Thoughts on Trail Life, Part 5

Article 5 of 6 teaches you the insider speak.

Part 5: Hiker Lingo

Take a look at any group of people that share a common interest and you’ll find that they have evolved a certain amount of “in-speak;” a collection of words and phrases that those who share the interest understand and use regularly. The more unusual the activity, the more of these terms get developed. After a while it can start to turn into a language of its own, giving those in the know a sense of belonging and exclusivity.

You can tell a lot about a group of people from looking at their language. The terms they develop tell you something about their culture, what they value, or what their common experiences are. The fact that they have a word or phrase that means a specific thing tells you that thing is significant to them. The Japanese have a word (komorebi) that means “sunlight filtered through trees.” If you go to a Japanese garden, observe its design, and think about that word you’ll understand a little something about how their culture relates to nature.  

Hiker lingo, of course, is nowhere near that sophisticated, but I do think there’s quite a bit about hiker life and culture that shows up in our language. Here’s a collection (in no particular order) of hiker terms that I put together. Some terms are more common on certain trails than others and their frequency of use varies quite a bit. The terms vary from formal, to amusing, to rather insipid, but they all say a little bit about this strange lifestyle and the people who pursue it.

(Hiker friends: please feel free to suggest any corrections or additions that come to mind.)

Camel up – drink a whole bunch of water while at a water source so you don’t have to carry as much
Cowboying – sleeping under the stars, without a tent
  White blaze: official mark of the Appalachian Trail
  Blue blaze: a spur trail or alternate route off of the main trail
  Green blaze: smoking weed
  Yellow blazing: skipping part of the trail by traveling in an automobile
  Pink blazing: term usually applied to a male. Trying to get intimate with as many women as possible during your hike
  Brown blaze: going poop
Trail magic – gifts (usually food) that you receive along the way. Ranging from a simple snack or beverage to entire meals to transportation and lodging

Danger noodle – venomous snake
Trail tan – the layer of dirt that builds up on your exposed skin
Trail angel – anyone who helps hikers out of the kindness of their heart. This could be a one time act, but the term is usually applied to people who do it regularly
Zero – a day you don’t hike (0 miles)
Nero – a day you hike just a little (near 0)
Hero – in one day: hike, hitch into a town, get your stuff, hitch back to the trail, continue hiking (more common on the Appalachian Trail)
Turtle – fall over backwards onto your pack

Base weight – the weight of your pack without food and water
Carry weight – total weight in your pack
Ultra light – generally considered to be a pack base weight of 10 pounds or less

Section hiker – someone hiking just a section of the trail
Lasher – someone doing a long section hike; usually 100 miles or more (Long-Ass Section HikER)
Slasher – hiking a section longer than 500 miles (Super – Lasher)
Flip flop – hiking part of the trail in one direction and part in the other
Camp shoes – a light pair of footwear that you carry just to wear at camp and possibly when in a town
Off trail

  1) leaving the trail briefly for any reason.

  2) taking a break from your hike to rest up.

  3) something more than 1/10th of a mile from the trail (e.g. “there’s a creek in 5 miles but it’s .4 off trail”)

  4) ending your hike prematurely (e.g. he had to get off trail because he was attacked by a gang of marmots)
HYOH – Hike Your Own Hike
LNT – Leave No Trace
Ramen bomb – mixture of ramen and instant potatoes
Hiker hobble – the condition you get after resting where your leg muscles get very stiff and it looks like you’ll be crippled for life (usually accompanied by lots of cursing)
Hiker hunger – the unreal amount of hunger you experience after you’ve been on the trail for a while (seriously, you have no idea)
Food porn dream – a dream about food that’s so vivid and sensual it’s almost erotic
Slack packing – hiking part of the trail with a light day pack (or no pack) instead of all your normal gear
Hiker box – a box for hikers to leave things they don’t need and take things left there by other hikers
Trail Spice – dirt that gets in your food
Stoveless – hiking without a camp stove of any kind
Cold soak – preparing your food by soaking it in cold water because you don’t have a stove
The trail provides – the belief that the trail will give you what you need when you need it
Happy trails – a farewell when you don’t expect to see that person again
See you up the way – a common farewell
Yo yo – completing a trail and then immediately turning around and hiking it the other way
Triple crown – hiking the AT, PCT, and CDT
Triple triple – hiking all the triple crown trails 3 times each (very rare)
Alternate – a section of trail varying from the regular route
Road walking – one of the worst things ever
Trail karma – the belief that you’ll have good luck if you’re a good trail citizen
Hiker trash – a term we use for ourselves indicating that we are very aware of how incredibly low our standards are
Trail legs – when your body gets conditioned to hiking and it is (a little) less torturous to do long miles
Cache – a supply of water that is stocked by someone
Hiker friendly – a place that is accommodating to hikers (a very abused term)
Puffy – a fluffy, quilted jacket
Bounce box – a box of stuff that you mail ahead for use later on the trail
Nobo and sobo – Northbound, Southbound
Bonus miles – hiking you do that is not part of the trail (we’re not fans of bonus miles)
Vortex – a place hikers take unplanned zeros at because they don’t want to leave. Verb; “getting vortexed”
Vitamin I – Ibuprofen
Leap frog – passing, and being passed by, the same hiker(s) repeatedly
Tramily – Trail Family. The family you make in your hiking experience.
Water carry – the distance between water sources


Up next: Who do you hike with?