Food Drops are resupply bags that are sent out onto the race trail prior to the start of any event. Most distance sled dog races use the Food Drop system. These resupplies are basically - dropped - out at the various Checkpoints and wait there for the musher and dog team to race through and pick them up.
Shorter races - such as the Copper Basin 300, Tustemena 200, Kusko 300 - have the Food Drops due the day before the race starts. The longer (and more complex) sled dog races - the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod - have a Food Drop due date two or three weeks prior to the event. This is necessary in order to transport the supplies hundreds of miles by trucks or airplanes. All three SP Kennel Yukon Quest teams (Allen's YQ 1000 and Aliy and Ryne's YQ 300) Food Drops were due today.
These due dates are like any big looming deadlines. There are, of course, mushers who are last minute packers, mushers who have a routine and pack the same bags for 25 years and newbies who don't know what to pack.
Volunteers help sort Yukon Quest Food Drops
The biggest challenge with these due dates is that a musher will not know what the weather, temperature or trail conditions will be in two or three weeks. It is relatively simple to pack for a race that will start the next day, but it will be over a month from today's Yukon Quest Food Drop to when Allen goes through these bags at the Circle Checkpoint.
Most mushers will pack plenty of extras. Extra dog booties, socks, neck gaiters, gloves, dog jackets, musher food and the list goes on! As well as extra gear, extra dog food is essential. The race plan might be to stay at a checkpoint for 6 hours, but... in the real world anything can happen! (Aliy stayed in a checkpoint on the Iditarod during a blizzard for 24 hours.) Always be prepared to stay longer and feed more!
As well, the dogs' appetite sometimes changes with the weather and temperatures. Fat snacks and Eagle MVP kibble are necessary in very cold temperatures, but fish snacks and Eagle Power pack are better in warmer temperatures. Will this Yukon Quest be a "Snow Cone" or a "Hot Cup of Tea" kinda race?
The bottom line in packing Yukon Quest Food Drops is: pack what you think you'll need and then pack what you don't think you'll need, then you might be finished.