Backpacking Skills – Preparing Your Resupply Boxes

As a methodical person, always looking for ways to be more efficient, I’ve found the below steps help me hike more and toil in prep-land less.

1. Resupply Locations

Determine the recommended places to send your packages. Verify addresses and shipping method, this is not a time you want your package returned for bad address. Consider reasons you may use one location over another. For example, the post office may have limited hours, the resort may charge a fee, one location requires a long hitch, the other a short walk. If shipping through USPS, priority mail flat rate boxes usually are the most economical, plus they can be tracked; regional flat rates are even better.

2. Days between Locations

This is a learning process and invariably includes a bit of guess work. It’s the most stressful part for me as I don’t want to end up with not enough or too much food.

My current method is to determine mileage between locations and divide that by a conservative daily hiking rate and again by a goal rate. I then average those rates to determine number of days for that resupply.

Example: A 100 mile section at 12 miles per day would take 8.3 days, and at 15 miles per day 6.7 days, or an average of 7.5 days.

For this example, I’d probably carry 7 days of food, plus throw in an extra breakfast. You’ll often have an opportunity to buy additional food at the resupply location and dig through a hiker’s box if you find you’ve been extra hungry or are anticipating challenging terrain that’ll slow you down.

I use a simple spreadsheet to help with this task (and update it along the way as part of the learning process).

3. Prepping Food Bags

  • Gather and organize food, repackage when appropriate
  • Create a spreadsheet to manage calories, nutrition, weight and categories of food
  • Number inexpensive one gallon clear plastic bags (one for each day on trail)
  • Fill bags on a rotational system
    • Breakfasts – I usually have two options
    • Dinners – I have about a dozen options
    • Snacks – I divide these into salty, sweet, bars, bites, etc. then rotate among them
  • My bags are prepped for about 2,000 calories and weigh about 1 pound per day. (I’ll detail in a future post.)

4. Prepping Miscellaneous Bag

  • Gather and organize toiletries, etc. It helps to have a checklist. (I’ll detail in a future post.)
  • Town chore items – I include about 1/2 cup of powdered unscented OxiClean to presoak my socks and use as laundry soap. I also include either a denture tablets to sterilize my water containers, drinking tube, filter, toothbrush, spoon, etc. I’ve just started including quarters for laundry.
  • Town luxuries – consider sending yourself shampoo, conditioner, lotion, q-tips, etc. especially if you have perfume or skin sensitivities.
  • Town food prep – include a few various size plastic bags to repackage town food or replace worn bags in pack. I also have the gallon size bags I packed my food in that can be used for other purposes or donated to the hiker box if not needed.

5. Prepping Map Bag

  • Take photos of critical information in case your box is lost (i.e. water waypoints, town guides)
  • Place maps for the next section in a gallon size bag. Consider including a replacement pen at least monthly (I use a Sharpie extra fine point to guard against water smears which inevitably happen).

6. Other Stuff

  • Will you need different gear for the next section such as microspikes, mosquito repellent? headnet?
  • Will be sending stuff home, include your pre-addressed label. Consider including a self-addressed stamped envelope for sending maps or notes home.
  • Is there a box holding fee? I like knowing the right change is available to quickly retrieve my box.

7. Prepping the Box

  • External Label include your real name, what trail you’re hiking and your ETA date (you can use range)
  • Internal Label – same as exterior
  • Other ID – write your name on the sides of your boxes
  • Special ID – use colorful tape or stickers or writing to make your box immediately identifiable



  • Document what worked and didn’t so you can make adjustments when prepping for your next trip.
  • Save your lists to Google Docs (or something similar) and make them available to your phone offline so you can update and make notes while on trail (i.e. didn’t like, it didn’t rehydrate well, it didn’t hold up well).
  • USPS regional flat rate is an option ONLY if
    • the address you are sending TO is in the same zone as the one you are sending FROM (zone/zip map)
    • you preorder boxes (Regional Box B1 works for my resupplies)
    • you purchase the labels via the USPS mail and ship option
      • Use Internet Explorer (Chrome doesn’t work)
      • Under package details, enter an estimated weight (Box B can be used up to 20lbs). DO NOT USE SELECT THE FLAT RATE Option (I know doesn’t make sense).usps1
      • Package value – enter $50 as included in the price
      • Type of service – select Priority Mail Regional Box B (if the options don’t populate, scroll to the top to find a red message)usps2

Do you have other tips?

Link to my other posts on Hiking and Backpacking Skills


6 thoughts on “Backpacking Skills – Preparing Your Resupply Boxes

    • And it’s already come in handy. One of my packages was being held at PO for pick up even though it was addressed to the store. I called the store, they walked the phone to the PO. The postmaster says Oh Yes the one with Pink Flamingo tape. Someone suggested putting a piece of tape on my backpacking wallet so I can just flash it, especially in those places holding hundreds of packages.

  1. Pingback: Long-Distance Hiking and Backpacking Skills, Summary Post – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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