Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 60
  1. #1

    Default Why don't more people use more mail drops to resupply?

    I am planning a year in advance so bear with me, I don't know a whole lot.

    I will be just out of college and won't have too much money. I'm wondering why it seems as if it's looked down upon to use mail drops to resupply your food. I am going to try and save at least 4,000 to have on the trail with me, but I'd like to spend as little of it as possible.

    To me, it seems smart to use the mail drops to send yourself food rather than to head over to a store that I'm sure is overpriced. I'm also sure that if I ran into a store after five days of hiking I might splurge. I like that I can plan out my food ahead of time, start buying it now, and have it sent out by my parents with postage paid (Maybe that's why I'm biased).

    People seem to say that it is impossible to be frugal on the trail--but why? I can't find any good guides on planning a resupply or a menu for the packages because everywhere I look people say not to do it.

    That's not to say that there won't be times that I'll head to the store occasionally and supplement my diet, that's not to say that I won't occasionally stop into town for a real meal--but I want to save that as a treat. and I WILL be trying to add as much variety as possible from week to week within the packages.

    Is there any help that you all could give me--anyone who has relied mostly on the mail drops? Or anyone who tried to be frugal in general?

    Thanks and gig em

  2. #2
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
    Join Date
    12-18-2012
    Location
    Dark Side of the Moon
    Age
    60
    Posts
    1,445
    Journal Entries
    6

    Default

    If you shop where the locals shop, you probably won't be overpriced. If stores overcharged, they wouldn't be in business too long. Also you will spend more because of postage for your food. I too was going to do mail drops, but changed my mind. Now the only mail drops I will get are dehydrated foods I did at home, ( Jerky and fruit) which will save me money, as these tend to be overpriced on the trail.
    Blackheart

  3. #3
    Registered User Different Socks's Avatar
    Join Date
    07-07-2009
    Location
    Havre, MT
    Age
    57
    Posts
    1,367
    Images
    5

    Default

    I've noticed that too many people say it costs too much money, that it takes too much effort and too much time to preapre all the meals ahead of time AND they say that they get tired of eating whatever it isd they packed into the boxes to begin with.
    Every long hike I've done, I had mail drops and/or boxes of food waiting for me at PO's, campgrounds, motels, hidden in the woods, gas stations and even restaurants. I still supllement with food purcahsed in stores, but I do not have to buy so much.
    Many people will also say that the cost to ship plus the cost of the food is equal to or more than the cost of getting all of in the stores along the way. One difference is the weight. I'd rather have dried meats in my dinners than to carry heavy cans that cost 3 times as much in the small times along the way. Not to mention the fact that every item will cost more that is bought along the way.
    My suggestion: do alittle of both.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    04-15-2011
    Location
    Lowell, MA
    Posts
    1,283

    Default

    There is nothing wrong with mail drops, but here are some things to consider:
    1) What if your tastes change and you really get sick of the food you are shipping?
    2) What if you eat less than you thought you would, you don't need the next maildrop, and you don't want to carry the extra food? You can usually avoid this by supplementing with mail drops so you will have less than you need through maildrops, rather than more.
    3) What if you arrive late and the PO is closed? Will you wait for it to open? You can ship to hostels instead, but there may be a charge if you are not staying there. You can ship to outfitters that have better hours than the PO, but they close too.

    Best of luck.

  5. #5

    Default

    I used mail drops on my thru and will not use them on my next one. You still have to go to to grocery store anyway - I always bought bagels and cheese in every town - so having food mailed to me really served no useful purpose (other than making the person mailing me everything feel like a part of my hike.) Your diet will also likely change after you have been on the trail after a while.

  6. #6

    Default

    Do all places besides POs charge you to have your food sent to their place?

  7. #7
    Registered User Different Socks's Avatar
    Join Date
    07-07-2009
    Location
    Havre, MT
    Age
    57
    Posts
    1,367
    Images
    5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by joobertbrittle View Post
    Do all places besides POs charge you to have your food sent to their place?
    This was one of the things I learned about going directly to the PO where I would actually get the box to begin with. If I mailed it from the PO to the same PO, it would still costs $$'s for it to go nowhere. So now what I do is if I am dropping off boxes of food along the trail, I take to the place I will be staying at. Most do not charge for this convenience.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Marta's Avatar
    Join Date
    01-30-2005
    Location
    NW MT
    Posts
    5,468
    Images
    56

    Default

    Bearing in mind that 70-80% of people don't complete their hikes, there is the potential to have a lot of leftover food mouldering in post offices.

    The main thing is that it is very difficult to predict how fast you're going to travel and how much food you'll need to have to get from one point to another. So you'll either end up with extra food that you'll discard or bounce forward, or you'll run short and have to go shopping anyway.

    If you read Weathercarrot's article on thru-hiking cheaply, shipping yourself food is not one of his main strategies, mostly because of the cost of the shipping itself and the waste inherent in trying to forecast your exact schedule.
    If not NOW, then WHEN?

    ME>GA 2006
    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=3277

    Instagram hiking photos: five.leafed.clover

  9. #9
    Registered User Monkeywrench's Avatar
    Join Date
    06-03-2008
    Location
    Quincy, MA (Boston area)
    Age
    61
    Posts
    675

    Default

    I used, I think, 10 mail-drops on my thru-hike. I had the convenience and luxury of someone (my wife) at home willing and able to put boxes together for me. I'd call her and ask her to send me so many days of food to such and such a post office.

    Actually, being a bit of a geek, I had it all worked out on a spreadsheet with milestones listed, and I would get on-line at various town stops and update the spreadsheet with my actual date of arrival at those milestones and the spreadsheet would update my expected arrival dates. That made it quite accurate in the near term.

    The spreadsheet had the addresses of post offices and hostels and etc where I expected to get mail drops, so all the info she needed was in one place.

    It was nice getting little surprises too: some home-made cookies, gourmet gorp she would buy, or freeze-dried fruit she sent a few times that was excellent in my cold cereal breakfasts.

    All that said, I wouldn't depend on mail-drops for all my resupplies. That would mean having to be at a certain place every few days. And with the post office about to end Saturday service, there will be 2 days out of every 7 when you won't be able to collect your box. I had to do the post office marathon at least once on my hike, and it kind of sucks.
    ~~
    Allen "Monkeywrench" Freeman
    NOBO 3-18-09 - 9-27-09
    blog.allenf.com
    [email protected]
    www.allenf.com

  10. #10
    Registered User wcgornto's Avatar
    Join Date
    06-01-2008
    Location
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Posts
    609
    Images
    1

    Default

    I used lots of mail drops in 2009. And so did just about every other SOBO I hiked around. I would hate hiking the AT depending solely on local purchases. In some places, Dollar General or a convenience store is all there is. If you don't like ramen noodles, pop tarts or oat meal, then strictly local purchases become more limiting. If you prefer to only boil water and eat dinner out of a freezer bag, then the choices become even more limiting.

    With mail drops, you don't need to know where you are going to be months in advance. I sent an email to my sister who mailed my packages about two weeks in advance of where I expected to be two weeks later so that I never had more than two packages staged ahead of me. All she had to do was write in the address and mail the package.

    Virtually every dinner and breakfast I ate on the trail from Maine to Georgia came to me in a mail drop. All of the snacks I ate throughout the day while hiking were local purchases.

    There are two main areas of discussion in which the Whiteblaze consensus differs greatly from what I witnessed on the trail: 1) Most people slept in shelters if space was available and 2) Most people used mail drops extensively. The general Whiteblaze commentary on these two subjects in various threads suggests the opposite vs. what I actually experienced.

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    09-11-2002
    Location
    Manchester Ctr, VT
    Posts
    2,361
    Images
    13

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by joobertbrittle View Post
    Do all places besides POs charge you to have your food sent to their place?
    If you patronize hostels and outfitters where your maildrop is sent, there is rarely a charge. However, if you are simply picking up a maildrop and moving on, you should offer a few dollars for their effort.
    Order your copy of the Appalachian Trail Passport at www.ATPassport.com

    Green Mountain House Hostel
    Manchester Center, VT

    http://www.greenmountainhouse.net

  12. #12

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by joobertbrittle View Post
    Do all places besides POs charge you to have your food sent to their place?
    I think if you mail a box to a hostel you have a moral obligation to stay there.

  13. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    12-04-2009
    Location
    Panama City Beach, FL
    Age
    66
    Posts
    1,818

    Default

    I've used mail drops.... in some sections of the trail it makes sense... in other sections it doesn't make sense because grocery stores are easy to get to..

    and by the time you pay the postage/shipping costs, it usually balances out in cost.

    but there are some kinds of food items, energy bars, electrolyte tabs... and other items I prefer over what u get in the local stores....

    on the Long Trail, I did more mail drops cuz in northern Vermont it's not as easy to get to a store from the LT

    anyways, good luck!

  14. #14
    Registered User Different Socks's Avatar
    Join Date
    07-07-2009
    Location
    Havre, MT
    Age
    57
    Posts
    1,367
    Images
    5

    Default

    "The general Whiteblaze commentary on these two subjects in various threads suggests the opposite vs. what I actually experienced."

    I have noticed this also and wonder just what it will really be like when i do another thru in 2 years.

  15. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    03-13-2012
    Location
    Sugar Hill, NH
    Age
    67
    Posts
    299

    Default

    I'm planning 9 drops and they all are scheduled around planned zero's. I will call and tell my wife when to mail it based on my progress. Remember, a PO will hold it for up to 30 days so you have plenty of wiggle room. You just don't want to get out ahead of them. Since I'm shipping Parcel Post I also have included besides food; battery replacements, repellent, lighter, fuel canister, sunscreen, small TP roll, multi vitamins, Advil, maps and guide pages for upcoming section, and other sundries. The worst that can happen is I will be replacing something that is not yet exhausted. Big deal. If I see something giving out like socks, hiking shoes, or other clothing, I can ask my wife to drop it in the next mail out. I also know she will include treats in all my drops. She's an excellent baker! This keeps my running around town down to a minimum and if I feel like skipping the zero, I have a head start. Lastly, with a planned zero you have the arrival day, the zero day, and the departure day so you can work around almost any PO closing scenario.

  16. #16

    Default

    Spend your money on food in town. It stimulates their economy and the food cost is not really that much different. If you have preferences, pack up a couple of drops and send them along and bounce stuff as you hike. Im a big fan of the bounce box especially for some foods you may not be able to get in some areas. There are some great places to get food along the trail, Id save the money and patronize the local guys.

  17. #17
    Registered User prain4u's Avatar
    Join Date
    12-01-2008
    Location
    Illinois
    Age
    59
    Posts
    897

    Default

    I did some checking. Let's assume you eat the hypothetical 2 lbs of food per day. And let's assume you resupplied via mail drop every 4 days. Based on calculations provided by WB member "Mapmaker"--it would seem that the typical thru hike takes 165 days (give or take a few days). That is roughly 40 mail drops.

    I went to the USPS website and the postage to mail one 8 to 10 lb package (from Louisville, KY to Damascus, VA) was generally between $12.35 and $15.40. In short, postage alone for 40 mail drops would be $500-$600--not counting the cost of mailing supplies and packing materials (if needed). So, it adds $3.00-$4.00 per day to the food cost.

    On top of that, you add all of the other negatives already listed by others--and THAT is why more people don't use mail drops.
    "A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." - Paul Dudley White

  18. #18
    Registered User prain4u's Avatar
    Join Date
    12-01-2008
    Location
    Illinois
    Age
    59
    Posts
    897

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wcgornto View Post
    There are two main areas of discussion in which the Whiteblaze consensus differs greatly from what I witnessed on the trail: 1) Most people slept in shelters if space was available and 2) Most people used mail drops extensively. The general Whiteblaze commentary on these two subjects in various threads suggests the opposite vs. what I actually experienced.
    I am not saying you are wrong. You observed what you observed. However, I would suggest that your observations are not typical.
    "A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." - Paul Dudley White

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by prain4u View Post
    That is roughly 40 mail drops.
    That seems high. I did a 5 month thru and at 1 a week that works out to 20 drops. I know current practice is to resupply more often that back when I thru'd, and the average hike takes a bit longer, but I can't imagine anyone needing 40 drops. I'll admit I could be wrong about current practices.

  20. #20

    Default

    I think one of the biggest problems with mail drops is that first-time distance hikers aren't familiar with how to handle them. There's a tendency to buy enough ramen for the entire trip before hand, and to do this by assuming you'll eat X calories per day. You can end up really sick of ramen (or whatever) within a few weeks, and also end up giving away half the food eat time you pick up a box.
    The solution is easy- don't buy too far ahead before you leave, instead have someone manage them for you. Let them know that you're sick of ramen and want some couscous instead. Let them pack something entirely different each time for snacks, if those are included (as noted previously, those are easy and fun to pick up in almost any small store.) The person handling the mail drops can increase the calorie count or decrease it as needed. Mail drops are an excellent way to get maps and guidebook pages for the next section, as well as stock up on items that are difficult or expensive to buy in small quantities, such as tea or vitamins. They are excellent for increasing the types of food you eat; you can pack a wider variety of dried fruit and veggies than you can find in a typical trail store. They're not as good for resupplying things like toilet paper as you can buy single rows at most stores.

    Unless you have severe diet restrictions, you'll probably end up doing a mix of both mail drops and buying food in town. I had to make a couple of unplanned town resupplies due to making slower progress than I had planned. Whether or not I had a mail drop, I almost always bought something in town, but I've been on trails (not the AT) where I was able to get a mail drop but unable to buy anything to eat or drink, not even a soda. I relied on mail drops for providing light enough food to get me through two long stretches (100 mile wilderness and Fontana to Hot Springs, which have more resupply options now than they did 20 years ago). By not having to go into towns like Gatlinburg, I was able to save a ton of money, not have to risk hitching or waste hours doing so, and not have to break up the wilderness experience just to get more food. The trail has changed so that staying in towns is far more frequent than it used to be, and getting a shuttle instead of hitching is now typical. Cell phones also make it easier to let the person sending the pack know if you need anything.

    If I were to hike again, I might skip mail drops altogether in places with large grocery stores like Damascus, but I would certainly continue to use them.

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
++ New Posts ++

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •