Thru-Hiking Lingo 101

AYCE: All You Can Eat at the glorious buffets in town.  As a result some hikers take advantage of such offers.
Base Weight: the weight of the gear a hiker is carrying, not including water, food and fuel.
Bear Bagging: a method to hang your food away from bears
Blow-down: a tree that has fallen across the trail
Blue-blazer: a hiker who substitutes alternate routes for the official trail
Bounce box: a resupply box that has sometimes-used necessities and can be repeatedly mailed ahead of you on the trail
Bushwhack: to hike where there is no trail or where the trail is overgrown

Cache: a supply of food, water, or other supplies hidden for later retrieval
Cairn: an obviously person-made marker, such as a pile of stacked rocks used to mark the trail
Camel Up (Tank Up): to drink a lot of water at a water source before continuing to hike
Cat Hole: a small hole dug in the ground for human waste
Cowboy Camping: sleeping under the stars without a tent

FKT: Fastest Known Time – the fastest “official” time that anyone has completed a trail
Flip-flop: walking the trail in a non-continuous line, usually with the intention of completing the entire trail
FSO: From Skin Out – usually in reference to weight of total gear
Gear Head: a hiker whose main focus is on backpacking gear
GORP: “good ole raisins & peanuts” – but can be any type of trail mix
Gray Water: usually dirty dishwater or water from washing clothes
Ground Control: a person who handles the “real world” concerns for the hiker on the trail

Hiker Box: a cabinet or box at hostels or places of business where hikers donate unwanted food and gear for other hikers to use
Hiker Hunger: a continuous, deep hunger that allows you to eat amazing amounts of food in town. This usually happens after a few weeks of hiking as a result of low body fat.
Hiker Midnight: Usually right when it gets dark. The time when most hikers go to sleep.
Hiker Trash: This is a nuanced term. But once you become hiker trash you will know it and you will be proud.

Iceberg: a large rock in the middle of the campsite that discourages camping in the area
LNT: Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors (
Mail Drop: a resupply package, some towns don’t have all the supplies needed for the hiker so a mail drop is needed.
Mountain Money: toilet paper, as a result of more trail use all toilet paper should be carried out of the wilderness.
Nero: hiking almost zero miles in a day, often associated with staying one night in town
Nobo: Northbound – hiking the trail from south to north

Posthole: to sink deep into snow, usually up to your knees or even your waist
Power Hiker: a hiker who habitually makes big mile days
Privy: a trailside outhouse
PUDS: Pointless Ups And Downs
Purist: a hiker who wants to hike the official route of the trail at all times

Register: a log book found along the trail that hikers sign into, and can be used for communication with other hikers
Resupply: refilling food supply once you have run out of food on the trail; can be done from a grocery store, convenience store, or a package mailed to you
Ridge Runner: a person paid by the government or trail club that educates hikers along the trail
Section Hiker: a person who hikes a portion or section of a long trail
Sobo: Southbound – hiking from north to south
Switchback: a sharp turn in the trail, found when ascending or descending a steep portion of the trail

Thru-Hike: hiking an entire long trail in one season (See our other blog post, What is thru-hiking?)
Trail Angel: a person who treats hikers nicely and offers food, drinks, or other helpful resources to them while they hike
Trail family: the people that you meet on the trail and hike with. A trail family can change during a hike.
Trail Magic: unexpected food or help on the trail from someone
Triple Crowner: a hiker who has completed the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen
Waterbar: a rock barrier or log that diverts water off the trail to reduce erosion during rains
White blaze: white marks on the trees along the Appalachian Trail
Yellow Blazer: someone who gets a car ride and skips a section of the trail
Yogi-ing: when a hiker attempts to get free food, drinks or assistance from a stranger without asking directly
Zero: hiking zero miles in a day, usually when you go into town and stay 2 nights

A hiker looking over a mountain lake. Likely contemplating over the recently learned trail lingo.
Photo by Ian Liberry

Related Post: The Ten Hiking Essentials