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Backpacking Terminology 


AT - Abbreviation that stands for Appalachian Trail.

Angel Food - Food give to hikers by trail angels

Aqua blazing - Canoeing or floating a portion of the trail.


Backcountry - Area where no there are no maintained buildings or roads. An area that is remote, difficult to access, and undeveloped.

Beaver Fever - Giardia, a waterborne intestinal infection that’s often blamed on beavers.

Blaze - A mark along a trail to mark the direction of the trail. Usually painted on a tree in a neon color. Colored and patterned duct tape is quickly becoming the norm as well to mark trails.

Blue Blazing - Taking all the side trails

Bug Trap - Unwashed sleeping gear.

Bushwhacking - To travel through an area where no path or markers exist; such as through the woods. Most of the time this requires clearing your own path (usually with a machete or other instrument). Usually used to create a shortcut to another trail.


Cowboy Camp - Sleeping In Open Air Without A Tent Or Tarp Covering You.

Cairn - Used as trail markers, they are a human-made pile of stones.

Camel Up - When a hiker gets to a water source and knows that the next water source is far away. They will drink as much water as they can and load up with as much water as they can carry.

Camp - To spend the night in a temporary shelter.

Crest - Highpoint along a trail.


Declination - Used when following maps with a compass or GPS, declination is the difference between true North and magnetic North.

Draft Tube - An extra collar of insulation positioned at the top of a sleeping bag that prevents cold breezes from traveling down into the bag.


Eyelet - Typically used when discussing hiking boots. A small hole or opening sometimes surrounded by metal. The hole in which your boot laces would be threaded.


Fiver - A five-minute break.

Flat lander - Term used to describe a fresh hiker new mountain terrain.

Flop House - Cheap lodging for hikers.

FUD - Short for Female Urination Device. A device that allows women to pee standing up like a man.


GPS - Global Positioning System. A satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of satellites.

Green Blazing - Doing drugs on the trail


Hand Wands - Trekking poles

Hermit Hiker - Hiker that prefers to solo hike

Herd Path - A route that is not an official trail but is obvious that hikers use in order to get from one place to another. May also refer to an actual path that is grossly overused.

Hiker Fridge - Hole dug in the ground and covered up with rocks, to keep food cool.

Hiker Midnight - Typically around 9 p.m. The sun is down and most hikers will go to sleep at this time, so they can get a full 8 or more hours of sleep for a daybreak departure.

Hiker Shuffle - What a long distance hiker looks like after taking off their pack and walking. Typically looks like an elderly person and if chaffing was involved, they will appear bowlegged as well.

HYOH - Hike Your Own Hike


Iceberg - Large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.

Internal Pack Frame - A backpack that uses supports (usually aluminum or plastic) on the inside of the pack, that is, within the fabric, to support its weight. The internal frame pack is believed to provide better stability in tight, mountaineering conditions where the pack must stay close to the body.


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


LASH - Long Ass Section Hike

Lash Point - A loop or other feature that allows the attachment of some accessory to the exterior of a product. Usually seen on packs with few pockets to make the attachment of an external pocket, knife, sunglasses holder or other accessory possible.

Lean-to - a type of shelter that is typically freestanding, consisting of 1-3 walls and a slanted roof. In hiking/backpacking terms, a temporary shelter usually consisting of 1 “wall” that typically leans against tree’s to provide shelter.


MacGyver - Based on the TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials. To hikers, it means to build or repair gear with imagination.

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.

Moccasin Mail - Leaving messages to other hikers behind you

Mountain Money - Toilet paper.

MPD - Miles Per Day.

Mud Hooks - Foot trails left in mud by hikers ahead of you.


Nero Day - Near zero-day

NOBO - Hiker Travelling a Trail North bound

Noon It - Stopping for a midday meal and rest.

NPS - National Park Service.


Orienteering - A trek using a map and compass to find one’s way through unfamiliar territory.


PCT - Abbreviation used for Pacific Crest Trail.

Pink Blaze - To follow a person (typically a woman) down the trail because of romantic interests.

PLR - Path of Least Resistance.

Point - Lead person within a group of hikers. Responsible for following the trail.

Pot Cozy - A foam or cloth wrap to keep a cooking pot warm while it finishes cooking.

Power Hiker - A hiker who habitually chooses to cover very long distances each day, often hiking late into the evening.

Privy - A trailside outhouse for solid waste.

PUD - Pointless Up’s & Down’s


Quad or Quadrangle - “Quads” are slang for the Quadrangle maps that the US Geological Survey produces in topographical form. They are available in several different detail levels, including 7 1/2 and 15-minute versions.


Reno - A section of trail recently relocated.

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.

Rimrocked - Being too frightened to climb back down from where you climbed up to. Being frozen in fear so to speak.


Section Hike - Hiking a specific segment of a longer trail. Most of the longer trails are broken into sections for day or week long hikes. Some hikers choose to complete long distance trails by hiking it in sections (such as the Appalachian Trail).

Slogging - Long uphill hike on a muddy trail

SOBO - Hiker Travelling South Bound

Switchback - Trail which zigzags back and forth which makes it easier to hike. For example when a trail climbs up a mountain, It zigzags back and forth allowing the climb to be done at less overall of an incline making it longer but easier.


Thru-Hiker - A hiker that completes a long distance trail from beginning to end in a single, continuous journey (such as the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail).

Trail Angel - Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.

Trailhead - Entry point of the trail from a road or parking lot. Typically this is where the trail begins.

Trail Mooch - A Trail beggar. Someone who didn’t prepare properly and begs off other Hikers.

Trail Name - A nickname adopted by or given to a hiker. This name is used almost exclusively when communicating with others on the trail and in trail register entries.

Tramily - Trail Family

Treeline - The point of elevation on a mountain above which the climate will no longer support tree growth. Sometimes also referred to as the “alpine” area.

Triple Crown - A hiker that has completed the AT, PCT & CDT.


Ultralight – A style of gear or hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.


Vitamin I - Ibuprofen, frequently referenced in relation to long distance thru-hiking


Widow maker - Branches or whole trees which have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.

Wilderness Area - An official designation for public lands set aside to be protected from humans.


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Yellow-blazing - driving, hitch-hiking, or walking on a paved road to avoid a difficult section of trail

Yogi - Letting food be offered by strangers without actually asking them directly. Normally accomplished by buttering them up or being overly nice but never begging.

YMMV - “Your Mileage May Vary”, hiker jargon for “this worked for me, but your results/opinions might not be the same.”

Yo-Yo-ing - The act of completing a thru-hike, then immediately turning around to begin another in the opposite direction.


Zero Day - A day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to re-supply and/or rest.

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