Thursday, February 2, 2012

a thought on mail drops

Why do them?

See here, here and here.

Seriously, I'm interested in opinions. They seem like a huge hassle and potentially a waste of time.

(Packing too much food, packing not enough, getting sick of the food you thought you'd like, not arriving in town when the post office is open, expense of mailing, worry about package not getting to where it should be... etc.)

Enlighten me!


  1. I have no choice in the matter. no mail drops for me. will be getting the occasional luxury sent from Mexico though

  2. I decided to do food drops for several reasons, of course these might not be reasons for anyone else but me; and this is totally my opinion!

    One of the bigger reasons was money. I figured buying food beforehand was like putting money in savings, but additional to my savings plan. So, buying $400 in Clif bars in bulk months in advance would save me from buying them for an inflated price on the Trail.

    Next was time in town. I figure I could coordinate, even days in advance, when I had to get in town to hit the open Post Office, or even easier, send it to a hostel that I planned on staying in anyway. So instead of finding a grocery store or scrounging in a gas station for old Ramen noodles, I just open a box to all the goodies from home. And it will already be divided and separated and ready for consumption.

    Additionally I wanted variety. From what I hear, buying food on the Trail means Ramen and Mac&Cheese a LOT! So nutritionally lacking and no variety. Shipping stuff from home means a big variety of carefully planned freezer bag menus that I have researched for awhile.

    On top of that, I love love love planning. Putting stuff in a spreadsheet, plotting out when and where I will be, buying boxes and boxes of food and carefully dividing it into bags, and bigger bags, and boxes is fun to me. It's half the fun of going. I've had months and many hours involved thinking about this trip. Sometimes I slip surprises into my food bags that will catch me unaware and bring a smile to my face.

    Lastly, it gives me a connection to home. I want to receive things in the mail from Cara. To get something I know she shipped for me, and she might put surprise candy or a note, can and will make my day out there. It gives us a connection beyond phone calls and an occasional visit!

  3. I thought I was going to be all insightful on this, but Jonathan stole most of my points! I'll see if I can't add a little more color:

    1) Dehydrated food = excellent. I was skeptical, but we've tried a bunch of recipes at this point and they were all tasty before the dehydrator. I've tried some after the dehydrator and except for sometimes a bit of a texture difference, the taste is great. Here's a good way to get started that we used:

    2) I, like Jonathan, went this route because of nutrition and money. I'm not a big fan of Ramen every night for dinner. My trip will be more enjoyable if I'm enjoying what I'm eating.

    3) I'm also not a fan of paying twice as much for a pack of noodles on the trail as I could pay at home.

    4) I found I REALLY like Pro Bars (they have them at REI). They're high in calories, have a good size helping of fruit, and they taste really good. Fat chance finding them along the trail, and if I do, see #3

    5) I hate planning. HATE it. But my wife loves it. And she'll be the one sending the maildrops, so that works out well. At the same time I like to cook, so I don't mind increasing our stock of dehydrated meals before I leave to get her a bit ahead of the game.

    6) Finally, although we have created a maildrop schedule, I can change it. The first 2 or 3 will go out before I hit the trail, but if I find they're too frequent I'll just call/email my wife and let her know the new way I'd like them spaced.

    Thanks for giving me a reason to write the beginnings of a new post!

    1. Travis,
      Thanks for backing me up!
      Also, a new blog to follow, sweet! You will be ahead of me, but I'll be looking for you in the trail registries.

  4. I'm sure I'll have my husband send a few packages in places where I'd rather not have a skimpy selection (Fontana Dam, being the closest, is the only one so far I have him ready to send supplies).

    I don't mean to make it sound like I'm anti mail drops. I'm just interested in what other people's motivations are. Thanks for all your thoughts!

  5. I am not so sure that I will decide to do too many maildrops once I finally get to thru...I used to think that I would want too simply for the fact of knowing that it is overall cheaper, and that that would kind of be one less thing to worry about while on the trail...the flip side though is that I would have to make sure I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there...I would be at the mercy of my mail drops...and after spending more time on the trail, putting more thought into it and reading/speaking with more thru hikers and collecting their thoughts on the matter...I am not so sure that this sounds like what I would want to do.

    However, to me this does not mean that I want to just allot more money and go free as the wind. I know that there are some meals I do like...and like you I will want to research the towns/areas that may be lacking in choices. Once I figure those areas out I could leave a list behind for my wife. Then once I get close enough to guestimate a realistic time frame in which I would be getting close to one of those areas, I could call home and ask her to send me however many of which ever meals sound good to me.

    Or better yet, especially in the beginning since home is closer to the southern end, she could meet me at some of those places and just drive up my food. Of course this would only be reasonable for a short period of time, but it is a start. Then at some point I would occasionally be at the mercy of the mail drops...just not too many of them...

    I do like the idea of walking into a town whenever I happen to get there, and restock with the items that I want and need rather than a box of items that I am not so thrilled about because it is what I have been eating. Also, the box of food may be more or less amount of food that I actually need...So, again, I am at the mercy of the amount of food in the box...another restriction...(I thought thru-hiking was all about "freedom"... :) )

    Now a bounce box is a little different...I have not figured out my full thoughts on that one out yet...

    1. Stick- I totally agree. If it looks like I will be needing a mail drop at an upcoming town, I'll just ask my husband to send me supplies. Or drive it to me, depending on where I am. :) Fontana Dam is the only location in the first month that it looks like I will need a box.

      I also toyed with the idea of a bounce box, but decided it wasn't necessary. I decided I didn't have anything important enough to need every few weeks that I wouldn't be carrying, anyway.

      One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can always change your mind on the trail. Gear, food plan, mileage, etc. can ALL be changed if you need.