Resupplying on the PNT

On this page, I hope to answer some common questions about how I got food and other supplies during the summer. Please email me at if you want to know more.

The Executive Summary

I bought food as I went, stopping in various towns along the way. For items that I would use frequently, but not be able to get on the trail, I used a bounce box. The following sections flesh out this very brief description. There is no reason to send yourself maildrops unless you have a special diet or want to avoid the 230 mile resupply run between Oroville and Glacier. See the guidebook for information about Ross Lake Resort.

Using the Postal Service

Hikers will get to know the USPS very well during their hike. You can send yourself a package to any post office in America using the General Delivery address. You address you package as

Your name
c/o General Delivery
Town, State, Zip
Please Hold for Hiker. ETA: Your expected date

When you get to the post office, show your idea and they will retrieve your package for you. Most POs will hold your package for at least two weeks from when they receive it. Don't send them a package 2 months in advance. Besides being rude, it will probably be returned before then. Although no one knew what the PNT was, I had no problems with the USPS system.

It used to be the case that if you were shipping in-state it was a lot cheaper to send something Parcel Post. However, times have changed and the cost difference between Parcel Post and Priority is minimal these days.

Using a Bounce Box

A bounce, or drift, box is simply a package that you mail to yourself repeatedly. That is, you keep bouncing it to yourself. It contains things that you will need on the trail. For example, spare batteries, maps, guidebook sections, extra shirt, extra LED light, books, etc. Basically, anything that you think you may need to restock along the way and don't think you can easily get. When you fill up a journal or a memory card (or film!) you can put them into the box. You can use an actual box, but better is a 5 gallon, plastic paint bucket. There are some big benefits to doing this:

You can buy a bucket and lid for about $5 in any hardware store. Mine survived the PCT, AT, a section on the CDT, and the PNT. It is still going strong. Incidentally, I've been hearing from people hiking the PCT recently that I came up with this grand idea. I didn't. I copied it from Dave Brock, whose PCT page I read, and re-read, several times before doing my hike in 2003.

I sent my bounce bucket 7-14 days up the trail from me. The towns I sent it to were:

Resupply Strategies

The PNT guidebook has some information on towns along the way, but most of it is extraneous, ambiguous, or other wise not helpful. For example, including information on Spokane really doesn't help a long distance hiker because Spokane is more than 100 miles off trail. There is some useful information such as which towns have free camping is included. Before getting to specific towns, I'll describe some easy resupply strategies which extend to any trail in the US (or Canada). There are three basic kinds: Mail drop, buy as you go, and hyrbid.

Mail drop

The idea is to buy food in bulk and mail it to post offices, hostels, motels, trail angels, hunting outfits, and other places along the trail. There are several benefits for this. However, the mail drop method has several critical disadvantages.

Buy as you go

This method utilizes the stores that are found along the trail. Sources of food include regular grocery stores, convenience stores, hostels, gas stations, and outfitters. There are several benefits to this. This method also has disadvantages.


The hybrid strategy tries to use all the benefits of the above two while avoiding their weaknesses. The idea is to buy as you go when you can. You figure out where you can't buy and then send a mail drop to there FROM the trail. As an example, you can't resupply (effectively) out of the store at Kennedy Meadows on the PCT. However, 250 miles before you hit Kennedy Meadows you'll be in Agua Dulce, where you can access big super markets. Buy food in Agua Dulce and mail it to yourself in Kennedy Meadows. This method effectively combines the benefits of both systems of resupply.

What is best for you?

Which method will work best for you depends on who you are and what you like. In general a hybrid approach is best. Just don't over do the mail drops. If you have a strict diet (vegan, kosher, macrobiotic, halal) or are a picky eater (nothing with preservatives) or have allergies, you're probably better off with a mail drop system. If you don't want to deal with unknowns or have sponsorship for food, mail drops will be better. If you want to do minimal pre-trip planning and can resupply out of your neighborhood gas station, then buy as you go is for you. If you are planning your first long distance hike and have some doubts, ask around. There are lots of resources for you to draw from and you'll get a lot differing opinions on the matter.

The Towns

The following is a listing of the towns that I went through along the PNT. The mileage is my own estimate based on the PNT guidebook, forest service road signs, and time-speed estimates. I'm including only the information that I think is important for long distance hikers. Some of the towns have a lot in them! There are many other towns in the PNT guidebook and several hikers I know used radically different towns than I did.