Friday, February 25, 2011

Hiker Slang

We backpackers seem to have a language all our own. Whether written or spoken, the unique words and acronyms we use must be confusing to others. I thought it would be fun to make sort of a hiker dictionary, but I need your help. I'm sure there are many more trail terms out there, so please add your own in the comments section below. Gram Weenies and Post Holers...HYOH!

All You Can Eat type of restaurant
Backpackers "bag" peaks on trips
Base Weight
Weight of all gear in backpack minus consumables (food, fuel & water)
Next to skin clothing layer, preferably wicking and quick drying
Bear Bagging
Hanging food from a tree limb to prevent bears from getting to it
Bivy Sack
Aka Bivouac Sack, an extremely small, lightweight, waterproof shelter, and an alternative to traditional tent systems. It is used by climbers, mountaineers, hikers, ultralight backpackers, etc.
Term used when referring to a trail indicator found on a tree (the AT has white blazes)
Epic failure of a portion of your trail running shoes (shoes, upper, toe guard), usually resulting in unsightly duct tap repairs and haggard sewing jobs in the field
An item of gear that is extremely durable
Bounce Box
Used on long hikes for items to resupply every so often, you mail this to yourself some distance up the trail to pick up when you get there
Clothing that allows moisture to exit away from your skin
Hike off trail
A man-made pile of stones marking a trail or route
Camel Up
Drinking as much water as you can when at a water source so you don't have to carry as much in between water sources
Catenary Curve
The natural curve an object takes on when supported on both ends, used in tarp/tent construction to make taught pitches easier
A pit to burry your poo in, typically 6-8 inches deep
Cold Butt Syndrome
Cowboy Camping
Sleeping out in the open, i.e. not under a shelter
Crotch Rot
The cumulative effect of neglecting hygiene in the downstairs region of the body
Cuben Fiber
A material originally manufactured for high end boat sails, high in strength/low in weight, used in ultralight tents, stuff sacks, backpacks
Done In A Day backcountry trips
Ditty Bag
Small stuff sac of personal items
Double Walled
Tent construction that reduces condensation by having an inner net and an outer waterproof shell separated by some space
Durable Water Repellent, a type of fabric coating
Freezer Bag Cooking, meaning to cook in a quart size freezer bag by simply adding water
Good Old Raisons and Peanuts, or trail mix
Gram Weenie
A person obsessed with reducing weight of items worn or carried
Anyone who sleeps on the ground, on purpose
Hiker Midnight
Hiker Trash
Derogatory term used to describe thru-hikers
Hike Your Own Hike
Leave No Trace, an outdoor ethic meant to protect our natural resources for generations to come
Mail Drop
On a long hike you can have friends mail you supplies
Short for methylated spirits, usually referring to various liquid fuels (denatured alcohol, HEET, acetone) used in lightweight stoves
Referring to a pyramidal style shelter pitched with one or two poles
Make Your Own Gear
When a kit fits nicely together, as in a stove nesting inside a cookpot
North bound
Post Office
Breaking through the top layer of snow into the mushy stuff below, typically up above the knees and into the crotch
Pot Cozy
An insulated container that your cookpot fits into, used to reduce the amount of fuel used by keeping the contents warm while food finishes cooking
Specifically coined as a backpacking term by thru-hiker Ray Jardine in the 1990's, it is a sleeping bag that drapes over the top of you in order to save weight. The philosophy is that there are very little insulating properties in the underside of a sleeping bag because you are crushing it down to nothing.
Sharp edged loose rock
Single Wall
A type of tent construction that is lighter but can result in increased condensation if not vented properly
A narrow section of trail just wide enough for 1 person
Skin Out
The weight of everything you take on a backpacking trip except you (i.e. clothing, pack, shoes, etc)
South bound
Hiking by yourself
Stealth Camping
Camping in a place that is out of sight of the trail, typically leaving no trace of being there
Super Ultra Light
Ten Essentials
A list of essential items hiking authorities promote as recommended for safe travel in the backcountry
Three Season
Gear that is intended for Spring through Fall, not having enough insulation to safely camp in Winter weather
Typically a hiker that hikes an entire long trail such as the 2,663 Pacific Crest Trail
All things titanium
Torso Pad
A ground insulation/comfort sleeping pad that is sized for a persons torso only
Trail Angel
A person that helps hikers with rides, food, etc
Trail Magic
Typically experienced on a long hike, hard to explain
Trail Name
Nickname typically obtained on a long hike
Triple Crown
The title earned by those who have thru-hiked the PCT, CDT, and AT
Ultralight, one of the most abused words in the backpacking industry, referring to something that is very light
Vitamin I
Wag Bag
A container used to carry your poo in areas where cat holes are not allowed
Wetted Out
When a materials water proofing properties fail, such as a rain jacket or tarp
Yellow Blazing
A term from AT hikers meaning getting a ride instead of taking the trail
Your Mileage May Vary
A strategy named after the antics of Yogi Bear, a cartoon character of the 1960's, it carries the connotation of getting the goodies by hook or by crook
Hiking a long trail end-to-end, then back again
Zero Day
A rest day

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review - A Thru-Hiker's Heart: Tales of the Pacific Crest Trail

Rating: 4 out of 5 - Recommended

When I get into a book I really enjoy, I tend to savor it rather than rush to the end. This is one of those books that I have been slowly reading and pondering over the past couple of months. Finishing it, I am somewhat saddened that it is over, much like the emotions you feel after a long adventure.

"No Way" Ray completed the 2,663 mile long Pacific Crest Trail as a solo trip section hiking it over 5 summers between 2001 and 2005. In 2006 he began to hike the trail in 1 continuous journey with his wife (and editor of this book) Alice Tulloch. Unfortunately, Ray was killed when he fell from a 200 foot cliff some 300 miles from the start of their last adventure together. His trail journals and previous publications are nicely compiled into this book.

Read this book and you will be treated to a man's life long love affair with nature and the Sierra's. His PCT journey was the first time he had backpacked by himself even though he spent most of his life hiking and backpacking. Very long hikes are as much mental as they are physical, and Ray wrestled with fears and apprehension just like any of us would. Hiking through desolate areas and small trail towns, he takes you through laugh out loud highs and emotional lows, while telling history lessons of town and trail. In fact, the history lessons from this career teacher are inherent in his writing style, and are a pleasurable side trip along the way.

The story is incomplete due to Ray's untimely death, as there are some major gaps in trail sections, but don't let that stop you from reading it. In the end it's not about the trail but more about his journey, about the people he met along the way, and of the peace he was able to find in the solace of the trail.

Thanks Ray and Alice for sharing this with us!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's Just Walking

The big storm blowing in from the California coast gave us desert dwellers a 70% chance of rain on Saturday, so Juggy and I planned a long day hike. Friday evening the weather man was so certain he proclaimed a 99% chance, with snow possibly down to the elevation we planned to hike in. A rare treat for those who live in a climate with an average rainfall of just over 4 inches per year.

I woke up yesterday feeling like crap - a self induced state due to an unhealthy late dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and perhaps 1 or 2 (too many) glasses of red wine. This of course is why I am now in "training mode", fighting to get back in trail condition. I considered for just a minute not going, but got over that idea quickly. It's just walking after all, and I knew I would have a great time if I just got my lazy butt going.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Confessions of an UltraLight Backpacker - Foot Pillows

I must confess two things...the first is that I wear hideous shoes, and second I named them foot pillows!

So here is how a came to be the owner of these most unattractive shoes. I had never been truly happy with my backpacking footwear, and going to the big box outfitters left me wanting. It finally occurred to me that I needed some professional help (no not that kind!), so I headed to my local running store. They were knowledgeable, patient, and had a huge selection. I probably tried on more than 10 different styles! After the sales girl laced up each pair, she then had me go outside and run around the parking lot a bit, which was very helpful. By process of elimination, I ended up with these Mizuno Wave® Cabrakan™ trail runners, the most comfortable and least attractive shoes they had to offer.