelopes and stamps, planning guide sections, some spare lithium batteries, and some extra zip lock bags.

Another hope is with a mail drop scheduel family and friends can send the non-hiker stuff like cookies and brownies :D

11-07-2002, 23:33
As far as the cost goes you can get all of the addresses from WF's book (and I think the data book however I am not sure on that) then go to http://www.usps.com/

The postal service uses two methods to determine the cost of a package. Weight and distance, weight is obvious then distance is determined by zone which is determined by the first three numbers of your zip code. The postal service site has zone calculaters and rate charts. Should be pretty easy to use once you figure out what is going into your boxes.

On a slightly different matter I have heard many hikers complain they got sick of most of their maildrops in short order. I thought that maybe doing themed maildrops might help mix things up. For example; Mexican - Tortillas, hot sauce, rice and beans, Chinese- fried noodles, soysauce, extra rice. And so on. So what did everyone put in their maildrop? Days of food, gear, treats etc..

11-08-2002, 08:49
Foodwise, I had about 2/3 homemade stuff, 1/3 store bought goodies. For example, some homedried Bengali Red Lentils alongside store bought pasta with packet sauce and a can of chicken. Jerky, dried kiwis, Hudson Bay Bread (breakfast), etc. Also, stuff I could easily buy in stores: Instant potatoes, stuffing, gravy. Fancy Ramen noodles. I tried to include a treat in each of my three maildrops. In the Fontana one, for example, I had a bottle of George Dickel transfered into a plastic flask. I was pretty popular in the Smokys.

Jack Tarlin
11-08-2002, 16:26
There really aren't that many places where a maildrop is "required", but there are certainly several where it's probably a good idea:

1. Fontana Dam The little store by the Post office in Fontana Village is poorly stocked, pricey, and will most likely be out of most of what you need, especially if 14 other hikers have hit the place the day you get there. A maildrop here is an excellent idea; you can get by with a small one if you're gonna leave the national Park in the middle and go into Gatlinburg, or you'll need a fat maildrop if you're gonna go all the way to Mountain Momma's or Standing Bear hostel

2. Harper's Ferry A maildrop here (either at the P.O.or the A.T. Office is probably a good idea, as re-supply in the immediate area is a problem. The only stores to speak of are the Camp Store at the KOA campground or the 7-11, and they're both a LONG way from the Trail. The Outfitter in town has a small selection of things, and Bear's Den Hostel BEFORE you get to town has a good, if small selection of stuff, but if you want a real market you have to get a ride or bus to nearby Charles Town which has complete services.

3. Port Clinton, PA. One can hitch (or catch a ride from a friendly local) to nearby Hamburg, but I think a 2-3 day maildrop here is probably a good idea. There is NOWHERE in town to get anything, unless the little outfitter in town has started to carry stuff.

4. Same goes for Bear Mountain, NY. A small drop here is a good idea.

5. Shopping from here North is the way to go, there's a zillion places to get food. One possible exception is Caratunk, ME., where you can get mail at the P.O., but the General store has closed. However, Steve Longley (for many years the Kennebec river ferryman) has an EXCELLENT hiker selection at his place, Rivers and Trails, and I suggest you go there. The folks at the B&B in Caratunk itself will do shuttle runs for guests; I'm not sure what they charge.

6. For more info on this, you might want to check out my extended resupply post on the TrailQuest website, I thing Sgt. Rock provided the complete address above. I intend to update and amend this post with appropriate additions/comments soon, and will post the 2002 update here.

11-08-2002, 18:10
Well, well. Lightning seems to have struck twice. Jack and I are in agreement on something. I'd definitely maildrop at Fontana. A friend (Daddymention) planned to resupply out of the store. He ended up carrying a sack of hotdog buns spread with peanut butter as his main eats across the Smokys. They didn't even have bread. No bagels either. Tortillas? Nope. Perhaps they were just low when we went through. He wound up getting a lift into Gatlinburg for an actual resupply and to get out of a freak May ice storm.