I borrowed much of this from the blog Zenlightened Voyager. Her stories as she traveled the PCT were amazing.
There is a language thru-hikers use and I suspect once I’m immersed on it, I will talk like it, too.
Base Weight is the total weight of everything you are taking, minus that which you will consume and minus that which you wear. The basic principle is that the less you carry the lighter the pack. The lighter the pack, the faster and longer you can hike. The faster and longer you can hike, the less food and water you will need. The less food and water you need, the lighter the pack.
The quest to lighten the load must also be balanced by comfort and safety. I could save a ton of weight if I didn’t carry a sleeping bag and pad. However, I would not get much sleep which would make my hike miserable.
Bear Boxes are lockable bear proof boxes where you store anything that might attract a bear.
Bear Canisters are portable containers used to store your food and other items that might attract a bear. They are designed to be difficult to open unless you have opposable thumbs. There are sections of the PCT where I am required to carry one. They are heavy so no one wants to carry one for longer than required, but I can be fined for not using one.
Bonus Miles are any extra miles that I have to hike that do not get me closer to my goal. These include walking to town, to water sources, to find good places to camp, or to a private place to do my business. The worst kind of bonus miles are the miles I will hike in the wrong direction because I left something behind or I went the wrong way.
Bounce Boxes are packages that you continually mail to yourself as you travel along the trail. This box can include extra supplies, medications, town clothes, maps and the like. I will not be using a bounce box as I have a family at home that will help keep me supplied.
The Bubble is the natural coagulation of thru-hikers. It is also commonly called the Herd. While I’m hiking alone, I will be hiking with a whole bunch of different people doing the same thing as me.
A Cache is supplies hidden on the trail which you use to resupply. It is an archaic method of thru-hiking. Non-hikers often establish caches to help hikers complete their journey, and these supply points make the day for hikers. A wonderful cache to run into is a water cache in a long stretch of desert. The first rule of caches is to not depend upon them.
To Camel Up is to drink as much water as you can when you are at a water source so that you do not have to carry extra water. To Camel water is to carry more water than you need between water sources. In general, on a warm day, I need one liter of water per five miles. If I’m going ten miles between water sources, I do not need to carry four liters of water, unless I’m going to camp somewhere in between water sources for the night.
Cat Holes are holes that you dig for the purposes of defecation. They should be 4-6 inches wide, 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water sources, the trail and likely campsites. Toilet Paper and wet wipes are not buried in the cat hole. Leave No Trace (LNT) says that you take anything that will not rapidly decompose out with the rest of your garbage.
To Cowboy Camp is to sleep outside without a tent. You can only do this if both the weather and insects will not keep you awake. Mosquitoes prevent me from cowboy camping in Wisconsin. The floor separates from my tent so that I can use it to cowboy camp in the desert.
To Dry Camp is to camp away from a water source. While it requires you to carry extra water, it does allow you to hike later when it is cooler. The common camping sites are often the home to rodents due to food being left behind. Rodents can badly damage tents, backpacks, and other equipment in their quest for nourishment. Camping at a dry camp is a strategy to avoid that damage.
Escape Velocity is the amount of will power and determination necessary to leave the comforts of a town with a warm, soft bed, easy food, a shower and clean clothes. The longer the hike, the harder it is to achieve escape velocity.
To Flip-Flop is a strategy used to complete the trail where you skip a section with a plan to hike it later. In 2017, the snow was so high in the Sierra Mountains that many people skipped them when they first got there and returned after they reached the Northern Terminus.
A Gram Weenie is someone is so concerned about reducing their base weight that they either spend a ton of money for little benefit or they become Stupid Light and sacrifice comfort and safety for a lighter pack.
A Hiker Box is a location in town where hikers leave food and gear for others to use. You can make some amazing finds at the local hiker box and some courageous hikers survive by eating exclusively from food they find there. As I have saved for twenty years for this hike, I will be more a supplier of hiker boxes than a connoisseur.
Hiker / Trail Family is the group of people your end up hiking with for a long portion of the trail. I expect to run into some people who hike about as fast and as far per day as I hike. A friendship will be made and we will work together to complete the hike. We will eat together, share a hotel room, and in general watch out for each other.
Hiker Funk is the unique odor of a thru-hiker. Hike for five days in the same pair of shorts with no deodorant and no laundry service and you are going to smell. Two centuries ago, this smell was normal. Now, it is offensive.
Hiker Hunger is a uncontrollable hunger. As I will burn over 4,000 calories a day but only take in 3,000, I will be constantly hungry. When I get to town, I will do my best to make up for those lost calories. However, as I hike, will be constantly hungry. In my experiences backpack in the past, I have never been hiking so long that I’ve felt this level of hunger.
Hiker Hobble is a zombie like walk that thru-hikers have after a rest. While I’ve never had Hiker Hunger, as I train, I often have Hiker Hobble.
Hiker / Trail Legs are legs capable of hiking eight to ten hours or more a day while wearing a twenty pound pack. While the best way to get hiker legs on the PCT is to hike the PCT, that is not possible for me. Instead, I have spent the past two years training so that the time it takes for me to get my trail legs is short.
Hiker Midnight is around 9 p.m. Out of respect to other hikers, proper etiquette is to be quiet after 9 p.m. so that everyone can get some sleep.
Hiker Trash is a derogatory term for hikers which hikers have taken as their own. They travel in a Hiker Family, smell with a Hiker Funk and walk in town with a Hiker Hobble.
Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) is an important principle of hiking. While I expect to be in a Hiker Family, my hike is my own. If I hike with someone for a week at a time and they are no longer there, they are hiking their own hike.
Jump Box is my own term. While I won’t use a Bounce Box, there will be locations on the hike where I will mail a box with food ahead for resupply. I will do this if I’m in a town with full services and my next town only has a convenience store.
Local Resupply is to purchase food and other consumables locally in the town after completing a section. The primary advantage to local resupply is that it allows you to change your diet based upon what you are in the mood for at that moment. One disadvantage is that not every town has good options for local resupply or the costs of common hiking food is high.
A Mail Drop is a method of resupply where a box is mailed to a post office as general delivery so that when the hiker gets there, they can pick it up. My strategy will consist of a combination of mail drops and Local Resupply.
NoBo / Northbound is a hiker who hikes north from Campo, California to Manning Park, British Columbia. There are advantages to hiking north. The window to complete the hike is longer. There are more people hiking with you. Finally, NoBo hikers have an easier time getting their hiker legs going north as the start of the trail can be flat.
A Nero is a day where you hike nearly no miles. Usually they happen when you are just outside a town.
To Posthole is to follow in the footsteps of another hiker across a snow covered trail. As these holes might been a couple of feet deep, postholing is slow and tiring process.
Ride Bride is a female hiker who pairs up with a male hiker. In return for protection, the female hiker helps hitchhike rides into towns where you can resupply. As I’m going to smell and look like hell, drivers might be afraid to pick me up. I wouldn’t blame them. Hopefully, I will end up in a Hiker Family with a couple of female hikers to help get us rides into town.
A Section Hiker is someone who is hiking a part of the hike, but not the whole hike at once. Up to this point, I have only ever been a section hiker.
To Slack Pack is to hike a section of the hike without all my gear. This can only be done if there is someone up ahead waiting for you with all your gear.
SoBo is a south bound hiker. About ten percent of all hikers choose to hike from Canada to Mexico. The advantage of hiking south is that you do not have all the drama of the herd. However, the window is smaller and you have to be in much better shape to start.
A Trail Angel is an amazingly kind person who provides acts of kindness to hikers simply because they care. What they provide is…
Trail Magic. Trail magic is anything wonderful that happens on the trail. It might come in the form of food, lodging, maintaining a water cache, or a ride into town.
A tradition of hiking a major trail is earning a Trail Name. You do give yourself your own trail name. It must be given to you by another thru-hiker. However, you can choose not to accept a trail name given to you by someone. It should reflect your personality and your individual quirks. Older hikers often provide their own trail name. I will let the trail provide me my name.
The Triple Crown is someone who completes the three U.S. long-distance trails, the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide trails. As my wife and I plan in the future to hike the AT together, if I am successful in completing the PCT, it is possible that would attempt the CDT. One step at a time. I have to finish the PCT first.
Vitamin I is a slang term for Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is an excellent pain-killer, and is used liberally to make the hike more comfortable. As a side sleeper, I am more likely to take Vitamin I before bed so that my hips are not sore in the middle the night.
The Vortex is an invisible gravity well around civilization formed by the comforts of a warm soft bed, easy access for good food and clean water, a shower and clean laundry.
A Zero is a day when no trail miles are walked. They are a necessary part of the hike as hiking every day takes a serious toll on the body. Zeros are times to resupply, call home, do laundry, replace broken or worn out gear, and recover from injury. Spending too many zeros will make it harder to escape the Vortex or use up too much time so that you end up unable to complete the hike due to snow conditions in Washington starting around October 1st.