Experience From - Jay Hodde , Kevin Sayers , Rich Schick , John Thieme , Bill Ramsey
I've been on both sides of the aid station equation, as runner and as worker, and learned a lot by volunteering. Some tips for packing bags:
I crewed/paced Jay at Old Dominion last year and know first hand that his drop bag system works well and leaves very little to chance. I adopted his ideas and added a few of my own.
Don't ever put anything in a drop bag that you aren't prepared to part with permanently. Things happen, runners, crews and interested third parties all pass through drop points. Runners can and have in innocent confusion taken items from other's drop bags. Theft happens. Honest mistakes occur. Bags come apart and spill and attempts at sorting out mixed contents is less than an exact science.
Bottom line, its like getting lost... it just happens sometimes. If everything goes well feel fortunate, if not accept that its part of the game and there is nothing gained by trying to assign blame.
I have experience with trying to keep and people and their gear together and return when they've been separated from it. (Camp Counselor, YMCA youth worker...)
Folks, the easiest thing to do is get your name on your gear. Write it on, sew on a label, hey I've even embroidered my name on some items.
It's not hard, it does mean planning ahead- which is something I've notice Ultra runners are good at, and it removes the burden from the people who are left with a pile of good stuff but no way to know who it belongs to. Good Will and the Society of St. Vincent dePaul used to get lots of clothes and camping gear at the end of season from Camp Y-Koda in Sheboygan. We knew it belonged to someone, but didn't know who and after a reasonable time when no one claimed off it went to charity.
By the way when you conspicuous write your name on an item is a bright color it also become less likely to be "liberated."
I've always been a bit leery about drop bags because they involve a lot of trust in people who you don't know. Granted, those people are typically hard-working dedicated volunteers doing their best. I love all em all.
As we all know, "s%#t happens"...worst case scenario is a bag gets inadvertently separated from those going to the intended destination. No malice or incompetence...just Murphy's law. I was finally resigned to using a drop bag at WS100 this year (Duncan Canyon) because of the lack of crew access. I was surprised at the types of bags being used which included taped shoe boxes, plastic shopping bags, and similar containers of dubious structural integrity. I just wouldn't trust my stuff in many of the containers I saw at the collection point the day before the race.
I drove down to REI and picked up a couple large capacity nylon stuff sacks for about $8, big enough to hold shoes, a light jacket, socks, bag balm, and some foodstuffs. They work great. And the nice people at Duncan Canyon repeatedly asked if I would like any help with them...to which I responded with a smile, "No thank you". I alone have a compelling interest in making sure all my gear gets back into my drop bag.