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Thread: Bounce Boxes

  1. #1
    GO ILLINI! illininagel's Avatar
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    Default Bounce Boxes

    I'm planning on minimizing mail drops during my thru-hike. But, I do like the idea of forwarding certain items via a bounce box. Would someone be able to respond to the following questions?

    • If the bounce box arrives at its destination before I do, how long will it typically be held waiting for my arrival?
    • If I arrive at my desination before the bounce box does, can I instruct the receiver to forward the box up the trail to my next destination? I could see where this will be necessary as I might arrive at a destination only to find the location closed for the day, or I might arrive earlier than anticipated.


    I guess these same questions would apply to mail drops as well.

    Thanks!

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    Most places that hold hiker mail will hold it for a month (at least), tho there are a few that will only hold stuff for two weeks. It can't hurt to call ahead to these places if you're unsure of their policy.

    You can get a change of address form at any Post Office, so if you need to "bump a box ahead" you simply fill out the form completely, sign it, and leave it at the post office.

    * * * *

    A few more maildrop/bump box suggestions:

    *Always make sure that there's a return address both on the box and IN THE BOX, in case a shipping lable is lost or damaged; this way if a box is lost along the way, or misplaced somehow, it has a better chance of finding its way back to you

    *Check to make sure your addressing and labelling is legible and that TOWN NAMES and ZIP CODES are correct (for example, don't confuse TroutDALE Virginia with TroutVILLE, etc)

    *Keep track of where your boxes are going and also, of what's in em: I once saw a hiker give a postmistress all sorts of grief because his maildrop wasn't there and he was POSITIVE his mom had mailed it out.....turned out she'd mailed it to Bland and not Pearisburg; the guy didn't even HAVE a drop going in Pearisburg! So keep a typed list of your drops so you KNOW where your mail is going to be.
    Keep track of which drops have non-food, important items in them. You might be able to blow off or forget about a small box with only food in it, but if a dropbox has your maps, or medications, or your new credit card, or whatever, you want to make sure that this is a drop that you manage to retrieve, so make sure you always have an idea of what's in each drop.

    * If you have a box "bumped" ahead, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to where you're sending it, and remember that it'll take at least a few days for the box to get to where it needs to be. Don't forget about
    wekends or holidays (Memorial, 4th of July, and Labor Day) which will all slow down mail

    *When possible, use non-post office spots to get your mail, as they're open 7 days a week; the fewer P.O.'s you use, the fewer problems you're likely to have as far as arriving in town on the right day or at the right time. Hiking three consecutive twenty-mile days cuz you have to get to a post office by noon the following Saturday is a real drag.

    *Lastly, priority mail doesn't cost that much more than parecel post, especially over short distances. It absolutely arrives lots faster than regular mail; also, priority mail can be "bumped" or sent elsewhere FOR FREE if it hasn't been opened; with regular parcel post, they can re-charge you for extra shipping.

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Additional suggestions

    Just to suppliment Jack's good advice, if you have a bounce box shipped to someplace other than a post office, just remember that you then need to go to the post office anyway to mail it out again. That could be a challenge in some places such as NOC, or could mean that you stick over the weekend to get it mailed back out again.

    Frankly Jack, rather than do 3 twenty mile days to get to the Post Office before Saturday's closing, I'd rather do 4 fifteen mile days and get there Monday AM. Most people think in terms of hurring up to get to the Post Office. I often think in terms of slowing down and enjoying the trail more.

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    Section Hiker 500 miles smokymtnsteve's Avatar
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    NOC can ship UPS for you ..no need for a PO.
    "I'd rather kill a man than a snake. Not because I love snakes or hate men. It is a question, rather, of proportion." Edward Abbey

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Planning

    Jack alluded to this in his post. As part of my planning here is what I did for mail drops:

    1. I lined up all the boxes on a table in the basement.
    2. I filled the boxes with everything that I thought I wanted at a particular place
    3. I addressed all the shipping labels(with duplicate inside)
    4. All boxes left open. (but ready to seal up)
    5. I made up a list of shipping dates (2 weeks prior to my expected arrival).
    6. I made up a list of the contents of each box, destination, ship date, etc.
    7. As my schedule changed, I would call home and adjust the shipping date.
    8. As my needs changed, I would call home and ask that certain items be taken out or added.

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    More maildrop stuff; a few things I forgot:

    1. When going to retrieve mail, always make sure you have a current photo I.D. with you as there's a good chance you'll be asked for it.

    2. Some places will allow you to pick up someone else's mail or parcels; others will be quite strict about forbidding this. Don't be surprised if they tell you they can't give you someone else's stuff unless it's done officially; i.e. a letter or note by the owner/recipient previously sent to the postmaster, a phone call ahead of time, etc. Some times, a handwritten note from the owner explaining that they can't get to town on time and so-and-so is permitted to pick up their mail will do the trick, but some places are super strict about this.

    3. Be aware of all rules/regulations regarding what can and cannot be sent thru the U.S. Mail; this especially applies to stoves, fuel bottles or cannisters, weapons, etc. Some questionable stuff can be sent if it's clearly labeled "Ground Mail Only"; any Post Office or UPS/FedEx office will answer your questions about what can and cannot be sent.

    4. Be aware that there is a heightened level of security regarding mail.....for obvious reasons, if you're sending yourself stuff like Kool-Aid, powdered milk, etc., double ziplock it; leaky, questionable, or suspicious mail will either not get to you, or will arrive late.

    5. If you send mail to a lodging place (motel, B&B, hiker hostel, etc.) but you don't end up staying there, as a courtesy to them, you should offer them a few dollars for holding your mail; in most cases they won't take your money, but it's a nice gesture; also, be aware that a few places on the Trail that either have limited space or are difficult to get to charge for holding maildrops whether you're staying there or not; these places are listed in the Thru-Hiker's Companion or Thru-Hiker's Handbook.

    6. Don't take for granted that every place on the Trail will accept mail; just about all hostels/campgrounds will, but not all of them, and some motels definitely don't. Check your Companion/Handbook for more info, and if you're still unsure, call the place ahead of time.

    7. A few places on the Trail have hiker boxes all piled up in one place and anyone can go thru the pile and pick out their own box. This is also the case at a few hostels, businesses, outfitters, etc. Most places log stuff in and out, in order to keep track of when stuff arrived, who it's for, and who picks it up....but not every place does this, so really important stuff like replacement ATM cards, traveller's checks, etc., should probably be sent to a U.S. Post Office; I've never heard of anyone's box being stolen from one of these "public access" maildrops (such as at the NOC, or the ATC office in Harper's Ferry), but it could happen. If you're concerned about security for your mail, or are mailing yourself something valuable or difficult to replace, then you're better off sending it to a P.O.

    8. A few places that take maildrops also have small mailboxes for letters, cards, etc. and in many cases, these things are never picked up by the thru-hikers because they don't see or are unaware of the existence of these boxes. The thru-hiker mailbox for the NOC is on the wall by the stairs on the 2nd floor of the main store/outfitters; the mailbox at the ATC office is by the Thru-Hiker table. There's a message board for thru-hikers in the basement of Robinson Hall (The Outing Club building) in Hanover. There are a few other places like this where hikers often overlook their personal mail or messages; this is another reason to always be sure of what is being sent to you and where, so that when you arrive at a certain place, you have a good idea of what should be awaiting you there. If you're expecting important stuff, it's always important that your friends and loved ones have a complete list of the places that you're absolutely planning to stop and check for incoming mail.

    9. Likewise, you should prepare a note for friends and relatives that details HOW one should write to a thru-hiker. In most cases, the letter or parcel should say:

    To: Joe Blow
    c/o General Delivery
    Town, State, Zip

    Please hold for A.T. Thru-Hiker
    Expected ETA: 15 May '04 (or whatever)


    Or if it's not going to a post office, try:

    To: Joe Blow
    c/o XYZ Hostel (or B&B, Outfitter's name, etc.)
    Town, State, Zip

    Please hold......
    Expected ETA......

    In all cases make sure you've included a return address so if overdue or lost, there's a chance the mail will find its way back to either you or the sender.


    8. Lastly, and it shouldn't need to be be said, but a lot of hikers smoke pot, and most of them, at one time or another, get "re-supplied" by mail. All that needs be said about this is that it's obviously as illegal as hell and that anyone that does it should be aware of the consequences.

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    GO ILLINI! illininagel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin
    You can get a change of address form at any Post Office, so if you need to "bump a box ahead" you simply fill out the form completely, sign it, and leave it at the post office.
    Thanks everyone for your comprehensive responses. One last question(s)---and I hope that I didn't miss it in the responses already provided...but, here goes:

    My bounce box is waiting for me in a post office in town. I arrive at the post office only to find out that it's closed---and will be closed the following day, Sunday, as well.

    Can I submit a change of address form at the post office without it being open? Can I submit this form later at a different post office? After all, I don't want to change my permanent address (Chicago, Illinois), I just want this single package forwarded up the trail.

    Thanks again...Glenn

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    Default Bounce Box

    Quote Originally Posted by illininagel
    Thanks everyone for your comprehensive responses. One last question(s)---and I hope that I didn't miss it in the responses already provided...but, here goes:

    My bounce box is waiting for me in a post office in town. I arrive at the post office only to find out that it's closed---and will be closed the following day, Sunday, as well.

    Can I submit a change of address form at the post office without it being open? Can I submit this form later at a different post office? After all, I don't want to change my permanent address (Chicago, Illinois), I just want this single package forwarded up the trail.

    Thanks again...Glenn
    If you can't get to the PO your box is in.....just go to the next PO you can get too, fill out the address change slip and the post office will take care of forwarding the box.
    I didn't use a bounce box on my thru. Too many problems like you describe. I carried everything I needed or purchased what I needed along the way. I did get mail drops to change out winter gear.
    Grampie-N->2001

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    GO ILLINI! illininagel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Fowler
    I didn't use a bounce box on my thru. Too many problems like you describe. I carried everything I needed or purchased what I needed along the way.
    Although it sounded like a good idea at first, I'm now leaning against using a bounce box.

    I thought the bounce box might be necessary during certain town stops so that I would have a towel and toiletries handy. I don't want to carry a towel for showering on the trail. And, I don't want to carry excess supplies of shampoo, toothpaste, shaving items, etc. If I go with an alcohol stove, I'm not sure I would want to carry all of the denatured alcohol that I might buy in town.

    How did you deal with this issue without a bounce box?

  10. #10
    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin

    8. Lastly, and it shouldn't need to be be said, but a lot of hikers smoke pot, and most of them, at one time or another, get "re-supplied" by mail. All that needs be said about this is that it's obviously as illegal as hell and that anyone that does it should be aware of the consequences.
    Excellent point, and the consequences aren't just for the shipper or hiker. It could be for the motel/campground/hostel who receives it for the hiker. Not a very cool thang to do to someone who's helping you out. And yeah, it has happened.

  11. #11
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illininagel
    Although it sounded like a good idea at first, I'm now leaning against using a bounce box.

    I thought the bounce box might be necessary during certain town stops so that I would have a towel and toiletries handy. I don't want to carry a towel for showering on the trail. And, I don't want to carry excess supplies of shampoo, toothpaste, shaving items, etc. If I go with an alcohol stove, I'm not sure I would want to carry all of the denatured alcohol that I might buy in town.

    How did you deal with this issue without a bounce box?
    So, you want a towel. Usually if you pay for a hostel or motel, they furnish towels. It's the hostels that run on donations that don't provide towels. But, myself, I took along a small pack towel. The biggest problem that I had with it was that it got mice chewed in some of the shelters down south. There are free showers at a couple of places along the trail, like Partnership Shelter in VA and Dalgreen Campground in MD, and the powerhouse in CT. No towels there, and no post office either.

    Shampoo? I don't have enough hair to need it. If you aren't buzzed, then I suggest going to a drug store and buying a small sample bottle. But there is usually partial bottles at most showers along the trail. So, no need to bring your own.

    Toothpaste? I carried it anyway and kept up my dental hygene evey night. I generally carried the 4 ounce size. I found I could get about a week out of the sample size tubes that are less than one ounce.

    Shaving? I let it grow. But many showers along the way have a collection of disposible razors, or buy one when you get there.

    If you can't buy alcohol by the ounce, then by a quart, and leave the excess in the hiker swap box for the next person.

    I didn't depend on a bounce box. But I did have some mail drops from home.

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    Default More Bounce box details

    I plan on using a bounce box, painting it international orange, to ID ez at pick up. Is there any list going around listing UPS services at non-post offices, hostels?
    I am not real certain about things like what is available at hostels, I want to charge my camera battery, upload pics, use hair dryier to dry boots but I do not want to bring this stuff in a pack.
    Does it become obivious when to tip? Or should one assume service is free. Can one leave $$ with provider(hostel owner) and call UPS to come by and pick up bounce box or do you need to be there.
    If tv is available and the week forcast looks real good I would like to forward ahead all heavy stuff like heavy fleece etc. Tks for any input.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by A2 (squared)
    I plan on using a bounce box, painting it international orange, ....
    You might double-check with UPS or the USPS before using that universal sign of "danger," as they may not take boxes painted to indicate dangerous contents. Just a thought.

    Rain Man

    .

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    Registered User Doctari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man
    You might double-check with UPS or the USPS before using that universal sign of "danger," as they may not take boxes painted to indicate dangerous contents. Just a thought.

    Rain Man

    .
    Yea, especially since 9/11/01.

    Doctari.
    Curse you Perry the Platypus!

  15. #15
    Registered User gravityman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A2 (squared)
    I plan on using a bounce box, painting it international orange, to ID ez at pick up. Is there any list going around listing UPS services at non-post offices, hostels?
    I am not real certain about things like what is available at hostels, I want to charge my camera battery, upload pics, use hair dryier to dry boots but I do not want to bring this stuff in a pack.
    Does it become obivious when to tip? Or should one assume service is free. Can one leave $$ with provider(hostel owner) and call UPS to come by and pick up bounce box or do you need to be there.
    If tv is available and the week forcast looks real good I would like to forward ahead all heavy stuff like heavy fleece etc. Tks for any input.
    You don't want to depend on someone else to ship your box. Some hostel owners don't do such a good job at that (took me three months to get my tent back. I feel lucky that I ever got it back). Also UPS can't deliver to post offices, in case you didn't know that... Best to stick with USPS.

    Gravity Man

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