Hiker Lingo

AT (spoken in individual letters: A-T)
The Appalachian Trail, USA.

Alpine Start
Getting an early mountain ascent start (midnight to 3 a.m.) to avoid lightning or rock falls.

Alpine Zone
The zone above the tree line that is characterized by rocks and soil and that resembles the moon.

All-You-Can-Eat. For when you get the hiker hunger.

Base Weight
The weight of the gear a hiker is carrying, not including food, water, fuel, and the clothes on his or her back. Very important for Gram Weenies.

Bear Box 
Bear boxes are generally found in established campgrounds along areas of high bear activity. They are lockable bear proof boxes where you can store food and anything else that might smell attractive to a bear (cooking pots, toiletries etc.). The boxes are usually located a safe distance from tent sites.

Bear Burrito

Bear Can 
Short for a bear canister. Similar to a bear box except that it is portable and designed to be carried by hikers. A bear can is mandatory in several sections of the PCT, USA, mostly through the High Sierras. It should be stored at least 100 feet (30m) from your campsite but also well away from cliffs, ledges, and rivers. Bear cans are typically loathed by hikers because they are bulky, rigid and heavy. But they do make a convenient camp stool.

A colored mark, usually painted or nailed to a tree, about 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide. These are used to help guide hikers if the trail gets hard to follow or makes an abrupt turn. White blazes refer to the trail markers on the AT (Appalachian Trail). Pink blazers refer to guys chasing attractive women on the trail.

Bonus Miles 
These are all the extra miles that aren’t officially part of the trail but will nevertheless need to be hiked during the course of a typical thru-hike. These include miles to and from resupply points, post offices, lodgings, off-trail water sources, scouting for sheltered and/or flat campsites, prospecting for a nice Cat Hole and the inevitable navigational mishaps.

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

Bounce Box
The Bounce Box is a package that you continually mail to your future self as you travel along the trail. Not all hikers use this.

Blue Blazer
A hiker who takes side trails, which are traditionally blazed in blue, instead of the main trail.

Also known as the Herd (check below).

Stuff that is stored or squirreled away in a secret or inaccessible location, for use at some point in the future. Trail Angels and hikers themselves have increasingly cached food and water along the trail, particularly in dry desert sections.

A man-made stack of stones indicating where the trail continues.

Camel Up
To drink as much water at a water source as possible, so as to not have to carry as much water to the next source.

Cat Hole
One of the cornerstones of LNT (Leave No Trace)philosophy, and also, considered good trail etiquette. It’s a hole you dig to not leave your poop out on the trail. Cat hole should be 6-8 inches deep, 200 feet from campsites or trail, and far away from all water sources. You should always carry out your TP (and for the love of god, do NOT burn it!).

CDT (spoken in individual letters: C-D-T)
Continental Divide Trail, USA.

Cowboy Camping
Sleeping outside in the wilderness without an overhead shelter (i.e. no tent or tarp). If weather, crawlies, and bugs permit, this is a fast way to setup and take down your camp. Also, a good way to enjoy the stars on a clear night.

A spike-like traction device you put on your hiking boots in order to hike through snow and ice.

Day Hiker
A hiker who is only hiking for a day.

Dead Branch Tattoo/ Rock Tattoo/Trail Tattoo
When you get scraped on the trail deep enough to be able to point to it and tell the story year after year. 

Dirty Girls
Colorful hiking gaiters.

Dry Camping
Camping without a nearby water source. For the most part, thru-hikers will want to camp close to a water source to save the hassle of lugging water to cook or to drink. In bear country, hikers often cook their dinner close to a water source and then carry on hiking for a few hours after dinner.

False Summit
It looks like the top… until you get there and realize there’s one more, even higher. #%&*!

Fastest Known Time. Every few years someone will test themselves by attempting to hike from one end of the trail to the other, faster than anyone else has ever hiked it. If they accomplish this goal, they have the fastest known time.

To hike a large portion of a trail and then flip up to another location and hike back to where the first portion ended. This can be done to ensure the best weather along certain stretches of trail or to avoid large groups of other hikers.

Any item found floating in your water after filling up your water bottles. Usually, poop.

A nasty intestinal parasite that causes acute stomach upset, chronic diarrhea, nausea, and all of the other associated unpleasantries. This unsavory little character is transmitted outside of the body via feces and seems to somehow always find its way into water sources. Giardia is a major incentive for thru-hikers to practice good trail hygiene, adhere to the LNT philosophy and always filter or treat questionable drinking water.

From the French word for sliding. In theory, glissading is a controlled way to expedite one‘s path down a steep slope of snow or ice by gliding gracefully on the feet or buttocks. In practice, it’s hikers sliding down snowy or ice-covered hills on their asses while having an incredible time. Also known as ass-path.

Another term for trail mix.

Gram Weenie
A hiker who becomes obsessed with reducing his or her Base Weight.

Anger due to hunger; when one is hangry, poor decision making occurs.

Herd, The
A large group of thru-hikers that sets off together along the trail. Usually happens in the beginning and thins out. The herd can cause congestion, overcrowding, and damage to the trail. Being behind the herd has the benefit of bountiful Hiker Boxes.

Hiker Box
A box kept at hiker locations (hostels, trail angel houses, etc.) wherein hikers can leave their unwanted items and pick up other hikers’ unwanted items.

Hiker Funk
The smell of a long distance hiker who wears the same sweaty outfit every day, does not wear deodorant, and showers maybe once a week at best. This smell attaches itself to all of the hiker’s belongings.

Hiker Hobble
A phenomenon where once the hiker removes his or hers backpack, he/she starts to limp and wobble. Usually, develops after the first hundred miles, and doesn’t let up.

Hiker Hunger
Walking dozens of miles per day, every day, up and down mountain passes burns a lot of calories. Since you can only carry so many calories on your back, your body is constantly running a deficit and you are constantly hungry. This insatiable, bottomless hunger that torments thru-hikers is called Hiker Hunger.

Hiker Legs
The state a hiker’s legs reach after a few weeks on trail in which they are strong and accustomed to big miles; could be characterized by amazing calves.

Hiker Midnight
The time at which most hikers go to sleep, usually at dark or even earlier.

Hiker Trash
What thru hikers become after a certain amount of time on the trail, characterized by a complete lack of care for social niceties, a distinctive smell, and a pride in the aforementioned.

HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike)
A saying meant to express the idea that a hiker should do what is best for them on the trail and not worry about how other hikers do things.

JMT USA (spoken in individual letters: J-M-T)
The John Muir Trail which overlaps the PCT, USA for almost 200 miles / 322 km in the Sierra. JMT hikers typically head southbound while most PCT hikers head northbound.

LASHer (LASH: Long Ass Section Hiker)
Someone who hikes a very, very long section of a trail.

LNT (Leave No Trace)
An ethics philosophy with seven principles that will leave the least impact on the land while recreating outdoors.

Mail Drop
One of the ways for thru-hikers to resupply themselves with food, equipment, and other essentials while on the trail. Packages are sent for general delivery to post offices in towns along the trail where they are held until collected by the hungry hiker. As this method of resupplying depends on the inconvenient opening hours of post offices, many thru-hikers choose to resupply as they go and only send mail drops to locations where groceries are not available.

A day in which a hiker goes nearly zero miles.

A person who hikes northbound.

PCT (spoken in individual letters: P-C-T)
Pacific Crest Trail, USA.

Pee Rag
A small piece of fast drying, absorbent fabric that some/most female thru-hikers carry on the outside of their packs. Helps to keep the Hiker Funk at bay.

Pink Blaze
The act of hiking more quickly than you normally would, with the intention of catching up to a certain female hiker; to hike according to the schedule of a female hiker.

The term is derived from the hole that would be dug to sink a fence post into. When hiking across snow and your feet break through the snow your legs look like aforementioned fence poles sticking out of the snow.

Postholing slows movement to an agonizing crawl, takes a ludicrous amount of energy and can be dangerous because it’s often impossible to know what’s hidden beneath the surface. Postholing is one of the things hikers dread as they head into the Sierra. Can be mitigated by timing snow travel to early morning when the surface of the snow is still frozen from the night before.

A name for a down jacket.

A hiker who hikes every foot of the trail they are on; these hikers don’t deviate by stepping even an inch off the main trail for side trails.

Ray Day – USA
June 15th. In an average snow year in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Ray Day is the best date to leave Kennedy Meadows on a northbound thru-hike. Named for Ray Jardine, the Author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Handbook. This date is based on two factors: it’s late enough to allow sufficient snowmelt in the Sierras for a safe hike, and it’s early enough to allow time to reach Canada before winter.

A notebook kept at hiker locations (hostels, trail angel houses, etc.) wherein hikers can sign and leave notes for other hikers behind them.

When a hiker hobbles out of the wilderness and back into town to get food and electricity.

Ride Bride
A female hiker accompanying a male hiker when attempting to hitch a ride to town. A male thru-hiker who is accompanied by a female is far more likely to pick up a ride.

Using your hands and feet to climb up rocks and boulders.

Section Hiker
Someone who hikes just a section of a trail at one time.

Slack Pack
Carrying only the essentials instead of a full pack for a full day of hiking, then returning home or sleeping indoors for the night. The pack or the hiker is usually shuttled one direction to accomplish this. Slack packers often string together their day’s hikes to complete a longer trail.

A person who hikes southbound.

Stealth Camp
To camp in a location with the intention of not being seen.

Summit Fever
When a hiker will do anything in his or her power to reach the summit, even if they put themselves or others at risk of injury or illness.

Sun Cups
An uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg carton. As the snow melts in the spring, pockets of water form on the surface of the snow. This water warms up in the sun and causes the snow under it to melt faster than the surrounding snow. The resulting uneven surface is difficult to walk on.

The last hiker that takes up the rear in a group to ensure the entire group makes it safely to their final destination.

The never-ending zig-zag pathways that lead to the summit (top of the mountain) or down. These apparently make the climb easier and prevent erosion. Don’t skip between.

To hike the entirety of a long–distance trail in one go. Usually, the term is only applied to hikes longer than 1,000 miles /1,609 km.

A hiker who is attempting to complete a Thru-Hike.

Short for toilet paper. LNT code of conduct requires that if you pack it in, you must always pack it out.

Trail Angel
Someone who helps hikers out in any way, e.g. rides, food, or trail magic (see below).

Trail Candy
Eye candy. Also known as an attractive hiker

Trail Family
A group of hikers that stick together and become very close as a result of their shared experiences along the trail.

Trail Legs
About 4-5 weeks into a thru-hike your legs start to get used to the grueling long days and become incredibly strong, allowing you to hike for miles and miles.

Trail Magic
A random act of kindness or object found on the trail, anything from a cooler full of sodas sitting at a road crossing to someone inviting you to a home cooked meal and a chance to sleep in a real bed.

Trail Name
A pseudonym that a hiker takes on as his or her trail identity.

Your trail family.

Triple Crowner
Someone who has hiked all three “big” long-distance trails in the US: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.

A shovel to dig a cat-hole to poop in.

Ultralight Hiker
A hiker who’s base weight is under 10lbs / 4,54kg.

Vitamin I
Ibuprofen, called thus because of the regularity with which some hikers take it.

A location hikers get sucked in to and have a hard time leaving, like fun towns or trail angel houses.

Yellow Blazer
A hiker who hitchhikes around sections of the trail, following the “yellow blazes” of the highway.

The act of cleverly soliciting food, drink, rides, or otherwise useful things from unsuspecting strangers hikers meet along the trail, often without directly asking. From Yogi the Bear who managed to obtain picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers, though Yogi’ing doesn’t involve the same techniques. Yogi’ing is often done “Columbo style”, by striking up a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading questions, and allowing the person to decide whether he wants to offer help.

Whereupon reaching the end of the trail you simply turn around and head back to where you started. This is pretty rare but does happen.

A rest day when zero trail miles are walked. Zeros are typically spent in trail towns or at the home of a Trail Angel but can sometimes be taken on the trail. Some zeros are planned, others are forced upon the hiker by injury or exhaustion.

Wag Bag
A bag you carry your poop in when you are forbidden to dig a cat hole.

Weekend Warrior
They only enter the wilderness on Saturdays and Sundays and are notorious for either attempting feats beyond their skill level or just lying about it Monday morning at the office while they show off their Dead Branch Tattoo.

Widow Maker
Trees that have already lost limbs or have potential to fall. Don’t set up camp or sit under one of these.

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