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Backpacking Terms



Lightweight hiker - a hiker who attempts to hike with the least amount of weight in the backpack, to include the backpack weight.  These hikers sometimes get extreme about cutting weight.

NOBO - stand for NOrth BOund.  Used to refer to a hiker that is hiking on a long trail from a southern point to a northern point.  Generally referencing a hiker on the AT, PCT, or CDT.

PCT - stands for Pacific Crest Trail.

Slack Packing - occurs during a backpacking trip where, due to circumstances, the backpacker is afforded the opportunity to hike without carrying the entire contents of the backpack.  Arrangements are made for the backpack to be shuttled ahead so during the daytime the backpacker only carries the bare esentials - food, water, rain gear, first aid, etc.  Due to the lighter load the backpacker can cover more mileage.

SOBO - stand for SOuth BOund.  Used when referring to a hiker that is hiking on a long trail from a northern point to a southern point.  Generally referencing a hiker on the AT, PCT, or CDT.

Switchbacks - a trail up (or down) a steep hill or mountain using a zig-zag pattern instead of a straight line. The zig-zag pattern protects the hill and the trail from excessive erosion. Erosion turns long, straight, and steep trails into gullies because water moves faster down the steep straight-aways and hollows out the trail and washes soil and vegetation down hill.  Erosion is minimized using switchbacks because they are designed to keep the trail at a consistent gradient.  Switchbacks also make it easier for a backpacker or hiker to climb steep hills.

Trail Angel - a person who, out of the goodness of their heart, provides help or support for a backpacker.  Trail angels leave food and water at trail junctions, give rides into town to long distance hikers, provide places to stay when hikers are off the trail, or just make a backpacker's day more enjoyable.

Trail Magic - while backpacking, something wonderful, delightful or, well, magical occurring.  Trail magic can be finding food or water left by a trail angel, running into someone who shares water purification tablets after your water filter busts, or someone hiking behind you catching up and returning a dropped item.

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