Where to Send Care Packages
Many businesses and hostels and all post offices along the Appalachian Trail will hold mail for thru-hikers. An advantage of using a business as opposed to the post office is that businesses are often open seven days a week, including some holidays. A listing of these businesses, hostels and post offices, along with the directions and distances needed to go from roads crossing the Appalachian Trail to groceries, supplies, lodging, restaurants and post offices are included in both The Appalachian Trail Data Book (condensed) and the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion(more detailed).
Holding Care Packages
Post offices are required to hold care packages for Appalachian Trail hikers thirty days. Many businesses, hostels and post offices will hold them longer, though you'd definitely want to contact them to ensure they will. When addressing your package, be sure to include your full name, the business name and address OR write "General Deliver" if being delivered to a post office, the city, state and zip. If you have a phone with you, include your phone number as part of the return address. Be sure to write "Please hold for Appalachian Trail thru-hiker" on the box and your expected arrival date for picking the package up.
When mailing a care package, use priority mail or first class and remember that post offices can't accept FedEx or UPS.
"Bounce" boxes or send ahead boxes are also popular amongst thru-hikers. The idea behind these is to send ahead the extra supplies, utimately having the box follow you along the trail. Things people send ahead in their bounce boxes include toiletries, batteries, phone chargers, cooking fuel (be sure to follow USPS guidelines when mailing cooking fuel), etc...
After using a post office, don't forget to fill out a form to forward your mail. Forward mail to your home or a post office you will be stopping at in two to three weeks.
Thinking of attempting a thru-hike of the AT? Read Doctor Grumpy's Ten Tips for Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers before you hit the Trail.
Published Mar 8, 2012.