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Thru Hiking Slang


Long distance hiking is weird. It gets a bit odder when you start to listen to some of the things said by fellow hiker trash. You've inevitably heard some of these words tossed around by myself or other in the hiking world. Don't be confused anymore and let me know if I've missed your favorite ones! This is not a complete list! 


This refers to the direction of ones walk on the trail. If you are walking from Mexico to Canada you would be walking NOBO. If you are walking from Maine to Georgia you would be walking SOBO. 

2. Thru-Hiker (can also be a section hiker).

An individual hiking a long trail from start to finish. 

3. Trail Angel

This describes a person or group offering to help the thru-hikers continue their journey. This can be anything from encouragement, food, housing, shower, rides. This can be known as...

4. Trail Magic

This comes from Trail Angels or non/day hikers. These are amazing things that Trail Angels do to provide a bit of comfort or things Thru Hikers need on trial. 

5. Nero/Zero Day

This refers to a Near Zero (milage day). Zero-day is no miles hiked on the trail. 

6. LNT

Leave No Trace Ethics include being smart in the back (and front) country. To keep our wilderness experience wild now and for future generations, familiarize yourself with them.

7. HYOH-Hike Your Own Hike

A sometimes controversial philosophy on the trial on how to do this hiking thing. Essentially, do it your way and screw others. (That could be a little heavy-handed definition...sorry HYOH!)

8. Cowboy Camping (AKA BIVY)

As a climber, there are few things that make me shake my head more than someone saying they are going to cowboy camp. That is more personal, but cowboy camping is simple. Laying out under the stars, sleeping pad, quilt and off to dreamland. Quick and easy the next morning. 

9. Hiker Hunger

It is pretty simple. If you are working out for 14 hours a day and breaking a sweat, you tend to run in the negative with calories. Extra calories you don't have to carry are always welcome. Plus, if you don't have to carry them and just have to pay for it, even better. 

10. Hiker Midnight

Early as possible to go to sleep. Some say 8:00 others 9:00 but most hikers will be cozy in their sleeping bags early so they can crush miles the next day right out the gate. 

11. 10X10

Simple. 10 miles by 10 o'clock. Set yourself up for success and start early!

12. Hiker Trash

An endearing term is given to thru-hikers because of their choice of apparel, choice of eating habits, where they hang out in towns and how they smell. Easily confused with homelessness.

13. Stealth Camping

This term is self-explanatory. Camping in an unestablished area. Could be in a construction area of a University in Southern Oregon (always referred to as Chechnya) or on the trail in a closed section of the park. Usually, you are hidden well enough to hide from authorities. 

14. Trail Legs

The days most section hikers rarely operate in (which makes them more badass than thru-hikers). Where you get past the daily soreness and grueling pain from walking 20 miles every day and your legs become a machine in the wilderness. My theory is for every decade old you are you should expect to get your trail legs in that many weeks if you move the decimal point over to the left.  Example. I am 36 it will take me 3.6 weeks to get my trail legs. (This is strictly my theory and I have no proof to back up my findings except through my personal experience.)

15. Trail Family

One of the sweetest parts that the trial provides is a group of hikers that stick together through the thick and thin on the trial. (Shout out to the Naked SunCups!)

16. Yogi

A learned skill of a seasoned thru-hiker is taken from Yogi the Bear who would always get those picnic baskets. But this is with a twist as stealing is frowned upon. Strike up a conversation with non-hiker, ask the right questions, and let them decide to offer food, housing, help or what have you. They make the decision in all of this. 

17. Vortex

Anything that keeps a thru-hiker in town. Could be a nice bed, cell phone coverage, sticky buns at the bakery. Literally anything! Don't be vortexed too hard but know it happens to all of us. 

18.  YO-YO or Flip Flop

Not tired of hiking when you reach the terminus? No worries just head back to where you started 2,650 miles ago. It's a thing. 

19. Vitamin I

Ibuprofen is taken liberally at any time. 

20. Trail Name

Name given to you from other hikers that you accept. It is an easy way to remember peoples names and is usually reflective of your personality, style of hiking, or something funny you did on the trail. 

21. Triple Crown

A makeshift Berger King Crown giving to thru-hikers who complete each of the three major long trails in the US. The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. This usually takes years to accomplish but some sickos do it multiple times or in one year.

22. Yellow Blaze

The Appalachian Trail is covered with white blazes guiding you along the way. If you decide to skip forward and hitch a ride on a road, this is known as Yellow blazing because you are taking the road (yellow) strips over the white stripes.

23. Slack Pack

This is where a thru-hiker hikes without his pack and very minimal gear, thus making the milage easier and faster. Usually, you leave your pack and come back for it or a someone will drive it further up the trail.

24. Dry Camping

Simply arriving at a camp spot with no access to water. 

25. Trail Spice

All the extra pieces of dirt and grim that ends up in your food as you prepare it on the ground. Just an extra bit of flavoring!