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Thread: Mail Drops?

  1. #1
    . stonedflea's Avatar
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    Default Mail Drops?

    * i would have put this under the mail drops forum, but there weren't any posts there and i didn't want mine to go unnoticed.

    hey y'all..

    i was just wondering about mail drops. basically... what do y'all use them for?

    i've only done the foothills trail, which there was no resupply on and we just packed in (and out! ) everything we needed.

    if you're at a large enough town that it'd have a post office, couldn't you just purchase the things that you're mailing ahead to yourself?

    i just can't think of anything that i would want to mail to myself that i couldn't just buy in a town? and i'm thinking about the cost of shipping something ahead vs. just buying it in town.

    what kinds of things do y'all drop to y'all's selves?

    thanks!
    "i ain't got a dime
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    but Lord, i'm free."

  2. #2
    Recreational User Torch09's Avatar
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    Some towns only have a general store that lacks the selection many people are accustomed to.
    Also, many people will trade out gear during a thru hike, such as sleeping bags, depending on weather conditions. If you already own a good bag, its cheaper to have it sent than buy a new one on the trail.
    ~Happiness is only real when shared~

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    Since you put this in the "general" category, there's not a lot of context. A person thru-hiking a long distance trail might have some different dynamics than a person with one mail drop on a 10-day hike.

    But some towns (and non-towns) have a post office with little or absolutely no food for purchase. It very much depends on the type of town you're in, and often on how willing and able you are to resupply on the junk food and very limited actual food available at a gas station mini-mart.

    For those doing longer trips, resupply boxes sometimes include things that someone without a support person might bounce along in a bounce/drift box.

    For me personally, it includes food items I typically can't get even in large towns, gear swaps when going into or out of colder/warmer conditions or perhaps less or no snow into lots of snow or vice versa. Most boxes will tend to include a new pair of shoes purchased ahead of time (typically I can't find shoes I like along any trail), and prescription medication.
    Also, the "next set" of maps, guidebook pages and the like.
    Perhaps replacement batteries, lithiums purchased in bulk at a better price ahead of time.
    On occasion some special items get mailed, such as a passport just before finishing certain trails, or at a place where a box is being mailed both ways I'll get (temporarily) a beard trimmer, scissors, large nail clippers, stuff like that to use and then mail back with stuff I'm sending home.

    But for the most part you're right; if you have no particular food restrictions, best to buy food along the way when it's not too difficult to get off-trail to a town with a store or the equivalent.
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

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    Most of my food is only available via mail order, so I have that mailed to me. There's plenty of room left in the box, so I have my consumables stuffed in there too.

  5. #5

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    over the years i have perfected the ideal drop.it consists of 3 ideas.
    mail only items not found on trails
    mail only lightweight items when possible
    mail as few drops as possible

    now,....i have a list of the single hardest to find things a hiker wants.

    fudge
    good coffie and teas
    good beef jerkey
    easter candy
    wakapaks moms dehydrated spaggetti dinners
    good chocolates
    exotic dryed fruits like mullberries and cherries and figs and dates
    matthewski

  6. #6
    Garlic
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    I think a hiker's mail drop strategy pretty much reflects his or her lifestyle. Some will plan out thirty or forty drops with every meal in a separate bag, and will also have a "bounce box" with spares of everything they might need, and they enjoy that and it works just fine. On the other hand, some will do zero mail drops and will not have a bounce box, just managing to make do with whatever he or she can find along the way, rolling with the punches. That works fine, too. Most do a sort of hybrid approach, even making mail drops as you go, buying in larger towns and mailing ahead to smaller towns. There are an infinite number of options, and they all work.

    My preference leans toward flexibility which means fewer drops, buying as you go. The only things I mailed to myself on the AT were new shoes, socks, and guidebook sections in three places, and even that was sort of a luxury. On other trails, if food resupply distance exceeds 200 miles and there are places that accept mail, I'll do food drops.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    Default Mail Drops or Buy

    I guess this should fall under "different strokes for different folks."
    Some hikers who are going to attempt to do a thru-hike want to have all the conveniences of home. Others realize that if you are going to attempt a thru-hike you have to give up stuff you are used to and adapt a different life style.With that said, let me explain. The first step is to leave your worries behind. Don't worry about the folks back home. They will be O.K. without you. You don't have to remain connected with a cell phone or other modern gadgets. Call home when you can find a phone. I never went more than 6-8 days withoud being able to do that. The food you eat before you go and the food you eat on the trail will change. It's nice to buy or prepair all that nice stuff to eat and send it to some P.O. along the way but the fact is you probably won't want to eat a lot of stuff you send. The hiker boxs in post offices and hostils are full of stuff hikers no longer want to eat. Break the tie of having to get to a post office to pick up a mail drop. The only exception would be winter clothing changes or special meds that you need.
    Take enough money so that you can afford to buy food along the way. Use the data book to establish how many days between town stops and buy your food accordingly so as to get you to the next town. Go into town and eat some good meals. Buy some food to get you to the next town and either stay a night or go back out.
    Check out Baltimore Jack's resupply article. Jack knows what he is talking about.
    To have a sucessfull thru-hike, in my estimation, it helps you if you leave the "other world" behind. One way to do this is to eliminate as many of the ties to it as you can. That includes Mail Drops and bounce boxes.
    Most trail towns know what hikers need and they provide them. Learn to enjoy the independance of being a thru-hiker and you will enjoy the freedom.
    Grampie-N->2001

  8. #8
    Registered User Chillfactor's Avatar
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    I just shipped 3 Priority Mail boxes yesterday, 2 large square boxes and 1 flat, longish sized one. $40 and change. The cost of a large flat rate is now $14.95 as of 1/1.2011. The clerk wouldn't accept a box that had a 1/2 inch gap (covered with tape). This will change how often I send my drops and how fast I walk.

  9. #9
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grampie View Post
    I guess this should fall under "different strokes for different folks."
    Some hikers who are going to attempt to do a thru-hike want to have all the conveniences of home. Others realize that if you are going to attempt a thru-hike you have to give up stuff you are used to and adapt a different life style.With that said, let me explain. The first step is to leave your worries behind. Don't worry about the folks back home. They will be O.K. without you. You don't have to remain connected with a cell phone or other modern gadgets. Call home when you can find a phone. I never went more than 6-8 days withoud being able to do that. The food you eat before you go and the food you eat on the trail will change. It's nice to buy or prepair all that nice stuff to eat and send it to some P.O. along the way but the fact is you probably won't want to eat a lot of stuff you send. The hiker boxs in post offices and hostils are full of stuff hikers no longer want to eat. Break the tie of having to get to a post office to pick up a mail drop. The only exception would be winter clothing changes or special meds that you need.
    Take enough money so that you can afford to buy food along the way. Use the data book to establish how many days between town stops and buy your food accordingly so as to get you to the next town. Go into town and eat some good meals. Buy some food to get you to the next town and either stay a night or go back out.
    Check out Baltimore Jack's resupply article. Jack knows what he is talking about.
    To have a sucessfull thru-hike, in my estimation, it helps you if you leave the "other world" behind. One way to do this is to eliminate as many of the ties to it as you can. That includes Mail Drops and bounce boxes.
    Most trail towns know what hikers need and they provide them. Learn to enjoy the independance of being a thru-hiker and you will enjoy the freedom.
    I don't understand why someone using a mail drop means you are not enjoying the freedom of the trail and are stuck on home bound stuff. Just wondering if you did mail drops. I'm guessing then you also skipped laundry, showers, a tv in a hostel, restaurants and other "home bound" stuff that ties you down. (?)

    I actually found mail drops provided me with adequate nutrition so I CAN enjoy the freedom of the trail and complete a dream, not once but twice. And one does not need to be tied to a PO (though I have found POS to be a great place with very helpful people. Esp when you need some cash). A complete misnomer. Many Hostels and motels also accept drops.

    While Jack's article is a helpful start, is does need updating from year to year as choices (AND prices) change quite a bit.

    And to tell people not to stay in contact with those at home who care and want to be involved in you hike is really a selfish statement, imo. I was and still am very glad for my cell phone.







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    Quote Originally Posted by Chillfactor View Post
    I just shipped 3 Priority Mail boxes yesterday, 2 large square boxes and 1 flat, longish sized one. $40 and change. The cost of a large flat rate is now $14.95 as of 1/1.2011. The clerk wouldn't accept a box that had a 1/2 inch gap (covered with tape). This will change how often I send my drops and how fast I walk.
    It can't have any bulges either. The box should close tight like it would if it was empty.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blissful View Post
    I don't understand why someone using a mail drop means you are not enjoying the freedom of the trail and are stuck on home bound stuff.
    Some people don't mind being stuck in town for hours. Ideally I'd get in for a matter of minutes and then get out. Even better is when I can get a trail angel to pick up my mail for me and meet me at the trail. This latter option was only done with a trail angel that I had the great fortune of hiking with and getting to know pretty well.

  11. #11
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    You can save a little on postage by buying it online and printing the label on your printer. Also gives you a bar code, address checking and USPS preferred formats reducing the likelihood that your maildrop winds up in Arkansas.

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    Also, your mailman may be willing and able to pick up flat rate priority mail boxes from your house. That saves a little money and hassle.

  13. #13
    Cerveza - AT 2010; PCT 2011 StormBird's Avatar
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    I had 14 mail drops along the trail on my thru last year and really, i only needed 2 of those drops. One to switch out winter gear for summer gear in Pearisburg, VA and one to get my winter gear back in Hanover, NH (or Glencliff, NH).

    I was able to resupply from every stop along the trail. If you want better food in the smaller towns then you can buy a double resupply in a bigger town and put a resupply box together and ship it up trail to the smaller town. But really, you could get away with doing only the 2 drops.

    Most people that do alot of resupply boxes pack alot of special food items (i.e. home dehydrated meals, vegetarian ect.). But if you don't mind eating ramen, lipton meals, snickers and pop tarts, you be fine with resupplying all along the trail.

    As far as maps and guides go, you do not need the maps. You just need one of the guidebooks. The trail is really well marked.

    Hope this helps! Good luck!
    Trail Name: Cerveza

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