Food Resupply/Mail Drops

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If one were to either thru hike or do a long distance hike on a given long distance trail tomorrow, the ideal situation would be to have a support person that would drop you off each morning at a certain place on the trail along with adequate food/water for that day. They would then meet you at the end of that day's hike, take you to a place where you can get a good meal, a shower, clean clothes and a comfortable bed to sleep in. They would then repeat this schedule every day. That would be the best way to thru hike a given long distance trail.

But not everyone has the luxury of having a support person available to them. So I will throw out a few bits of information about food resupply and mail drops so that you can hopefully get some food along the trail. You need to have nurishment to sustain yourself.

Short Term Supplies- These are usually found in convenience stores. Things like candy bars, energy bars, beef jerky, vienna sausages, water, soda and Gatorade. Sometimes they have sandwiches or grill items. Short Term Supplies will usually sustain you for a day or two but generally do not fulfill all nutritional needs. Most campgrounds that have camping supplies, with a few exceptions, will only have short term supplies.

Long Term Supplies- Long Term Supplies are things that can be purchased at a grocery store such as pre-packaged meals, dried soups and noodle products, pre-packaged fruit and vegetable products. You can buy fresh meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit from a grocery store but they must be consumed as soon as possible. You can also buy freeze dried meals, MRE's or energy bars from a number of outfitters. These also count as long term supplies and can last longer than just a few days.

Mail Drops- These are boxes that contain both short and long term supplies (as well as things like changes of clothes, maps, etc) that you send to yourself along the trail. They can be sent to post offices close to the trail addressed as follows:

Your Full Name
General Delivery
City, State Zip

List your return address on the box as well as on an index card inside the box just in case the label on the box comes off or is not readable. Also list on the box an ETA range that you will be picking up the box within. For example:

Hold for (Name of Trail) thru Hiker Joe Smith ETA 06/01-05/2015

Post offices will generally hold mail drops for 15-30 days. They will then return them to the return address on the box. Please note that some post offices in smaller towns have reduced hours or may be slated for closing. Call them to verify their hours and status to make sure that you can get your mail drop. It is advisable to send your mail drops out via Priority Mail and get a tracking number. If you have issues later on, the tracking number can be helpful in locating or returning your package to you. When checking on a mail drop or requesting to have it forwarded to another PO or back home, if you can't get through to a given post office, call the USPS customer service number at 800-275-8777. You will be issued a case number and hopefilly someone will get back to you. Certain businesses near or along some long distance trails will accept mail drops. But you should call them first to let them know that you want to send them one, ask if it's OK and tell them about when you will be picking it up.

Another good reason to recon an area that you plan to hike is that you can find where grocery stores and restaurants are in the general area where you will be hiking. You can also use Google searches to find this information at home. Some portable and vehicle GPS units also have search features for various amenities near where you will be hiking.

Some hikers hide food caches at road crossings of long distance trails that they plan to hike. I have never done this myself as I thought that between animals and other humans possibly stealing your cache, it would be catastrophic if you got to a road crossing while hiking a long distance trail and your food cache was not there.

In order to have a successful long distance or thru hike of most trails, one should utilize a combination of Long Term Resupply, Short Term Resupply, Restaurants and Mail Drops.

One of the challenges that I have had in the past when backpacking or day hiking was how to carry potato chips, crackers or cookies in my backpack without having them crumble and not being very appetizing or easy to eat. Here are some solutions: Pringles makes a half size container of potato chips. Yes, they are reformulated, but they are a good substitute on the trail. When the Pringles can is empty don't throw it away. The smaller size package of Ritz crackers will fit in this container. You may want to use the core holder from some paper towels or toilet paper wrapped around the cracker wrapper for added protection. Then, stuff some paper towels in the container to make for a snug fit. You can also use a full size Pringles can along with a full size wrapper of Ritz crackers. They won't get crushed this way while hiking.

There are various sizes and types of plastic containers that are designed to
Examples of food containers   Examples of food containers
hold food staples such as toaster pastries, cookies, crackers, sandwiches and other food items. These containers are light weight, water resistant and will keep these products intact during a backpacking or day hiking trip.

Don't place glass bottles in your backpack when backpacking or day hiking. Someting in the pack or outside the pack could break the glass and you will have a real mess inside of your backpack. Don't ask me how I know. Use only plastic bottles for keeping water or other drinks in your pack.

Know of any other methods or places that would help those planning a long distance hike food wise? If so, please Contact Me. I will list the suggestion here and give you credit.

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