What is a bounce box?
For non-backpackers, a bounce box is a package you mail to yourself as you hike for weeks at a time. The box can be mailed to post offices with “Poste Restante” services. When your box arrives at these locations, the box is kept for a couple months until you arrive and pick it up. You get anything you might need out of the box (or leave it unopened) and then mail it again to yourself further down the trail.
In New Zealand the Poste Restante will keep your box one week free of charge and then charge NZ$2.50 a week (about $1.60, U.S.) for up to two months. After two months the package is returned to sender address.
In essence, the box bounces down the trail and meets you throughout your hike–carrying things you don’t need very often or your refills.
What a bounce box is not
A bounce box is not the same as a food drop. A food drop is when you mail yourself food resupplies to an area of the trail where food is hard to get or in a location that groceries are exceptionally expensive. On the Te Araroa we will use food drops a few times on the more-rural south island, but not often. Some trails in the world require you (or it is simply preferred practice) to mail yourself food drops throughout much of the hike. Many hikers like food drops because they pack heavy favorite foods that you wouldn’t carry in your pack, and when they get to their drop, it seems like Christmas (think rice noodles and dehydrated lima beans meets Nutella and potato chips). Food drops don’t usually go to a post office. Rather, they are mailed to rural huts/shacks/people’s garages that specifically serve as a food drop location for hikers.
What’s in a bounce box?
People put all kinds of different things into their bounce boxes. You frequently find back-up consumables (hygiene products, first aid items, medications), clothing (spare underwear, pants you only want for part of the trip, etc.) and food.
On the Te Araroa shoes are considered a consumable, and it is typical for second and third pairs of shoes to be in the bounce box because they are expensive to buy in New Zealand. We are very fortunate to be joined by a friend halfway through our hike, and he will be bringing us our second pairs of shoes from Luxembourg–saving us on bounce-shipping costs. (We are trying to hike the 3,000 km with only two pair each.)
Our Bounce Box
There are many Poste Restante options along the Te Araroa. Based on our schedule and the contents of our box, we will be using Poste Restante post offices in the following cities to access our bounce box,
- Auckland (about day 29)
- Palmerston North (Philippe (Georges’ buddy, joining us for a few weeks) will be bringing Bounce Box Part II supplies to add) (about day 65)
- Wellington (about day 76)
- Wanaka (about day 122)
- Invercargill (about day 140)
- (maybe one more back to Auckland)
From our math, we are expecting to spend NZ$8.50 per shipment and NZ$2.50 per week of storage after first week in Poste Restante.
With Georges’ extreme form of over-estimating all financial forecasts, we will be there for 27 total weeks at NZ$2.50 a week minus at least 5 weeks of ‘first seven days free’. So, we will spend (22weeks*NZ$2.50) NZ$55 on bounce-box rent. Plus shipping costs might be about (NZ$8.50*6shipments) NZ$51. So we are looking at about US$70 for our entire bounce box experience. This is way, way below the costs we’ve seen from other TA hiker’s blogs, so we will see if we can do it for this little.
(on a side note, the correct way to type New Zealand Dollars is ‘NZD’; I simply like NZ$)
Bounce box contents:
- A lot of individual drink mix packets (like 400)
- First aid and hygiene extras and back-ups
- Spare t-shirt, shorts and socks for Morgan
Philippe’s bringing more of the above plus our second pairs of shoes–a real cost saver!! Thanks, Philippe!!!