Appalachian Trail Dictionary | 75+ Backpacking Terms and Glossary - Greenbelly Meals

Appalachian Trail Dictionary | Backpacking Terms and Glossary


A complete list of Appalachian Trail slang, backpacking jargin and lesser known gear terms. Can you think of anything we missed? Comment and we might just add it!

 AMC Appalachian Mountain Club. Organization in charge of the hut system in the Whites.
Alpine Zone Also known as 'above the treeline'. The high-elevation areas where trees are unable to grow.
AT Appalachian Trail
ATC Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Non-profit organization in charge of protecting and maintaining the Trail.
Awol 'The A.T. Guide'. The only map a thru-hiker needs.
Balds Barren areas on many mountain tops. Their existence has many theories.
Base Weight Total Pack Weight - Consumables (food, water, etc) = Base Weight
Bear Bag Hung in a tree to prevent from attracting bears. Usually contains food, trash, toiletries - anything with a strong odor.
Biner Short for 'carabiner' - the metal loop with a spring loaded opening generally used for ropes.
Bivy Short for 'bivouac sack' - a mini tent-like shelter. Generally used in emergencies, mountaineering or ultralight backpacking.
Bladder Or 'water reservoir'. Smaller collapsible water container.
Blaze Used to mark the Trail. Typically a 2 x 6 inch strip of paint on a tree located about eye level.
(Aqua) Blazing Taking a waterway instead of the Trail.
(Blue) Blaze The blaze that leads to a water source. 
(Pink) Blazing Process of hiking with a female.
(Yellow) Blazing Process of taking the road to the next trail head and essentially skipping a chunk of hiking.
(White) Blaze The iconic blaze that marks the Appalachian Trail.
Bluff Steep cliff.
Bounce Box Box of supplies you ship or 'bounce' up to pick up in your next trail town.
Bushwhacking Hiking off trail. Done for the adventure of it or because you are lost.
Cache A hiding place. Typically where you or a trail angel might stash food and other goodies.
Cameling Up Drinking as much water as possible at a water source to prevent carrying it.
Cairn A pile of rocks or stones used to mark the trail. Used in place of blazes where there are no trees.
Cathole A hole dugout for human waste. Ideally at least 6 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from a water source.
Contour Lines Lines used on a topographical map to display variations in elevation.
Cowboy Camping Camping underneath the stars without a tent.
Cowboy Coffee Mixing water with raw, unfiltered coffee grounds.
Crampons A metal frame used on boots for traction in snowy and icy conditions.
Cuben Fiber A high-performance fabric used as an ultralight material for some tents and bags. 
DEET Ingredient used in insect repellents - aka 'diethyltoluamide'
Double Blaze Two blazes aligned vertically to signal a sharp turn in the Trail. 
Dromedary Bag A larger collapsible water container.
Droppin' Trou Process of pulling down your pants (or 'trousers'). Generally shouted as a warning that you are about to change clothes.
False Summit The sense that you are approaching the summit... and then realize it is only a small plateau teaser.
FKT 'Fastest Known Time'. The speed record held for completing the Appalachian Trail either 'supported' or 'unsupported'.
Flip-flop Referring to the direction you are hiking. Can be thought of as hiking it in two separate 'halves' instead of one continuous stretch. Ex: ME>VA and then GA>VA or VA>GA and then ME>VA.
Footprint A separate 'floor' of your tent used as a groundcloth or additional protective barrier.
Gaitors Leggings used to protect your shins and ankles from thick brush or prevent water from draining into your feet.
Gap The low spot on a ridge line in between mountains.
GORP "Granola, Oats, Raisins and Peanuts" or "Good Ole Raisins and Peanuts". I just call it 'Trail Mix'.
Green Tunnel Another term for The Appalachian Trail. Referring to the heavily wooded green forests that the Trail snakes through.
Guylines The chord or rope used to tie down the tent or tarp.
Hiker Box A box of freebies. Generally leftover food or gear from previous hikers often located in hostels or shelters.
Hiker Trash A tongue-and-cheek term for thru-hikers. We have been known to resemble vagrants.
Hut Large cabins built and maintained by the AMC located mainly in the White Mountains.
HYOH 'Hike Your Own Hike' - mentality used by thru-hikers to enjoy their time on the Trail.
Kinlin Small pile firewood used to ignite the fire. 
Knob Small mountain or rounded hill.
Hostel Trail town lodging. Like a hotel room with several bunk beds.
Lean-to A simple shelter structure comprised of a roof angled at a 45 degrees. Generally only has 3 walls.
Logbook or 'register'. Every shelter has one. Used for safety to inform people of your whereabouts, communicate with other hikers, and vent about anything and everything.
NERO A "Near Zero" day. Hiking only a mile or less.
NOBO Northbound hiker going from Georgia to Maine.
Pocket Rocket A Trademarked named for an MSR stove. Has become a generic term for a small fold able canister stove top.
Postholing The process of stepping in snow and leaving a hole. 
Privy The shelter bathroom. Most of the time a simple wooden outhouse with a composting toilet.
PUDs 'Pointless Ups and Downs'. Referring to the rolling nature of the trail.
Ridge-runner Somewhat like an informal Park Ranger. Generally a volunteer interested in promoting respect for the Trail.
Scramble A section of the Trail too steep or rocky to walk forcing a hands and knees 'scramble'. See Mihousac Notch.
Section Hiker Someone who hikes the Appalachian Trail in sections over a longer period of time instead of a continuous thru-hike.
Shelter Simple wooden structures scattered about every 10-20 miles along the entire Trail. Most hold around 8-12 hikers.
Slack Packing Not carrying gear for the day. Generally this means leaving your gear in town and getting shuttled to a trailhead in the morning and picked up at a trailhead farther down in the afternoon.
SOBO Southbound hiker going from Maine to Georgia.
Stealth Camping Camping in a site that has not been used as a campsite before.
Switchback Instead of hiking straight up a very steep incline, switchbacks are used to zig-zag and lengthen the trail for a more moderate incline (or decline).
Thru Hiker A hiker who completes the Trail in one continuous hike or within a year time frame.
Townie 'Dayhikers', 'Bathers', or people from town.
Trailhead Where a section of trail begins. Usually at a road crossing or somewhere accessible by vehicle.
Trail Angel A giver of Trail Magic. A volunteer who helps hikers with a place to stay in their house, a shuttle to the trail head, free food, anything. 
Trail Magic Given by Trail Angels. The goodies a Trail Angel offers out of goodwill.
Trail Name The name a hiker goes by on the Trail. A sort of 'alter-ego'. Almost all hikers go by a trail name.
Treeing a Bear The act of surprising a bear and it sliding down a tree.
Triple Crown The three major USA hiking trails: The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, The Continental Divide Trail. One who completes all three is known as a 'Triple Crowner'.
UL 'Ultralight'. A minimalist and lightweight backpacking mentality.
Vestibule The small 'porch' of a tent.
Widowmaker A dead tree waiting to fall and make a widow out of the suspecting hiker's wife.
Webwalking The process of taking the lead for the group and walking through the fresh spider webs.
Work For Stay Instead of paying for a room, at select hostels and huts, many hikers choose to work or volunteer for a few hours.
ZERO Day The lazy and luxurious days of hiking zero miles.


chris cage greenbelly

By Chris Cage
Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine and Bicycling Magazine to Fast Company and Science Alert. He recently wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe.



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