Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Goes in Maildrops?

I often see hikers ask on hiker forums what a typical maildrop contains. Here is mine for a reference. Adapt it to your needs and the specific trail you are hiking. Also there are links to other important maildrop info such as postal regs and drop locations down below.

Food for that time period. To avoid lots of extras at a store (like having to purchase a big box of Pop Tarts or oatmeal packets) I put in what I need for the days until my next drop. See the food blog for other food ideas I pack (including dehydrated products like homemade jerky, dried veggies etc). Items I can get easily at a small store (candy bars, granola bars, cracker packs) I buy in town as well as perishables like bread and cheese and heavier items such as a small jar of peanut butter. 

       Sometimes extra treats can be put into the box from home you can’t get elsewhere to enjoy on your day off from the trail. Especially treats you may not find.

       A roll of toilet paper in a Ziploc along with some baby wipes is good. For women, light pads are helpful. If you know approx when you might need feminine supplies, it helps to have that in your drop too along wit any meds you might take.

       Medications – The main reason for mail drops. I have a set of personal meds and vitamins I take (see the first aid blog for what I add vitamin-wise. I usually carry enough meds for ten days. Be sure you are ok on the homefront with your prescription meds and plan ahead (you can ask for "vacation refills" ahead of time to pack into maildrops). I have added a sandwich-size Ziploc with some extra Advil and Tylenol

       Maps and pages copied from the Thru Hiker Guide or the Companion you need for the section you are hiking. 

I've also added for long distance ventures – 

       Some brand new Ziploc bags to replace the ones I use in my pack

       A few extra band aids and some duct tape to replenish the first aid kit 

       Gear: If you are thru hiking the Appalachian Trail northbound, typically gear is switched out around Pearisburg, VA for the summer (after you pass the Mt Rogers area) or by mid May and pick up colder weather gear at Glencliff, NH for the Whites, including clothing and sleeping bag (if you go with a different bag). NOTE: At Glencliff, NH you can also send your box to the Hiker's Welcome Hostel or earlier to the PO in Hanover, NH. Southbounders - your cold weather drop depends on your start date, but you will need colder weather gear usually by mid October (I had mine for southern VA to Springer by then).  

For other trails such as the PCT and CDT, check your guidebooks for recommendations on gear changes you need to add to your drop as well as places to mail food drops. Yogi has a great Handbooks for this planning. Check other websites for other long distance trails for towns to mail drops.

If you mail a fuel canister to yourself, mail it separately from the main food drop and send it surface mail ONLY via the USPS. And yes, canisters can be mailed!

Be sure to send your food drop Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation and allow plenty of time (I give it ten days to two weeks). 

The drop should be addressed as follows for a Post Office delivery (Use your REAL name and be sure to carry your license to pick up at the PO).
Jane Doe
General Delivery
Hanover, NH  03755
Hold for AT Hiker: ETA (state the expected date of your arrival)

Other businesses, hostels, etc are accepting maildrops and are good options if you feel you may arrive on a weekend when the PO might be closed. If you mail to other locations, be sure to put your real name and "c/o" - care of and the address being sent. Include your ETA.

If you are going to be late (like more than five days), courtesy asks that you call the place holding your drop and alert them. If you sent your drop Priority Mail to the PO and you have not received it or are going to be too late to get it, they can bounce it up the trail for you at no charge. See the mailing blog for other mailing information.

Other Related Blogs

List of AT Maildrop Locations
List of good Grocery Stores on the AT
Mailing blog on Mail Drops (USPS info)
Town Etiquette for Hikers


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