I have done my best to try and list all common hiking terms and jargon that hikers use. If you have found that I have forgotten a hiking term or if you know of a hiking term that should be added, please leave it in the comments section below and I will get it added to the list!
A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z
“AT” – Abbreviation that stands for Appalachian Trail.
Aqua blazing – Canoeing a portion of the trail.
Backcountry – Area where no there are no maintained buildings or roads. An area that is remote, difficult to access, and undeveloped.
Blaze – A mark along a trail to mark the direction of the trail. Usually painted on a tree in a neon color. Colored and patterned duct tape is quickly becoming the norm as well to mark trails.
Bushwhacking: To travel through an area where no path or markers exists; such as through the woods. Most of the time this requires clearing your own path (usually with a machete or other instrument). Usually used to create a shortcut to another trail.
Cairn – Used as trail markers, they are a human-made pile of stones. See my blog post here for an example.
Camp – To spend the night in a temporary shelter.
Crest – High point along a trail.
Declination – Used when following maps with a compass or GPS, declination is the difference between true North and magnetic North.
Draft Tube – An extra collar of insulation positioned at the top of a sleeping bag that prevents cold breezes from traveling down into the bag.
Eyelet – Typically used when discussing hiking boots. A small hole or opening sometimes surrounded by metal. The hole in which your bootlaces would be threaded.
Fiver – A five minute break.
GPS – Global Positioning System. A satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of satellites.
Herd Path – A route that is not an official trail but is obvious that hikers use in order to get from one place to another. May also refer to an actual path that is grossly overused.
Iceberg – Large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.
Internal Pack Frame – A backpack that uses supports (usually aluminum or plastic) on the inside of the pack, that is, within the fabric, to support its weight. The internal frame pack is believed to provide better stability in tight, mountaineering conditions where the pack must stay close to the body.
Knob – A prominent rounded hill or mountain. A southern term.
Lash Point – A loop or other feature that allows the attachment of some accessory to the exterior of a product. Usually seen on packs with few pockets to make the attachment of an external pocket, knife, sunglasses holder or other accessory possible.
Lean-to – a type of shelter that is typically freestanding, consisting of 1-3 walls and a slanted roof. In hiking/backpacking terms, a temporary shelter usually consisting of 1 “wall” that typically leans against tree’s to provide shelter.
Looped Trail – Trail that allows the hiker to end where they start.
MacGyver – Based on the TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials. To hikers it means to build or repair gear with imagination.
Mail Drop – A method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time, before the hike starts, and a person not hiking mails the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.
Mountain Money – Toilet paper.
NoBo – North bounder
NPS – National Park Service.
Orienteering – A trek using a map and compass to find one’s way through unfamiliar territory.
“PCT” – Abbreviation used for Pacific Crest Trail.
Point – Lead person within a group of hikers. Responsible for following the trail.
Pot Cozy – A foam or cloth wrap to keep a cooking pot warm while it finishes cooking.
Power Hiker – A hiker who habitually chooses to cover very long distances each day, often hiking late into the evening.
Privy – A trailside outhouse for solid waste.
Quad or Quadrangle – “Quads” are slang for the Quadrangle maps that the US Geological Survey produces in topographical form. They are available in several different detail levels, including 7 1/2 and 15 minute versions.
Reno – A section of trail recently relocated.
Ridge Runner – A person paid by a trail-maintaining club or governmental organization to hike back and forth along a certain section of trail to educate hikers, enforce regulations, monitor trail and campsite use, and sometimes perform trail maintenance or construction duties.
Rimrocked – Being too frightened to climb back down from where you climbed up to. Being frozen in fear so to speak.
Section-Hiker: A hiker that completes a section of a long distance trail. Some hikers choose to complete long distance trails by hiking it in sections (such as the Appalachian Trail).
Slabbing – Refers to going around a mountain on a moderately graded footpath, as opposed to going straight up and over the mountain.
Sobo – South bounder
Swag – The lowest connecting point between two ridges in the South.
Switchback – zigzag trail that makes it easier to hike. Such as a trail that goes up a mountain, It zigzags back and forth allowing the climb to be easier.
Thru-Hiker: A hiker that completes a long distance trail from beginning to end in a single, continuous journey (such as the Appalachian Trail).
Trail Angel – Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.
Trailhead – Entry point of the trail from a road or parking lot. Typically this is where the trail begins.
Trail Name – A nickname adopted by or given to a hiker. This name is used almost exclusively when communicating with others on the trail and in trail register entries. I.E. my trail name is Nutty Hiker due to my tall tales and nutty antics on the trail.
Treeline – The point of elevation on a mountain above which the climate will no longer support tree growth. Sometimes also referred to as the “alpine” area.
Ultra Light – A style of gear or hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.
Vitamin I – ibuprofen
Water bar – ridge angled across the trail to revert rain water to one side in order to protect the trail from erosion. Typically made out of rocks or logs.
Web face – What happens to the first person on the trail each morning – they clear away all the spider webs across the trail with their face.
Web master – The first person on the trail each morning – result (see Web face)
Widow maker – Limbs or whole trees themselves that have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.
Wilderness Area – An official designation for public lands set aside to be protected from humans.
Yellow blaze – term used to denote the center yellow line down the highway.
Yellow-blazing – driving, hitch-hiking, or walking on a paved road to avoid a difficult section of trail. Term is derived from the Appalachian Trail, due to the yellow stripes on the roads that run alongside most of the AT.
Yogi-ing – The good-natured art of “letting” food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it’s begging!).
YMMV – “Your Mileage May Vary”, hiker jargon for “this worked for me, but your results/opinions might not be the same.”
Yo-Yo-ing – The act of completing one A.T. thru-hike, then immediately turning around to begin another in the opposite direction.
Z Rest – A closed cell sleeping pad that folds into a rectangular block, rather than rolling up.
Zero Day – A day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to re-supply and/or rest.
Know of a word that should be added? Leave it in the comments section below and I will get it added to the list!