A hikers dictionary

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secret-sierra-nevada-ca-mcgee-creek-sierra-crest-0513This is basically a full cut and paste job from fellow adventurer, Te Araroa and PCT hiker, Alex (Puff Puff) Mason’s blog. I am certain she will not mind me reposting it here.

We had the privilege of hosting Alex for three nights as she came through East Gippsland on a recent cycle tour from Sydney to Darwin the hard way (via the east coast and Melbourne). It was her stories of hiking the PCT twice, first north bound and then south bound over two successive years and reliving the shared experiences we had on Te Araroa that really cemented the idea of taking on the PCT myself. Alex continues to inspire and is taking on the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine) as you read this.

Hopefully this helps you all decipher the coded language that features in my blog posts.

We are going to add another term though – ‘Goatical’, noun, “not quite vertical but requires using all four limbs to ascend; more suited to Goats than humans”.


A hiker can use a lot of weird and wonderful words and just expect everyone to know what they are talking about. I have tried to explain some of them for you…

A hiker dictionary

AYCE: All-You-Can-Eat buffet. For when you think you can eat a horse, but find out you actually can’t.

Base-weight: The weight of your pack excluding food, water, and fuel. Often the subject of intense debate and unyielding opinion.

Bear Box: A lockable box which bears have not yet figured out how to open. Protects the bearsfrom getting at your food. When found, it provides a similar high as to finding a picnic table at a campsite.

Bear Can: A portable container which bears have not yet figured out how to open. Protects the bears from getting at your food. It is compulsory to carry in some areas. Bulky and heavy and too small to fit everything that smells in, but makes a useful seat. Ideally to be stored 100ft from your tent with something noisy on top so you can hear if something is trying to steal your food.

Big Four: The big ticket items. Shelter. Sleeping bag. Sleeping mat. Pack.

Blaze: A term more commonly used on the AT where the trail is marked by ‘white blazes’.

Blue Blazing: Generally used to describe people who are ‘cheating’ by taking alternative routes which are often shortcuts.

Bonus Miles: Extra miles which aren’t part of the official trail. Can be divided into two categories. Good Bonus Miles: side trips, miles walked into town, miles walked around town, trails to water / campsites. Bad Bonus Miles: when you can’t pick up a ride or when you misread the GPS.

Bounce Box: A package you mail to yourself as you go, usually containing items you may need further up the trail. A bounce box is useful if you don’t have an in country contact.

Bubble: A high concentration of hikers. Also known as The Herd.

Bushwhack: 1. Finding yourself off the trail where there is no defined path, meaning you have to force your way through forest or an overgrown area. 2. An obstacle ridden trail which is difficult to navigate.

Cache: Food, water or trail magic which is stored or hidden on the trail, often by trail angels.

Cairn: A man-made stack of stones indicating the direction of the trail.

Camel Up: Drinking as much as you can at a water source eliminating the need to carry too much water. At a water cache you shouldn’t camel up, you should only take what you need.

Cat Hole: A cat hole provides a place to poo. Dug by you, it should be at least 6 inches deep, 200ft from a campsite or a trail and no where near a water source. In most areas it isn’t possible to dig an appropriate hole with the heel of your shoe or the end of your trekking pole, therefore you should carry a trowel. ALWAYS PACK OUT YOUR TOILET PAPER!

Cowboy Camping: Laying your sleeping mat and sleeping bag on the ground and sleeping without a tent. Should be reserved for good weather. Gives a good view of the stars.

Day Hiker: A hiker who is only hiking for the day.

Delevation: Not a well known word – but it could be! Where elevation is used to describe going uphill, delevation is used to describe going downhill. “How much delevation do we have today?”

Dry Camp: A camp site without a nearby water source. This requires more planning to ensure you have enough water for the night and the following morning.

FKT: Fastest Known Time. There are crazy people out there who hold records for hiking trails as quickly as possible. To get a FKT you will need to average hiking about 50 miles a day for at least 45 days straight. (Depending on the trail. Obviously.)

FLASH: F**king Long Ass Section Hiker. A hiker who isn’t intending to complete a full thru hike in one season, but is hiking a significant section of the trail. More commonly known as a LASH.

Flip-Flop: A strategy for hiking the trail in a non linear way. If your path is blocked by snow or the trail is closed because of a wildfire, you can skip that section with the intention of coming back to hike it later in the season.

Floaties: When collecting water from a stream it often contains bits of sediment known as floaties. This is the reason I like to filter my water rather that treat it with drops, so I get rid of the floaties.

Ford: A water crossing where you are guaranteed to get wet feet.

Giardia: A reason to always treat and filter your water, and wash your hands after you’ve had a poo. Giardia is an intestinal parasite which lives in faeces, it is often transmitted through untreated water or poor hygiene. It causes severe diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence, often leading to dangerous dehydration. It is treated with antibiotics.

Glissade: To slide down a snow covered slope, usually on your butt, to get to the bottom of a hill more quickly.

Gorp: Usually a mixture of nuts, granola, dried fruit and chocolate. It can be customised to suit your taste. Also known as trail mix.

Gram Weenie: A hiker who is obsessed with their own base weight, attempting to carry as little weight as possible. A Gram Weenie may also become obsessed with other peoples base weight. “Hi my name is (insert trail name), what’s your base weight?” 

Hiker Box: A box where hikers donate unwanted food or gear for other hikers to pick up, Usually found at resupply points like hostels and trail angels.

Hiker Hunger: Intense hunger as a result of the inability to be be able to take in as many calories as you are using. Includes the impulse to try questionable food and flavour combinations.

Hiker Hobble: The distinctive style of walking a hiker has in the morning, or after having rest, when the muscles are stiff and the soles of the feet are sore.

Hiker Midnight: 9:00 pm. The time when to becomes impossible to keep your eyes open. Also the time when other hikers, who aren’t sleeping, should shut the f**k up.

Hiker Trash: A term used to distinguish a hiker from a homeless person. An aesthetic achieved from washing rarely and only owning one set of clothes.

HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike. This is meant to be a respectful term to appreciate that we are all different and there is more than one way to successfully achieve the same thing. It’s use is often abused on social media – especially Facebook – giving people a free pass to say something horrible and qualify it by adding “but hey, HYOH” at the end.

LASH: Long Ass Section Hiker. A hiker who isn’t intending to complete a full thru hike in one season, but is hiking a significant section of the trail. Also known as a FLASH.

Leave No Trace (LNT): The 7 principle of how not to be a dick. 1. Plan ahead and prepare. 2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces. 3. Dispose of waste properly. 4. Minimise campfire impacts. 5. Leave what you find. 6. Respect wildlife. 7. Be considerate of other visitors. Basically, leave the wilderness in the way you would want to find it.

Mail Drop: One of the ways to resupply your food in more remote areas with limited options. A pre-packaged box full of supplies is mailed by you, or a friend / family member to a post office or point on the trail that accepts resupply packages.

MYTH: Multi Year Thru Hiker. A person who completes all of the trail miles over several years.

NoBo: Northbound hiker.

Nero: ‘Nearly a Zero’. A day when you only hike a few miles, often when you are coming into, or heading out of, town.

Pee Rag: A piece of fabric, usually a bandanna, some women use in place of toilet paper after urination.

Pink Blaze: When a male hiker adjusts his hiking speed to catch up with, or hike with a girl

Postholing: A term used to describe breaking the surface and sinking into the snow. It expends vast amounts of energy and reduces speed. It can be dangerous depending on what’s under the snow, so extreme caution must be used. Postholing can sometimes be avoided by hiking early in the morning.

Puffy: An American term for a down jacket.

Purist: A hiker who believes a true thru-hike is made up of continuous footsteps in a single linear direction.

Resupply: When a hiker has to leave the safety of the wilderness and head into a town to get more supplies of food and consumables.

Ride Bride: When hitchhiking a male hiker will attempt to find himself a female hiker to use as his Ride Bride, which increases his chance of picking up a ride.

Section Hiker: A hiker who has the intention of hiking a section of a trail.

Shakedown: Having someone go through all your gear with the view to reduce the weight of your pack by removing unnecessary items.

Slackpack: A hiker will have someone else transport the majority of their possessions further up the trail, leaving them with only the essentials of food and water for a short time. This is used to make the miles easier without having to carry a heavy pack. Not a problem for the Gram Weenies.

SoBo: Southbound hiker.

Stealth Camping: Camping somewhere you are not really supposed to be camped and trying to hide your camp site from view

Switchbacks: When the trail takes an indirect route to the top of bottom of a hill / mountain using a zig zag path. Loved and loathed in equal measures.

The Herd: A high concentration of hikers. Also known as a Bubble.

Thru-Hike: A continuous hike from one end of a long distance trail to the other end, undertaken in one season. A thru hike can be completed with a flip-flop. Unless you are a purist.

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

TP: A shortening of Toilet Paper. ALWAYS PACK OUT YOUR TOILET PAPER.

Trail Angel: A person who provides trail magic to help hikers, free of charge and out of pure kindness, without expectation of repayment.

Trail Family: A group of hikers who hike together and become close friends.

Trail Legs: After a few weeks of hiking a hiker will become a lot stronger and they acquire their Trail Legs, allowing you to go faster and further.

Trail Magic: A random act of kindness gifted to a hiker. Ranging from a water cache to a bed for the night.

Trail Name: A nickname used as a unique identifier in the likelihood that your real name is shared by other people on the trail. It is frowned upon to give yourself a trail name and should be give to you by your fellow hikers.

Trail Register: Sometimes an official book, sometimes a scrap piece of paper located at various points along the trail. Useful for leaving message for your Trail Family who may be behind you. Also useful for search and rescue if someone goes missing.

Trail Town: A town located on or near a trail which is set up to accommodate hikers.

Trailhead: An access point to the trail.

Triple Crown: To complete thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT), collectively known as the Triple Crown. There are double-triple-crowners and triple-triple-crowners out there, but not many. The ultimate challenge? The calendar triple crown. Hike all three trails in one calendar year.

Ultralight: A hiker who has a base weight of under 10lbs / 4.5kg.

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen. Often taken just to get moving in the morning.

Vortex: An off trail location which is difficult to leave. “I spent 3 days in town, I got vortexed.”

Yellow Blazing: Generally used to describe people who are ‘cheating’ by skipping sections of trail by getting a ride. Following the yellow lines on the road.

Yogi: A term which comes from Yogi the Bear. To successfully acquire trail magic from unsuspecting strangers, usually without directly asking.

Yo-Yo: When you reach the end of the trail and turn around and walk back to the start.

Zero: A zero day is a day of rest where zero miles are hiked.

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