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  1. #1
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Default The Logistics of Mail Drops on AT Thru Hike

    Almost all AT thru hikers just resupply along the way of course but it is possible to resupply via mail drops if that's your preference. Here's what I did. First I had a lovely wife who would fill my box with my backpacking food and then usually would use USPS priority mail boxes ($23 per large box, $17 per medium box) and mail them to me. It would usually take 3-4 days for it to arrive and she would follow the instructions of the place she was sending it to and send it so it arrived a few days before I arrived (sometimes a hostel, sometimes just post office general delivery). I had the addresses and what I wanted all written out for her and then just communicated with her if I wanted to change anything up.

    At first each box had 5 days of food but then after I switched to my cold weather gear I could only really easily fit 3 days of food in my backpack. A typical 5 day box would have:
    4 granolas (3/4 granola and 3T of dry milk) (on trail I'd add my instant coffee to it and cold water and it was my favorite breakfast)
    1 either MH eggs breakfast or 2 packets of instant oatmeal (just to mix things up)
    4 packets of instant coffee
    1 instant refried beans and instant rice dinner (a cup of each, just add hot water and easy to make and my favorite backpacking dinner)
    1 stuffing, craisons and chicken pouch dinner
    1 mashed potatoes with dry milk, garlic powder, minced onion and pepper and a pouch of bacon
    1-2 other dinners (examples: chilimac, ramen tuna noodler, couscous with taco seasoning and a chicken pouch, a mountain house dinner etc.)
    and various snack items to fill in the box (electrolyte packets, raisons, banana chips, peanuts, pistachios, clif bars, trail mix, smart bowl tuna packets and a couple of tortillas, candy etc.)
    (I found it easy to buy snacks along the way but was very happy to have my breakfasts and dinners taken care of so I wouldn't worry if I needed to supplement snacks)
    6-7 pills of the medicine I take, 6-7 vitamins
    5 wet wipe packets (I used one every night in my tent to clean up)
    anything else that I was running low on (tiny toothpaste, hand sanitizer, occasionally a disposable razor or a couple of qtips etc.)
    This worked for me, obviously you do you!

    Here are the places that I used to resupply via mail drops. Please please call or check to confirm they are still open and accepting mail drops before you send. I never had to pay for picking up my box but I was always super polite and tried to stay at or purchase something from where I was picking up (assuming it wasn't a post office general delivery of course). I'll go from north to south even though I was a flip flopper.

    Mile 31 NEELS GAP
    Mountain Crossings, 12471 Gainesville Hwy, Blairsville, GA 30512

    Mile 136 NOC
    Nantahala Outdoor Center, 13077 US 19W, Bryson City, NC 28718

    Mile 164 Fontana
    Fontana Lodge, 300 Woods Road, Fontana Dam, NC 28733

    (Great Smoky Mountains National Park - didn't go into Gatlinburg but you could of course and that might change the places you send to)

    Mile 241 Standing Bear but I think if I were to do it again I would try a different spot here, maybe the Discerning Hiker Hostel

    Mile 275 Hot Springs
    c/o General Delivery, 111 Bridge Street, Hot Springs, NC 28743

    Mile 344 Erwin
    Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel, 151 River Road, Erwin, TN 37650 (my wife actually visited me in Erwin so I didn't actually send a box here)

    Mile 470 Damascus, VA (originally was going to do general delivery but switched to where I was staying instead ie Dancing Bear, there are also lots of hostels here in town too)

    Mile 546 Rural Retreat, VA (originally was going to do Quarter Way Inn in Ceres, VA mile 555 but they were closed for the season when I went thru, loved the Alpaca Farm)
    Long Neck Lair Alpaca Farm, 7530 Lee Highway, Rural Retreat, VA 24368

    Mile 625 Pearisburg, VA
    Woods Hole Hostel, 3696 Sugar Run Road, Pearisburg, VA 24134

    Mile 730 Daleville or Troutville, VA (I used Beech Hill B&B and they were very nice but I might use the Super8 if I were to go again - both very close to the trail)

    Mile 864 Waynesboro, VA (so nice here that post office lets you ring a doorbell and get your package on Saturday if a worker is present)
    c/o General Delivery, 200 S. Wayne Ave, Waynesboro, VA 22980-9998

    Mile 972 Front Royal, VA or mile 1019 Harpers Ferry (I was a flip flopper so didn't send a resupply to either of these spots as I had enough food on me)

    Mile 1067 Cascade, MD
    Zero Day Stay Hostel, 14530 Maryland Ave, Cascade, MD 21719

    Mile 1124 Boiling Springs, PA
    c/o General Delivery, 3 E 1st St., Boiling Springs, PA 17007-9998

    Mile 1219 Port Clinton, PA
    c/o General Delivery, 6 Broad St., Port Clinton, PA 19549-9800

    Mile 1296 Delaware Water Gap, PA (my wife picked me up near here so sklpped this resupply point too)

    Mile 1338 High Point, NJ (again very nice here and even offered to put my box in the area that remains open if I wasn't going to make it by closing time)
    High Point State Park HQ, 1480 State route 23, Sussex, NJ 07461

    Mile 1406 Bear Mountain State Park or Mile 1425 Clarence Fahnestock State Park (my hiking partner had a good friend meeting us in this area so I just mailed our box to her)
    Mile 1451 Native Landscapes and Garden Center, NY (see above, didn't send a resupply box here but they seemed very friendly)

    Mile 1496 Falls Village, CT
    c/o General Delivery, 5 Miner St., Falls Village, CT 06031

    Mile 1580 Chesire, MA
    c/o General Delivery, 214 Church St, Cheshire, MA 01225-9998

    Mile 1705 Inn at Long Trail (they require UPS or FedEx, read instructions on their website)
    Inn at Long Trail, 709 US Rte 4, Killington, VT 05751

    Mile 1794 Glencliff, NH (read instructions, different address depending on who is delivering the box)
    Hiker Welcome Hostel, PO Box 25, Glencliff, NH 03238

    Mile 1874 Pinkham Notch (triple check this one, it made me nervous but it did work for me to send a small box here and I was able to get over the Wildcats and Carters)
    AMC Visitor Center, PO Box 298 Gorham, NH 03581

    Mile 1894 Gorham, NH
    c/o General Delivery, 165 Main St, Gorham, NH 03581-9998

    Mile 1972 Rangeley, ME
    c/o General Delivery, 2517 Main St, Rangeley, ME 04970-9998

    Mile 2070 Monson, ME (sent myself more breakfasts and dinners here so I could use Shaw's resupply service to get thru 100 mile wilderness)
    c/o General Delivery, 2 Greenville Rd, Monson, ME 04464-9998

    I tried to pick places I would be walking by or visiting anyway (besides Fontana Dam, Waynesboro, and the last 3, I walked to each pick up spot). I knew from hiking the Long Trail and backpacking the NH 48 basically what my mileage would be and so I knew how much food to send myself and what I liked (I was proud of the fact I would often have it so dialed in I would comfortably walk into town with very little spare food). On the rare occasion I would arrive in a town with say an extra dinner - no worries, I would eat my backpacking dinner as my first dinner before buying a second dinner in town. In this way and by the fact that my wife would buy the granola, instant beans, instance rice, dry milk etc. in bulk - I do think it was a cost effective way to go for me. Every hiker is different though and this is certainly more work for your loved one at home. I'm only sharing what worked for me to try to be helpful, please do what works for you.
    AT Flip Flop (HF to ME, HF to GA) Thru Hike 2023; LT End-to-Ender 2017; NH 48/48 2015-2021; 21 of 159usForests.com

  2. #2
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    Default

    Thanks for posting this, along with your finance summary.

  3. #3
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mfturner View Post
    Thanks for posting this, along with your finance summary.
    You are very welcome! : )
    AT Flip Flop (HF to ME, HF to GA) Thru Hike 2023; LT End-to-Ender 2017; NH 48/48 2015-2021; 21 of 159usForests.com

  4. #4
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    Default

    i never did one food drop on the AT in 5 complete AT hikes. not really needed these days with hikers feeds and Dollar Generals everywhere

  5. #5

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    That is amazing, even more so in light of all the chances for a package to go awry. Definitely a HYOH thing that I didn’t or wouldn’t do, but pretty cool that you could. Appreciated all your posts.

  6. #6
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    In 1800 miles of section hiking, I've sent only one mail drop to the ATC headquarters in Harper's Ferry. While convenient, it's generally easier and more cost effective to resupply along the trail. Most hostels along the trail will provide free rides to the nearest resupply point with stay.

    I could see mail drops being necessary for people who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.

  7. #7

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    First of all thank you for listing the mail drop locations this is the information I was looking for.
    Now I would like to address something from Littlerock

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    In 1800 miles of section hiking, I've sent only one mail drop to the ATC headquarters in Harper's Ferry. While convenient, it's generally easier and more cost effective to resupply along the trail. Most hostels along the trail will provide free rides to the nearest resupply point with stay.

    I could see mail drops being necessary for people who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.
    As far as being cost effective and necessity for me this is different because I have a freeze dryer which gives me far more flexibility on several aspects.

    1. My cost is cut significantly.

    2. Not only can I make actual food and I can pretty much whatever I want (I have heard the store bought ones labeled as diarrhea in a bag by many a hiker)

    3. The amounts of food I put into each container far exceeds the normal store bought ones

    4. The amount of calories in just one of the pouches I put together, is more than 6 of the store bought ones combined.

    5. Because of how I pack, I can literally fit 1 1/2-2 weeks worth of food into 9 Mylar bags, which don't take up much space in my backpack, and only weighs about 7-8 lbs total.

    6. I don't have to worry about it going bad and it also doesn't require a bear canister because interestingly enough believe it or not, animals cannot smell through Mylar.

    7. Since I cook all my food before freeze drying it, I can eat it right out of the bag without having to heat it up.

    This set up allows me to do what I want to do which is remain on the trail longer.

    I just wanted to throw this out there.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_C View Post
    ...

    6. I don't have to worry about it going bad and it also doesn't require a bear canister because interestingly enough believe it or not, animals cannot smell through Mylar.
    ...
    This does not absolve you of using a bear cannister where they are required. The bear may have already raided a trashed mylar bag for instance and you may also have one in your pack.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  9. #9

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    Here are the AT rules on food storage.

    https://appalachiantrail.org/explore...rage%20cables.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    This does not absolve you of using a bear cannister where they are required. The bear may have already raided a trashed mylar bag for instance and you may also have one in your pack.
    What they hell are you even going on about? Who said you don't have to follow rules? All I did was post a benefit to having Mylar bags nothing else. My comment doesn't incinerate anything, nor is it hinting to anything.
    The comment I said has nothing at all to do with anything you just posted. So stop adding unrelated things into taking general statements.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_C View Post
    What they hell are you even going on about? Who said you don't have to follow rules? All I did was post a benefit to having Mylar bags nothing else. My comment doesn't incinerate anything, nor is it hinting to anything.
    The comment I said has nothing at all to do with anything you just posted. So stop adding unrelated things into taking general statements.
    Alligator (a site admin, by the way) explicitly quoted your post where you said your system "doesn't require a bear canister because interestingly enough believe it or not, animals cannot smell through Mylar."

    Perhaps you should reconsider your attack?

  12. #12

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    I’m not sure I would thru hike with a 10 to 14 day food carry. I guess I could try. But, yeesh.

    I want to say that animals can absolutely smell everything, but I guess I won’t.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_C View Post
    What they hell are you even going on about? Who said you don't have to follow rules? All I did was post a benefit to having Mylar bags nothing else. My comment doesn't incinerate anything, nor is it hinting to anything.
    The comment I said has nothing at all to do with anything you just posted. So stop adding unrelated things into taking general statements.
    I'm not even sure you understand the words you are writing. You said using mylar bags would not require a bear cannister because the animals can't smell the food. I isolated your statement in the quote. If that's not what you meant to write, please clarify. I also suggest you check your tone.

    I did not mention incineration. I suggested that a bear could smell an opened mylar bag in your trash bag.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  14. #14

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    Given the average bear has olfactory senses approximately 7x that of a bloodhound, translating to 2,100 times more sensitive than a human, there is not much that escapes them smell-wise nor much that a bear won't come to investigate. Crumbs from the contents of a plastic or mylar bag, the fragrance of light greasy fingerprints from handling the bag are all that are needed to make a bear curious.

    There is really no means of making food odorless and preventing a bear from smelling food on pants, gloves, shirt, pockets, or carried in a backpack. Mylar bags may reduce the scent below the average dog's ability to detect, but that still leaves the bear with ample sensitivity to food scent. The more habituated a bear is, the higher the chance they will not be deterred by human presence and will come to see what goodies you may have.

    Bear canisters are not designed to eliminate food scent, but to be frustratingly difficult for a bear to get into, who get bored with the process and move on to other things like backpacks to rummage through. I expect there will be more sections of AT that will require the use of these devices, not to protect back packers or their food, but to protect the bears.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the helpful info.
    Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.

    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  16. #16
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wren again View Post
    Thanks for the helpful info.
    You are also very welcome!

    And for those that prefer to resupply on the go instead of mail drops - you do you! I wasn't trying to persuade anyone and I know its the conventional wisdom that resupplying as you go is better. This worked for me, I really enjoy my backpacking breakfasts and dinners and it would have been difficult for me to duplicate them on the go. Also the few times I supplemented at grocery stores, some were small and limited and didn't even put prices on the items and it just seemed like this was cost effective for me. I concede though that I didn't do a careful cost comparison and I also think it really depends on what kind of things you eat. My trail name was Logistics so the extra planning required to do mail drops not only didn't bother me but was part of the fun. : )

    So whether your personal preference is to resupply on the go or with mail drops, I wish all of you on whiteblaze a Happy Thanksgiving and happy hiking!
    AT Flip Flop (HF to ME, HF to GA) Thru Hike 2023; LT End-to-Ender 2017; NH 48/48 2015-2021; 21 of 159usForests.com

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