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The Bump Box: A Thru-Hiker's Guide
Logistics can be a thru-hiker’s greatest challenge. What are you supposed to do about battery chargers and cell phones? These are items you know you will need, but not every day. Many hikers end up carrying heavier packs because they aren’t sure how else to handle such items. One solution to consider is using a bump box.
What is a bump box?
A bump box contains extra gear and supplies that you will need on your hike. Sometimes it is called a bounce box, drift box or bump bucket. It is not the same as a food drop, which I will discuss in a separate article.
Hikers often begin a bump box before leaving for their hike and mail it to the first town along the trail. Others begin one after they’ve been on the trail for a while. All you need is a sturdy box fit for mailing. Many use buckets from Lowes or Home Depot.
What are the advantages?
There are two main advantages to using a bump box.
First, it allows easy access to items that are difficult or costly to restock during your hike. Some examples of these items are disposable contact lenses, prescription medication, vitamins and specialized batteries.
Second, it is a convenient way to manage gear you need but don’t want to carry in your pack such as a cell phone, battery chargers, glasses, town clothes, winter or summer gear.
Are there any disadvantages?
The most commonly cited disadvantage to using a bump box is, as one hiker put it, becoming “a slave” to the post office. You might find yourself rushing to town before the post office closes or waiting in town until it opens. Some hikers who covet the freedom of a long distance hike find this troublesome. Others use it as an excuse to kick back and take an extra day off in town. How you react to conforming to post office hours is probably a good indicator of whether or not you should have a bump box. Remember, it is meant to make life easier – not harder.
Another disadvantage is the cost of postage. If you’re hiking on a budget you might not want to spend your precious dollars on postage. Luckily, there are a few ways to get around this.
How can I save on postage?
You can send your box by Priority mail. It costs a little extra but allows you to forward your box at no additional charge. If you don’t need your box in the next town you can simply send it ahead.
Another way to save postage is to refrain from sending your box to every town you stop at. Instead, stock up enough to send it two or three towns forward. This will also give you a break from the post office for a few towns.
How do I address my bump box?
Complete your mailing label as follows:
c/o General Delivery
Town Name, NC 55555
**Hold for AT thru-hiker: ETA 00/00/0000**
Be sure to include a return address where you’d like your box to be sent if it somehow gets lost or otherwise separated from you.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Every hiker is different. While one hiker might tell you s/he could not live without a bump box, another will tell you s/he has never needed one. When deciding if you should use a bump box, consider if you have enough extra gear and supplies to necessitate one. If you do, give it a try. You will soon discover from practice whether or not a bump box is right for you.