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List of hiking terms

Click a link to take you to its description below:

Thru Hiker
Thru Hike
Section Hike
Slack pack
Zero day
Calorie Loading
Camel up
Trail Angel
Trail Magic
Hiker Heaven
Casa de Luna
Triple Crown
Flip Flop
Yo Yo
Repeat Offender
Hiker Midnight
The Pack
The Kick Off
The Water Report
Stealth Camp
Dry Camp
Sun Cups
Post Hole
Post Holer
Base Pack Weight
Skin Out Weight
Gram Weenie
Hiker Trash
Hiker Funk
Trail Name
The Cotton World
The Look
Cowboy Camp
Bounce Box
Bonus miles
Vitamin I
The Book of Lies
Hiker Box
Alcohol stove
Escape Velocity
Heel Stepping
Yellow Blazing
Ride Bride
Ray Day
Hiker Hunger
Ray Jardine

Thru Hiker

Someone who is in the process of hiking the entire
length of a trail that is 1000 miles or longer in
length. The actual use of the term is problematic,
because one cannot know whether one will complete
the hike until one actually completes it. At the
moment a hiker earns the title “through hiker” by
completing the trail, he is no longer a through
hiker. If a through hiker is injured and must leave
the trail, he suddenly stops being a through hiker,
and becomes a section hiker. So while you may call
yourself a through hiker, you cannot really know if
you are a through hiker until you are no longer a
through hiker.

Thru Hike

Hiking the entire length of a trail 1000 miles or
longer in length. Traditionally a contiguous hike
from one end of the trail to the other. Recently the
term through hike has been used to describe any
method of hiking the entire trail, including section
hiking, flip flopping or skipping.

Section Hike

Hiking a significant section of the trail. Often
people who desire to through hike, but can’t, will
hike the entire trail in sections over several


Multi-Year Through Hike. A hike of the entire trail
over several summers.


Leaving the trail, and reentering the trail at
another location, to bypass a section of trail.
Skipping is done for several reasons such as forest
fires, heavy snow pack, fatigue, lack of motivation,
a need to make up for lost time or to meet up with
friends who are hiking ahead of you. Often people
who skip a section of trail, but complete the rest
of it, still consider themselves through hikers,
especially if the reason for skipping was to bypass
a trail closure due to forest fires.

People who skip sections of trail will sometimes
turn around and hike the skipped section in the
opposite direction. This is known as flip flopping.

Slack pack

Hiking with minimal gear, usually little more than
food and water, while someone else transports the
bulk of your gear ahead by car.

Zero day

A day in which you do no hiking. So named because
you do zero PCT miles. A zero day is almost always
taken at a town stop. Often the distance from the
trail to town will make taking a zero day more
practical than trying to get to and from town in one
day. Zero days are often used to do preparations
such as laundry, shower, resupply, repair or replace
gear, etc. They are also times to get caught up on
calorie loading, and rest. Also called a Zero.


Nearly a zero. A day in which one hikes few miles. A
portion of a nearo day is usually spent in town.

Calorie Loading

Exactly what it implies: eating as much high fat
food as you can during a town stop.

Camel up

Drink as much water as you can possibly hold in your
stomach. A technique used to help you get from one
water source to the next when water sources are far
apart. Sometimes used to describe carrying more
water than usual during a long dry stretch of trail.

Trail Angel

A non-hiker who helps a hiker in some way.

Trail Magic

Unexpected generosity from a non-hiker. One
unfortunate trend in recent years is that trail
magic is becoming so common that some hikers now
expect it, and become rude when it isn’t offered.


A means of obtaining help or supplies from a non-
hiker, often without directly asking. From Yogi the
Bear who managed to obtain picnic baskets from
unsuspecting campers, though yogiing does not
involve the same techniques that Yogi the Bear used.
Yogiing is often done “Columbo style” by striking up
a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading
questions, (How far is it into town from here? Is
there a bus that could take me there? Are there any
restaurants open this late?) and allowing the person
to decide whether he wants to offer help.

Also the trail name of a well known triple crowner
and repeat offender. Yogi is the author of Yogi’s
PCT Handbook, a compilation of trail information and
advice used as a resource by many PCT hikers.

Hiker Heaven

The home of Jeff and Donna Saufley in Agua Dulce,
California. Jeff and Donna go out of their way every
year to act as trail angels. A stop at Hiker Heaven
is almost a must during a through hike. The Saufleys
do laundry, handle resupply packages, and provide
trail information to hikers.

Casa de Luna

The home of Joe and Terrie Anderson, about one day’s
hike north of Hiker Heaven. The Andersons are well
known trail angels who allow hikers to stay at their
home. Terrie Anderson has described the atmosphere
in their home as hippy day care. While not as
popular as Hiker Heaven, many hikers do choose to
stay at Casa De Luna. It is reported that those who
do not stop at Casa de Luna will often have some
sort of problem on the next section of trail that
will force them to turn back to Casa de Luna.

The Andersons also maintain a cache along the trail.
Terrie is said to make the best taco salad available
anywhere along the trail.

Triple Crown

A triple crown is accomplished when one has hiked
the entire Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail
and Continental Divide Trail. A calendar triple
crown involves hiking all three trails in one
calendar year. As of this writing only two people
have completed a calendar triple crown.

Flip Flop

Skipping a section of trail, and hiking in the
opposite direction to return to the place where you
left the trail. Often done to avoid difficult trail
conditions, such as heavy snow pack in the Sierra
Nevada mountains. A flip flop is often an attempt to
postpone difficult trail sections until conditions
improve. A common flip flop would involve hiking
north to Kennedy Meadows, taking a ride to Manning
Park, then hiking south to finish the trail at
Kennedy Meadows. A flip flop causes the hiker to
switch from being a northbound hiker to being a
southbound hiker. Also known as flipping.

Yo Yo

Hiking the entire length of the trail, then turning
around and hiking the entire trail in the opposite
direction in one season. At the time of this writing
only two people have successfully yo yoed the
Pacific Crest Trail. Yo yoing on the Appalachian
trail is more common. The Continental Divide Trail
has been yo yoed twice.

Repeat Offender

Someone who through hikes or attempts to through
hike the Pacific Crest Trail more than once. The
Pacific Crest Trail has been through hiked as many
as 12 times by one individual.

Hiker Midnight

9:00 PM. The time by which through hikers are
usually asleep.

The Pack

The bulk of through hikers who are hiking within a
few hundred miles of each other. As interest in the
trail grows every year, the size of the pack
increases, causing problems for trail angels,
businesses and resources in southern California. By
the time The pack has reached northern California,
it is more spread out and has less impact on local
resources. Also known as the herd.

The reasons for the existence of the pack are

More people are attempting to through hike the
trail every year.
The narrow window of opportunity to through hike
the trail every year causes most hikers to begin
their hikes within a four-week window.
Many hikers choose to attend the Kick Off and
schedule their start dates within a few days of the
Kick Off.

Adding to the pack effect is the fact that hikers
like to congregate at trail towns and trail angel’s
homes, and tend to leave these places in groups. So,
rather than spreading out on the trail, hikers tend
to hike in clumps.

The Kick Off

The Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off
Party. An annual event organized by former through
hikers for the benefit of current through hikers.
The Kick Off is held at Lake Morena, 20 miles from
the southern terminus of the trail, during the last
weekend in April. The purpose of the Kick Off is to
offer information, encouragement and camaraderie to
the current year’s through and section hikers. Also
known as the ADZ.

A few hikers are opposed to the Kick Off, claiming
that it offers dubious help to hikers who are not
otherwise adequately prepared, and that it adds to
the pack by narrowing start dates to at or near the
weekend of the Kick Off. In an effort to spread out
the pack, some through hikers will begin their hikes
before the Kick Off, hitch a ride back to Lake
Morena to attend the Kick Off, then hitch back to
the point where they left the trail. Kick Off
participants offer rides to and from points as far
north as Warner Springs.


The Pacific Crest Trail e-mail List. A source of
communication about the Pacific Crest Trail on the

The Water Report

The Water Report is an on-line resource where hikers
can post the condition of various water sources
along the trail. Hikers farther back in the pack can
use that information to determine which water
sources are reliable, and which are dry.

Stealth Camp

Camping away from common camping spots such as
lakes, stream crossings or meadows. Promoted by Ray
Jardine, author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s
Handbook, as a way to avoid bear encounters.

Dry Camp

Camping in an area that has no nearby water source.
Stealth camps are usually dry camps. A common
technique on the trail is to eat dinner at a water
source, continue hiking into the evening, then set
up camp wherever one finds oneself at the end of the
day, even if it means camping on the trail itself.
This method has three advantages.

Decreased likelihood of bear encounters.
More flexibility. One can hike any number of
miles without the constraint of stopping at an
established campsite or water source.
A dry camp or stealth camp offers more solitude
for those who desire it.

Sun Cups

Uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg
carton. As the snow melts in the spring, pockets of
water form on the surface of the snow. This water
warms up in the sun and causes the snow under it to
melt faster than the surrounding snow. The resulting
uneven surface is difficult to walk on.

Post Hole

Inadvertently breaking through the surface of the
snow so that your leg resembles a fence post stuck
in a post hole.

Post Holer

A web site where current snow conditions along the
trail can be obtained. The Post Holer site also
attempts to predict the optimum date to leave
Kennedy Meadows on a northbound through hike. This
date is determined by predicting snow the depth in
the Sierras compared to the snow depth in an average
snow year.

Base Pack Weight

The weight of a loaded backpack, not including food,
water and stove fuel. The base weight also does not
include items that are only carried during short
sections of the trail, such as ice ax or crampons.
Since the amount of food, water and stove fuel vary
throughout a hike, the base weight is considered a
better indicator of how light or heavy a hiker’s
pack is than the total weight. (Depending on how
much water one carries, pack weight can vary by 15
pounds or more in a single day.) Most through hikers
try to carry a base weight of 15 pounds or less.
Ultra-lighters carry a base weight of 12 pounds or
less. Extreme ultra-lighters carry a base weight of
under 10 pounds.

Skin Out Weight

Base weight plus the weight of clothing and gear
worn. Only gram weenies really care about their skin
out weight.

Gram Weenie

Someone who is obsessive about reducing their base
weight as much as possible. A derogatory term that
suggests that a person isn’t willing to carry one
more gram of weight than necessary.

Hiker Trash

A general description of a through or section hiker,
or of through hikers collectively. It probably comes
from the fact that through hikers often are confused
for homeless people during town stops. It also comes
from the fact that the usual ways of determining
status in real life have little, if any, meaning on
the trail.

Hiker Funk

After a few hundred miles on the trail it becomes
difficult to wash the sweat and dirt out of your
clothes. The resulting smell is called hiker funk.
The reason the person giving you a ride into town
has the windows down is not because the air
conditioning isn’t working.

If a hiker has been on the trail long enough, he can
tell a short distance hiker by the smell of the
perfumes in his soap and deoderant. To a through
iker, day hikers smell unnaturally clean.

Trail Name

A nickname used by a hiker. A trail name can be
chosen by the hiker prior to the hike, but is
considered more official if it is given to the hiker
during the hike. A trail name often derives from an
unusual, humorous or significant characteristic or
event associated with the hiker. Sometimes it will
derive from something the hiker says or something
that is said to the hiker. A trail name is said to
“stick” if the hiker accepts the trail name and
other hikers begin to know him by that name. The
tradition of using trail names started on the
Appalachian Trail, and has spread to the Pacific
Crest and Continental Divide Trails.

Trail names tend to be unique to a particular hiker
and are thought to be a better way of identifying a
hiker than his given name (How many Johns are on the
trail at any one time?) or a description (The tall
skinny guy with the shaggy beard and muscular legs.
He was wearing a polyester T-shirt, nylon shorts and
a backpack. Last I saw him, he was walking north.).

The Cotton World

Life off of the trail. So called because wearing
cotton will not put you in danger of hypothermia.
Also known as real life.

The Look

At some point in the trail, usually around Yosemite
Park, a hiker will develop the look. It is a
combination of a lean, muscular body and a look of
confidence and determination in the eyes. Those who
have the look will probably finish their hikes.
Those who don’t have the look, will probably leave
the trail before they finish.

Cowboy Camp

Sleeping under the stars without a tent. Often done
to save the time and effort of setting up a tent
when the weather is expected to be good through the


Water left beside the trail by trail angels for use
by through hikers. Most of the caches on the Pacific
Crest Trail are in the southern California deserts
where reliable water sources are far apart. Caches
are not to be considered reliable water sources.
Through hikers are advised to carry enough water to
get to the next reliable water source, and to take
water from the caches only if they find themselves
running low. Cached water is not intended for
bathing or cooking.

Caches are controversial. Many through hikers feel
that the trail should be hiked on its own terms, and
that water caches are an artificial crutch that can
be used by hikers who are not otherwise adequately
prepared. Other hikers feel that the caches are a
helpful safety net available to them if things don’t
go as planned. Others use the caches as primary
water sources and view the off-trail springs as
alternate water sources to be used if the caches are

The establishment of caches, The Kick Off and Hiker
Heaven has reduced the through hiker drop out rate

Bounce Box

Send unneeded gear ahead by mail. Many through
hikers will use a bounce box. This box has items
that may be useful at various points along the
trail, such as extra sunscreen, battery charger,
warm clothing layers, etc. The Bounce box is mailed
to various resupply points along the trail. The
hiker can use the bounce box to mail gear that is
not needed, but may be needed later, ahead to
another resupply point along the trail.


All You Can Eat, as in all you can eat buffet. For a
through hiker burning as much as 6000 calories per
day, all you can eat is a lot!

Bonus miles

Miles walked that are not on the PCT, such as miles
to and from resupply points or to and from off-trail
water sources or non-PCT miles walked due to bad

Vitamin I


The Book of Lies

The Pacific Crest Trail Guidebooks. Even though the
guidebooks contain essential information about the
trail, sometimes it is inaccurate or less than
helpful. The information in the guidebooks is often
collected at different times in the season than
through hikers experience the same sections of the
trail, so conditions described in the guidebooks are
often different than conditions encountered on the

Hiker Box

Boxes at some resupply points that hikers use to
exchange food or gear. If you are tired of eating
the same old thing out of your resupplies, or are
carrying too much food, you can leave your extra
food in the hiker box for someone else to take. If
you see something in the hiker box that looks
interesting, you can take it. If you need a few
ounces of stove fuel, and you can only buy it by the
gallon, you can leave the unused portion in the
hiker box for someone else.

Alcohol stove

Of the various fuels that can be used for cooking on
the trail, denatured alcohol has become the fuel of
choice for most through hikers. Alcohol stoves are
usually hand made from pop, cat food or tuna cans.
Several patterns for home made alcohol stoves can be
found on the internet. Alcohol has less potential
energy than white gas or butane/propane, but the
lighter weight of an alcohol stove more than makes
up for the slightly larger quantity of fuel that
must be carried. Denatured alcohol is easier to
obtain at most town stops than other stove fuels.

Because of the way that home made alcohol stoves
operate, they are used primarily for boiling water
to rehydrate dehydrated meals. They are generally
not used for more sophisticated cooking.

Also called Pepsi can stoves or Pepsi stoves.


Automotive gas line antifreeze. Actually, just
methanol alcohol in a fancy package. At many town
stops Heet is the most readily available form of
stove fuel.


Anything off trail that draws hikers into it, and
hikers find difficult to leave. Usually a town stop,
restaurant or trail angel’s home. From time to time
a vortex, such as a hot spring, will be found along
the trail, rather than off the trail.

Escape Velocity

The will to walk away from a vortex.


Debris floating in a water source that needs to be
filtered out, even if the water quality is such that
filtering the water is not otherwise necessary.


Running out of energy to hike due to eating too few


Tourist/moron. Usually encountered in crowded
front-country areas, Tourons demonstrate too little
wisdom for the types of activities they are involved






Sliding down a snow covered slope. Glissading is
faster and more fun than hiking down a snow covered
slope, but is not without its risks. An ice axe is
often used to control the hiker’s speed. Sometimes
called bum sliding.

Heel Stepping

A method of hiking down a snow covered slope that
involves digging the heels into the snow with each
step to prevent slipping.

Yellow Blazing

Another term for skipping. The term yellow blazing
is used more often on the Appalachian trail where
white blazes mark the official route and blue blazes
mark alternate routes. Yellow blazes are the lines
down the center of the road that one follows when
one leaves the trail and travels by car or bus.

An interesting irony about the term “yellow blazing”
is that blazes along the Pacific Crest Trail are

Ride Bride

A female hiker who accompanies a male hiker when he
attempts to hitch a ride. It is thought that people
are more likely to pick up a male hitchhiker if a
female is with him, and that a female hitchhiker is
safer if a male is with her.

Ray Day

June 15th. In an average snow year in the Sierra
Nevada mountains, Ray Day is the best date to leave
Kennedy Meadows on a northbound through hike. Named
for Ray Jardine, the Author of the Pacific Crest
Trail Hikers Handbook. This date is based on two
factors. It is late enough to allow sufficient
snowmelt in the Sierras for a safe hike. It is early
enough to allow time to reach Canada.

A number of through hikers successfully hiked the
Sierras in heavier than normal snowpack in 2006.
This shows that Ray Day is a good guideline for most
hikers, but is not as important as previously

Hiker Hunger

That empty feeling in your stomach that results from
eating 4000 calories per day, but burning 6000
calories per day. After about a month on the trail,
it becomes difficult to carry enough food.

Ray Jardine

Ray Jardine is an adventurer who was an early
proponent of lightweight backpacking techniques. He
authored The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s Handbook
and Beyond Backpacking. Ray’s techniques were
controversial when he first wrote about them. Many
of his techniques, or similar techniques are now
standard practice. Ray has gone on to other pursuits
and is no longer considered a leader in the
lightweight backpacking movement. New leaders have
emerged, new lightweight materials have been
developed, and a handful of small companies have
been created that offer lightweight gear that is
sometimes lighter and performs better than Ray
Jardine’s homemade gear. The PCT-L, Yogi’s handbook
and other resources have replaced The Pacific Crest
Trail Hiker’s Handbook as sources of information
about the trail.


Hike Your Own Hike. An encouragement between hikers
to hike according to your own dreams, goals,
expectations, etc., and not have your hike
determined by other hiker’s expectations. This is
your hike. Hike it your way.


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