Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Resupply vs. Maildrops
For most hikers, I recommend resupplying at local stores along the way where possible rather than buying everything in advance and sending yourself a lot of maildrops.
Where there are supermarkets along the trail, the prices there are the same (or often less) than what you would find in expensive cities such as here in the Boston area. The difference between mailing yourself the food you buy at home and the "extra" you pay when you have to purchase at Mom and Pop/general/convenience stores probably evens out.
If you buy as you go along, then you get to buy what you want at that moment. Not what you thought you would want eight months ago when you were planning the trip. I know people who can no longer tolerate Pop Tarts, oatmeal, Nutrigrain bars, etc. For me, I stopped having oatmeal delivered after the first week or so. After a while, I didn't even really like the Nutrigrain or Kudos bars. Believe it or not, I still like Pop-Tarts - even though I ended up eating more of those than I would have ever thought. Imagine coming home to four months worth of Nutrigrain bars that you can no longer stand the sight of... :-P
My sister, providing my trail support for the A.T., couldn't store 6 months of food so planned on shopping twice after I left. So I never had more than 2 months worth of leftovers...
There are a couple of things you do lose out on when you give up maildrops. First of all variety. When you have to buy a pound of pasta, you end up eating the same meals for a few nights. With maildrops, I portioned the food out so I had more variety and rarely ate the same thing two nights in a row.
On the A.T. where I had many maildrops, I often ended up with too much food, especially when I didn't finish everything I carried from the last town stop. Also, in the mid-Atlantic states, you really can go deli-to-deli and I had much too much food there - I ended up dealing with bounce boxes all the time. Then I would call my sister and tell her what I bounced so she would subtract that from what she was already planning on sending. It really was too much to deal with while on the trail. The simplicity of the hike just made you not want to deal with the maildrop stuff.
Many people also have problems timing their town visits to when the post offices are open - it was only a problem for me a couple of times. For many people, that's the only reason they wear a watch.
Since my A.T. hike, I've limited my maildrops to equipment changes and food drops only where there would be no stores from which to resupply. I've been much happier both on the trail knowing I could buy whatever I'm in the mood for along the way, and it makes planning so much easier by eliminating the entire process of planning food for the entire hike. Now, I only have to plan each section as I go along.
When you're on the trail, it's a lot easier to figure out where you'll be in a few days than it is to plan more than six months in advance. Bounce boxes are great ways to have easy access to things such as extra maps that you don't want to carry. I usually ended up with a couple of bounce boxes... One for short term stuff going just a stop or two up the trail and one for stuff to send further afield.
Other things I kept in my bounce boxes were extra batteries, guidebook pages for sections of the trail I hadn't yet gotten to, extra food stuffs that I didn't want to put in hiker boxes, extra equipment that I wasn't sure was extra. I figured if I didn't need it after a bounce or two, I could send it home.
Keep in mind, if you use priority mail, you can forward boxes without additional charge assuming you don't open them. This is useful for that "extra equipment" scenario.
For what it's worth, I made extensive use of bounce boxes on both my AT hike with all those extraneous maildrops and on the PCT where I was doing a self-resupplying hike when I had limited home support.
Last updated, November 9, 2006.
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