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  1. #1
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    Question Timing of Early Resupply to meet Demand?

    Having followed the Vlogs of many Thru Hikers over the past couple of years, it seemed that the Early Birds were faster than the resupply worm providers. These early Hikers suggest drops at Nealís Gap, the Noc, Fontana Village and possibly Standing Bear (if avoiding Touristburg in Gsmnp). So my question is, What Date does Supply meet demand to avoid these drops?

    I am am hoping that it follows the March 3-4 Weekend kick off bubble and that I can avoid the need for drops with a March 15th launch date; thus avoiding this item from my things left to do list. Any help or suggestions appreciated.
    "gbolt" on the Trail

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  2. #2

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    Other then showing up at Springer with 3 days of food, I get everything I need along the way. You pay a little premium for food at places like Neel Gap, NOC, Fontana village and Standing Bear, but that's the price for convenience and not having worry about getting packages in the mail.

    At Neel Gap you only need a 2-3 days of food to get to Hiawassee. At NOC you only need 2-3 days of food to get to Fontana Village. At Fontana village you only need 5 days of food to get through the GSMNP. At Standing Bear, you only need 2 days of food to get to Hot Springs.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3

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    It's difficult to plan resupply early in the trip. I only sent boxes to places that I knew I wanted to stay, particularly scenic, or well reviewed places. I also only sent items that I didn't think I could find at stores along the way consistently. Rather than sending whole meals, I sent bags of dehydrated veggies, tiny portions of spices, my favorite brand of crackers (Dr. Krakker), and things that weren't easy to buy in small portions (like olive oil.) I did send a few whole home dehydrated meals, but only as a delicious treat. That was my plan.

    In practice, I far overestimated the amount of food needed in the first few weeks. The hiker hunger hadn't kicked in, and I wasn't even eating my normal amounts of food, after working all day. My digestion was a bit confused with all the healthy exercise, I walked into Neel's Gap with two extra days of food.


    It's really doubtful you'll save money after paying the shipping expenses. I had a family member helping me out. I pre-addressed six boxes total, and ten days before I was due to arrive at Hot Springs for example, I asked her to put the box in the the mail to Elmer's.

    Again, in practice, when the boxes arrived, I might or might not need the contents of that box. I made some friends by sharing out the goodies, so the getting a present element was kind of fun. A lot of the "difficult to portion" items, I found in hiker boxes, or shared among other hikers. Someone would buy a bottle of olive oil, fill their container, pass it around, and put the rest in the hiker box.

    On my next thru attempt or section, I'll probably do something similar, it wasn't perfect, but it was enjoyable getting the "present" boxes. I'd just hate to have to rely on them for my main source of nutrition.

  4. #4
    Registered User ScottTrip's Avatar
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    I only sent two packages on my hike. Fontana Dam (Store was closed at that time) and Shaws in Monson (can be very limited). Purchased what I needed as I moved up the trail. It is really difficult to estimate what you need and want to eat much of what people send to themselves end up in hiker box or given away.

  5. #5
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Just another opinion on the mailed-resupply thing, you can indeed save money and on-trail time with mailed food boxes. Buying food in bulk easily offsets the cost of postage vs. buying food on the trail.

    This all assumes you have someone at home to mail your boxes, though you can mail your first few yourself just before you leave.

    Who wants to shop in towns? I want to eat, drink, wash up and sleep. It's so nice to arrive in a town and just relax. Pick up your food box, load it in your pack and go about the way more important business.

    Anyway, all that being said, I really don't follow your question on "early resupply to meet demand". I don't think anything about crowds, timing, bubble, whatever affects your resupply options whatsoever, whether mailing food or buying along the way.

    Just FYI, having done the southern AT twice now, my first resupply was Hiawasee, both times. You can start with, say, 4-5 days of food, get to Neels Gap in 2-3, top off there with a few items to make it to Hiawasee, correcting your carried food based on your speed from Springer to Neels.

    Our next resupply was the NOC, then Fontana, then Standing Bear, Erwin, I forget the next few off the top of my head, etc, etc, it all worked great.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Just another opinion on the mailed-resupply thing, you can indeed save money and on-trail time with mailed food boxes. Buying food in bulk easily offsets the cost of postage vs. buying food on the trail.

    This all assumes you have someone at home to mail your boxes, though you can mail your first few yourself just before you leave.

    ...It's so nice to arrive in a town and just relax. Pick up your food box, load it in your pack and go about the way more important business...
    Agreed. Although I think CR it depends on one's experience and knowing their resupply needs which tends to be more difficult for new hikers/LD hikers.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    It's difficult to plan resupply early in the trip.

    In practice, I far overestimated the amount of food needed in the first few weeks. The hiker hunger hadn't kicked in, and I wasn't even eating my normal amounts of food, after working all day. My digestion was a bit confused with all the healthy exercise, I walked into Neel's Gap with two extra days of food.


    It's really doubtful you'll save money after paying the shipping expenses.


    Again, in practice, when the boxes arrived, I might or might not need the contents of that box.


    I'd just hate to have to rely on them for my main source of nutrition.

    This is typical when learning any new thing. As one gets more experienced knowing one's on trail needs, sending resupply boxes, ...it's my guess you'll have greater reliability on those boxes as your main source of nutrition.


    Since the AT has many new LD hikers it relates to over carrying of food and other stuff and over packing resupply boxes which correlates to an abundance of stuff in hiker boxes.

  8. #8
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Anyway, all that being said, I really don't follow your question on "early resupply to meet demand". I don't think anything about crowds, timing, bubble, whatever affects your resupply options whatsoever, whether mailing food or buying along the way.
    Just FYI, having done the southern AT twice now, my first resupply was Hiawasee, both times. You can start with, say, 4-5 days of food, get to Neels Gap in 2-3, top off there with a few items to make it to Hiawasee, correcting your carried food based on your speed from Springer to Neels..
    To clarify, I know many hikers that started the trail in February and a few in March stated that they had to have Resupply boxes mailed because some places weren’t open yet (Fontana being one), shelves were either bare or last years out of date products with very limited choices, and the Hiker boxes were empty. Again, just wondering when a place like the NOC or Fontana Village shifts from Winter to higher gear Springtime sevices?

    Appreciate, the FYI - Confirms my thinking for the Start.
    "gbolt" on the Trail

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  9. #9
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbolt View Post
    To clarify, I know many hikers that started the trail in February and a few in March stated that they had to have Resupply boxes mailed because some places werenít open yet (Fontana being one), shelves were either bare or last years out of date products with very limited choices, and the Hiker boxes were empty. Again, just wondering when a place like the NOC or Fontana Village shifts from Winter to higher gear Springtime sevices?

    Appreciate, the FYI - Confirms my thinking for the Start.
    Got it, sorry! I should have read closer. Enjoy your AT experience!

  10. #10
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    You'll be fine without drops. However, you may want to take along some sort of vitamin. I don't recall seeing a vegetable until I crossed the Mason Dixon line.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Just another opinion on the mailed-resupply thing, you can indeed save money and on-trail time with mailed food boxes. Buying food in bulk easily offsets the cost of postage vs. buying food on the trail.
    That of course assumes you actually stay on the trail. It seem those who buy the most bulk food are some of the first to leave the trail. Although I suppose for some, it's the incentive to stay on the trail or what else will they do with all that food?

    Hopefully the places which sell food to hikers realize that they have to stock up more then usual to meet the demand. Failure to do so would make them loose money and business. I'm sure Mountain Crossings and Standing Bear keep the pantry well stocked. If you get to Standing Bear real early in the season it might be a good idea to look at the best used by date. NOC is mostly just good for snacks and Mountain House meals. I time it to just need to replenish snacks, which are always in stock.

    But yea, if your timing is bad, it could be a problem. Starting in Jan/Feb, lack of services is just one of the things you have deal with and plan for.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  12. #12
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    But yea, if your timing is bad, it could be a problem. Starting in Jan/Feb, lack of services is just one of the things you have deal with and plan for.

    So those starting after March 1 should be fine as far as these Services are concerned?

    PS. Colorado_rob No worries, my questions sometimes only make sense to me! Lol. Everyone on Whiteblaze has help my planning so much, I can’t help but enjoy the AT experience, hopefully.
    "gbolt" on the Trail

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  13. #13
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    While I haven't thru-hiked, I do complete a 200 plus mile section each year. For my first 700 miles, I purchased food as I went. For this past 200 miles, I had drop boxes.

    Yes, drop boxes feel like Christmas... however, sometimes the timing and location did not work like I had hoped... Either I hiked too fast to took to long... creating issues with making it to the post office during hours. Another time, I didn't need the food and would have preferred to keep going rather than hitch 1.5 miles off the trail to the post office. Another time, a post office was closed for 2 hours in the middle of the day, so I had to wait.

    Yes, picking up food along the way does not always offer the greatest menu... depending on where I stop, but it is much more convenient.

  14. #14
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    Good thing this thread came about because i've been thinking alot about resupply early on the trail. For some time i've been going about food in the usual way until i began reassessing the dealbreaker stretch to Neel Ga. What if instead of hauling it up the approach and over Sassafras and Blood mts, i just carry say, protein bars, coffee, etc and pick up a box at Mountain Crossing and carry on? After that it could be possible to make it to Fontana with that one resupply. Get another box there and through the Smokies.

    By then things should be sorted enough to really be "Game On".

    I just might be getting carried away with this so i'd love to get the opinion from those that had experience with that part of the trail.

  15. #15
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    That of course assumes you actually stay on the trail. It seem those who buy the most bulk food are some of the first to leave the trail. Although I suppose for some, it's the incentive to stay on the trail or what else will they do with all that food?.
    Yep, for less or non-experienced hikers, this can definitely be a problem. However, the food we pack and ship for our long hikes has essentially an infinite shelf life (more like a year or two though, for practical purposes). The nice thing about the USPS flat rate boxes is that if you don't pick them up, they will be shipped back to you at no charge. We stopped short on a 4-week hike last spring, coming home a week early, a few weeks later, voila, our unused food box came back home. Since we are sure we will eventually use the food, no issue.

    For complete newbies, not sure even if they are long-term backpackers, I would definitely not gather 4 months of hiking food into boxes! But compiling a few weeks worth is not a big deal, no big loss if you quite at Neels or Hiawasee, for example.

    Also, yeah, for those who don't have their pace quite dialed in yet, the timing thing can be an issue. Even experienced hikers can miss-time a drop, though I've been pretty lucky so far. We pack "on the low side" for weight/calories in our boxes, no extra. Many little segments of the trail we walk into a town (which has our next box) with little or no food left. That works for us just fine. We won't starve! Only a couple times over many decades of doing this stuff we've had to ration just a tiny little bit, stretching 2.5 days of food into three, for example. no biggie at all.

    Food drops are not for everyone, but I seem to always have to respond when folks claim this method is "more expensive because of the shipping" or "less convenient". It's not, quite the opposite, again, assuming you buy in bulk at home before you go.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by El JP View Post
    Good thing this thread came about because i've been thinking alot about resupply early on the trail. For some time i've been going about food in the usual way until i began reassessing the dealbreaker stretch to Neel Ga. What if instead of hauling it up the approach and over Sassafras and Blood mts, i just carry say, protein bars, coffee, etc and pick up a box at Mountain Crossing and carry on? After that it could be possible to make it to Fontana with that one resupply. Get another box there and through the Smokies.


    By then things should be sorted enough to really be "Game On".

    I just might be getting carried away with this so i'd love to get the opinion from those that had experience with that part of the trail.
    Even if you do the approach trail, if your in any kind of shape it shouldn't take more then 3 nights and a wake up to get to Neel Gap. That's not much food to carry. Why is that a deal breaker stretch? But then some people take 3 days just to get up the approach trail, so who knows.

    Neel to Fontana is like 130 miles, some of it pretty hard. Most people take at least 2 weeks to do that stretch. You want to carry 2 weeks worth of food? That's a deal breaker, especially when you have Hiawassee and Franklin stops in between. You shouldn't have to carry more then 4 days worth of food in this stretch. Unless you crawling on your hands and knees doing 5 miles a day and if that's the case, well good luck.

    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  17. #17
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    Standing Bear is...an interesting place. But hey they sold beer and that made me happy!

    I started March 12th and Fontana was doing good business when I arrived. It is marked up a bit but not enough to make me care to plan a resupply box. I bought some good IPAs there as well.

    I started with too much food (me and most people found ourselves strangely not hungry, initially) and just topped off at Mountain Crossings. That place is an oasis and they had lots of single portions you could buy.

    Nothing in town is too expensive assuming youíre already hiker trash and buying ramen and pasta sides and such. 1.25 instead of a dollar?
    Conversely lots of times in town (especially in the south) you can get it even cheaper than youíre used to because of the almighty dollar stores. The one in Franklin even sold beer, to my amazement.

    I actually enjoyed going to the grocery store when I was in town, so different strokes I guess.

    I just always suggest avoiding maildrops because you have no idea what your appetite will be; both in taste and quantity. I lucked into many a treat because a resupply box was full of things that hiker didnít want and was giving away.


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  18. #18
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    I started from Amicalola on April 7 and hit Neel Gap on the morning of April 9. I did a 2 day resupply at Mountain Crossing. Their shelves were pretty picked over at that time. I couldn't even get ice cream! Maybe things have changed since then.
    More walking, less talking.

  19. #19

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    Gbolt, with a Mar 15 start you should have little to no resupply problems if you follow Slo-go-en's resupply locations either doing a full or supplemental resupply.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Just another opinion on the mailed-resupply thing, you can indeed save money and on-trail time with mailed food boxes. Buying food in bulk easily offsets the cost of postage vs. buying food on the trail.

    This all assumes you have someone at home to mail your boxes, though you can mail your first few yourself just before you leave.

    Who wants to shop in towns? I want to eat, drink, wash up and sleep. It's so nice to arrive in a town and just relax. Pick up your food box, load it in your pack and go about the way more important business.

    Anyway, all that being said, I really don't follow your question on "early resupply to meet demand". I don't think anything about crowds, timing, bubble, whatever affects your resupply options whatsoever, whether mailing food or buying along the way.

    Just FYI, having done the southern AT twice now, my first resupply was Hiawasee, both times. You can start with, say, 4-5 days of food, get to Neels Gap in 2-3, top off there with a few items to make it to Hiawasee, correcting your carried food based on your speed from Springer to Neels.

    Our next resupply was the NOC, then Fontana, then Standing Bear, Erwin, I forget the next few off the top of my head, etc, etc, it all worked great.
    ^^this^^
    We have done full mail drop resupplies for every long trail we've ever done. It takes some dialing in with your food but when I get to town all I have to do is pick up my box, dump it in my food bag and proceed to the restaurants and hotel to relax...I NEVER want to go grocery shopping when I'm in town. I shop at Costco which saves a ton of money and we make high quality dehydrated meals with exactly the ingredients we want. I have a food planner in a trip report in the Long Trail Forum with our food if you're interested. It has the gram weights and cost of each item, along with maildrop priced for me...you can see how much it'll cost to resupply with mail drops. It's spreadsheet style...

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