Do you have any friends or family members hiking a long trail this summer? (see: Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, or Continental Divide Trail) If so, you are in prime position to lend some vital support. A helping hand for a hiker comes in many forms, whether it’s food, financial or emotional support, and any acts of kindness can go a long way for someone spending their days hiking. Providing any sort of assistance is easy enough to do, and with these helpful hints and tips, you can ensure that your generosity doesn’t add any unnecessary weight to carry.
Sending Food Support: What to Send
While your backpacking buddy might be able to consume all the food they can imagine, some items are going to be more helpful than others. For backpackers who are burning a lot of energy and carrying everything they own on their back, light-weight and calorie-dense items are key. Protein bars, nutty snack mix, and jerky are packable favorites, as are candy bars, tuna packets, and more candy bars. One of the best ways to find out what your hiking comrade enjoys eating on the trail, especially if dietary concerns are involved, is simply asking.
Sending Food Support: What to Avoid
If you are sending food to use while backpacking, try avoiding any heavy food items with a low-calorie count, anything that can spoil quickly, and any food items that contain an excessive amount of packaging. Special food items or requested fares aside, items like canned food, fresh produce or one-pound bags of individually wrapped candies are hard to carry with you.
*Chances are if you are sending food to a hiker, they will be picking up that package at some spot in civilization where backpacking food rules don’t have to apply. Adding an extra treat from the “what to avoid” list is always welcomed here, where your hiker can gorge on whatever it is before they head back on the trail.
Sending a Package
Coordination is key whenever trying to connect with someone backpacking in and out of the wilderness and cell phone reception. Hopefully, your hiker will have some idea of where and when they’ll be at certain mailbox locations—and they can relay that information to you in a timely manner.
Because of the general remoteness of most trails and communities they connect to, wherever you send a package, be sure to provide ample time (2–4 weeks) for a package to travel to its destination. Writing your hiker’s name, as well as the expected arrival date on all sides of the package, can help make a successful transfer.
Sending Financial Support
In some instances of long-distance hiking, it’s possible for hikers to have spent half of their budget well before being halfway done with the trail. Financial insecurity can often be a contributing reason for someone stepping off-trail, and any sort of financial support can help extend any trip. If you would prefer to not strictly send cash and you’d rather see a receipt for your dollars well spent, a few covered expenses can help a hiker out.
Sending Financial Support: Other than cash
New shoes, replacement apparel, and food (see above) are common recurring expenses you can cover, and can all be mailed directly to the hiker. For in-town stops along the trail, buying a dinner or hotel room (or perhaps a beer) is a great way to show your support and can be done over the phone.
Sending Financial Support: How to send cash
To send some spending money, one of the most convenient and quickest ways is through an online payment system. PayPal is always a popular and safe choice, is as Venmo and Dwolla. If you don’t already have an online account set up, ask your hiking friend which application they use. If online money transfers are not your thing, cash or check through the mail is an alternative option.
Sending Emotional Support
A certain ratio exists between the physical and mental demands of hiking a long trail, and while the calculus varies from person to person, there’s no denying that long-distance backpacking takes an emotional toll on a person. To help resupply someone’s psyche, consider adding something special to a food box, sending your words of support or perhaps showing up in person to provide some necessary high-fives and human company.
Emotional Support: Think Light
If you want to send a special item to lift someone’s spirits, consider adding something extra to a food package (see above). Don’t forget to keep things light here, as any heavy objects will literally weigh your hiking friend down. Photographs, handwritten letters, and any specially requested (or hinted towards) items make for a great addition to any food package.
Emotional Support: Social Media Support
If handwritten letters aren’t your forté, this newfangled invention called social media really helps maintain a connection. While “likes” are only a thumb-click away, if you really want to add some social media support to someone’s hiking endeavors consider diving a little deeper. Comments add more value, as do direct messages of support. If your hiking buddy has a blog, make sure to read it and comment on something specific they wrote about.
Emotional Support: Sending Yourself
There’s no better emotional support than sending yourself to deliver a homemade hug or welcomed familiar face. Communication and coordination are key here if you are trying to meet someone on the trail, and perhaps an easier option is to meet someone at a rest town between hiking miles. Pick up the tab on the hotel room and/or a meal (see above) and be sure to reinforce how awesome your hiking friend is.