National Parks draw the most rugged of tourists: the hardcore backpackers, climbers, hikers and extreme outdoor enthusiasts. They show up with plans to not just see Half Dome, but to get to the top. Not to take a picture of the Papagayp River Canyon, but to raft that sucker. These are people who know how to read a topo map (more on that below), find and filter drinking water, fend off bears and tie a bowline knot. And their pants unzip into shorts.
There is a special language shared by these people the world over. Have you even been impressed by the ease with which they throw around phrases like, “spelunking” and “bivy sack”? I know I have. And with today’s guide and just a little effort on your part, you’ll be able to blend right in with any group of fit, geared-up people making their way down a trail. Until they notice your lack of dehydrated food and bright white tennis shoes, that is.
Mummy Bag: (Noun) A sleeping bag designed to fit the silhouette of a human (wide shoulders, narrow legs) to cut down on carrying excess fabric. So called because they mimic the shape of mummies.
Ex: Brad’s got a brand new -30° mummy bag. Too bad he never camps anywhere colder than 0°.
Topo Map: (Noun) A truncated version of “topographical map,” i.e., a map that shows the surrounding terrain and elevation changes.
Ex: I can’t find my GPS. Better get out the topo map, honey.
Bivy Sack: (Noun) Short for bivuoac sack, a bivy sack is a small, lightweight shelter that can be used in place of a tent; Also, a waterproof bag that covers a sleeping bag. It’s popular among mountaineers, ultralight backpackers and soldiers.
Ex: I forgot my bivy sack, but I made a shelter out of pine boughs and my fleece jacket instead.
Bushwhack: To hike where there is no trail. Also known as going “cross country.”
Ex: We bushwhacked our way through the Sierras. Thank goodness I packed extra moleskin.
Fall line: The most direct route down a mountain. Often used in snowy and avalanche-prone conditions.
Ex: Josh wants to ski the fall line. You go with him; I’ll stay here and take pictures.
Have a favorite outdoorsy term that isn’t on the list? Leave a comment and let us know.