Wilderness Lingo

Know anyone who brings a hair dryer on a camping trip? Well, there's a word for that. Learn about such vocabulary on this page about wilderness lingo.

Wilderness Lingo 101

2,000 Miler: One who has hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, whether in sections over a period of years or in one season. It all counts!

ankle-buster: A section of trail loaded up with small, unstable rocks.

anarchy run:  The act of running in an uncontrolled fashion down a very steep slope, in the hope that you won't fall over and kill yourself. Meant to relieve stress. Do not attempt in sensitive habitat for plants and animals. 

bail out:  To abandon a hike for either credible or dubious reasons.

bare-foot: To hike (especially in winter) without use of crampons, showshoes, skis or other traction aids.

bezel:  The outside capsule of your compass. Be sure to get acquainted with it before you get lost.

bounce box:  Box containing items needed for re-supply and/or items that are only needed in trail towns (such as extra batteries, town clothes and toiletries) that you “bounce” ahead by sending it to your next intended stop. Synonymous with “life line.”

camel up:  Drinking all the water you can at a source in order to minimize the amount of water you are carrying. (One liter of water weighs two pounds).

cat hole:  A hole you dig in the ground 6-8 inches deep in order to deposit solid human waste. Should be at least 200 feet from any water source, camp and trail. And please, cover your cat hole.

eau d’hiker:  Ah yes, the smell of a hiker that has gone multiple days without a shower. Makes you pity those kind folks who give hikers a ride into town.

gaiter tan:  The characteristic tan just above and below the knees when you've been wearing gaiters on a sunny day.

glamping: Describes “glamorous” camping experiences when hair dryers, make-up, curlers, perfume, cologne or aftershave are considered necessary gear.

groover: Name for the rectangle shaped ammunition can used as a toilet in the backcountry. After use, two “grooves” are left on a person’s backside. The term applies to any portable toilet, even advanced designs like a deluxe groover named the Millennium Falcon.”

GORP:  “Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts.” A trail snack made with fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.

Half-Gallon Challenge: An attempt to eat an entire half gallon of ice cream in a single sitting. Usually attempted at the country store in Pine Grove Furnace, Penn., the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail.

mandal: A sandal worn by a man. Probably with socks.

mouse-hangers: Also known as “mouse trapezes,” these contraptions are supposed to keep the mice out of your grub. They are made with an empty can or can lid strung from the ceiling of a tent or shelter. Food is then tied underneath the can. The can is intended to prevent mice from crawling down the line and getting to your food. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. 

peak bagging: The sport of hiking as many noteworthy peaks as possible. Not synonymous with “peak bragging.”

post-holing: The hole left behind when your foot sinks into deep snow. Post-holes are an annoyance if they disturb a crust that would otherwise support skis or snow-shoes, which sometimes breeds resentment between skiers and  “bare-booters.” Often used as a verb.

slackpack: Hiking without your pack, which is transported ahead for pick-up.

tourons: A term used for tourists, usually applied after you have sweated blood, climbing to a great view, and find it overrun with people who drove to the peak. Of course, if tourons offer you food, they magically transform into Trail Angels (see next entry).

trail angel: Person who seeks to help hikers by providing rides, food or drinks for no fee. 

trail magic: When something good happens at exactly the time it is most needed. Whether it’s a cooler of cold water at a road crossing, a ride into town, someone offering to pack out your garbage for you, or an amazing view after days of clouds and rain. It’s all good. Trail magic is often performed by a Trail Angel (see previous entry).

web-walking: Being the first hiker on the trail in the morning, which means you will be the first one clearing spider webs from across the trail, usually with your face.

whip: As in politics, this person keeps fellow hikers moving in the right direction at the right speed.

wil•der•ness n. 1. An unsettled, uncultivated region left in its natural condition, especially: a. A large wild tract of land covered with dense vegetation or forests. b. An extensive area, such as a desert or ocean, that is barren or empty; a waste. c. A piece of land set aside to grow wild. d. What the world needs more of to survive.

Helpful links