Camping Lingo DeCoded

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Ever find your lost in the world of camping lingo? Check out our handy chart for easy definitions!

Camping Lingo DeCoded

Ever wonder what slackpacking is? How about a wag bag? Double blazes? Us too. One of the best parts about camping is that all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts do it. Hikers, backpackers, RVers, mountain climbers and regular vacationers all camp. If you’re going to be spending overnights in the outdoors regularly, it’s a good idea to get to know the lingo. This week we’re going to give you a little glossary of the camping world so you’re not completely lost sitting around the campfire. Read on!

3-Season Tent: A tent meant for use in spring, summer and fall.

4-Season Tent: A tent meant for use in all four seasons.

Altimeter: An instrument that measures elevation by using barometric (air) pressure.

Backpacking: A way of traveling or hiking with all your gear and supplies carried in your backpack. Backpacking is distinct from hiking with pack animals or vehicles to help carry gear or foodstuffs.

Backcountry: The backcountry is beyond the reach of most infrastructure such as roads, cabins, campground amenities, or ski lifts and patrols. The backcountry is remote and unrefined, and you need to be confident in your wilderness skills to safely navigate it.

Bivy Sack: A sack that is lighter and less substantial than a sleeping bag that can be used to sleep in, for temporary shelter, or added warmth in survival scenarios. Can also be used with a sleeping bag as an extra layer.

Blaze: A mark made on the trunk of a tree to help guide hikers on the trail. They might be color coded if there are multiple trails in the area.

Bonk: To bonk is to hit your limit, when you have nothing left to give. When you’re out of energy and you’ve got no glycogen left to fuel your muscles after a hard run, hike, climb, or ski session, you have bonked.

Car Camping: A type of camping that involves driving into a campsite and using your vehicle to haul your gear in. Car camping really expands your food and beverage options.

Cowboy Camping: No tent? No problem. Camp like a cowboy and sleep under the stars on whatever you have available.

Cowboy Coffee: Brewing ground coffee directly in your hot water, without filters or decanting. Some say it’s the only way to go.

Double Blazes: Pay attention! Two marks, typically on trees, that let you know that a turn or major intersection is ahead. Get out your map if you’ve got one.

Footprint (tent): The amount of ground your tent takes up. Can also refer to the liner specifically made to go under a tent to help repel moisture.

GORP: Another name for trail mix. Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Can’t go wrong.

Groundsheet: Similar to a footprint, a groundsheet is a waterproof layer made of plastic, canvas, or a tarp that goes under your tent or sleeping bag to keep the dew and moisture off you.

Guyline: The ropes that come off your tent and attach to stakes in the ground, adding extra stability and protection against wind.

Hump: To carry a load that is much larger than what you can comfortable manage, especially if you need to get your gear from the car to the campsite or cabin.

Leave No Trace: Often abbreviated to LNT, this is one of the most important camping terms to remember. A philosophy and practice crucial to conserving outdoor spaces. Basically, leave it like you found it—or go a little further and leave it better than you found it. Don’t litter, don’t disturb plants and wildlife. Don’t pollute the landscape with your poop—or your pet’s poop. If someone comes through a trail or campsite after you, they shouldn’t be able to tell that you were ever there.

Moleskin: A soft, heavy kind of cotton felt with a sticky backing that you can use to protect your body from blisters and chafing. You definitely want this in your pack at all times!

Mummy Bag: A type of sleeping bag shaped like a B.C. embalmed body. A mummy bag is wider up at your head and tapered at your feet. The idea is that the sleeping bag can keep you warmer without wasted space near your extremities, and it’s also less to pack.

Puffy: A kind of jacket, usually filled with down or synthetic down filler, that’s especially warm in the winter, lightweight, and quick to dry.

Rainfly: An extra layer that goes over your tent to repel moisture and light. Don’t leave home without it!  

Rating (sleeping bags): The temperature at which your sleeping bag can keep you warm—or at least, not frozen to death. If you’re going to be spending nights in freezing temperatures, you might want to spring for the 0° bag. Then again, a sleeping bag that’s rated for subzero temperatures isn’t going to be very comfortable on a camping trip in Florida in July.

Rucksack: Another word for backpack. In German, rucksack literally means “back bag.” Now it often refers to a smaller bag or daypack.

Shoulder Season: The time just before the prime season for a sport, or between outdoor sports. Early spring and late fall tend to be shoulder seasons. Campgrounds are much less crowded during the shoulder season. This is also the best weather of the year in many places.

Slackpacking: Lucky you! To do a multi-day backpacking trip or hike without carrying your own gear. You cover the same miles as other long distance hikers but have a friend or loved one carry your gear from meeting point to meeting point. Also may refer to hikers who carry their pack, but don’t camp on the trail, instead hopping off at the end of each day to grab a bite at a restaurant and crash at a hotel.

Stoke: Totally stoked dude! This is the most overused word in the outdoor industry — but yeah, we use it a lot.

Understory: The layer of plant life that grows below the tree canopy and above the forest floor.

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory. Just what every hiker needs after grueling miles on already sore feet in boots that have probably revealed themselves to be slightly too small.

Wag Bag: Any kind of bag you use to pack out you or your pet’s poop. It’s short for Waste Alleviation and Gelling Bag, a specific product developed for this purpose. The name expanded beyond the brand though, kind of like how Kleenex refers to all tissues.

Zero Day: A day you just rest at the campsite. Take a zero day. You’ve earned it.

Hopefully this gives you a start on some camping lingo! There are many other terms out there depending on the activity (hiking, biking, climbing, skiing, etc.), but this should give you a head start. As always visit us at MidwestOutdoorResorts.com or call (800) 231-0425 and we’ll be happy to help plan your next camping adventure today. Happy exploring!

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