Hiking glossary of terms

The following is a partial list of common terms that thru-hikers use.  There are many more, however these are the ones we personally use on a regular basis.  Tim and I thought we should list them so people who are unfamiliar with a thru-hikers way of life will know what we are talking about when we use these terms in future blogs.

AYCE “All You Can Eat” restaurant.
Base Weight Weight of all gear in backpack minus food, fuel & water.
Base layer The layer of clothing next to skin.  It is usually made from material that is breathable and keeps the skin dry from sweat.  It also is quick drying.
Blaze Cuts in a tree that are about 10′ up from the ground to mark the trail.  They are very useful when the trail can not be found because it is covered under snow.
Blue Blaze

Yellow Blaze

White Blaze

Blue Blaze – A side trail that takes a hiker away from the official trail and joins up with it later on.  The best example of this is Eagle Creek in Oregon.  The official PCT does not take the Eagle Creek route down to the Columbia River Gorge, however the vast majority of hikers do because of the unique natural beauty of Eagle Creek.

Yellow Blaze – Another word for skipping parts of the trail.  It is commonly done by getting rides.  Yellow Blazing is a negative term implying you did not hike the whole trail.

White Blaze (Purest) – This is someone who is hiking every inch of the official trail.  When they take a side trail to town they come back to the point they left it and continue forward.  This is almost impossible to do on the PCT due to miles of snow-covered trail in the Sierras.  As for the CDT, its route is defined but so little of it is built that there are numinous alternate routes.

Bounce Box A box you mail to yourself some distance up the trail to pick up when you get there.  This box has items that may be useful such as extra sunscreen, socks, Velcro, duct tape, band aids, warm clothing layers, etc.
Breathable Clothing that allows moisture to exit away from your skin.
Bushwhack Hike off trail.
Cairn/Duck A man-made pile of stones marking a trail or route.
Camel Up Drinking as much water as you can when at a water source so you don’t have to carry as much in between water sources.
Cowboy Camping Sleeping out in the open without setting up a tent.
Ditty Bag Small stuff sac of personal items
Dry Camp Camping in an area that has no nearby water source.  A common technique on the trail is to eat dinner at a water source, continue hiking into the evening, then set up camp wherever one finds himself at the end of the day, even if it means camping on the trail itself.
Flip Flop Skipping a section of trail, and hiking in the opposite direction to return to the place where you left the trail. Often done to avoid difficult trail conditions, such as heavy snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  A common flip-flop would involve hiking north to Kennedy Meadows, taking a ride to Manning Park, then hiking south to finish the trail at Kennedy Meadows.  Or starting the AT at Harpers Ferry, hike north, then jump back to Harpers Ferry and hike south.
Glissade Sitting and sliding down a snow-covered slope.  Glissading is faster and more fun than hiking down a snow-covered slope, but is not without its risks.  You will usually hold an ice axe to slow or stop your slide.
Hiker Box Boxes at resupply points that hikers use to exchange food or gear. If you are tired of eating the same old thing out of your resupplies, or are carrying too much food, you can leave your extra food in the hiker box for someone else to take.  If you see something in the hiker box that looks interesting, you can take it.  If you need a few ounces of stove fuel, and you can only buy it by the gallon, you can leave the unused portion in the hiker box for someone else.
Hiker Heaven The home of Jeff and Donna Saufley in Agua Dulce, California.  Jeff and Donna are Trail Angels that go out of their way every year to help hikers.  A stop at Hiker Heaven is a must during a thru-hike.  The Saufleys do laundry, provide showers, and handle resupply packages, and provide trail information to hikers.
Hiker Midnight 9:00pm – The time by which thru-hikers are asleep.
Hiker Trash A general description of a thru-hiker or of thru-hikers collectively.  It probably comes from the fact that thru-hikers often are confused for homeless people during town stops.
HYOH Hike Your Own Hike.
Mail Drop These are locations where you stop to pick up our food boxes.  They are usually at post offices but they can also be at stores, people’s homes, or hotels.
Nero Nearly a zero.  A day in which few miles are hiked.  A portion of a nero day is usually spent in town.
Nobo North bound hiker.  A person headed south bound is a Sobo.
The Pack/Herd The bulk of thru-hikers who are hiking within a few hundred miles of each other.

The reasons for the existence of the pack are threefold.

1. More people are attempting to thru-hike the trail every year.

2. On the PCT and CDT there is a narrow window of opportunity to thru-hike the trail every year which most hikers to begin their hikes within a small time window.

3. Many hikers choose to attend Trail Days and schedule the start dates to line up with the event.

Post-holing Breaking through the top layer of snow into the mushy stuff below, typically up above the knees and up to the crotch.
PUDS Thru-hiker shorthand for “pointless ups and downs”, referring to the less interesting sections of mountains thru-hikers encounter from time to time.
Section Hiker Hiking a significant section of the trail.  Often people who desire to thru-hike, but can’t, will hike the entire trail in sections over several summers.   They still hiked the whole trail, just not a thru-hike.
Slack Pack Hiking with minimal gear, usually little more than food and water, while someone else transports the bulk of your gear ahead by car.
Stealth Camping Camping in a place that is out of sight of the trail, typically leaving no trace of being there.
SUL Super Ultra Light – This is a backpack setup with a base weight of 5 lbs or less
Sun Cups Uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg carton.  As the snow melts in spring, pockets of water forms 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 Book of Lies Any of the long trail guidebooks.  Even though the guidebooks contain essential information about the trail, sometimes it is inaccurate or less than helpful.
The Kick Off


This event was last held in 2017.

The Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off Party.  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.

Thru-Hiker A hiker that hikes an entire long trail (PCT, CDT, AT,… over 2000 miles) at one time.  The term can be a little confusing.   When you are hiking a long trail you are considered a thru-hiker.  If you have to get off the trail for some reason and you come back the next year to finish it, then you are a section hiker.  The “Thru-Hiker” title to given only to people who finish a long trail.  Note:  the John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, or the Arizona Trail are not long trails.
Trail Angel A person that helps hikers with rides, food, etc.  There are known people who help hikers every year.  Other Trail Angel’s are just random people who lend a hand.  You never know when it will happen.
Trail Magic Unexpected generosity from a non-hiker.  It can be in the form of a cold drink at a road crossing or a ride to town.
Trail Name Nickname typically given to a thru-hiker on a long hike.  A trail name often derives from an unusual, humorous or significant characteristic with the hiker.  A trail name is said to “stick” if the hiker accepts the trail name and other hikers begin to know him by that name.  Ours is The Ravens.  The kids are Bling and Whisper.
Triple Crown The title earned by those who have thru-hiked the PCT, CDT, and AT
UL Ultralight – This is a backpack setup with a base weight of 10 lbs or less.
Vitamin I Ibuprofen.
Vortex Anything off trail that draws hikers into it and making it difficult to leave. Usually a town stop, restaurant or trail angel’s home.
Yogi A means of obtaining help or supplies from a non-hiker,  without directly asking.  The term comes from Yogi the Bear who managed to obtain picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers.  Yogiing is often done “Columbo style” by striking up a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading questions, (How far is it into town from here? Is there a bus that could take me there? Are there any restaurants open this late?) and allowing the person to decide whether he wants to offer help.
Yo-Yo Hiking a long trail end-to-end, then back again.
Zero Day A rest day – zero miles hiked.

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