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Hiking Terminology

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Hiking is one of the most popular activities to take part in when going on a camping or RVing trip. Like camping, it helps to have someone with experience when venturing off on a hiking trip. This is because trail systems and symbols used to guide hikers can be confusing at times. If you are planning to go hiking here are some terms that you should know.

Bearing: When navigating during a hiking or backpacking expedition, your bearing is the direction of travel from your current position to a future destination. A bearing is expressed in degrees from 1 to 360.

Bench mark: A permanent object that is either natural or man-made with an elevation that is known. This can be used as a reference point while navigating surroundings.

Blaze: A sign, or painted symbol that is used to mark a trail.

Bushwhacking: When a formal trail is unavailable, bushwhacking is when hikers will forge their own path through bushes or undergrowth.

Cache: A placement of food or supplies along a trail or route for future use.

Cairn: A stack of rocks used to mark a trail’s route. Cairns are often used in areas where trees are not present, such as a desert.

Cardinal points: The four main points of direction on a compass. These are; North/360 degrees; East/90 degrees; South/180 degrees; and West/270 degrees.

Corduroy: A road, trail or bridge that is formed by logs placed perpendicular to the pathway a hiker is following. This is a great way to avoid paths that are muddy, wet or swampy.

Double blaze: Two painted markings on a tree that let a hiker know of a change in direction or junction along a trail.

Haversack: A bag or pouch that hikers use to carry food.

Leave No Trace: A camping and hiking policy that means campers cannot leave trash along trails or on campsites in order to preserve the area. This is done out of respect for other campers as well as the environment.

Ridge: A narrow and long elevation of land that often runs along the top of mountains. Ridge trails are meant for hiking through mountains or areas populated with hills.

Rucksack: A backpack that is designed for hiking. A rucksack is larger than a regular backpack, is often waterproof, and has two straps.

Stile: An arrangement of steps that allows hikers to be able to climb over a fence, or wall.

Switchback: A zigzag styled trail that usually leads hikers up a steep incline. The way that it is shaped makes the trail a gradual and less strenuous ascent.

Trailhead: The beginning of a trail or entry point. Trailheads are often marked with signs or blazes.