Photo by Holly Mandarich
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Thru-Hiking Lingo 101

New to the thru-hiking world? Don't worry! Check out these terms to learn the "thru-hiking lingo" and you'll be a part of the hiker trash fam in no time.

AYCE: All You Can Eat at the glorious buffets in town
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
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
Mountain Money: toilet paper
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
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


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A hiker looking out at a lake.
Photo by Ian Liberry

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About the Author
A woman wearing a denim jacket and a brown hat stands in a field of wildflowers.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.