Sending Care Packages to the Pacific Crest Trail

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Package for a PCT Hiker
J and his nephew have been away on their Pacific Crest Trail Southbound journey for about 1.5 months now. Thru-hikers generally stop at towns along the trail every 4-10 days to resupply food. In stops where resupplying isn't really an option, they mail themselves food, or other people mail them food. A more in-depth discussion on food can be found on the PCTA website, here.

But what do you, as a person sending a thru-hiker food, do? Here's some basics that I try to follow:
  1. Send them what they ask for. Sometimes it's Crocs, sometimes an inflatable sleeping pad. Whatever.
  2. Don't send too much of non-requested items. Too much stuff means extra weight, and the excess gift will likely end up given away in a Hiker Box or taking up space in a Bounce Box that gets mailed to the next destination. I usually only send 2-3 of each unrequested item.
  3. Be mindful of hiker tastes when sending non-requested items. J can no longer stomach any dry nutrition bars, so I only send more moist Luna Bar flavors, or weirdo Lara Bars I don't think he'd purchase for himself. Something to change up the flavors in his bag.
  4. Include other stuff you're okay with being thrown away. A card, a letter, a photo of the cat, whatever catches your fancy.
  5. Mail via USPS Priority. I prefer the USPS Priority Flat Rate boxes, but whatever. Mail to: (Hiker's full name (ETA: mm/dd) / General Delivery / City Name, State / Zip Code) with "Hold for PCT Hiker ETA mm/dd/yy" also on the bottom left of the box.
  6. Decorate the box with markers. This makes the box easier to find in a pile of other hiker boxes. I go for navy and red stars.

Here's a typical care package that I send J:
Items to send a PCT Hiker:
Stuff Not Requested: ~7 local chocolates from home (nostalgia), 4 Biodegradable wipes (hiking is a dirty pastime), a couple foods hiker likes but has difficulty finding (Mio flavored water drops, tiny bottle of Tobasco), a couple varieties of foods hiker is known to eat in new flavors if possible (2 fruit leather, 2 fancy flavors almond butter packets, 2 unusual flavors of preferred nutrition bars), a couple random/surprise foods that could be thrown away nbd (rainbow ice bubble gum, Starburst), other small items that might be useful while hiking (overfilled Mom's Stuff sample for blisters, bug bites, and dry skin)

Stuff Requested: Whatever that is. In this case, it's an inflatable sleeping pad, a smaller pack towel, and a couple dehydrated hiker meals

Filling the USPS First Class Flat Rate Box
I also typically put a note or drawing or somesuch in there as well.

Packaging
To the post office I bring packing supplies: paper filler, a couple colors of markers, packing tape, and a pocket knife for cutting (just in case).

USPS First Class Flat Rate Box Display
Me and this display have gotten to know each other quite well over the past two months.

Do I keep a stock of random hiker foods to send J, like a weirdo? Yes. This way when he asks me to mail something that day, I just grab a handful of items from the kitchen and go. The shelves are fully stocked with Sarris chocolates, Mio, almond butter packets, Lara Bars, fruit leather, dehydrated hiker meals, and salve samples.

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