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What is a Hiker Box?

A hiker box is a box or area where hikers, trail angels, or others leave items for other hikers. Hiker boxes can be filled with all types of items. So it can be addictive to see what you can find.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       7/1/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
7/1/2021
hiker box with random supplies like toilet paper, ramen, stoves, and a water filter

Hiker Box

Hiker boxes can be found in a lot of hostels, motels, and stores that thru-hikers frequent. They contain items hikers don’t want to carry anymore. It’s important to visit the hiker box before shopping because it’s common to find at least one thing you can use.

plastic tub on its side

Heavy plastic containers

It doesn’t take long for hikers to realize some containers weigh a lot.

toilet paper

Toilet Paper

This is one of the best finds in a hiker box. No need to purchase four rolls of toilet paper at the store if it’s in the hiker box.

Remember to pack out used toilet paper. And never burn toilet paper in the wilderness.

a bottle of shampoo

Shampoo

It’s so nice to find shampoo for the shower!

a plastic water bottle

Nalgene Flask

Hiker boxes toward the beginning of the trail tend to have a lot of heavy items that might seem to be a good idea at the time but don’t end up working out on trail, like a heavy Nalgene bottle.

A random bag of what looks like sugar

Mystery Bag

There will likely be many bags without any labels in the hiker box. Some items you can easily figure out what they are, like rice. Others will require a risk assessment.

ramen, instant mashed potatoes, almond butter, and oatmeal

Ramen and more

Every hiker box should have some ramen. Score!

Sawyer water filter

Old low flowing water filter

It’s common to find low flowing water filters in hiker boxes, once hikers realize they need to get a new one.

a snickers bar

Snickers Bar

Finding a Snickers bar in a hiker box is about as rare as finding Bigfoot.

a pile of sauces and peppers in small sealable packages

Assortment of condiments

It’s common to find an assortment of condiments. Hot sauce is a favorite for many hikers.

an open glasses case

Eyeglass Case

It’s very common to find heavy eyeglass cases along the trail. Thru-hikers realize that they can make a case out a much lighter option.

random stoves in hiker box

Fuel Canisters

Every hiker box has to have an assortment of almost empty isobutane fuel canisters. If you are very lucky you might find a full one.

a large bag of rice

Big Bag of Something

Almost every hiker box has a big bag of something. This big bag contains rice but it isn’t instant rice, which isn’t super ideal for cooking with a small backpacking stove.

Summary

It’s always a good practice to look over the hiker box in town before going shopping. You might just get lucky and find what you need.

Remember to put any items you don’t need back into the hiker box, in case the next lucky hiker needs it! Sharing is caring.


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Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association
A lake reflects a nearby wildflower meadow and trees.
Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.