How to Support Your Friends Hiking A Long Trail

Care Package for Hikers

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.

Photo and Letters
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.