This originally appeared as a blog post. If a term that I've employed in a blog post isn't listed below, try looking it up in one of the following:

WhiteBlaze's Guide to Trail Slang
Halfway Anywhere's PCT glossary


zero day — a day in which zero miles are hiked. Often spent in towns, but the on-trail zero can occur from time to time (for instance, Manks and I waited out a storm for a full day in the Fire Wardens Cabin Shelter north of Hanover, NH on the AT in 2011).

nearo day — not quite zero miles, but not a full day's hiking either. Fiddling around in town accounts for most nearos.
   (note: nearo and zero can also be used as intransitive verbs: "Cynthia nearoed into Idyllwild and spent most of the afternoon gorging on ice cream.")

trail magic — any act of generosity, often the provision of food or drink, to hikers by members of the community. Can be planned or unplanned. Examples include someone leaving a cooler of Gatorades/sodas at a road crossing, or grilling hot dogs and handing out fresh fruit by the side of the trail for hikers to enjoy. Very common in the beginning stages of a NOBO PCT or AT hike.

cowboy camping — sleeping out under the stars, no shelter of any kind. Not very common on the AT because there's seemingly always the threat of rain; very common in spring and summer out West. I've read some people say they had to pitch their tarp/tent a total of 5 times over an entire PCT thru-hike.

NOBO/SOBO/flip-flop — northbound, southbound, or different-sections-in-different-directions thru-hikers. People flip for any number of reasons, but running out of time before winter is the biggest one.

hiker trash — a nebulous term. Refers to the fact that hikers generally start to look, and sometimes act, like shit after a few weeks on the trail. Used as a term of pride or scorn, depending on speaker and context.

hiker hunger, or simply the hunger — refers to the incredible rate of metabolism acquired after a few weeks of hiking. Feats like eating $26 of Taco Bell food, having to order multiple entrees at sit-down restaurants, or consuming upwards of 10,000 calories on a zero day become possible. Tends to outlast the trail and result in significant weight gain upon returning to civilization.


The Appalachian Trail is marked for its entire length by white blazes painted on trees. People have since combined other colors with "-blazing" to mean many different things. Such as:

pink-blazing — adjusting one's hiking schedule to be in the company of a lady

banana-blazing — the opposite of pink-blazing. Significantly rarer due to the imbalanced gender ratios among thru-hikers, but still possible.

blue-blazing — taking any side trail that reconnects to the white-blazed trail eventually. On the AT, these are often marked with blue-blazes

retro-blazing — hiking a portion of old trail which has since been re-routed

yellow-blazing — skipping sections of trail via car. Yellow-blazers are severely annoying to me.

aqua-blazing — on an AT thru-hike, canoeing through Shenandoah National Park instead of hiking. Way cooler than yellow-blazing because it sounds effin' sweet.

brown-blazing — 1) leaving the trail to find a place to poop. 2) hiking with giardia or other pooping-related issues


hitch bitch — the female, hopefully long-legged and long-haired, that you stay nearby whenever a potential hitchhike is coming up. Cars are much more likely to stop for her than for you (assuming you are the average grimy, bearded male). Also called a "ride bride" by people of taste.

Type 2 fun — not fun to do at the time, but fun to talk about later. Contrasted with Type 1 fun (fun at the time, fun to talk about later) and Type 3 fun (not fun at the time, not fun to talk about later).

Vitamin I — a lot easier to say or spell for some people than "ibuprofen"

town sprint — the phenomenon whereby hikers are able to cover the distance between where they wake up and the turnoff for town at an incredible rate

the Dirty G — Giardia. The enema enemy of hikers everywhere.

Body Glide — anti-chafing lubricant. In my top five of essential pieces of gear. Would not have been able to walk some days on the AT without this stuff.

slackpacking — having someone else (a hostel owner, visiting relations) take all of one's overnight gear and shuttle one to/from the termini of a certain section. Can be an intransitive or transitive verb: "Floyd slackpacked the Greylock-Dalton section." "Rob Bird slackpacked Floyd and his friends over the Greylock-Dalton section."

LASH — Long-Ass Section Hike. What I did on the AT in 2011, hiking 1800 miles in one summer but not finishing the trail. Many people on the PCT do something similar, starting in Mojave or Kennedy Meadows and seeing how far north they can get.

trail tail — carnal relations between or among hikers

Connecticut cute — refers to the state by which a northbound AT hiker might eventually find a given member of the opposite sex attractive. Connecticut, for reference, is ten states and usually 3.5 - 4 months into the trail. "Georgia cute" would be more of a compliment.

PUDs — Pointless Up & Downs. The AT has hundreds of these, the well-built and more gently-graded Western trails not so much.

gram weenie — someone overly concerned with cutting ounces from their pack weight. They may want to talk about gear a lot more than you do.

goofer — a weekend warrior. Someone carrying more weight for a 6-mile day hike than you are for a 2,000-mile thru. Someone decked out in shiny new clothes that an REI salesperson convinced them were necessary. Someone hiking 1.5 mph convinced they're going 3. Someone doing their dishes in the water source. Etc., etc.


Half-gallon Challenge — at the store at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania, which is on the AT at roughly the half-way point, eat a half-gallon of ice cream purchased from the freezer. I've heard something like 75% of attempts are successful. I was one of them, but it was a long, disgusting slog (1 hour, 11 minutes). Here's a picture of me doing it in 2011.

Pancake Challenge — consume five pancakes at one pound each in under two hours at the cafe in Seiad Valley, CA on the PCT. I think only 6 thru-hikers have ever completed this challenge. Whatever it is, it's a minuscule percentage of the number who have attempted.

Case Challenge — From the VA 606 road crossing, which is 24 miles before Pearisburg, VA on the AT, obtain a case of beer. Over the next 24 hours, hike the 24 miles into Pearisburg consuming all 24 of your beers in the process. This one is particularly sadistic and of the 10 people I knew who tried it in 2011, only one finished.

McDonald's Challenge — 50 McNuggets and a gallon of McD's Sweet Tea in under an hour. Only the McNuggets part is known to have been completed.