Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So, how do you send something ahead to yourself while you're hiking a wilderness trail and don't know anyone in the next 3 states?

You just send it to the next post office you expect to land at, addressed like this:

Ellie Hamilton (or whoever)
ATTN: Hold for AT Hiker ETA 4/12/2009 (or whenever)
General Delivery
State, Zip

When planning your trip, you estimate your daily mileage and travel time using a trail guidebook or data sheets. The AT Thru-Hiker's Companion notes the number of miles between towns, shelters, water sources (creeks, springs), and other essential information, including landmarks and side trails leading to road crossings or towns, plus a list of post offices. You figure out where you will be and roughly when, and bingo, the Mail Drop.

A Bounce Box is a box of supplies you mail to yourself, pick up at a post office, take out what you need, maybe add something you aren't using much but expect to need later, repack and reseal it, and mail it to the next place you expect to stop. Some hikers pre-pack individual boxes of supplies, maybe a week's worth of food or other stuff, leave them with family or friends along with their list of mail-drops, to be mailed out separately to reach specified post offices by a certain date. There's leeway: A post office will hold mail for a couple months, and then if it's unclaimed, return it to the return address.

Friends and supporters can also send care packages this way. Many hikers post their list of mail drops on their blog or Trail Journal (here's an example.) Whiteblaze.net has an article with more information than I ever dreamed of on how to send a package to a hiker (remember, I'm going to be out there next year....) :-)


Downhillnut said...

What do you think you might put in your bounce boxes?

How big do you think your boxes will be? Shoebox size? bigger? smaller?

Will you use more than one?

This is more complicated than I thought. I thought camping for a week with a tent and a car was hard enough logistically.

The bounce box(es) would be cool motivationally as well as logistically, because if you were having a hard time moving on, you'd look forward to your next box.

Great idea to post your stops so others can support you too. Surprises!

It must be fun to be a postmaster at an AT-able post office.

Ellie Hamilton said...

I'll have to make a list :-)

Actually I'm starting a whole blog of lists. The only one I have on it so far is my Ironman Race Day packing list, but I'll be adding lots to it as I proceed with this hiking plan.

Thanks for asking!

ShirleyPerly said...

I always wondered how AT hikers got stuff along the way. Next year you'll have to somehow keep us posted on where you'll be so we can do this.

Jade Lady said...

Thanks for answering my question - I had NO IDEA! The things I learn from you :-)

And even better - we can send you stuff!