Resupplying and Food Drops

For some people, a seven-day hike in the wilderness just isn’t long enough. Many extreme hikers want to walk for months on end, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of kilometres in one go. There are many hikes that accommodate this such as the Appalachian Trail in the US or the world’s longest hike, the Trans Canada Trail, stretching 24,000 km across the country.

While hikes of these lengths are vastly outside the bounds of this guide, a beginner may still consider a trek longer than a week or two as their first hike. This was my case, choosing to walk the Larapinta Trail across Central Australia for my first hike – 234km over 17 days.

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While it’s possible to carry seventeen days worth of food, there are ways to avoid carrying such a heavy load. Here are some options:

A Tour
While a tour is the only means to do certain hikes, it’s not always considered true hiking when someone carries half of your gear, pitches your tent and prepares your meals. It does make it easier to carry a heavy load of food and depending on where you are, you might be able to hire a donkey to carry it for you.

Town Resupply Points
On many longer hikes, the trail passes through villages or townships specially for resupply. Hikes through the Himalayas or El Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James – in Europe are classic examples of this. In some locations, such as South America, many hikes have refugios where food is sold and accommodation provided.

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Food Drops
On treks where there are no villages or refugios, the remaining option is the food drop. A food drop is a box left at certain points along the trail with food for the next part of the trail.

There are several options for food drops depending on the trek:

Food Drop Shelters
Some hikes, such as the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia have lockable food drop shelters. The food is stored in large plastic tubs with lids (to protect against mice) and are either dropped off prior to the hike or delivered by a transport company before needing them. These boxes are usually rented and allow the disposal of garbage also.

Nearby Residents
Where food drop shelters are not available, contacting home owners near the trail and begging them to allow you to leave food supplies at their homes may be an option. Most are unfortunately not so receptive, or may charge for the privilege.

Wild Drops
With no other option there’s always the wild drop, where the food box ii left in a hidden location along the trail. This may mean constructing rocky pyres or burying the food so scavenging animals can’t get to it. The ultimate downside of this approach is arriving at your drop point to find the food missing or destroyed by some natural disaster such as a fire. Likely this will spell the end of the hike.

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Packing a Food Drop Box

Food drop boxes are easy to set up. After having planned the length of your hike, you should have an idea how much food is needed for each day. Then simply split the food into groups of days and add the required number of days to each box.

Food shouldn’t be the only things left in food drop boxes though, as other consumables may need to be refilled. This includes items such as toilet paper, spare batteries, cooking gas, medical supplies, water treatment tablets and the like.

Food Box Treats
Walking for a long period can mean eating lightweight and bland foods. So, leaving treats in your food drop box will add to the pleasure of arriving at a collection point. These are items that may be too heavy to carry with you, such as whole fruits (apples and oranges last best), tinned foods or special treats such as potato chips, chocolate bars and even beer. Remember, any packaging can be left in the drop box.

The Trail Wanderer

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