Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 80
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    12-29-2018
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Age
    31
    Posts
    4

    Default Frugal Thruhiking

    I'm new to this page, but I figured it would be the best place for advice and knowledge about the trail. My boyfriend and I are planning to hike nobo in spring of next year. We're both pretty frugal, as we've had to deal with financial hardships in the past. Additionally, we prefer the DIY approach as often as we can. I'm working on learning as much as possible about mail drops. My question is...is it possible to survive solely on mail drops for food source?
    I do understand that things happen and resupplying in towns may be needed due to accidents, weather, falling behind schedule, etc.
    My goal is to buy bulk foods and get a decent inventory of dry foods (oatmeal, dried fruits, etc.) and separate them into boxes that would be enough for a week's worth of food for an average of 6 months. Our families have agreed to mail these for us.
    We plan on saving as much money as possible before starting our thru hike, but we would like to use as little funds as possible.

    I'd love to hear any advice or opinions on this matter.

  2. #2

    Default

    Lets say it takes you a day longer to get to town to pick up your package? And that day falls on a sunday. You now have to either backtrack and camp in the woods waiting for the PO to open the next day or get a hotel room.

    Your also going to buy bulk food, fyi that bulk food is gunna get old from a taste standpoint. Even if you love the food while your at home, your taste will change while on the trail.

    Long story short, mail drops are out of date and you will find that mail drops have become a thing that loved ones mail to their hikers which contain mostly not desired things or impractical items. I whitnessed it many times this past year. Just resupply as you go

    welcone to WB!
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  3. #3

    Default

    There are good reasons to do mail drops, but saving money is not one of them. A Medium sized flat rate priority box costs nearly $14. That adds up quickly. And as Gambit pointed out, all that bulk food gets tiring pretty quickly too. Then there is the missing package problems, the didn't get mailed in time problems, didn't get to the PO in time problems. In the end it becomes a royal PITA.

    Finally what happens if you only last a week on the trail? It's more common then you think. Now you have a 6 month supply of food your probably not going to ever eat.

    Buy local and support the communities you pass through. That usually ends up being the Dollar General or Walmart, but it's the thought that counts
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4

    Default

    I will add that leaving in late April/early May is another way to save money. For one, the temperatures are better and you’ll avoid the major ice storms that take hikers off trail for multiple days in Feb/March but also you can start and end with the same gear.

    Thru hiking costs money. You can minimize the costs by limiting town stops and zeros but keep in mind there’s a level of financial costs that incur (shoes, clothes, etc). If you and the bf are even remotely social butterflies, you might as well add more funds to the budget to account for town stays and beers.

  5. #5

    Default

    I will let you determine the financial impacts of what I share. I had maildrops from home sent to me about every 10 to 14 days. It usually contained Mtn House dehydrated meals for all trail evenings, snacks, chips, etc. This food was also supplemented by smaller resupplies in towns. Usually picking up items for lunch and those items that were more perishable. I also received equipment and clothing changes via this method as the weather changed.

    I used hostels until I got into Mass, where I ended up using some post offices. The hostels are much easier because there are no restrictions on pickup. I made the selections before the hike for all of those through VA. From there north, I would just let my wife know at least a week before I thought I would arrive. Stopping in hostels about every 5 days or so was a key element to my mental strategy and maintaining a positive approach. It played a huge role in my success.

    I finished my hike in 140 days, taking 12 zeros. I was doing a good job on spending, until my crew started slack packing a bit in New England. I spent more money on shuttles and was in towns more frequently when we started that. You don't spend any money when you are not in town. I spent a little over $5K, but think I could have easily done it for $4k, if I had slacked less up north and had a desire to watch my expenses. Frankly, I didn't care what I spent once I got past NY. I was loving every chance to eat real food and enjoy a clean place to rest and relax. Good luck.

  6. #6

    Default

    Here's what I do on some trails (especially ones far away from my home)
    look for bigger towns to resupply in and take a day off (or at least a half day), then go to the supermarket and buy your supplies for about 4 or 5 mail drops. Then mail them to the next 4 or 5 places you wish to resupply in.
    Don't necessarily use PO's to send to for your drops, but some hostels or places along side the trail are also available for mailing boxes to. (because of the weekend problem)
    That way, you get what you like because you very well might get tired or sick of the stuff that you thought you liked but now don't any longer.
    And your shipping fees are much less because you are mailing them from close by.
    Keep them under 4 lbs and shipping is much cheaper also.
    You don't need those medium flat rate boxes usually and even if you do, it's a lot cheaper to mail one of those to 100 miles away than it is from GA to ME or similar.
    This method takes a little longer on the trail but saves money and you get what you crave.
    We even do this for overseas hikes sometimes.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  7. #7
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    02-20-2013
    Location
    Upper East Side of Texas
    Age
    73
    Posts
    8,288

    Default

    Its easy to find bulk foods along the way. Bobs Red Mill products are more common than you might think. I eat their oatmeal and 5 Grain cereal with bulk dried fruit every morning. Doing the same on the trail would be easy.
    DIY dried quick cook foods are out there. You just have to look.
    Ordering online and collecting from Walmart is easy for those towns along the trail that have a Walmart.
    Off the top of my head in my pantry right now: Nido dry milk, Instant refried beans, Minute Rice, Jerky, Oatmeal, Grits, Mashed potatoes, Cranberries, Raisins, Cherries, Cliff, Lara and Kind bars, peanut butter, the list goes on.
    Even Dollar Stores have organic treats now.
    Yall will figure it out.
    Wayne

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    04-21-2015
    Location
    San Antonio TX
    Posts
    492

    Default

    I'm in the minority here. I absolutely think it's way cheaper to mail food. I've packed several sample boxes.

    In every box I was able to put 5 days worth of food that cost $20-$30.

    Let's say they were large boxes that cost $20 and they had 30 worth of food. That's $50 for 5 days of food.
    That's $300 a month for food.

    This was all store bought things like ramen, Pringles, granola bars, knorr sides, potatoes etc.

    By dehydrating foods myself I'm sure I could lower cost. I'm sure you can too.

    As for getting sick of the food you can pack a variety of boxes and or just resolve to eat what you have. I'm used to that.

    I also plan to eat 2 days worth of town food every week for variety.

    I've read numerous trail journals where people mention resupply from convenience stores cidting about $40 for just 3 days worth of food.

    Exact $ ammounts rough estimates.

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    04-21-2015
    Location
    San Antonio TX
    Posts
    492

    Default

    Oh and I'm HF head start flip flop on or about May 1 2020

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    08-28-2007
    Location
    Georgia and Hawaii
    Posts
    17,766

    Default

    Two of the most consequential approaches on doing frugal thru hikes are: 1) doing a speedy thru hike 2) starting a NOBO AT thru hike later, as in early May. Combining these two approaches together offer thriftiness of time, finances, and conservation of other resources. To execute these approaches efficiently typically requires prerequisites or meeting prior supporting conditions.


    You can save money, perhaps on trail time, eat wonderfully without getting bored with taste, and not waste food by preparing and mailing resupply boxes but I don't suggest you primarily take that approach to financial frugality.

  11. #11
    Garlic
    Join Date
    10-15-2008
    Location
    Golden CO or Scottsdale AZ
    Age
    62
    Posts
    5,380
    Images
    2

    Default

    Ditto what Dogwood says about time on trail. If you get into good hiking shape and start early May, spend most of the longer summer days walking, take few town days, you'll have an inexpensive hike. I did it about ten years ago for $3500, including transport to and from, replacement shoes and socks, and lots of restaurant meals.

    And ditto what's been said about mail drops. The last time I used one, over 15 years ago on the PCT, I came into town five minutes after the PO closed on Friday afternoon on a three-day holiday weekend, after stressing for days about it. It turned out the little market in town had plenty of stock. Mail drops became a seldom used tactic after that. I didn't do a single one on the AT.

    Roughly half my hike cost was on food. I spent about $800 on trail rations for my AT hike. (My hiking partner spend nearly double that on more expensive packaged mostly junk food crap. There are ways to be frugal in a small market.) I supplemented trail food with about $700 in restaurant meals. I didn't skimp on that, except I didn't buy any alcoholic beverages.

    It's been mentioned, but you cannot know what your appetite will be after a month or two on the hike.

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    07-15-2018
    Location
    Pilot, Virginia
    Age
    64
    Posts
    57

    Default

    On my thru hike of the Long Trail I did drop boxes. The above responses are correct in pointing out that your affinity for certain foods will change to some extent. Still, I plan on doing drop boxes on the AT next year. I dehydrated much of my own organic food and nothing I could buy in the local grocery stores would come close in cost, flavor, or quality. The postal service has made deep cuts in their budget. PO hours are limited especially in small towns. That was the biggest pain; having to wait for the PO to open or rushing to get there before closing. As much as I fantasized about restaurant food on the trail, the couple of times I indulged were largely a disappointment both in cost and taste.

    Costs really escalate when you start staying in town. I almost always supplemented my drops with purchases of a small amount of fresh food at the local grocery stores. Apples never tasted so good!

  13. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    10-27-2003
    Location
    northern whites
    Posts
    3,906

    Default

    IMHO the best way to save is never stay in town. Camp a few miles from the road crossing into town the night before, skip breakfast then head into town in the AM, one person does the laundry while the other resupplys at a local store, splurge on an early lunch preferably by buying some cold cuts at the deli and some rolls at the grocery store or if you are lucky hit the salad bar if there is one then head out of town in the afternoon with some fresh food for supper and camp on the trail that night. Younger solo hikers have a tough time with this as they usually are hiking with a "pack" of folks and the temptation is to take a zero when everyone else does. Skipping town increases your trail miles and cuts back on expenses.

    As mentioned some rural post offices have limited days and hours, make sure you have up to date info. I used to live near the Gorham NH PO and would see folks sitting at the door on Monday AM waiting for it to open as they got into town too late on Saturday.

    There are pretty standard recommendations on where mail drops make sense due to lack of local stores, I dont know if they have changed but I think Fontana Dam, Glencliff NH and Caratunk Maine were a few of them as there are no local stores for resupply. Note sure if the POs are still there or have reasonable hours.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 01-06-2019 at 08:52.

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    11-20-2002
    Location
    Damascus, Virginia
    Age
    60
    Posts
    31,111

    Default

    i've known folks that got together 20+ mail drops and never make it out of georgia. your chances of making it to maine aren't very good. better to buy as you go

  15. #15
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
    Join Date
    11-18-2005
    Location
    Cheyenne, WY
    Age
    55
    Posts
    1,347

    Default

    Yes you can do it that way if you so desire. As mentioned above in a couple of places, mail to businesses as opposed to the PO. My only comment is that resupplying this way doesn't allow you as much flexibility as a purchase as you go strategy would.
    Lonehiker

  16. #16
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
    Join Date
    10-22-2002
    Location
    Winston-Salem, NC
    Age
    57
    Posts
    7,888
    Images
    296

    Default

    You'll want to send the packages via Priority Mail. They get to most places in 2 days, 3 at the most. Also, that way if you miss one, the PO will forward it for free. The logistics of that can get complicated, but it does work. Of course Priority Mail is expensive.

    After doing it both ways, we've stopped using mail drops on long hikes on the AT. Many years ago, mail drops were often the only way to get food in some places on the trail, but with the growth in mountain communities along the AT, it's easy to find a large grocery store with a good selection of food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. (This is not the case on some trails out West.) We stopped for all the reasons mentioned above -- mailing cost, P.O. hours, inability to gauge our hunger in advance (had several times when we had far too much food in a drop), lack of variety, lack of fresh food. We also did one long hike with our kid that we ended after a week and had to figure out how to get all the mail drops back.

    But there are still people who have successful thru-hikes using mail drops.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  17. #17
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
    Join Date
    01-02-2007
    Location
    DFW, TX / Northern NH
    Age
    62
    Posts
    7,712
    Images
    27

    Default

    If you do wind up mailing to Post Offices here's an edited cut and paste from a prior post of mine a number of years ago: (Info is from my wife who used to work at White River Jct, VT, P.O.)

    4eyedbuzzard
    11-22-2015, 07:32
    USPS regulations instruct offices to hold general delivery mail for up to 30 days - but that isn't a minimum. In practice this means that post offices will hold packages from between 14 and 30 days. If their hike is delayed, thru-hikers should call the PO and let them know approximately when they will be in, or give forwarding instructions.

    Typically, post offices that are in AT trail towns are very aware of thru-hikers and go out of their way to hold packages, and many will simply hold them until the end of the NOBO thru-hike season, especially in the north. In my wife's former office in VT they kept thru-hiker boxes on a separate section of shelving and would return to sender any unclaimed 1st class or above boxes in late October/early November to clear space for the increased holiday season mail. [Late season SOBO's take note: Put an anticipated pick up date on any mail drops for this reason.] If they were sent First Class or Priority, and no one made contact, they will without further info generally be returned to the sender's address as Unclaimed - Addressee abandoned or failed to call for mail.

    Many USPS employees are supportive and enjoy hearing from thru-hikers as they pass though. BUT, the USPS is undergoing a lot of changes. Small offices are cutting back hours; and as Postmasters retire or leave their office, they are now sometimes being replaced by
    staff from non-trail towns and displaced district office people who have little actual experience running an actual office. So there is that chance the person running the office is unaware of what through the years has typically been preferential treatment of thru-hiker boxes.

    Private businesses like hostels, etc., are a whole different matter. Call and find out.

    Some basic USPS info:
    1) Mark all boxes "Please Hold for AT Thru-hiker".
    2) If you aren't going to claim a package within two weeks of it's arrival at the PO, CALL and let them know or send a post card/letter to the Postmaster requesting forwarding. Make a list of trail PO's and their contact info, and hours of course. USPS will forward 1st class and Priority to a P.O. further up the trail or back to sender with no charge
    provided you haven't taken possession of it. If you arrive in town and DON'T want the package at that time, don't ask for the package at the counter and then decide later to ask to forward it. Make sure the clerk understands you want to forward it right away without YOU claiming/accepting delivery of the package! Technically, if you don't OPEN it, you can "refuse" delivery, and have it scanned again as "forwarded". But there are some P.O. employees who are less than well trained. Best to stay ahead of the curve...
    3) Fuel (iso-butane canisters, alcohol, Esbit) cannot be sent Priority Mail or First Class (even if you mark it Ground Only ORM-D). It can ONLY be sent by Retail Ground (the old names were "parcel post" and "standard post"), marked as Ground Only ORM-D, and there are lots of packaging and quantity restrictions. Best bet - just don't mail such stuff - even the P.O. employees get confused on what type and quantities of flammables can be mailed.
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 01-06-2019 at 11:28.

  18. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    07-15-2018
    Location
    Pilot, Virginia
    Age
    64
    Posts
    57

    Default

    One other point: The post master at one of my drops told me my box was almost returned because I addressed it "General Delivery". My only saving grace was that I noted on the box I was hiking the Long Trail. She said regulations have changed and they no longer do general delivery. Not sure what is the correct way to address drop boxes, but get the latest regs before you ship your boxes.

  19. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    12-27-2013
    Location
    Northwood, NH
    Age
    28
    Posts
    1,442

    Default

    I spent so much money on food on my AT thru hike I was surprised. I think its gotten much more expensive over the past few years. People who did mail drops and made it to Maine saved money from what I saw.

    MOST hikers who made it to maine that I know spent 1,000 - 1,500 a month for everything. Every hiker I know was like yeah.. spent way more than I thought or wanted to.

    Most I talked to spent between 6-8k by the end. Lots of 6 to 6.5 month hikers were in the 8k range. And they were also surprised because they werent just blowing money. They were doing a normal hike. Hostel stays every so often. Going to a restaurant when in town. Resuppling at whatever store was in town. Taking a zero here and there.

    Restaurants are insanely expensive. Hostels, motels, and hotels are expensive. Hostels really arent cheap anymore.

    Looking back on it I wanted to spend about 4k. I planned one hostel stay a week, about $15-$20 a day for food and not drinking alot, I still spent about 6k and I was watching my finances.

    People tend to forget how much 5 pairs of shoes cost. Or the new hiker who has to change out gear because they didnt know.

    That deluge of rain in VA and the heat wave in NY drove so many hikers off the trail. Its easier to say youll just suck it up, of course until your running out of food.

    I always hear hikers saying good quality bulk food is easy to find on the AT. That was not my experience. In fact, down south, everyone lived out of dollar general. It wasnt pleasant. And it wasnt cheap if you went for "healthy" options.

    And when you finally have a Walmart or a real grocery store... its expensive because you have to buy more than you need.

    Hiker boxes dont exist at a certain point. Food wise.

    Small town grocers are expensive.

    There is no inexpensive way to resupply in Andover, ME for instance. Getting three days of food is going to run you lots of money.

    When i hear someone say they took 12-20 zeros and did it cheaply I dont see it. At least not in town. I know there is a good portion of free or inexpensive places to stay on the AT but its tough to just rely on that.

    I dont necessarily think a fast thru hike would always mean cheaper. I know people who spent 2-3k a person just slackpacking the WHOLE trail. Which for the average person to have a fast thru hike.. they need to slackpack. Even carrying an ultralight kit... most people cant do 30s with that much food.

    If you decided to never go into town, stealth camp (probably illegally lots of the time) your way thru, only get free showers and whats available in the woods, never do real laundry, and do all your resupplying/organization/charging in front of the gas station then youd be looking at a cheaper hike. A cheap thru hike can be mentally draining. It's not always reasonable to get into town, do your chores, and get back out there too.

    I was stuck in great barrington for 3 days cause my inflatable pad died and thermarest screwed me when they failed to ship my replacement. So i waited three days while they overnighted it. I stayed at the rec center for free but still had to feed myself for three days. Worst three days of my hike. I literally walked around gb for three days. My anxiety was thru the roof.

    I think alot of it has to do with your own comfort limits as well with alot of the "free" places as well. Im not saying they are bad places, im not saying im not grateful they are there, however, are you okay sleeping in a bunk that looks like the sheets have never been stripped? Are you okay taking a shower in a stall thats never been cleaned? The best free place to sleep is in your tent.

    Thats more of the reality of whats "free" on the AT. Youll even find yourself paying money for that sometimes.. buts its the only option other than getting back on trail.

    Knowing what I know now... I could probably hike the AT again for much cheaper. But for your first thru hike.. its tough to do it cheaply when your rambling into these towns, you werent squared away for a LD hike in the first place, and didnt spend more time prepping.

    I could of saved hundreds of dollars just by buying my shoes on sale in advance.

    Hindsight is 50/50 though. I replaced my socks three times. I had to mail a bunch of crap home. Etc, etc. Just swapping out some cold gear for summer gear costs money via the usps.. and its not cheap.

    On your first thru hike its easy to find yourself spending $10 here and $20 there.

    Aiming for 4k per person is reasonable, but you might still run out of money due to circumstances out of your control. Hospital visit, gear replacement, you simply couldnt "rough" it enough, etc.

    I think the trail is much more expensive than it was 10 years ago, something to consider.



    Sent from my SM-J737V using Tapatalk

  20. #20
    Registered User
    Join Date
    03-16-2015
    Location
    Chaumont,Ny
    Posts
    958

    Default

    Stay out of town . Wash on trail,you and clothes. Carry more days of food at a time so you don’t go into town as often. Buddy up when staying in town to split hotel bill. The dollar store sells healthy food . Most just don’t buy it. Take the bus if cheeper . Hike with your ATGear before you get to the AT so you know your gear fits, works and is warm enough. Stay out of town !

Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast
++ New Posts ++

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •