Grab your flashcards kids! There’s some terms you need to remember so you don’t look like a total newbie when you hit the trail.

It’s a completely different world on the Pacific Crest Trail. No electronics (it was magical), you connect on more than a superficial form with almost everyone you meet (human contact is few and far between, so it’s much more appreciated when you encounter a fellow human), the air is fresh, and the world around you isn’t consumed by the almighty dollar (However, the PCT does have a currency…. Food and beer). So, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is terminology you don’t normally hear in the ‘real world’; unless you’re talking to a fellow backpacker.


NOBO:                       North Bound Hiker.

SOBO:                        South Bound Hiker.

Thru Hiker:                Someone who completes the entirety of a trail in one attempt.

Section Hiker:           Someone who hikes only a few sections of the trail at a time.

Day Hiker:                  Someone who is only hiking for one day.

Trail Magic:                An unexpected act of kindness on trail: day hikers giving away fruit, a cache of pop, beer, or other consumables.

Trail Angel:                A person who performs acts of trail magic and assists hikers and doesn’t expect anything in return.

Cache:                        Food, water, and/ or other supplies useful for hikers.

Cairn:                         Manmade stack of stones indicating where the trail continues. Variation: a familiar trekking pole stuck in the ground with an arrow indicating your new trail friends are camping nearby).

Camel Up:                  Drinking a large amount of water at once to delay the need to drink water for awhile.

Cat Hole:                    A hole dug to poop in.

Dry Camp:                 Camping without a water source nearby.

Wet Camp:                 Camping with a water source nearby.

Glissade:                   The act of sliding down a snow (or mud) covered hill on your feet or butt as a means of shortcutting the trail; but mostly just to have some fun.

Hiker Box:                  Any item (food, other consumables, gear, etc.) left behind by hikers for use by future hikers.

Hiker Midnight:         The time in which most hikers are asleep; 8pm

Hiker Trash:               A Word used to describe long distance hikers; typically described as having a strong, offensive order, tanned skin, covered in dirt. Term of endearment if used by fellow hikers. Offensive if used by trail town people.

Puffy:                         A name for down jackets.

Register:                    A Book used for documenting a hiker’s passing of a point on the trail.

Stealth Camp:           Camping with the intent of not being found by anyone.

Triple Crowner:         A person who has successfully completed a Thru Hike of the PCT, Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail.

Vortex:                       A place, group, or thing that “sucks” hikers off trail. (Trail town, Trail Magic, Hiker Haven, side trails)

Zero:                           A day when no miles are hiked

Nero:                          A day when only a few miles are hiked.

Shakedown:              An act performed by an experienced backpacker done to a backpacker on their first long distance backpacking trip, in which they go through every item in your pack piece by piece to inform you what to eliminate to further lower your base weight.

Trail Name:                A nickname adopted by, or given, to hikers. Usually based on a personality trait or memorable action. It’s said to be easier to locate hikers using their trail name versus their trail name, and was actively used by authorities this season looking for lost hikers.

Post Holing:              The act of hiking on soft snow and you plunge knee or waist deep into the snow.

HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike):         Basically means there is no single “correct” way to complete the hike.

LNT (Leave No Trace):                        Principles designed to help backpackers think about ways to minimize the impact that their presence has on the natural environment. “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”.