View Full Version : Speed Hiking Food Drops

08-07-2012, 16:04
I'm in the early stages, possibly even still dreaming phase, of doing the AT next summer (2013) is about 80 days- this is more out of necessity as its the only time I have off in the Summer. Though I firmly believe its possible for me personally.

My question is for those that have done fast and light trips along the AT, how many days food do you typically carry? How did you determine food load with ease of drop locations/mailing points? I'm quite familiar with carrying 3-5 day loads of food during all seasons, and have packed up to 10, but curious what others have done.

08-08-2012, 07:23
If I was going to do what you're attempting I would map out every post office accessible from the trail. Then I would map out every place I could send a re-supply package to (hostels, etc). Then I would map out every place I could buy food and mail it down the trail. Then I would start building an Excel file. Then I would conduct what we call in business school a "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats" analysis.

08-08-2012, 07:27
This may be especially hard to do without outside support. So many post offices are severely reducing their hours that you may find it almost impossible to time it exactly right.

Don H
08-08-2012, 07:32
But there's lots of places to send a drop that's not a post office.

08-15-2012, 01:40
I did the trail in 87 days in 2010. My only food drop was Fontana Dam. I didn't cook so my food needs were pretty basic (poptarts, energybars, cheese, gorp, pb&j), but there are plenty of grocery stores along the way where you can shop for real food.

My biggest carry was probably 120 miles or so (4 days). A lot of people skip a store when it isn't directly on the trail, but walking 3 miles off trail to buy what you need and get a good meal only takes an hour.

My experience was that trying to skip resupply points was counterproductive - you end up carrying extra weight, plus when you are doing 30miles/day, you burn more calories than you can carry, so having an opportunity to chow on a pizza and pint of ice cream every 3 days is crucial to maintaining body weight.

I personally don't recommend using Post Offices. Trying to get the hours right is stressful, especially if you miss the window and have to wait a half day.

The key to a fast hike is to always be moving. Rain or shine. I calculated that cooking would waste 30minutes/day, or almost 3 days overall. It's fun to hang in towns and relax, but every hour is 3 miles you could have done. And no Zeros - 20miles every day (it's only 7 hours of hiking, which leaves plenty of time to do chores in town).


08-15-2012, 02:23
If you have the support team and the money, for some drops you can mail food to the post office and another place. If neither of those works out, or you only want one drop, then you go grocery shopping like most other hikers. Send it priority mail so you can get missed drops forwarded up the trail or sent back home with no further charge. You might be able to pay some trail angels and hostelers to bring your food drop to the trail head to save you even more time.

I don't enjoy carrying more than 5 days of food. I've carried 13 days of food one time. That sucked.

08-15-2012, 08:25
Yeah, I don't think you can rely on mail drops to do a hike that fast.
Even if you send your packages to hostels and places along the trail that accepts them (besides POs), you'd still might be better off buying sometimes.

I'd go for every 3 days. I can carry more but, 3 days seems like a nice load on my back.
Good luck.
Sounds like an adventure.

08-15-2012, 08:53
I loved reading Frisbeefreek's post. That's exactly how I felt on my much slower, but still relatively fast 106-day hike in '08. I can't imagine doing what you guys are doing. I especially agree with the ideas on cooking, on zero days, on skipping resupply towns.

I made it without any food drops. Near Fontana, for instance, I got lucky and got offered a ride into the nearby town of Robbinsville from Stecoah Gap, where there's a full grocery. I bought enough to get to I-40 (well under 100 miles), then bought a day's worth of food from Standing Bear hostel, enough to get to Hot Springs.

I skipped a town or two along the way, like Rangely, ME, where my normal 100-mile, four-day food carry comfortably got me to a good alternative. I got into the 100-mile mode on my Western US hikes, where that's pretty much the norm, and it worked well for me on the AT.

I only stuck out my thumb to hitch two times, once to Manchester Center, VT and once to Andover, ME. Everywhere else I was offered a ride, or successfully yogied one.

Just as important as food is water management. I learned on the AT to often not carry any water at all on my back. I hiked early in a wet year, finished by early July. My feet were often wet from walking in pure Appalachian spring water, so why carry it? I carried one one-liter soda bottle and one two-plus-liter platypus, and only used the platy a couple of times while hiking, but more often for a dry camp.

Best of luck to you--have fun with it.

09-10-2012, 04:31
Carry amount is determined by where you're getting food next and when you'll be getting there.
Minimizing drops will probably be best.

10-21-2012, 03:30
At your pace, I don't think you'll need to carry more than 3.5 days at a time.