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Backpacking Terms and Definitions

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Backpacking Terms and Definitions


Altitude Sickness - Altitude sickness occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. This causes symptoms such as a headache, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. It happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from lower altitudes to 8000 ft or higher.

AT- Appalachian Trail. A 1972-mile Hiking trail in the eastern United States extends between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.


Base Pack Weight (BPW) – Everything in your pack except consumables (Water, food, and fuel). Also does not include what you are wearing.

Batoning - the technique of cutting or splitting wood by using a baton-sized stick or mallet to repeatedly strike the spine of a sturdy knife, chisel or blade in order to drive it through wood

Big Three – The Big Three refers to your Backpack, Shelter, and Sleeping System (Bag & Pad)

Blaze – The marking of trails or paths with an object such as paint or medallions

Bushcraft – skill at living in the outdoors for extended periods of time.


CDT – Continental Divide Trail. A 3100-mile Hiking trail in the central United States extends between Mexico and Canada.



EDC – Everyday Carry, a small collection of items that are carried on a consistent basis to assist in dealing with normal everyday needs, and emergency situations.


FKT – Fastest Known time, usually in reference to someone completing a trail hike or run.

FT - Florida Trail, Also known as the Florida National Scenic Trail runs from Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola Beach to Big Cypress National Preserve (between Miami and Naples, Florida along the Tamiami Trail) Total 1500 miles.


GET – Grand Enchantment Trail, a 770-mile trail between Arizona and New Mexico

Great Western Loop – Hiking trail that loops around the Western United States. The Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Arizona Trail, total 6875 miles. Andrew Skurka is said to be the only person to complete this trail.


Hiker Trash – People who are part of the long-distance hiking community that follow a lower style of living

HST – High Sierra Trail. A 70-mile hiking trail in Sequoia National Park, California. The trail crosses the Sierra Nevada from west to east



JMTJohn Muir Trail. A 211-mile Hiking trail in the California Sierras runs from Yosemite Valley to Mt Whitney.



Layering – A clothing system composed of layers that can be easily adjusted according to changes in weather and your metabolism. Base Layer, Insulation Layer, and Shell

Leave No Trace - Leave No Trace is a set of principles aimed at helping people enjoy the outdoors responsibly while minimizing their impact on the environment. These principles are essential for preserving the beauty and health of natural areas, ensuring that future generations can enjoy them just as we do today.

Lightweight - Base Pack weight under 20 pounds.





PCT – Pacific Crest Trail. A 2663-mile Hiking trail in the Western United States extends between Mexico and Canada.

Peak Bagging - is an activity in which hikers and mountaineers attempt to reach the summits of a collection of peaks, usually those above some height or prominence in a particular region, or having a particular feature

PNT – Pacific Northwest Trail. A 1200-mile trail running from Montana to Washington.




Shit Tickets – Toliet Paper

Skin Out Weight (SOW) - Everything except your naked body weight. Pack weight and all the clothes and gear you are wearing.

Super Ultralight - Base Pack weight under 5 pounds.


Thru-Hike - a long-distance trail end-to-end

Traditional - Base Pack weight under 30 pounds.

Trail Angel - Trail Angels are individuals or groups of people who provide support, assistance, and acts of kindness to thru-hikers and long-distance backpackers while they are on hiking trails. These generous individuals play a crucial role in the hiking community by offering help in various forms, making the journey for thru-hikers more manageable and enjoyable.

Trail Family - also known as a trail crew or tramily, is a group of thru-hikers or long-distance backpackers who form a close-knit, supportive, and often temporary community while hiking on long-distance trails. This "family" dynamic is a fundamental aspect of the thru-hiking experience and plays a crucial role in the physical, emotional, and social well-being of hikers.

Trail Magic - Trail magic is a term used in the hiking and thru-hiking community to describe unexpected acts of kindness, generosity, or assistance that hikers encounter while on long-distance trails. These acts of trail magic are typically provided by individuals, groups, or organizations who want to support and encourage hikers on their journeys. Trail magic can take various forms and often involves providing food, supplies, transportation, or emotional support to hikers

Trail Name - A nickname you get on the trail from other Hikers

Triple Crown of Hiking – Refers to the three major US long-distance trails; PCT, AT, and CDT


Ultralight - Base Pack weight under 10 pounds. Tips for lightening the load


Vitamin I – Backpackers term for Ibuprofen


WAG Bag – WAG stands for “Waste Alleviation & Gelling”. WAG bag kit contains an outer zip-close disposal bag, a waste bag preloaded with Pooh-Powder, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. These bags are required when visiting the Mt Whitney area. Leave no Trace

Wind Chill - Wind Chill is a measure of the combined effect of wind and temperature on the perceived temperature. It is defined as the temperature that a person feels based on wind speed and air temperature, and it takes into account how quickly heat is lost from exposed skin. In general, higher wind speeds can increase the rate of heat loss and make a given air temperature feel colder, while lower wind speeds can reduce the rate of heat loss and make a given air temperature feel warmer.




Zero Day - A Zero Day refers to a day when a backpacker or hiker takes a break from hiking and covers zero miles or kilometers on the trail. Zero days are typically rest days when you don't travel any distance along the trail but instead stay at a campsite, hostel, or town to rest, recover, and resupply.

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