Appalachian Trail 2010

Preparing Maildrops

Well, one thing we learned with mail drops is that lunches are the hardest part of the planning process. And we bought slightly too much food.

For Christmas we received money to go towards buying dehydrated food for our mail drops. Chris went online and scoped out deals and found a lot of food for good prices from a variety of vendors like Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry. We put them all in a box and brought them home.

For breakfast and lunches we hit Sam’s Club, Walmart, Whole Foods and Tom Thumb to pick up all the things that we thought we’d want. I am pickier about lunch than Chris; he can survive on trail mix and I’m not a big fan of trail mix. I would prefer to have things like pouches of chicken and tuna, peanut butter or pepperoni. So, we walked the aisles of these stores to pick up the items we wanted. We bought mostly dried fruit at Whole Foods because I think they have better quality and choices. We bought about six or seven drops of pepperoni and my parents will have to get more for us later because we bought the pepperoni out at Tom Thumb.

We sat down last Monday and went through all of the guidebooks and consulted to determine the best places for mail drops. People either seem to be very into mail drop or very anti-mail drops. And some are very vehement about it. We initially had 12 drops, re-evaluated it and dropped one and rearranged some and added a few more town stops to break up some 70+ mile hikes between towns.

Here is what we ended up with Google Doc spreadsheet. The dates are more or less where we will be at and we may add more town stops as we find out more on the trail by those in the know.

To put together our mail drops we bought 11 12x12x12 boxes and then after packing we found that two boxes had too much in them to even close so we bought two 15x12x10, for the 100+ mile sections through the Smokies and the 100 miles wilderness and one 14x14x14 for a 7 day section. We’ve chosen not to go to Gatlinburg in the middle of the Smokies because of the distance (15 miles) and the hassle of it, so we are going to just carry a lot of food to get us from Fontana Dam to Hot Springs. It seems about 50/50 do this.

Anyway, we laid everything out in the living room and broke it out by how many days we were going to carry and had to count it all out. Lunches were much more of a pain, they will be made up of various items including bars like Powerbars for Chris, Larabars, Cliff and Odwalla bars for me. We put in mini Goldbond powders at each drop, hand sanitizer, AA batteries, and a change of toothbrushes in the middle. I’m sure we will had some other things we think of and we will keep them open for my parents to add things as we ask.

We did a short time-lapse video of us putting the whole thing together:

Patrice had a few more questions:
What are you putting in your bounce box? I know you mentioned on the video putting in your camelbak cleaner, but what else? I’ve heard of people putting in chargers and clean clothes, so I was just curious.
-I think we’ve decided not to have a bounce box since we won’t need much and we will just put the camelbak cleaner in one of the drops and send it back home after we are done with it. I suppose we could bounce it from there. We’ll see. No clean clothes, we’ll just wear our rain gear while we wash laundry or borrow some of the clothes that many hostels have for those who want to change out of their clothes for the day. As for chargers we are carrying a USB charger for our mp3 player and will charge it at computers, and we bought a little charger at AT&T that takes AA batteries for our phone.

What degree sleeping bag are you guys starting with? Do you think you’ll switch it come summer?
We are using a 15* Marmot Helium sleeping bag for each of us for the entire trip. We wanted to save money and didn’t buy a summer bag. If it is too hot we just won’t use it or will use it for padding to sleep on.

I’m sure it will change, but what do you guys plan to eat for meals? Always looking for new ideas/options.
Breakfasts are typically going to oatmeal or cream of wheat, a bar like the Natures Valley oat bar or the Cliff bars etc. I’m sure we’ll come up with ideas on the trail.

Lunches will be pepperoni on tortilla, pb with English muffins or pita, chicken packs with tortilla or pita, or whatever we can come up with. In towns we can buy string cheese and it will keep for several days so we will do that some. If we have enough fuel maybe we’ll cook some meals for lunch. We just wanted to save fuel.

Dinners will vary from dehydrated meals in our drops to packs of chicken and tuna with Lipton/Knorr rice and noodles, to ramen, mac and cheese, soups, and whatever else we find. I’m sure we will come up with interesting ideas!

I’m battling a cold now and am hoping to get over it in the next few days so that we can do some hiking next weekend. Only two weeks until we’re at Springer!


  • chelle

    what was the actual time it took to do mail drops? i can tell it was a while, you were in jammies 🙂 then i saw zoe napping then i saw you dressed lol then i saw zoe play a bit but then the lighting really changed 😛 and while you were in the living room where were your mom and zoe???? lol of course, nothing to do with the trail and everything to do with you guys. i miss you guys. it was sooooooooo good to see you again! *hugs!*

  • misti

    My mom and Zoe went to take a nap. 😉 I miss you too. I liked small town life.

    Well, to do the time for the mail drops:

    -probably about four hours total to plan and write them out.
    -Several hours shopping, at least six combined.
    -we started putting them together around 10am and then finished right after dinner yesterday. This included a few trips out.

  • Amy

    Cool! Now i have an idea of when you’ll be in my area…neat to see that you are stopping at a store in Erwin, TN. Later that day or the next you will pass by me!!

  • Robin

    Sorry if you answered this already, but for the food drops, how does that work? Do you stop off at various points along the trail and give the boxes of food to someone to keep? Or do you stash it somewhere? How long will it take to drop all that off? And I take it it will be done beforehand, right?

    Did I ask a zillion questions or what? ;-P

  • Heather

    I love the time-lapse video! I saw a little pink blur and thought, Is that Zoe!? And then the puppies. How cute. 🙂 And it really shows what goes into this.

  • Patrice

    Love the time lapse video!! You make me so scared and excited for our trail adventure. So much planning to do! And it’s hard with all the advice out there … but, as they always say, hike your own hike. What works for you someone else may not work for you.

    Good luck finding health insurance. Let us know if it works out. That is going to be one of my duties (my husband has no clue when it comes to health insurance) and I’m hoping some kind of health care bill passes and makes it easier next year. I was hoping to get just the catastropic coverage.

    Feel better!

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