Mail drops, gear, and food: updates galore!

Hey y’all, dropping a quick (not so quick?) line to address some questions I’ve been getting. Since I’m about to head into Shenandoah National Park and around a week from being at the halfway mark (can you believe it?), I figure it’s time to talk mail drops, food, and gear.

Fair warning: this promises to be a dry post. It’s too warm to be witty. I’m not even including photos. So deal with it. (Wait, where are you going? Come back. I was just kidding about that last part. The heat’s getting to me, and I’m not even hiking in it today.)

OK, folks, I know I’ve been dilinquent about updating my list of mail drop locations. Wanna know how I know? I’ve been getting comments left and right from friends and family asking when I intend to update the list. And I’m super grateful for the interest in sending me a care package, but, well, when it comes down to it, I’m a lazy bum. The internal debate usually goes something like this, “Should I plan out the next five hundred miles of mail drops, or should I take a nap?” And you all know how much I love naps.

But never you fear, friends. With the help of a gratuitous bar of marzipan (thanks, mom), I mustered the energy to focus long enough on the task and list several mail drop locations on my “support” page for those of you that are interested. No pressure, of course, but please leave a comment to let me know to expect a note or package.

Now, let’s talk about gear. On the whole, I’ve been extremely satisfied with my gear choices. I am by no means a light packer, as my loaded pack has to date been about 40 to 45 pounds coming out of town. However, until the weather began to warm up, I saw fit to hold onto every item.

The first to go was the rain gear. I gave the jacket and pants to my friend Chris to hold for me when I went to that wedding reception in Luray about a month ago. Other thru hikers looked at me like I was crazy, but I never wore it after Erwin anyway. Hiking in rain gear is like hiking in a sealed garbage bag. I’d rather be soaked from the rain than soaked from sweat.

Finally last weekend when my mom came to visit me north of Buena Vista, VA, I swapped out my winter sleeping bag for a new, lighter (yay!), more compact summer bag. I also gave my mom a long sleeved shirt, my mittens, some extra toiletries, and my heavy knee high socks in exchange for ankle length socks and a new short sleeved tshirt. You have no idea how exciting the last few days of hiking have been. I feel like I could leap tall buildings with such a light pack. OK, that’s not really true since my feet and knees are pretty sore, but I can definitely leap the tall…rolling hills of Shenandoah National Park up ahead.

I will say that this is the point in my trek where a lot of my gear is showing wear. So, let me list to you what ails me, so to speak. In all of these cases, I called the gear companies involved and have been accommodated with replacements, as I’ll describe.

– Within the first week of starting, my Sea to Summit silk liner tore to shreds (head to toe) along the seams. When I called the company, the rep said they knew about the issue and quickly replaced it with a Thermolite Reactor liner. In retrospect this is the best thing that could have happened to me since, although heavier by four ounces, the Reactor liner is made of a jersey-like material, more comfortable, and easier to wash.

– You already know I’ve gone through a pair of Merrells and am well into my second pair. The only issue is that the rubber tore within a day along the toe box. Fortunately, the company was receptive to my concerns and sent another pair as replacement.

– I mentioned in my last post about my trekking pole breaking. I used a fallen branch for a solid week and a half before arriving in Waynesboro, where Black Diamond shipped a replacement.

– I noticed the other day that the belt buckle on my Gregory Deva cracked at its narrowest point. It still buckles for the time being, but the company is sending me a replacement to Front Royal (north of Shenandoah). As far as the hip belt itself, I do seem to be steadily losing inches despite not having lost weight. I have about four inches of slack left, but I’m going to hold out for a while since I’m not sure I have four inches left to lose in my hips.

– One of the straps on my Sea to Summit compression sack (for my sleeping bag) has frayed about 2/3s along the seam. The company has sent a replacement to Front Royal.

– In Hot Springs, I bought a pair of ankle-length Fits brand socks. They started to get holes under the ball of my foot the other day. The company is sending another pair to Front Royal, no questions asked.

That’s it as far as gear issues.

I know this is slightly off topic, but I did want to share how happy I’ve been with my JetBoil stove. In two and a half months, I’ve gone through 1.5 medium sized (8.9 ounces) fuel canisters. And half the time I’m eating a hot dinner AND breakfast. From what I’ve observed among my fellow hikers, the efficiency is incomparable (ie I’ve been called a witch since this is clearly sorcery).

Last topic of the day is food.

Overall, I’ve been completely satisfied with the food choices that I planned out before starting my trek. The vast majority of hikers eat diets heavy in carbs and processed foods. Ramen noodles, Pasta Sides, Little Debbie’s snacks.

I, on the other hand, have stuck to my gluten free, healthy(ish) regimen as I’d planned. Fruit and nut bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, oatmeal, rice, almond butter, dehydrated meals, Nutella (only when I’m out of almond butter, I swear).

I had added staples such as cheese and eggs (hard boiled in town), but the warming temperatures put an end to that last week when I sacrificed half a dozen eggs to the Danger Zone (I stubbornly thought they’d be OK despite a 90 degree day…wrong).

And let’s not forget my sweet tooth. YPPs for dessert at night are a must, and I’ve also been eating fruit snacks (you know those cheap corny syrupy ones) to tide me over while dinner’s cooking.

It’s amazing how hungry I’ve been, in particular in town. Every once in a while, I’ll crave a heavy meal, but actually I’ve been eating bananas and applesauce like they’re going out of style. And when I’m busy hiking I actually have a hard time eating, especially in the heat. So I end up going many hours until I’m on the verge of sugar crashing before I’ll stop for a snack break. And I’ll attempt to make up for it in the evenings, but it’s nearly impossible. However, in town a pint of Ben & Jerry’s can go a long way toward making up that deficit.

So there you go, folks. Not my most engaging post ever, but I hope it answers some of your questions.

I wish you all (that are in the U.S.) a lovely Memorial Day weekend. If any of you happen to be spending the holiday in and/or north of Shenandoah National Park and see a thru-hiker, be sure to say hello. If you’re unsure if the hiker is friendly, try offering food. You can never go wrong with that approach.

Meandering on,



11 thoughts on “Mail drops, gear, and food: updates galore!

  1. Great post. You confirmed that I can eat a healthy diet next year.

    I’ll be in Shenandoah from the 27th – 31st with a crew from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. We’ll be building stone stairs on a blue blaze less than a mile from Compton Gap. If you see a bunch of old guys and a couple of rangers, say, “Hi!”

  2. Hey! I’m a 2012 thru hiker who likes to live vicariously through current thru hiker blogs. πŸ™‚ I live fairly close to the trail in northern Virginia, which you will soon be coming upon. If you stay at the Jim and Molly Denton shelter or the Manassas Gap shelter, send me an email and I can hike up some goodies for you! .

  3. Love your reviews and comments on gear and food. The products you are using have excellent customer service as well. Love your writing.

  4. It was great to hear about your gear and food review. I’m not the brightest bulb in the knife drawer, but I guess I can say I was on target with the stove, seems like you are happy with your decision to go with hot meals. Get, the smaller size hip belt, you will really notice the difference in comfort, especially when you hit New England with some of your steeper climbs. Since you are a Gregory Trail Ambassador, maybe they will send you a free set. Speaking of that, you need to post a picture of yourself on the . If not, Cabella’s in Hamburg PA (2 miles from Port Clinton, and they have a shuttle that will pick you up) stocks them, $40 (at least they did last year). On your mail drop at the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center in Blairstown, NJ, you may not need too much food. You can deli hop through NJ, NY, and CN. And, they all have Boar’s Head meat. Have fun storming the castle.

  5. It was great to see you on the trail this week. That ugly bunch I was with built 64 stone steps on the blue blaze where you met us and six more on the AT in the central part of the park. You really looked strong. Wishing you all the best. Sisu’14

  6. Gluten-free question: How much of an issue has it been to turn down food from other hikers and trail angels? I’m planning a 2014 thru-hike and I get caught up in the idea of bad manners and all that, even though gluten is simply not an option for me. Any thoughts?

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