Trail Glossary

Like most subgroups, hikers have their own language. Here’s a list of trail terms you may run into on my blog – or on the trail. This is by no means complete – I’ll add to it as I go along – and the definitions are mine, so they may vary slightly from other sources, but they’ll be close enough.

If you run across a term you don’t understand OR you know a word that’s missing from the list, let me know and I’ll be happy to include it.

ATC – The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Bear Burrito – A nickname for a hammock tent

Blue Blaze – A side trail off the Appalachian Trail (or some other main hiking trail). It may lead to water, campsites and shelters, points of interest, other trails or scenic overlooks. Occasionally it designates a bypass trail during inclement weather.

Bounce Box – This refers to a package that’s forwarded to a Post Office/Mail Drop ahead of you on the trail. It contains various items, like a trail guide, maps, medical supplies, etc,  which you may need on a thru-hike, but aren’t necessary to carry in your pack everyday.

Dryer Sheets – This is a new on me. Apparently it’s a thru-hiker reference to day hikers who smell fresh and clean, like…a dryer sheet. Some thru-hikers claim they can smell Dryer Sheets long before they see them.

Flip Flop – A thru-hike that’s completed but not by going end to end in one direction. For example, a hiker may start at Springer Mountain, hike to Harper’s Ferry, travel to Mt Katahdin by car or bus and then hike southbound back to Harper’s Ferry. This form of thru-hike is used when the hiker runs the risk of getting to Baxter State Park in ME after it closes for the season (usually around the middle of October).

GAME – An acronym used to desribe a northbound journey on the AT; as in Georgia (GA) to Maine (ME)

GORP – An acronym for “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” and is synonymous with Trail Mix.

Ground Dweller – Someone who sleeps in a tent (as opposed to a hiker who sleeps in a hammock).

Hiker Midnight – Hiker speak for sunset.

Hiker Trash – A loving, tongue-in-cheek reference thru-hikers use to describe each other.

HYOH – An acronym for “Hike Your Own Hike,” which means it’s your hike and you get to decide what’s best for you.

MEGA – An acronym used to describe a southbound journey on the AT; as in Maine (ME) to Georgia (GA).

Nero – This refers to a low mileage day or close to a Zero (see below)

NOBO – A hiker who is walking northbound on the trail.

Outfitter – A store or website that sells hiking, camping and backwoods gear.

PUDs – An acronym for “Pointless Ups and Downs.” It refers to trails with continuous elevation changes but which offers no views or scenic overlooks.

Pull a Snake-ey – This refers to “removing a layer of clothing [like a snake sheds skin], as in “I got so hot hiking up Blood Mountain that I soon had to “Pull a SNAKE-EY!” Submitted by H. Dean “Crooked Sticks” Clark.

Section Hiker – This is a hiker who completes a long trail in sections with no limitations on how long it takes.

Shake Down Hike – This is a practice hike, or a short excursion, that allows a hiker to test their gear, adjust their systems and decide what’s important and what’s not important to take on a thru-hike.

Slack Pack – This refers to the practice of getting dropped off at a trailhead, hiking a section of trail without your full pack and then getting picked up further down the trail. Though purists frown on slack packing, it’s used to pick up big mileage days.

SOBO – A hiker who is walking southbound on the trail.

Springer Fever – A fictional illness (although serious hikers would disagree), which generally occurs between March and May, and causes those who are inflicted to go to Springer Mtn and hike the Appalachian Trail.

Thru-hiker – A hiker who completes a long trail, like the AT, is one hiking season.

Trail Angel – Someone who is kind to a hiker or offers some form of assistance.

Trail Magic – Any act of kindness bestowed on a hiker. It could be a ride, a cache of water, an offer of food, assistance of any kind or simply a smile on a difficult day.

Trail Mix – A hiker snack consisting of any combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and pieces of candy. It’s a great source of protein, fats and carbohydrates and helps provide calories and energy to a hungry hiker.

Trail Name – A unique nickname given to or assumed by a hiker.

Tree Dweller – Someone who sleeps in a hammock.

White Blaze – A trail marker used to keep hikers from getting lost. They can be found on trees, posts, rocks, cairns and buildings. The most famous white blaze is the one marking the Appalachian Trail.

Yellow Blaze – This refers to the yellow line on a highway. It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to hikers who bypass sections of trail by hitch hiking.

Yo-Yo – A hike in which the hiker completes the trail in one direction then turns around and completes it going the opposite direction.

Yogiing – Mooching food off of day hikers, campers or anyone gullible enough to feed a hungry thru-hiker. Think of Yogi Bear.

Zero – This refers to a “zero mileage” day or a day when a hiker rests.

2000 Miler – In reference to the Appalachian Trail, this refers to a hiker who’s completed the entire AT and received recognition from the ATC.

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