If you haven’t noticed, long distance hikers have their own language. If you are new to the sport, it may be hard to understand what people are talking about! This list isn’t necessarily just for the newbies, but also for terms that I use throughout my journal that may not be clear. I realize that I have a pretty regional (Pacific Northwest) dialect, so I’ll try and keep this updated with each entry.
ADZPCTKO Annual Day Zero PCT Kickoff. An event, scheduled one or two weekends at the end of April or beginning of May each year at Lake Morena State Park (at mile 19 on the PCT). This is around the time most NOBO thru hikers begin their hike. It is to celebrate current-year hikers, and a time for past-year hikers to meet up again. There is food, talks, vendor booths, and movies played at the kickoff.
Base Weight The weight of your pack and all of its contents EXCEPT consumables.
Big Four The 4 heaviest non-consumable gear items in your pack. 1) Pack. 2) Sleeping bag. 3) Sleeping Pad. 4) Shelter.
Blaze (Noun) Also known as trail marker, often on a tree, post, or rock. The PCT has several types. They can be a candle-shape (or, to me, it looks like a lowercase “i”) carved into a tree, a metal reflector, an old school metal diamond painted with a tree symbol, a wooden square with the new PCT logo branded onto it, or a plastic or metal PCT logo.
Blue Blaze (Verb) A variation of the AT’s “white blaze”. To take an alternate route.
Bounce Box/Bounce Bucket (Noun) A bounce box, or bounce bucket, is a vessel that a thru hiker sends to addresses ahead of oneself on the trail in order to have hard-to-find items at their disposal once they have hiked up the trail to that new location. Unlike a maildrop, the contents of the bounce box are only partially utilized, and the remaining contents (gear, food, etc.) are “bounced”, or mailed, to another location up the trail to be used later. This can be done several times while the hiker remains on the trail.
Cache (Noun) A collection of food or water stored in an inaccessible place for the intent of retrieving it for use on a long distance hike. A “Food cache” or “water cache”.
Consumables (Noun) Items in your pack that are used up and, therefore, become lighter throughout the section your are hiking. Mainly, food, stove fuel, and water. These weights are not included when calculating your “base weight”.
Cowboy Camp (Verb) To sleep outside on the ground without a tarp or shelter.
Herd (Noun) The main group of thru hikers, usually on a NOBO hike.
Hiker Box (Noun) A container maintained within an establishment in a trail town in which thru hikers add items that they don’t need for the use of other hikers.
Hiker Midnight Very late for thru hikers; 9 pm.
Hikertrash (Noun) As defined by the author of the book of the same name: “A long distance hiker, shabby and homeless in appearance, rank in odor, more at home outdoors than in society, with a deep reverence and respect for all things wild.”
HYOH “Hike your own hike” is a mantra used to remind ourselves that things that work or don’t work for one hiker don’t necessarily apply to another.
Kickoff (Noun) See ADZPCTKO.
LNT or Leave No Trace Leaving the least amount of human impact on the wilderness when staying within it. (I believe this should be a high priority for all thru hikers.)
Long Distance Trail (Noun) I don’t think this actually has a set definition, but I consider it any foot, ski, or paddling route over 100 miles (this number is arbitrary and chosen by me), whose general course is recognized by an organization or group. They often have a published guide of some sort, but in their infancy this may be unofficial.
Maildrop (Noun) A form of re-supply in which one mails a package to an address up the trail to pick up at a later date and use to resupply food, other consumables, or gear at that location.
Nero or Nero Day (Noun) “Near Zero”. A variation of “zero day” in which a person minimizes their time in town. This is typically done by hiking a very short day to get into or out of town, thus maximizing their town time without having to stay overnight there.
NOBO Northbound. Also used as a noun referring to a northbound hiker.
Pee-Dana (Noun) A bandana used by a woman exclusively to dry off after urinating.
Pink Blaze (Verb) A variation on “white blaze”; when someone adjusts their hiking route or speed in order to coincide with someone they have a crush on.
Ray Day (Noun) June 15th is the date that Ray Jardine (a well known long distance hiker) suggests a PCT northbounder leave Kennedy Meadows (about mile 700) and head into the high Sierra on an average snow year. He suggests that you plan your start date around how long you anticipate taking to get to mile 700 by this date.
Re-Supply (Verb) The act of replenishing ones’ consumables for the next section of hiking. (Noun) The collection of consumables one has purchased or acquired for the following section of hiking.
Road Walk (Verb) During a long distance hike, the act of walking on a road, paved or gravel, as opposed to trail tread. (Noun) Used to describe the section of a long trail’s route that coincides with a road, paved or gravel.
Section Hiking Doing a portion of a long-distance trail.
Shakedown (Verb) The act of pairing down non-essential items to reduce pack weight.
Slack Pack (Verb) During a long distance hike, the act of hiking up the trail with minimal items/weight in your pack (items only needed during the day) in order to hike faster and more comfortably. This requires someone hold or drive the other contents of your pack to the end location for your to re-collect.
SOBO Southbound. Also used as a noun referring to a southbound hiker.
Stealth Camping The act of camping in a hidden location to save money or to camp somewhere that is not normally allowed.
Supported [Hike] A supported hike is one in which someone can carry minimal gear or food because they have other people showing up to help them out at regular intervals.
Thru Hiking (Verb) Hiking a long-distance trail from one end to its other end in one hiking season. Thru hike (Noun). Thru hiker (Noun)
Trail Angel (Noun) A person, besides another thru hiker, who does nice acts (“trail magic”) for a thru hiker during the course of their thru hike.
Trail Magic (Verb) An act of kindness done to help out a thru hiker. Often in the way of food, rides, or a place to spend the night, but can be in many forms. (Noun) Items left by others as a gift for long distance hikers. Both definitions also refer to the serendipitous luck that you will experience at just the right time on the trail as well. (Ex. On the Bigfoot Trail, the morning after I broke my spork, I found a spoon lying on the trail!)
Trail Miles (Noun) A measure of hiking mileage that only includes progress toward the end destination. (Ex. Backtracking 2 miles for water does not increase one’s trail miles)
Trail Register (Noun) A notebook or collection of pages left along a long distance trail with the intention of having the long distance hikers sign their names.
Trail Town (Noun) A location on or near a long distance trail; where hikers may find a restaurant, resupply consumables, and/or get lodging.
Triple Crown (Noun) The triple crown of hiking includes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
Unsupported [Hike] A thru hike in which someone does not rely on other people arriving to help them out at regular intervals. An unsupported hiker has to carry everything they need and must find their own way to get to town to resupply.
Water Cache (Noun) A collection of water hidden away for future use. On the PCT, this is often used as a collection of water left by trail angels along the trail for use by thru hikers in dry areas.
White Blaze (Noun) Coined on the Appalachian Trail, referring the the painted white trail markers guiding hikers to stay on the correct path. (Verb) The act of strictly following the “exact” route of any long distance trail, as defined by that trail’s governing body.
Yellow Blaze (Verb) A variation on “white blaze” in which someone skips sections of a long trail by riding in a car (yellow refers to the center line on a road).
Zero or Zero Day (Noun) A day, within the course of a thru hike, in which a hiker hikes zero trail miles, usually in town. The hiker inevitably does still walk many miles in search of food and resupply on a zero day. (Verb) The act of taking a zero-mileage day during the course of a thru hike.
Comment below if I missed something that you want to be defined and I will add it!