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Hiker Lexicon

There are loads of backpacking terms, AKA hiker slang, that can lead a new hiker to total confusion as these hiking words may sound silly at first.

Let’s take a look at the most common thru-hiker lingo and hiking terms to help you be better prepared to understand the words most frequently used.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | #

Amazing green forest with a clear cut trail leading you through

#

2,000 Miler – Any individual who has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, regardless of time spent doing so, and regardless of the AT’s exact length upon completion.

A

ALDHA

Amicalola – Short for Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia, home of Springer Mountain.

Aqua Blaze – To skip a section of the AT by watercraft (e.g. canoe, kayak, raft).

AT (noun, place) – Abbreviation for Appalachian Trail or the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

ATC – Abbreviation for Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the organization that oversees the maintenance of, conservation on, and advocacy for the preservation of the AT. The headquarters in Harpers Ferry is also often referred to as “the ATC.”

AWOL – Short for The A.T. Guide by computer scientist and AT thru-hiker David “Awol” Miller.

AYCE – Acronym for “all you can eat.”

B

Bald – Describes a treeless, rocky summit in certain areas of the Appalachians. A “bald” is usually a treeless summit in the southern region that is not necessarily above timberline, but the peak is still open at the summit.

Banana Blazing – The opposite of pink blazing is following a man down the trail, typically due specifically to romantic interests, usually done by a woman.

Baxter – Short for Baxter State Park, Maine, home of Mount Katahdin.

Big Three Your backpack, shelter, and sleep system. These are typically the heaviest, most expensive, and most critical categories of items carried, and thus tend to get the most attention during gear discussions.

Blaze – A trail marker that helps to keep you going in the correct direction, helps to inform you of the trail ahead, and any turns or course corrections are done through these markings. To learn more, check out my post on blazes and trail markings.

Blue-blaze – To skip a section of the white-blazed AT by walking an alternative route.

The Bubble – The denser cluster of northbound thru-hikers who embark from Springer Mountain the last week of March and the first week of April. Sometimes also refers to the much smaller cluster of southbound thru-hikers who embark from Mount Katahdin the first week of June.

Bonus Miles – The extra miles you end up hiking to re-supply or when you made the wrong turn. Everyone does it, but some admit it more.

C

Cache – A pre-placed and frequently hidden stash of food or supplies that have been left for a specific hiker or group of hikers. If you’re in a place where resupply is difficult, you might ask/pay a local trail angel to hide a cache halfway through that section for you to pick up during your hike.

Cairn – A small tower of rocks used as a trail marker in areas where trees are scarce or used sentimentally as a monument.

CDT – Short for the Continental Divide Trail or Continental Divide National Scenic Trail runs 3,100 miles across the U.S.’ western continental divide, from Mexico to Canada. See Triple-Crown below.

Cathole –

Cowboy Camping –

D

Death March – Unusually long, not very interesting hike. Term often applied when forced to take a dull trail to reach the one you really want to be on.

Double Walled Tent construction that reduces condensation by having an inner net and an outer waterproof shell separated by some space.

Dry Camp – A waterless camping spot.

E

F

False Summit –

FKT – Fastest Known Time – the fastest time that anyone has completed a trail while officially being tracked.

Flip-flop – To thru-hike the entire AT but in a non-contiguous manner. 

Footprint – A ground sheet for a tarp or tent.

G

GAME (concept) – An acronym used by northbound thru-hikers meaning “Georgia to Maine,” sometimes written as “GA→ME.”  See NoBo.

GORP – Homemade trail mix: known as granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts

Trail Lingo

Hiker speak. Learn the definitions for terms and commonly used abbreviations, phrases, lingo, jargon, lexicon, slang, you name it used in the long-distance hiking community.

If you’d like to add to the list or suggest corrections, please send a comment.

2000 Miler – A person who has hiked the entire distance between termini of the official (white-blazed) AT, either by thru-hiking or section hiking.

Access Trail – A trail that connects a primary trail to a road, campground, or another trail.

Acclimatization – The process of becoming gradually accustomed to high altitude.

ADK – Adirondack Mountain Club, established in 1922.

ADZPCTKO – Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off. An annual event organized by former thru hikers for the benefit of current thru hikers. The Kick Off is held at Lake Morena, 20 miles from the southern terminus of the trail, during the last weekend in April. The purpose of the Kick Off is to offer information, encouragement and camaraderie to the current year’s thru and section hikers. Also known as the ADZ.
 
In an effort to spread out the pack, some thru hikers will begin their hikes before the Kick Off, hitch a ride back to Lake Morena to attend the Kick Off, and then hitch back to the point where they left the trail. Kick Off participants offer rides to and from points as far north as Warner Springs.

Alcohol Stove – A stove that runs on denatured alcohol or HEET. Mainly used for boiling water to rehydrate or cook food.

ALDHA – The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association began in 1983 as an off-trail family of fellow hikers who’ve all shared similar experiences, hopes and dreams on the Appalachian Trail and other long trails. ALDHA sponsors the Gathering each October and member volunteers compile The Thru-hikers’ Companion for the ATC. Membership in this nonprofit group is open to all.

Alpine Zone –The area consisting of all the land above tree line in New England. The alpine zone is best defined by its plant life. Conifers such as spruce and balsam grow as Krumholz near the tree line, giving way to tundra-type lichens, moss, and shrubs above.

AMC – The Appalachian Mountain Club, maintaining the AT in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Grafton Notch in Maine.

AMC Huts – In New Hampshire’s White Mountains, in heavy use areas and above treeline, the AMC provides buildings called Huts for backpackers to stay overnight.

AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness. Occurs at high altitude due to diminished oxygen. Begins with shortness of breath, followed by swelling, flu-like symptoms, and eventually, death. Most people won’t experience symptoms until they reach heights well above 10,000 feet. Varies with the individual.

Apron – Transition area on a switchback where you change direction.

Aqua Blazing – By-passing a section of the trail in favor of floating along a waterway that parallels the trail.

Aquamira – A two-part chemical water treatment. Aquamira is the most common brand.

AT – Appalachian Trail.

ATC – The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a volunteer-based, private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, management, and promotion of the Appalachian Trail as a primitive setting for outdoor recreation (on foot) and for learning. ATC is both a confederation of Trail-maintaining clubs and an individual-membership organization.

AT Guide – The full-trail handbook for the Appalachian Trail. In this guide are landmarks, mileage, elevations and town information for the entire AT.

AT Journeys –The monthly magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Avery, Myron (Myron Avery, 1931-1952)–The first 2000 miler, and the man credited with building the Appalachian Trail. Chair of the ATC from 1931 until his death in 1952.

AYCE – ‘All You Can Eat’ Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.

AYH – American Youth Hostels.

Backcountry – Area where there are no maintained roads or permanent buildings, just primitive roads and trails.

Backslope – Trail construction term.  Describes the cut bank along the uphill side of the trail, extending upslope from the tread.

Bald – Describes a treeless, rocky summit in certain areas of the Appalachians. A “bald” is usually a treeless summit in the southern region that is not necessarily above timberline, but the peak is still open at the summit. Has more of a pastoral feel than the treeless summits of the Whites or Adirondacks.

Banana Blazing – The counterpart to pink blazing. It’s when a girl changes her pace or skips a section to hike with a guy.

Baseball Bat Shelter – An old style of shelter construction in Maine where the floor would be constructed out of parallel logs each with diameters not much greater than that of a baseball bat.

Baselayer – Next to skin clothing layer, preferably wicking and quick drying.

Base Weight – The weight of your pack and its contents, not including consumable items (food, water, and fuel).

Baxter – Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is, and the AT’s Northern terminus on Baxter Peak.

Bear Bag – A bag used by hikers to hang their food out of reach of bears and other critters, see ‘Food Bag.’

Bear Box – Metal containers found at trail heads where bears are active.  The idea is to take all food and other smelly stuff out of your car and leave it in the bear box. Boxes use latches, pins and other devices to keep the bears out.

Bear Burrito – Hammock.

Bear Cable – A permanent cable rigged high between two trees specifically for hanging bear bags.

Bear Canister – A portable container used to secure food from bears.

Bear Fortune Cookie – Tent.

Bear Pinatas – A poorly hung bear bag that’s sure to be popped open overnight like an ursine party favor.

Bench – A long step, or tier, on the side of a hill.  You climb until you reach the bench, then you walk across it, then climb until you reach the next bench.

Benton MacKaye Trail – BMT. This trail is complete from Springer Mountain to US Hwy 64 near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, a distance of 90.9 miles.

Big Three – Your backpack, shelter, and sleep system. These are typically the heaviest, most expensive, and most critical categories of items carried, and thus tend to get the most attention during gear discussions.

Bivouac – To sleep outdoors without a tent or proper gear, usually done only in emergency situations. Though alpine climbers may do planned bivouacs on long and difficult routes, carrying gear known as a bivouac sack.

Bivy Sack – A lightweight and sometimes waterproof bag that covers a sleeping bag.

Black Blazer – Someone, usually a disgruntled townie, who paints over or otherwise removes trail markers and blazes to prevent hikers from finding the trail.

Black Flies – Tiny biting insects that breed in running water and flourish in late May and June.

Blaze – Mark on a tree, rock, sign, etc. indicating the trail route. The Appalachian Trail is blazed with painted, 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical white rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects, in both directions, to mark the official route of the trail. Side trails are marked with blue blazes. You see horizontal, diagonal, arrows, and other blazes along the trail.

Blaze Orange – A very bright, visible in low light, hue of orange. The color to wear during hunting season.

Bliss Index – A scale that attempts to place a hiker’s state of blissfulness into numerical form; a score of ten is absolute bliss, while a score of one borders on boredom or misery.

Blow-down – A tree or shrub that has fallen across the trail.

Blowout – Epic failure of a portion of your trail running shoes (soles, upper, toe guard), usually resulting in unsightly duct tape repairs and haggard sewing jobs in the field.

Blue Blaze – Spur trails off the AT to bad-weather routes, views, shelters, water sources etc. are often marked by AT-style blazes painted Blue.

Blue Blazer – A long-distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the trail.

BMT – Benton MacKaye Trail. This trail is complete from Springer Mountain to US Hwy 64 near the Ocoee River in Tennessee, a distance of 90.9 miles.

Boardwalk – Planking built on piling in areas of wet soil or water to provide dry hiking.

Bog Bridge – Narrow wooden walkway placed to protect sensitive wetlands.

Bollard – Round post barrier, often metal, usually 4′ high to prevent vehicles from entering a trail.

Bomber – An item of gear that is extremely durable.

Bonk – Running out of energy to hike due to eating too few calories.

Bonus Miles – Miles walked that are not on the trail, such as miles to and from resupply points or to and from off-trail water sources or non-trail miles walked due to bad navigation.

Bounce Box – A mail-drop type box containing seldom used necessities that is mailed ahead to a town where you think you might need the contents.

Break Trail – In winter, to hike in the lead position, forcing one’s way through fresh snow. Others follow in the footsteps.

Brown Blazing – Taking a detour off the trail to take a dump.

BRP – Blue Ridge Parkway.

Buffer Zone – Areas important to, but not part of, the Appalachian trail.

Bushwhack – To hike where there is no marked trail.

Cache (pronounced cash) – A supply of water, food, or supplies hidden for later retrieval.

Cairn – An obviously manmade pile of rocks erected as a trail marker, chiefly used above timberline. Should be close enough to see the next one in heavy fog and high enough to see above fallen snow.

Calorie Loading – Eating as much high fat food as you can during a town stop.

Camel Up – Drink your fill of water at the source until you’re filled up then hike on. Also called Tank Up.

Canister Stove – The type of small backpacking stove that uses metal canisters of fuel.

Canopy – Upper layer of leaves in a forest, covering the ground below.

Caretaker – The person who maintains and collects fees at certain shelters and campsites.

Casa de Luna – The home of Joe and Terrie Anderson, about one day’s hike north of Hiker Heaven on the PCT. The Andersons are well known trail angels who allow hikers to stay at their home. Terrie Anderson has described the atmosphere in their home as hippy day care. While not as popular as Hiker Heaven, many hikers do choose to stay at Casa de Luna. It is reported that those who do not stop at Casa de Luna will often have some sort of problem on the next section of trail that will force them to turn back to Casa de Luna.
 
The Andersons also maintain a cache along the trail. Terrie is said to make the best taco salad available anywhere along the trail.

Catenary Curve – The natural curve an object takes on when supported on both ends, used in tarp/tent construction to make taught pitches easier.

Cat Hole – A small hole dug by a hiker for the deposit of human waste.

CBS – Cold Butt Syndrome. When your butt gets cold while sleeping in a hammock.

CDT – Continental Divide Trail.

Cirque – A group of mountains that form a circle.

Class – Usually referred to in terms of technical climbing, for example: Class 1 is a simple mountain that can be climbed wearing a pair of sneakers; little more than a nature loop. Class 2 includes minor handholds, more or less to steady yourself as you clamber up the mountain. Class 3 includes some vertical climbing, and perhaps use of a rope. Class 4 is any climb that requires use of a belay, in which another climber is required to remain stationary to take up slack and arrest the fall of the active climber. Class 5 is any climb that requires ropes to be attached to fixed objects, such as a tree or piton. The attachment is not to aid in ascent, but rather to protect in the event of a fall. Class 5 is the one with the most “variables.” A Class 5.0 has two handholds and two footholds. Class 5.4 is missing a hold. Class 5.8 has a hold available for one hand and one foot only. Class 5.12 has no visible holds. Class 5.13 is a surface with no holds and is under an overhang. Class 5 is often further broken up, such as 5.13a, but this arcana is really in the climber’s arena…not ours. Class 6 is any climb that requires artificial assistance to be carried out, whether it is ropes dropped from above or other mechanical aids.

Cobbknocker – Whoever is first to wake up and start hiking usually ends up clearing the trail of spider webs.

Col – Dips in the ridge without a road, while Gap and Notch are typically larger dips that have a road going through. Sag is a typically southern term, as is Gap, while Col and Notch are typically northern terms. Water Gap is, of course, a Gap with a river.

Comfort Hiker – A hiker who is in the mindset that the fifty pounds on his/her back make them more comfortable than the twenty pounds on the ultralighter’s back.

Companion – The ALDHA Thru-hikers’ Companion is an AT guidebook compiled by AHLDA volunteers for the ATC.

Contouring – Following an imaginary contour line around a mountain or canyon to get from point A to point B, rather than going up and down on a direct path. When a trail is “contouring” it means that it’s relatively flat, and going around a promontory rather than over it.

Corridor – The Appalachian Trail is a long and narrow Park, sometimes less than 100 feet wide. The Area set aside for the AT to pass within is called the Trail Corridor.

Cotton World, The – Life off of the trail. So called because wearing cotton will not put you in danger of hypothermia. Also known as real life.

Cove – A Southern Appalachian word meaning a high, flat valley surrounded by mountains. Cades Cove in the Smokies is the one most people know about.

Cowboy Camping – Where one camps without any shelter – just spread one’s pad and bag out under the stars and putting one’s faith in their opinion about the weather staying dry.

Cowboy Coffee – Coffee made the old-fashioned way.

How to make cowboy coffee:

  1. Boil water in a pot.
  2. Add enough ground coffee to make it strong enough for your needs.
  3. Return to boil.
  4. Remove from heat source.
  5. Cover pot.
  6. Wait for grounds to sink to bottom (approximately five minutes, depending on outside temperature). Do NOT add cold water to help the grounds sink faster; you must be patient.
  7. Serve and drink. 

Crash Camp – An improvised camp site. When a 22 mile uphill day turns in to too much hiking crash camp sites are looked for around mile 19. Too small, not level enough, and hardly ever near water. Crash camps lead to early mornings.

Croo – The crew of caretakers who man the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts. For the most part, the summer Croo will be college students.

Crotch Rot – The cumulative effect of neglecting hygiene in the downstairs region of the body.

Cryptosporidium – A Waterborne pathogen, Cryptosporidium is a parasite commonly found in lakes and rivers, especially when the water is contaminated with sewage and animal wastes. Cryptosporidium is very resistant to disinfection, and even a well-operated water treatment system cannot ensure that drinking water will be completely free of this parasite.

Cuben Fiber – Now Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), a material originally manufactured for high-end boat sails, high in strength/low in weight, used in ultralight tents, stuff sacks, and backpacks. It is a matrix of UHMWPE fibers sandwiched between two Mylar layers.

Data Book – Published for over 25 years by the ATC the Data Book is a consolidation of the most basic guidebook information into a lightweight table of distances between major Appalachian Trail shelters, road-crossings, and features–divided according to the guidebook volumes and updated each December to account for trail relocations, new (or removed) shelters, and other changes. Keyed to both guidebook sections and maps.

Day Hiker – A hiker out for the day that usually carries a small backpack or no pack at all.

DCF – See Dyneema Composite Fabric

Dead Fall – A maintainer’s term for fallen dead trees across the trail.

Death March – Unusually long, not very interesting hike. Term often applied when forced to take a dull trail to reach the one you really want to be on.

DEET – A powerful insect repellant.

DIAD – Done In a Day backcountry trips.

Dip ‘N Sip – Cowboy water:  Straight from the source, unfiltered. The easiest, laziest means to acquire water in the woods. Usually at high altitudes, well away from cow pastures.

Dirtbagging – The art of thrift shopping and other techniques for providing equipment and clothing inexpensively.

Ditty Bag – Small stuff sack of personal items.

DOC – The Dartmouth Outing Club, maintaining 70 miles of AT in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Dodgeways – V-shaped stiles through fences, used where the Trail passes through livestock enclosures.

Double Blaze – Two blazes, one above the other is an indication of an imminent turn or intersection in the trail. Offset double blazes, called Garveys, indicate the direction of the turn by the offset of the top blaze.

Double Walled – Tent construction that reduces condensation by having an inner net and an outer waterproof shell separated by some space.

Drift Box – See Bounce Box.

Drop Box – A fancy name for a resupply box.

Dry Camp – A waterless camping spot.

Duck – A small cairn constructed to have a “beak” pointing in the direction of the route.

Duct Tape – A wide, heavy duty, and multi-purpose tape used by hikers for everything from covering blisters to repairing gear.

DWR – Durable Water Repellant, a type of fabric coating.

Dyneema Composite Fabric – Formerly Cuben Fiber, a material originally manufactured for high-end boat sails, high in strength/low in weight, used in ultralight tents, stuff sacks, and backpacks. It is a matrix of UHMWPE fibers sandwiched between two Mylar layers.

Endangered Services Campaign – A decade old ALDHA response to preserving the positive relationship between hiker and service provider.

End-to-Ender – An alternative term for 2,000-Miler.

Escape Velocity – The will to walk away from a vortex.

FAK – First Aid Kit.

Fall Line – The most direct route downhill from any particular point.

False Lead – It looks like the trail, smells like the trail, and for a while it seems like you’re on the trail…but you actually followed the false lead off the true trail.

Fastpacking – A term for carrying less gear and hiking more miles per day.

FBC – Freezer Bag Cooking. To cook in a quart size zip-lok freezer bag by simply adding hot water to dehydrated food.

FKT – Fastest Known Time.

Fletcher, Colin – Often referred to as the Spiritual Godfather of the wilderness backpacking movement. Author of The Complete Walker (1968).

Flip-flop – A hiker that starts hiking in one direction then at some point decides to jump ahead and hike back in the opposite direction. Some hikers on the AT will start hiking northbound from Springer Mt. and usually at Harpers Ferry they may decide to go to Katahdin and hike back down to Harpers Ferry, thus completing their thru-hike. This is a good way for someone to still get their hike completed if they are behind and their time is limited due to the oncoming winter.

Floater – Debris floating in a water source that needs to be filtered out, even if the water quality is such that filtering the water is not otherwise necessary.

Flyer – A box of supplies you mail to yourself, to a location farther up the trail.

Food Bag – A bag a hiker carries in their pack specifically for keeping all their food in. It is typically suspended from a tree at night so bears and varmints don’t get into it. Also called Bear Bag.

Footprint – A ground sheet for a tarp or tent and of course, a mark left behind by a foot.

Forty-Sixer – Peakbagger slogging up the 46 highest peaks in New York’s Adirondacks. One of the better-known peakbagging milestones.

Fourteener – Peakbagger pursuing the Colorado mountains exceeding 14,000′ elevation.

Freehiking – Hiking off established trails. Unlike “bushwhacking” which is usually done as a short-cut, freehiking intentionally seeks a complete hike experience free of artificial boundaries. Some speedhikers are also freehikers.

Freezer Bag Cooking – To cook in a quart size zip-lok freezer bag by simply adding hot water to dehydrated food.

FSO – From Skin Out. Total weight of everything worn or carried, including pack and contents, consumables (food, water, fuel), and everything worn or carried in your hands or pockets. When considering the weight of gear, it’s important to remember that your total gear weight ‘from skin out’ is as important a total as what your pack weighs.

Gaiters – Outerwear that zips or snaps around ankles and lower legs to keep dust, water, snow, muck, or rocks out of your hiking shoes.

GAME or GAMEr – A hike or hiker going from Georgia to Maine.

Gap – A southern term for a low spot along a ridge line, called a col by northern individuals.

Garvey – A double blaze where the top blaze is offset to indicate the direction of a turn in the trail. Named after Ed Garvey.

Garvey, Ed (Ed Garvey, 1914-1999) – Celebrated friend of the AT, conservationist, thru-hiker, author of 1971s ‘Appalachian Hiker’ an adventure story that offered practical advice for AT hikers, and widely credited with popularizing backpacking and the Appalachian Trail.

Gathering – The ALDHA Gathering, held each October alternating between Hanover, New Hampshire and Athens, West Virginia.

GBITS – Great Backpacker in the Sky. The great being who sees over all backpackers and throws massive numbers of challenges their way to test the fortitude of their minds and heart.

Gear Acquirement Syndrome (GAS) – The need for new hiking toys.

Gear Head – A hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoor gear.

Gearly Afflicted – A camping enthusiast who knows no boundaries when it comes to owning new equipment.

Getting Off – The polite way to say someone is quitting their thru-hike, the implication being he/she may get back on.

Ghost Blazing – The art of following a section of trail that is no longer used. When a trail is “re-routed,” usually the old blazes are blackened out.

Giardia – More properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines cause by the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia. Giardia resides in water so it is wise to always chemically treat or filter your water before drinking. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite and vomiting. Also known as a backpacker’s worst nightmare.

Glissade – A way to quickly descend a snow slope, sitting and sliding down, usually holding an ice axe to be used to slow or stop the slide.

Glonk – A clueless idiot who doesn’t realize that uphill hikers have the right of way on a trail, and just bulldozes down.

GMC – Green Mountain Club, established in Vermont in 1910 for the purpose of constructing the Long Trail, the first section of the Appalachian Trail.

GORP – Good Ole Raisins & Peanuts, or trail mix.

Gram Weenie – A person obsessed with reducing weight of items worn or carried.

Green-blaze – To hike while high on marijuana or to follow/hike with someone to obtain it.

The Green Tunnel – A nickname for the AT, referencing the tree cover that encloses the trail corridor most of the way during the summer and late spring.

Green Blazing –

H

Hammock – A sleeping system that combines a bed with loft above the ground, hung between two trees.

Hiker Box – A donation or recycling box on the trail. Hikers will leave and take supplies from the box.

Hiker Hunger –

Hiker Midnight – Hikers that walk all day tend to fall asleep very early. 9:00 pm is jokingly referred to as hiker midnight. Those not asleep by 9:00 are expected to be as quiet as they would after midnight.

Harpers Ferry – The town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a few hundred miles south of the AT halfway point and home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy‘s headquarters.

Hiker Shuffle – What a long-distance hiker looks like after taking off their pack and walking, looks very similar to an elderly person.

Hiker Trash – A term for or describing long-distance hikers whose absence from civilization has led them to abandon certain social norms and expectations, becoming disheveled in appearance. It is sometimes said as an insult but is usually taken as a compliment.

Hike Your Own Hike or HYOH (phrase) – A motto of sorts that means anything from “to each his own” to “stay out of my business.”

Hut – In the White Mountains National Forest, a hut is a fully enclosed lodge with running water, wood stoves, and other amenities.

Hypothermia – Potentially fatal condition caused by insufficient heat and a drop in the body’s core temperature. Classic symptoms are called the ‘umbles’, as the victim stumbles, grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles with confused thoughts.

I

J

K

Katahdin – Short for Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

Knob – A prominent rounded hill or mountain. A southern term.

L

LASH – Long Ass Section Hike

Leave No Trace or LNT (phrase) – A phrase representing the seven principles of outdoor ethics:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

Logbook (noun, thing) – A guest book kept at shelters, campsites, and visitor centers along the AT where all hikers can write entries. Not to be confused with Trail Journals.

LT or The Long Trail (noun, place) – A national scenic trail running 273 miles through Vermont, which shares its southernmost 100 miles with the AT.

M

Mail Drop – A method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time, before the hike starts, and a person not hiking mails the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.

MEGA – An acronym used by southbound AT thru-hikers meaning “Maine to Georgia,” sometimes written “ME→GA.” See SoBo.

N

Nero – Short for “nearly zero,” or a partial day off (very few miles walked) during a long-distance hike.

Noro – Short for Norovirus, a disease that spreads quickly and easily in the backcountry. Outbreaks in 2012 and 2013 were particularly harsh on the AT.

NoBo – Short for “northbound,” “northbound hiker,” or “northbound thru-hiker.”

O

P

PCT (noun, place) – Short for the Pacific Crest Trail or Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which runs 2,600 miles across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges in the western United States.

Pink-blaze – To follow a woman down the trail out of romantic interests, usually done by a man.

Posthole –

Prescribed Burn – Intentional fires conducted by forestry services to clear underbrush and eliminate some of the fuel for potentially larger unintentional fires. 

Privy – An outhouse or compostable toilet at a backcountry campsite.

PUDS – Short for “pointless ups and downs,” meaning a series of climbs and descents without a view.

Purist – A thru-hiker who endeavors to walk every inch of the AT, typically without assistance.  The term is often used condescendingly.

Q

R

Register – A log book normally found at a trail shelter or a trail head. The original intent was for hikers to sign in so a searcher needing to find a lost hiker could tell where they last were.

Resupply – Going into town to get more food, pick up a mail drop, stock up, or repair gear.

Resupply Box – A package with new supplies sent to a town’s post office ahead of you.

Ridge Runner – A person paid by a trail maintaining club or governmental organization to hike back and forth along a certain section of trail to educate hikers, enforce regulations, monitor trail and campsite use, and sometimes perform trail maintenance or construction duties.

S

Section-Hiker: Any hiker that completes a section of a long-distance trail. Many can’t swing six month time off to straight thru-hike a trail and instead, they complete trails by hiking it in sections.

Shakedown – A trek typically of shorter distance and nights meant to test out gear and find weak spots or gear carried that isn’t used to help streamline your backpack for your needs.

Shelter – A structure for backcountry lodging, typically three-sided.

Skin Out Weight – Base weight plus the weight of clothing and gear worn and carried.

Slackpack – To leave the bulk of one’s belongings elsewhere and hike with a day pack during a long-distance backpacking trip.

SoBo – Short for “southbound,” “southbound hiker,” or “southbound thru-hiker.”

The Shennies – Short for Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

The Smokies – Short for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Springer – Short for Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT.

Stealth Camp – A manner of camping where there is no indication that you are there, and no trace of your being there is left when you’ve left. Also sometimes used as a term for camping illegally on public or private land.

Stupid Light – Carrying insufficient equipment with the intention of saving weight is commonly known as packing ‘stupid light.’ This puts hikers in compromising, uncomfortable, and dangerous situations.

SUL – Super Ultra Light. Generally considered to be a base weight of less than 5 lb.

Switchback –

T

Town Day –

Trailhead –

Thru-Hiker – Any long-distance hiker who walks the length of a particular trail in one setting or within one year.

Trail Angel – Someone who gives trail magic.

Trail Clubs – local organizations, primarily consisting of volunteers, that are responsible for the maintenance and protection of sections of the AT, in affiliation with the ATC.

Trail Crew – A group of Trail Maintainers.

Trail Journals – Trail Journals is a centralized website for long-distance hikers worldwide to write about their journeys. Not to be confused with Logbooks.

Trail Legs Legs that have a lot of stamina. Once you start averaging huge miles, like 20+ miles per day.

Trail Magic – Any act of kindness or gift bestowed on hikers, including water, meals, transportation, lodging, or even money.

Trail Maintainer – Someone who cares for a tract of the AT, usually as a volunteer.

Trail Name – A special nickname adopted by long-distance backpackers has become a tradition on the AT and many other trails.

The Trail Provides – A phrase meaning that a hiker’s needs will be met in emergencies or difficult situations.

Trailhead – An entry point of a trail from a road or parking lot longer trails will frequently have multiple trailheads throughout the length of the trail.

Tramily – Short for “trail family.”  Generally referred to as the group of people you spend a significant amount of time hiking a trail, typically also lodging in town, whether at a hostel, hotel room, or otherwise.

Triple-CrownCollectively, three American national scenic trails, over 2,000 miles each, that run, more or less, north to south: the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

Triple Crowner – A thru-hiker that has completed each of the Triple Crown trails.

U

Ultralight – A focus or discipline for a subset of thru-hikers that focuses on using the lightest weight gear possible, but that can also appropriately survive the season.

V

Vitamin I – Ibuprofen is the “drug of choice” for many long-distance hikers.

W

Wagbag – A bag you carry your poop in when you are not allowed to dig a cat hole.

Water Bar – A ridge found on the trail that is angled across the path to divert rainwater to one side. This basically helps to protect the trail from erosion, frequently made from rocks and logs on the trail.

Wetted Out – When all your waterproof gear has failed and is no longer waterproof, any gear will eventually fail it just depends on the amount and consistency of rain and water.

Widowmaker – Most commonly about dead hanging tree limbs or possibly entire trees that have fallen but remain hung up overhead on other trees or held by branches which could free drop at any time without warning, hence posing a huge danger to any person caught below.

X

Y

Yellow-blaze – To skip a section of the AT by motor vehicle.

YMMV – Shorthand for “Your Mileage May Vary”, basically it means that something may have worked for me but results aren’t guaranteed if someone tries the same thing.

Yogi – To charm, persuade or otherwise convince locals and day hikers to provide trail magic.

Yo-yo – To hike the entire AT from one terminus to the other and immediately turn around and hike back again (i.e., two back-to-back thru-hikes).

Z

Zero – A day off during a long-distance hike in which zero miles are walked.