View Full Version : to use mail drops for food or shop in stores

12-28-2002, 14:42
I've been planning to use maildrops for food but lately I've had some people say they recomend not to do it. I am aware of the fact that it will be more resricting to use them but the thing I'm more worried about is not wanting to eat the stuff I've packed. I've heard this is a common problem...is it? I am in Canada so I don't know if it which way will be less expensive but that is a consideration. I am a vegetarian and also like to eat fairly well on the trail. I eat my share of Ramen but don't want to be restricted to mostly that. I dehydrate a lot of my own meals....weight is also of course a consideration....what do you guys think?

12-28-2002, 16:25
Here's my suggestion. At the top of this page find the Site Navigation bar. Click the down arrow and select AT Articles. Find the article on Resupply advice by Baltimore Jack. This is the best thought out and articulated pieces I've seen. Jack gives you both pros and cons for mail or local resupply at just about every point on the trail.

12-28-2002, 18:10

I also dehydrated a lot of my food and I used about 20 maildrops during my hike. It depends on each individual and how or what they want to do during their hike. I would probably use the maildrops again and in fact I have used them for section hikes since. I personally had no problem with the post office. The guide book I used had the post office hours and I never found it to be a problem timing it to be there during the hours of operation. I am not sure if it is much cheaper using the PO in fact it may be a little more expensive. I did like having the advantage of knowing what I would be getting and also if I needed something extra I would call home and have it included. I was not limited to whatever was available at the local stores along the way. I did purchase quite a bit along with what was in the mail drops, so I quess I took advantage of both ways of doing it. I think most people that had problems with the PO was if they were hiking with someone, or wanted to stay in a group then they would have to go that particular town or PO. Where as their partners at the time, did not have to go into that town. At any rate, I would suggest that you try the maildrops for a week or two and if you decided they were not for you, then tell your person at home to not send them anymore. Just my 2 cents... They worked well for me, but may not be for everyone. Hope this helps and Happy Trails........ Ed

Blue Jay
12-28-2002, 19:09
Moose is correct, Baltimore Jacks info is the best. I thought I knew everything and his advise taught me a lot. My humble opinion is that if you have the money send mail drops to PO's on or very close to the trail, with food and items that you like but are hard to find. Homemade dehydrated fruits and vegetables, health food like TVP, paperback books, sex toys (sorry forget that last one). Then if you get sick of the stuff you sent yourself you can always give it away. You will make many, many wonderful thruhiker friends very very happy. The trail majic will flow directly into you.

12-29-2002, 10:55
First, I'm not sure that mail drops actually save money. Postage gets expensive.

Second, hiker boxes are full of food that people thought they were going to want, but when the time came, for what ever reason, figured out that they really wanted something else.

So, my advice to "offshegoes" is to first set some criteria for what her diet is going to be, and then review the data, including Baltimore Jack's. Then make some decisions.

General advice is to minimize maildrops. However, if you have special dietary needs, it may limit the number of choices for an alternate resupply.

"Normal" hiker fare is usually available so that you only need a few mail drops. Certainly had I know that some of these small places stocked the "basics" then I could have gotten by with less. Such places include Carratunk B&B, and Laurel Creek Campground near Hampton, TN.

Isn't normal hiker fare bascially vegitarian anyway? Ramen, Liptons, oatmeal, peanut butter, etc? No meat in that.

12-29-2002, 15:47
I know sending the mail drops is pretty expensive. What I meant was more about buying groceries in the U.S. or in Canada. I know that things are a lot cheaper there (lived in GA. for a year and a half) But I don't know if the sad state of our dollar would negate the savings.

SGT Rock
12-29-2002, 15:53
I think the postage rate and the lack of desire for the same foods after a month on the trail would negate any choices you make now anyway. Anyway, that is just my opinion.

12-29-2002, 17:51
I had only 4 mail drops (with food) sent to me. After that I had one more sent to me that had extra supplies and few boxes of the Girl Scout cookies I had planned for a special treat. Then I bounced those up the trail.

I won't be using mail drops this year. If there is an area that doesn't have a decent spot for resupply (such as Fontana Village) I will prepare a box and send it ahead.

For me it was a pain to have the mail drops because the person that was in charge of sending them (my mom) was hoping that I would stop hiking. Because of that, I would get to a town where I was supposed to have a mail drop, and it wouldn't be there. I would find out later that she was sending them a couple of days before I was supposed to get to a town. It was a pain.

If you do have mail drops, make sure you trust the person to send them on time.

(Peaks- one thing about eating a vegitarian (or vegan) fare is that it doesn't have any animal products at all. Most Ramen and Liptons have chicken or beef bullion as a base.)

12-30-2002, 11:32
I have read Baltimore Jacks mail drop info and I will use his recommendation on my 03 hike, however, it appeared from reading the report that Jack would often go 70+ miles before resupply. I am under the impression most thru hikers resupply as often as possible to keep weight down. I personally would like to resupply every 40-60 miles, if possible and will use the mail drops that Jack recommended. However, I am not a big fan of mail drops and will buy most of my foods along the trail. Would be interested to know how many miles most hikers go between resupply. Another reason to go to town more ofter, I am under the impression that hiker trail food basically allows you to survive until the next town; the town being where you load up for the next section of trail. Weight considerations don't allow you to carry enough food for a good diet.

12-30-2002, 19:12

Here's where planning your own hike comes in. One first step is to figure out some criteria for your hike and write them down.

If you want to resupply often, then be prepared to hitch often.

If you are willing to carry more, then you don't need to go off the trail for resupply as often.

How often do you want creature comforts like a hot shower?

Some resupply as often as possible, and others do not. If you rely on stores, then you can figure out things as you go along. If you rely on mail drops, then you can have them forwarded.

Myself, it varied. Sometimes the trail goes through or very close to towns such that you only need a few days of food. Then there is Maine, where towns are a long way off the trail, so I carried more days worth of food.

12-31-2002, 14:55
Peter - I'll go with Peaks on this one. Jack's list gives you info on just about every available place you can buy food or get a mail drop. You don't have to use them all. I stopped anywhere from 3 days to 10 days. Most of the time it was every 5 - 6 days. Only did one 10 day stretch and I will NEVER do it again!!

Decide what it is you want to do. If you like spending time and money in town, you can stop more often. If you like to hike and be on the trail. Stretch out your stops. After a month or so on the trail, it will all seem second nature to you.

Jack Tarlin
12-31-2002, 15:18
Unless you're hurt or slow, there's virtually nowhere on the Trail that you'll ever have to carry more than a week's worth of supplies, and usually, it's much less (2-5 days worth most of the time). Also, if you're thinking "Gee, 60-70 miles between re-supply points seems like a lot!", keep in mind that except at the beginning and end (like Maine), you're going to doing a lot better than 12 miles a day; most folks consistently due 14-18 per day for a great deal of the trail, which means that you'll cover those 70 mile stretches in well under 5 days.

In other words, if you ever find yourself carrying MORE than a week's worth of stuff, you probably don't need to, and may want to consider sending half of it ahead....likewise, when planning maildrops, if you start putting together really enormous ones, remember that it's probably unnecessary except in a very few places; there are more places than you think there are to buy food en route, and unless you're on a special or restricted diet, or plan on using extensive pre-prepared dehydrated stuff, most "food" maildrops aren't really necessary; all too often, people discover that they've sent themselves too much stuff, and end up giving a great deal of it away, thus wasting money spent on shopping AND postage. Also, they discover that they've grown sick of a lot of their maildrop "staples" like Ramens or Lipton's. A lotta folks end up HATING their food but they've no choice as they've prepared and mailed 6 months worth of stuff so they're stuck with it; one advantage to buying most of your food en route is that you don't end up stuck with stuff you can no longer stand, you have more options to put some variety in your meals, and you may well get ideas from what other folks are eating.

My first hike was about 75%/25% with most of my food coming thru the mail. Now that I know better those figures are essentially reversed.

12-31-2002, 17:03
Planning a Thru-hike can be a challenge. But, the way I did it, it was one step at a time.

When it came to resupply, (either store or mail drop), here is what I did:

I looked at my baseline schedule and highlighted the "obvious" resupply points. Places like Hanover, where you go right through town and there are both supermarkets and post office. Then I highlighted other "no-brainers", like Glencliff post office before starting up into the White Mountains.

Then I looked at the number of days between the obvious and no-brainers. If it looked like too many days between resupply points, then I reread the ALDHA Companion or Wingfoot and listed what the options were. For example, in Maine, resupply options include Andover, Rangely, Stratton, and Carratunk before Munson. My choice was to skip Andover and Stratton and resupply in Rangely and Carratunk. Others made different choices.

Once on the trail, and unless you depend on a mail drop, you can make say the decision about Andover when you buy food in Gorham.

Bandana Man
12-31-2002, 20:32
Hi offshegoes,
Is someone sending your mail drops from Canada, or will it be someone in the States? My limited experience with the Canadian postal service is that mail takes FOREVER to get to the US border before the US postal service handles it. Letters and postcards from Toronto took anywhere from 7 to 10 business days just to get to Buffalo. Then from Buffalo to my home in Florida, it took only 2 days. Can't imagine how slow it would be to send a big package. I'm guessing you probably are already aware of this since you lived in GA, but just in case, thought I'd mention it...
Good luck on your planning and your hike

01-06-2003, 02:14
The availability of Vegetarian food in the south sucks. Everything you find will have some kind of meat or gelatin product in it. I bought all my food along the way (got off the trail at 700miles) but I plan to make a few tactical maildrops in '03. Get some veg bullion for your Ramen, even the ones that don't list beef or chicken have it(natural flavors can mean anything) I tried going Vegan as possible but broke down and got dairy products, what the hay, pop tarts aren't vegan anyway!

01-06-2003, 14:07
Thanks everyone for your advice. I have modified my plans to include around 10 or so mail drops (not done deciding for sure about some places) and doing the rest of my shopping along the way. One thing I don't get is why people think that they're going to enjoy eating the same things over and over again? I mean I guess the buying in bulk thing is enticing but who would eat the same things over and over at home...why would it be a good idea on the trail? I am a little obsessed with trail food and really enjoy the prep at home and cooking on the trail so I figure I'll be looking forward to my food drops when I get them for all of the goodies that are in there! Anyways thanks again for your help, I'm really loving this forum!

01-06-2003, 15:27
I ran base-camp for my son's thru hike..the initial plan was to do high volume mail drops but this quickly changed for all the reasons suggested above...Most of his supplies came from purchase along the trail but we did supplement hard to find or expensive items by mail drops..For example, I would resupply his spice kit in .5 to 1 ounce increments via the mail...spices are sometimes hard to find and expensive when you buy the over packaged bottles on the shelf...much better to buy a quanity at a health food store and dole them out a little at a time.. In additon, things like this are very small and can be mailed cheaply. We also continued to supply some staples (pasta, rice, etc) via maildrops. Still, the bulk of his rations were purchased along the way....

01-06-2003, 17:39
Originally posted by offshegoes
One thing I don't get is why people think that they're going to enjoy eating the same things over and over again?

can't speak for anyone else, but at the end of a hard day of hiking, i usually care less what i eat. too tired to care! it must be quick, easy to cook and require minimum cleanup. therefore liptons, raman, etc. fills the bill.

i enjoy eating in towns with the variety they offer. on the trail, i eat because i need the calories, nothing more! i've seen lots of hikers begin the trail cooking all manner of food. a month later, they're like me and only eat because they have to.

01-06-2003, 18:00
HAd to laugh at the fact that your Mom "accidentally" forgot to send the boxes. My Mom was great and she did want us to finish. She did, however, want grandchildren and threatened to "forget" to include my wifes BC pills. Luckily it was onlya threat. We convinced her that Pinball's nutritional state was not adequate for child rearing anyhow.

Kozmic Zian
02-25-2004, 17:57
Yea....For Those Hiking in '04. Again, as I've tried to say before, Just remember, you're only going to the next town....before you resupply. In other words, when you start out, only carry enough food 'till you get to Hiawassee (for example). On my Thruy, I bought all of my food in towns and most of the other Thru-Hikers did also. Most of the Mail (food) droppers could'nt give that stuff away fast enough. Every hostel going to Maine had a huge box full of Hiker give-a-way food stuffs. You could almost go all the way and never have to buy any food....hell, some guys do. What happens, is like the others have stated, you get tired of the 'Trail Food Blues' and want something different. I just buy whatevers the best and lightest to carry. It varies from store to store, but after a while you develope method to the madness. I generally found the same things I liked to carry in most of the grocery type stores. Some of the quickie type markets you run into have a limited choice, but you learn to sacrifice your taste as well as your body in order to do this thing we call ...... Hiking. Best to All leaving in '[email protected]

Matt Pincham
02-26-2004, 07:09
For me, coming from the UK, maildrops really aren't a choice as it would be far too expensive and difficult to plan.

One concern I have is getting my initial supply of food as I don't think the Airlines allow you to take many kinds of food into other countries.

I'll be staying at PROFILE's lodge in Dahlonega so hope it's not in the middle of nowhere!

02-26-2004, 08:38
For me, coming from the UK, maildrops really aren't a choice as it would be far too expensive and difficult to plan.

One concern I have is getting my initial supply of food as I don't think the Airlines allow you to take many kinds of food into other countries.

I'll be staying at PROFILE's lodge in Dahlonega so hope it's not in the middle of nowhere!

Actually, I don't think there will be any resupply options within walking distance of the Hiker Hostel. However, they will probably pick you up at the MARTA train station and you will pass some grocery stores on the ride to the hostel. Let them know that you need to make a resupply stop.


Kozmic Zian
02-26-2004, 12:41
Actually, I don't think there will be any resupply options within walking distance of the Hiker Hostel. However, they will probably pick you up at the MARTA train station and you will pass some grocery stores on the ride to the hostel. Let them know that you need to make a resupply stop.

YoungbloodThere are stores for supply right in Dahlonaga, or Gainsville. Just have to find them. Lots on the road out of Gainsville towards Dahlonaga. KZ