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  , and 

Also see 
Towing glossary     Glossary for knots  
Terminology for Materials 
associated with sleeping bags, tents, etc.

3-Season tent A tent recommended for use in summer, spring and fall.

4-Season tent A tent designed to handle any weather conditions, including harsh winter weather.

Agonic Line  a line of zero compass declination, along which the compass needle "points" to both true and magnetic north.

A-frame A basic tent shape, the cross section of which resembles an "A".

Simple, light, and often inexpensive, A-frame designs require staking. Their slanting walls limit elbow- and headroom.

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

Anorak A pullover jacket. The anorak is basically a waterproof jacket with a hood. There are many styles of anoraks with various features.

Anoraks are practical because there is no zipper running top to bottom that can fail or let your body warmth escape when moving.

Anoraks have a chest length zipper or snaps. They conserve heat better than a full-zip parka.

Arkansas stone   a medium-hard mineral stone used for putting a fine edge on knives.

Arroyo  The channel of an ephemeral or intermittent stream in the semiarid Southwest, usually with a flat-floor and vertical banks of unconsolidated material two feet or more high. Sometimes called a wady.

Azimuth Same as bearing.  "I stand corrected" It has been brought to my attention by an Allan Kastner that Azimuth and Bearing are Not the same and upon futher investigation I have found there is a difference. Thanks Allan!

Azimuth is commonly used to indicate a directional bearing in degrees or miles.

Technically, "azimuth" relates direction to one (or a fraction of one) of the 360 degrees of the compass rose.

 A bearing (often used synonymously with azimuth) relates direction to the north or south cardinal point.

Example: an azimuth of 330 degrees equals a bearing of N 30° W. An azimuth of 160° equals a bearing of S 20° E. etc

  • Angles measured clockwise from any reference meridian 

  • Azimuths range from 0 to 360° 
  • Azimuths are referenced from north 
  • True azimuths are based on true north 
  • Magnetic azimuths are based on magnetic north










Backcountry  The area of a national park or other park that is away from the roads and general tourist areas. The backcountry is wilderness and the animals encountered there are wild and should be treated as such. You are on your own in the backcountry and should take all precautions necessary for survival.

Back tack A stitch sewn over a stitch to reinforce highly stressed areas where two pieces of fabric must be joined. Good quality tents use back-tack stitching.

Baffle  fabric panels sewn to the inner and outer shell of a sleeping bag. Baffles keep the insulation in place. Down bags must be baffled. Most synthetic bags feature quilted insulation.

Baffle construction A design that keeps the filling in a sleeping bag or outerwear garment from shifting back and forth and causing cold spots. Baffles, or sewn box cavities, can vary in size, shape, and volume within the same garment or bag.

Bank(ing) a fire  To build a wall around a fire (or where fire is to be) out of rocks or stones, or to build the fire next to a rock or dirt wall such that it blocks the wind.

If the coals from the fire are protected well enough, there usually will be enough heat in them to easily start a fresh fire in the morning.

Ever notice that many campgrounds have fire rings at the campsites? These rings serve several purposes: they contain the ashes, they provide a cooking surface, and they block the wind.

Bannock  the traditional trail bread. Usually made in a skillet by a combination of frying and reflective baking.

Baseplate The see-through plate of an orienting compass onto which the compass housing is mounted.

Bathtub floor (also WRAP-UP FLOOR) In tents, a floor that curves upward at its perimeter and is joined to the canopy. Preferred design where most tent seams are above ground level, to lessen chance for seam leaks in heavy rain -- requires a small step-over (2-3" high) into tent. Almost universal on higher quality Family and most popular Trail tent models. Tents will still require initial and regular seam sealing (treatments sold separately) in most cases, whatever the style or brand of fabric shelter.

Bean boots  slang for "Maine hunting shoe," the leather top/rubber bottom boots invented by Leon Bean.

Bear bag  In bear country, campers must take measures to safeguard their food and cooking utensils. Food items are placed in a strong, waterproof bag (the bear bag), tied to a rope and suspended out of reach.

Bearing   The direction of travel from your current position to a landmark or destination, expressed in degrees from 1 to 360. Bearings are measured in the number of degrees east or west of a north-south line.

 Also called an Azimuth. "I stand corrected" It has been brought to my attention by an Allan Kastner that Azimuth and Bearing are Not the same and upon futher investigation I have found there is a difference. Thanks Allan!

 A bearing is a horizontal angle measured clockwise from north (either magnetic north or true north) to some point (either a point on a map or a point in the real world). Bearings are used to accurately travel to a destination or to locate your position. If you are working from your map, it is called a map bearing and the angle you are measuring is the angle measured clockwise from true north on your map to this other point on the map. If you are taking a bearing off a real point on the landscape with a compass, you are using your compass to measure the angle clockwise from magnetic north to this point on the landscape. This is called a magnetic bearing. Remember that the bearing is measured clockwise. If you think of true north as 12 o'clock then a bearing to the right of that (1 o'clock) is greater than true north and a bearing to the left of True north (11 o'clock) is less than true north.


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

Billy A small cooking pot with a handle on top, used for cooking food for one to three people.

billy can  a straight-sided cooking pot with a wire bail.

Bivouac The site where a tent is set up; also a forced camp usually made for one night when bad weather stops progress.

technically a temporary encampment. Modem usage connotes an emergency or bush camp - made where no other camp has stood.

Bivy sack A small one-man tent or bag of sleeping bag proportions often used for emergency shelter.

Blaze A sign, painted symbol on a tree or a rock cairn used to mark a trail.

Blousing bands  elastic bands used by the military to secure pant leg bottoms around boots. Blousing bands are useful for sealing trouser legs against mosquitoes and black flies.

Breathable  refers to the porosity of fabrics. Breathable materials are not waterproof.

Brunton  A small pocket compass with sights and a reflector attached, used in geological surveys.

Bug jacket  a fabric mesh jacket that's impregnated with insect repellent.

Bushwhacking Off-trail travel through brush where no cleared path exists and hikers have to force their way through the branches.


Cache  A placement of food and/or supplies along or near a trail or route of travel for future use.

cagoule  a waterproof, ankle length (over- the-head) parka used by mountaineers for bivouacking. Cagoules have well tailored hoods and drawstring hems. The wearer pulls his legs inside, draws the hem tight, and "outlasts" the elements.

Also known as Fisherman's shirt

Cairn  A small pile of stones used as a trail marker. See also Monument and Duck.

Canopy  The inner wall of a double-walled tent. The canopy is breathable; the outer wall, or fly, is waterproof.

Cap-fly   A three-quarter length tent fly. Tents with cap flies are not as weatherproof as are those with full-length flies.

Catenaly cut  the natural curve formed by a rope that's tightly strung between two trees. A tent which has a catenary cut rigs tighter (less sidewall sag) than one without catenary cut. Catenary cut is a feature of the best tents.

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

ChaparralBrushy areas where plants such as manzanita, cliffrose, scruboak, and ceanothus are the dominant plants.

Charcoal Chimney   The charcoal chimney is an old-fashioned gadget that allows you to light charcoal without the use of fluid. It's a metal cylinder about 10 inches in diameter and 14 inches high. There's a handle (it gets hot!) and with a low shelf (just above the holes) for charcoal.

You stuff a few sheets of newspaper into the bottom and light them through the holes. They in turn light the charcoal. It only takes a few more minutes than using fluid, but you get a pile of perfectly evenly glowing briquettes.

At about the same prices as a couple bottles of starter fluid, this baby will pay for itself in half a summer. But the best part is that you'll never have to run to the store for fluid again!

Cirque  The steep walled bowl carved by glacial action at the head of a side canyon.

Cliff  A high, steep face of rock; a precipice.

Coleman® One of the leading suppliers of Camping Supplies and accessories

Compression stuff sack  A stuff sack with cinch straps that compress the sleeping bag or pad inside so it's small enough to carry easily inside an internal frame pack and minimizes the overall volume within the pack.

Conduction  The loss of body heat through direct contact with a cold surface, damp clothing, cold water, etc.

Contour  A line (thin brown lines) connecting points of equal value on a map or diagram, most commonly points of equal elevation on a map. When hiking, especially when bushwhacking, following the natural contours of a ridge or slope makes the climb much easier, although often much longer.

Convection  Loss of body heat due to wind or other conditions that circulate cold air in exchange for the warm air your body has heated. The body will continuously attempt to warm the skin that is cooled by the cold air, causing you to lose your body heat and become hypothermic.

Cordura®  A high-tenacity, abrasion and tear resistant textured yarn used for backpacks and tough duffel bags.

Corduroy  A road, trail or bridge formed by logs laid transversely, side by side, to facilitate crossing swampy areas.

Cord-lock   A spring-loaded nylon clamp used to secure the drawstring closures of stuff sacks.

Couloir  A steep, relatively narrow groove in a rock wall. Typically, couloirs are wider than "cracks" and smaller than "gullies," and are important as routes up the mountainside.

Crampons  A set of metal spikes which are strapped to the boots to provide secure footing on steep ice or consolidated snow.

crash out  to bushwack out of a forested area, to a trail, road or meadow.

Croakies® brand name of a very popular elastic security strap for eye glasses.

Cruiser compass  a needle compass which has the numbers on the dial reversed (running counterclockwise rather than clockwise) to permit reading bearings in the same plane as the observer's eye. Cruiser compasses are still used by some professionals, but there are better choices for campers. The outdated design of these instruments dates to the 19th century.




Daypack  Small backpack that holds enough gear for a one-day outing.

Deadman  A log or rock buried in the ground to provide a solid point for anchoring a tent in ground too soft for stakes.

Declination  The difference in degrees between magnetic north (the direction the magnetic needle on a compass points) and true or geographic north (the direction maps are printed towards).

Deep-lugged sole  A boot sole featuring deep ridges and grooves for maximum traction.

DEET  diethyl-meta-toluamide, the active ingredient in most insect repellents.

Denier (den-year)- A weight measurement used to refer to the fineness of a yarn or thread used in some backpacking and camping equipment. The lower the denier, the more thin the thread. The higher the denier the more durable the fabric will be.

Diamond stone  a type of man-made sharpening stone which contains powdered diamonds. Diamond stones are lubricated with water (not cutting oil). They remove metal much faster than traditional oilstones.

differential cut   the inner shell of a sleeping bag is cut smaller than the outer shell, to produce a Thermos bottle effect. The merits of this construction are still being argued by equipment freaks.

dining fly   an overhead tarp (fly) used for protection from rain. Usually erected just before mealtimes, hence the descriptive name

Dome A tent shape where the poles create a dome by curving over each other.

Double blaze  Two painted blazes or markings on a tree that announce a change in direction or junction along a trail.

Double-wall construction   A style of tent architecture utilizing two walls--an inner wall, or canopy, made of breathable nylon, and an outer waterproof wall or fly.

double-wall tent  see above

Down  The soft, fluffy underlayer of waterfowl plumage used as insulation in some sleeping bags and coats.

Draft tube  The insulated flap that covers the length of a sleeping bag zipper. Without a great draft tube, cold air would be sucked in and warm air forced out every time you moved.

a down-filled tube that runs the length of a sleeping bag zipper - prevents cold air from filtering through the zipper teeth.

Dropped-point knife  The favored style for hunting knives - the point is centered (similar to a spear-point) on the blade. Dropped-point knives are ideal for skinning game animals but are not the most suitable style for camp knives.

Duck  Two or three small rocks piled one on top of the other to be used as a trail marker." See also Cairn and Monument.

Duluth pack  a voluminous envelope style (usually, canvas) pack popular with canoeists.

Dutch Oven  A heavy metal pot with a cover used around camps to bake and prepare other delicious meals. There is an art to good Dutch Oven cooking and some spend their lives perfecting their tasty dishes. Often a complete meal can be prepared in one Dutch Oven.

DWR  Acronym for Durable Water-Repellent finish, a treatment found on outerwear that forces water to bead much as wax does for a car.


Embers - the best thing to cook on if using a wood fire. When the flames have died down and the part-burnt wood glows orange or white, it is the most efficient heat to cook on.

Encapsulation technology  A special durable water-repellent finish (DWR) that wraps around each fabric fiber, as opposed to going on like a continuous coat of paint. Provides excellent water-repellency, doesn't compromise breathability, is abrasion-proof, adds tear strength, and makes garments feel soft and supple. Used in some down and Polarguard 3D-insulated clothes.

Ensolite  A soft rubber material that makes wonderfully light yet, for the most part, comfortable sleeping mats for use under sleeping bags while backpacking or camping.

Escarpment   The steep face frequently presented by the abrupt termination of stratified rocks. See also Scarp.

EVA (ethyl-vinyl-acetate)  Strongest, most resilient, and most expensive of the closed-cell foams. EVA makes an excellent trail mattress.

External frame pack   A backpack supported by a rigid frame on the outside of the pack.




Face  The side of a cliff, escarpment, or other mostly vertical rock structure. The side of a geological structure, as in west facing slope.

Fanny pack  A small zippered nylon pack that's attached to a waist-belt.

Ferrule  the metal sleeve that's attached to the pole sections of fiberglass tent poles. Ferrules form a joint between pole sections.

filling power (of down)  Same as "loft". It's the thickness of a sleeping bag lying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the greater the "loft" of a sleeping bag, the warmer it will be.

Fisherman's shirt (see cagoule). Same as a cagoule only calf-length and without drawstring hem.

Flash Flood   A sudden flood of water resulting from a cloudburst.

flat-fell seam  overlapping construction; the seam goes through four layers of material.


Floating dial compass: the compass needle is part of the numbered compass dial, which rotates as a unit. This allows the instrument to be read in the same plane as the eye of the user. Some styles are very accurate.

Floor area  The amount of usable floor space in a tent, measured in square feet.

foam pad  a sleeping mattress made of either open-cell or closed-cell foam.

Foot  The rounded end of a sleeping bag, also called a footbox.

Footprint  The shape and square footage of a tent floor.

frame pack  a pack with an exterior aluminum or fiber framework.

FREE STANDING FRAME (also Freestanding tent or  SELF-SUPPORTING):

A tent that does not require stakes or guy lines to stand erect.

Tent feature where no additional ropes or stakes are needed for basic shelter set-up (though I advise you use optional Guy-Outs for wind changes). Typically a 2 or 3 pole Dome using fabric sleeves & clips to attach the frame segments to the main tent, or an Umbrella style with spider hub that centers pole hollows at the tent peak - either mode using a top Rain Fly as waterproof roof provision.
[Most canvas tents lacking a dedicated internal frame set still require stakes & ropes for support]

Frost liner  A detachable inner "roof' for a tent that absorbs moisture which might condense, freeze, and drop on sleeping occupants. Frost liners are made from cotton or cotton polyester fabric and are needed only in below freezing conditions.

Fuel  1. larger wood that keeps the fire going

          2. gas for a stove or engine

Fuel bottle  traditionally refers to "Sigg" aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.



Gaiter  A water-repellent, internal sleeve that can be tightened around boot and lower leg to keep out snow.


gators  nylon anklets (usually with side zippers) used by skiers and mountaineers. Gators prevent snow from getting in your boot tops, and they add extra warmth.

Gauntlet  A glove extending beyond the wrist for added warmth and protection.

Geodesic dome  dome-shaped tent with a strong faceted framework of tubular aluminum. Geodesic domes are the Cadillac of domes!

Gear loft  An overhead shelf in a tent. Keeps small gear overhead, providing more floor space for bags.

Giardia  A bacteria that contaminates water in the backcountry and can cause severe stomach cramps and other symptoms.

More properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines caused by ingesting the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia, in untreated water.

All water should be treated before consumption while in the backcountry.

A tiny protozoan, Giardia lamblia, flourises in streams and lakes throughout the West, making the water unsafe to drink unless boiled or treated. If you develop symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps, and bloating, consult a physician. To avoid giardiasis, carry adequate water for short hikes, and on longer trips, boil water from streams or lakes for at least three minutes before drinking or cooking with it.

The three recommended methods for water purification are
boiling, chemical treatment, and filtration.
 Any of these methods should remove giardia, provided you use them properly
 (some contaminants, such as viruses, cannot be removed by filtration). 

The simplest and most reliable method of purification is boiling: bring water to a full rolling boil for at least one full minute.
If you use a chemical treatment, such as chlorine or iodine, be sure to use the proper amount for the given water conditions (such as turbidity and temperature).

If you develop giardia symptoms, see your physician immediately.

Giardiasis: a waterborne disease carried by the protozoan "Giardia." Giardia is commonly carried by beaver. Incubation time is one to two weeks. The pathogen is very hardy.

 See text description of Giardia above.

Girth  the inside space, as measured around the sleeper's waist area.

Mummy bags have the smallest girth, and rectangular have the largest.

GROMMET  Little round metal sewn-in rings found on corners of so-called post & grommet type tents - usually 2 or more per pole point/corner, on better tent models. These make for durable, fast set-ups, and easier adjustments when temps change fabric and pole lengths. Also found on generic tarps, and some custom tent footprints.

Ground stakes  Anchors that hold a tent to the ground.

Gusseted tongue (bellows)  A leather piece attached to both sides of the upper on a hiking boot, designed to keep out water and dirt.

Guy lines  A length of cord used to secure or reinforce the walls and rainfly of a tent.

GUY-OUT LOOPS (also known as GUY-OUT RINGS, GUY POINTS, STORM RINGS, STORM TIES): Extra connection points on tent, for cord/line runs to additional stakes in event of wind gusts - basic tents usually require customer purchase of separate line and stakes to make use of these rings, which I strongly suggest you employ in event of weather changes.

Click Here for more tent use & selection tips.

Guy point  One of several points outside a tent where a line (a guy line) can be attached and then secured to a stake or other anchor in order to increase a tent's structural integrity.


Haft  The handle of an axe

Haversack  A bag or pouch used by hikers to carry food, usually carried at the side by a shoulder strap.

Head gasket  A piece sewn around the hood of a sleeping bag to keep in warm air.

Hike a long walk usually for exercise or pleasure

Hiking is when people prepare for a lengthy journey on foot including the use of special gear, such as a some type of pack or rucksack, specialized foot gear, portable hydration, food, and/or other preparations. Use of marked trails is also implied. If the hike is to be overnight, then it would be called “backpacking”. Returning to a point of origin is “day hiking”. Hiking to some other point is “through hiking”.

See more detail on Hiking Here

Also see Trecking

Hiked  See hike

Hikers  a foot traveler; someone who goes on an extended walk (for pleasure)   See hike

Hikes   See hike

Hiking  Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often on hiking trails. ...

See hike

Hiking boot  Hiking boots are footwear specifically designed for the sport of hiking. They are arguably the most important hiking gear since their quality and durability can determine a hiker's ability to move farther, faster, and safer. Hiking boots are constructed to provide comfort for miles of walking over rough terrains, and protect the hiker's feet against water, mud, rocks, and other wilderness obstacles. Most hiking boots are also designed for other outdoor activities such as backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, trail running, hunting, and casual outdoor wear.

Hiking boots support the ankle to avoid twisting but should not restrict the ankle's movement much. They also must be fairly stiff to support the foot. A properly fitted boot and/or friction-reducing patches applied to troublesome areas can ensure protection against blisters and other discomforts associated with long hikes on rugged terrain.

Hip belt  The main support device on a backpack. Large padded belt that buckles around the waist and is fully adjustable.

makes carrying the pack much more comfortable.

Hollow-ground (knife the edge is ground to a concave bevel which produces a thin, razor edge and a stiff spine.

Hood closure: the tie cord and fastener which secures the hood of a sleeping bag around the sleeper's face.

Horn  A high pyramidal peak with steep sides formed by the intersecting walls of three or more cirques.

Housing  The rotating part of a compass that holds the damping fluid, the magnetic needle and has degrees engraved around its edge from 1 to 360. Also known as the Azimuth Ring.

hypothermia  A potentially lethal physical state caused by lowering of the body's core temperature, due to exposure to cold wet weather.


I-pole tent  a tent with a single vertical pole at each end.

Imu  A shallow pit used for cooking.

Internal frame pack  A backpack supported by stays on the inside. The stays give the pack shape and make it more comfortable to carry than a traditional soft pack.

Inselberg   Prominent steep-sided residual hills and mountains rising abruptly from plains. The residuals are generally bare and rocky, large and small, isolated and in hill and mountain groups, and they are surrounded by lowland surfaces of erosion that are generally true plains, as distinguished from peneplains.

Iron Ranger   An "iron ranger" is a fee collection box used at campgrounds that do not have full time attendants. Upon entrance to the campground, you deposit your nightly fee(s) in an envelope with your name and site number and drop this in the collection box. At sometime during the day, a park ranger will make rounds of the campgrounds and collect the fees.

You will often see these in National Park and National Forest campgrounds.

Jello-mold oven  an oven made from a large ring aluminum Jello mold


Kerf  A cut made by an ax, saw, etc.

Kindling  Small, thin, dead wood (1" around or less) used to start a fire.

Knife-edge  A very narrow ridge crest. In spots, the crest of a knife-edge is too angular to walk on, and travel requires scrambling over and around pinnacles, along ledges on the side of the ridge, or even straddling the ridge.

layering  wearing several thin layers of clothes, one over the other. Layering is the most efficient clothing system for cold weather.

Lean-to  A three-sided shelter with an over-hanging roof and one open side.

Lensatic compass  a compass which features a built-in magnifying lens for ease of reading directions. The old anny lensatic compass (no longer used) is the best example of this type of instrument. Lensatic compasses are impractical for camping (they don't have built-in protractors), slow to use, and no more accurate than modern Orienteering instruments.

Lexan®   A material used in water bottles and other camping gear that is extremely durable and can withstand a wide range of temperatures.

lock-back knife  a folding knife that has an integral lock which "locks" the blade in place when it is open. Some modern lock-backs are really "side-locks" or "front-locks." Lock-back knives do not have pressure springs like ordinary jack-knives, so they can be opened easily with one hand while wearing mittens.

Loft  The height and thickness of insulation in a sleeping bag.

thickness of a sleeping bag that's laying flat and fluffed. Generally speaking, the higher the loft, the warmer the bag.

Lumbar pad  A support on a backpack to comfort heavy loads on the lower back.



Magnetic north  The geographical region towards which all magnetic needles point. This point is approximately 1,300 miles south of true north.

map index  a specially gridded small-scale map which lists "maps in print," how and where to get them, and their cost. A map index is available free from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canada Map Office. See text description.

Marquee  A large tent, often used as a dining or meeting tent.

Massif  A compact mountain group consisting of several summits.

Mesa  A tableland; a flat-topped mountain or other elevation bounded on at least one side by a steep cliff; a plateau terminating on one or more sides in a steep cliff. Seen in many areas of the southwest.

Millar-Mitts  fingerless gloves used by mountaineers for technical climbing. Millar-mitts are great for fishing, canoeing and general hiking.

Mocoa  a popular camp drink which consists of hot-chocolate mixed with coffee.

Modified dome  A dome tent that has been designed for specific elements, such as wind or snow.

Moleskin  brand name of soft-surfaced bandaging material used to protect blisters. The sticky side of Moleskin is placed over the unbroken blister; the cushioned surface absorbs the friction from socks and boot.

Monsoon  In the Southwest, a seasonal outbreak of localized severe thunderstorms that deposit large quantities of rain often resulting in flash floods, especially in canyon country where there are narrow slot canyons and little vegetation to help absorb the sudden rush of water.

Monument  A large pile of stones used to mark a trail or often found at the summit of a peak. See also Cairn and Duck

Mountain Parka  a generic name for full zipper thigh-length parkas. Mountain parkas usually have lots of pockets. They're traditionally constructed from 60/40 (60 percent nylon, 40 percent cotton) cloth, which is doubled for added warmth. The U.S. Army field jacket is a true mountain parka.

Mummy bag A close fitting, shaped, hooded sleeping bag very efficient at conserving body heat.

See more detailed information on a Mummy Sleeping Bag

You may also want to see
Semi-Mummy Sleeping Bag



Nalgene Bottle  A type of "plastic" bottle that holds up well under the harsh conditions of hiking and camping. Originally designed to store chemical reagents, the plastic resists taking on the smell of the liquid or ingredients it contains. A very popular type of water bottle, especially the wide-mouthed variety. They hold up for years.

Narrows  See Slot Canyon.

Noggin  A small camper's mug.

No-see-um mesh  A tent mesh so fine that it keeps out the tiny biting bugs called no-see-ums.



Orienteering  Using a map and compass in the field to determine your route of travel.

Orienteering compass  a compass that has a built-in protractor which allows you to determine directions from a map without orienting the map to north. This is the most practical compass style for outdoor use.

Overlapping V-tube construction (sleeping bags)  a type of baffle construction in which down is secured into V-shaped tubes which overlap one another. Some very warm winter sleeping bags are built this way.




pack basket  a basket pack that's traditionally woven from splints of black ash. This original Indian made item is still going strong in the New England area and is available from L. L. Bean. Pack-baskets are ideal for berry picking, picnicking, canoe trips, and auto camping. They will protect all your breakables. Compared to fabric packs, they are quite inexpensive.

Packed size  The dimensions of a collapsed tent and its contents, in square inches.

Parka  a thigh-length shell garment with integral hood. Parkas may be lined or filled with down, polyester or other insulation for use in cold weather.

Pile  a luxuriously soft fabric made from polyester. Pile absorbs little water and it dries quickly if it gets wet. Pile has almost replaced wool as the material for cold weather camping.

Plateau  A relatively elevated area of comparatively flat land which is commonly limited on at least one side by an abrupt descent to lower land. Sometimes called a table or tableland. See also Mesa.

PolarGuard® 3D  A hollow-fiber, highly durable, polyester insulation used in sleeping bags and clothing that has a high warmth-to-weight ratio.

Pole sleeves  Fabric tunnels on the outside of a tent into which the tent poles are inserted.

Poly-bottle  short for polyethylene bottle.

poncho  a rectangular, hooded rain garment. Ponchos provide good ventilation and can be worn over a hiking pack. They do not supply reliable protection from rain.

Pothole  A hole generally deeper than wide, worn into the solid rock at falls and strong rapids by sand, gravel, and stones being spun around by the force of the current. In desert country a pothole often collects water during rains and can contain a variety of small freshwater creatures. After rain they can be an important water source for the local wild animals. Care should be taken around potholes to not contaminate or unnecessarily waste the precious water. We try not to walk through them even when they are dry, knowing that the little critters are encapsulated in the dust, just waiting for the next rain storm. See also Tank and Water Pocket

Primaloft®  A microfibrous polyester insulation so close to down in terms of structure, warmth, and feel that it's also known as patented sythetic down. Primaloft is lightweight, durable, very compressible, and unlike down, highly water repellent.

prime  as in "priming" a gasoline or kerosene stove. Stoves are usually primed by filling an integral "spirit cup" with gasoline or alcohol, then setting the fuel aflame.

Over-prime  Stoves can be "over-primed." If too much gasoline is forced into the spirit-cup, the unit may ignite into a ball of uncontrollable flame.

Priming  Allowing fuel to collect in the burner of a white-gas stove before ignition.

Prismatic compass A compass with a mirror designed to allow a user to see both distant objects being sighted and the compass face at the same time.

Puncheon  A log bridge built over fragile terrain that is wet.

Punkies  Also called no-see-ums; a tiny insect called a midge, which bites severely.

Purifier  A drinking water system that removes contaminates and eliminates viruses with a combination of specialized filters.

Quallofil®   a synthetic material developed by Dupont for use in sleeping bags and parkas. Each filament has four longitudinal holes which trap air and add warmth. Quallofil®  is one of the best synthetic insulators.

quick-release knot  a knot which can be removed by a simple pull of the tail. The most common quick-release knot is the "bow" used for tying your shoes.

Quilted  or Quilt Construction  A stitching style that runs through the shell and lining of a sleeping bag or garment to keep insulation from shifting. Quilting is lighter and less expensive than it's more complex cousin, baffle construction. It is also less efficient because the stitching compresses the loft out of the fabrics and allows cold to move freely through the compressed area around the needle holes.



Rain fly  A tent covering that aids in keeping a tent dry and windproof.

Waterproof -  hopefully - top fabric layer, on most modern double-wall synthetic fabric camping tents (i.e. the outside part that gets the hard rain, versus the inner air-permeable ceiling that helps ventilation). The fly takes the most wear & tear from UV, wind, tree sap, storms, so on, and needs more frequent maintenance/replacement than other parts of the tent, typically -- we suggest you buy 1 or 2 extras, in case your tent model goes out of production and parts become scarce (you might add some extra poles while you're at it)

See MORE DETAIL on  rain fly

Rating  The degree Fahrenheit to which a sleeping bag is constructed to sleep comfortably. i.e. -30 degrees, 0 degrees, +15 degrees.

Reef  A sedimentary rock aggregate, large or small, composed of the remains of colonial-type organisms that lived near or below the surface of water bodies, mainly marine, and developed relatively large vertical dimensions as compared with the proportions of adjacent sedimentary rock. In canyon country a "reef" is simply a nautical term carried over into geology to describe a barrier, such as Waterpocket Fold in Capital Reef National Park in Utah.

Reflector oven  an aluminum sheet-metal oven which bakes by means of reflected heat. Reflector ovens are hard to keep clean and they are very cumbersome. They require open flame for baking and cannot be used on stoves or over charcoal. They are very efficient if you have a nice bright fire.

Ridge  A relatively narrow elevation which is prominent on account of the steep angle at which it rises. The narrow, elongated crest of a hill or mountain; an elongated hill; a range of hills or mountains.

ridge-vent  the triangular window at the ridge of A-frame tents.

Ring & Pin   On tents, a very easy-to-use corner assembly design where long pins (1 to 3 inch steel or aluminum) with metal rings attaching are permanently sewn to the exterior corners of the structure, and the pins are then inserted into the hollow ends of the tent poles. Fast, goof-proof, inexpensive, widely used, and suited to most 2-3 season general rec tent models; the higher line post & grommet corner system is main alternative, found on most 3+ season mountain grade tents.

 [Ring & pin is also used to describe the attachments that mount grommeted fabric trail bags to exterior pack frames]

rip-stop nylon  a lightweight nylon fabric that has heavier threads sewn in at approximate one-quarter-inch intervals. Rip-stop is less likely to tear than taffeta but it has less resistance to abrasion.

Rip-stop nylon is commonly used for outwear garments, and is distinguished by a fine pattern of boxes (barely noticeable) that are designed to keep fabric from tearing. Rip-stop is very lightweight material. It is water and wind resistant.

Rock Glacier   A glacier-like tongue of angular rock waste usually heading in cirques or other steep-walled amphitheaters and in many cases grading into true glaciers. There are many rock glaciers found along the edges of the Aquarius Plateau.

Rucksack  A type of knapsack or backpack, usually made of canvas with two shoulder straps.


Saddle  A low point on a ridge or crest line, generally a divide between the heads of streams flowing in opposite direction.

Scarp  An escarpment, cliff, or steep slope of some extent along the margin of a plateau, mesa, terrace, or bench.

Scree  Loose rock, typically fist size or smaller that accumulates at the base of a rock wall. See Talus.

Seam-sealer  a special glue, available at all camping shops, used to waterproof the stitching on tents and raingear.

Seam Sealing  Coating, waterproof of the sewn seam areas on tents, backpacks, and other combined outdoor fabrics, to decrease water entry. Treatments range from inexpensive water-based dauber bottles, to heavier brush-on polyurethane coatings, to very heavy technical grade near-plastic fillers.

See waterproofing your tent for related info

Seam tape  A waterproof tape applied over all seams on a tent or other equipment meant to be totally water repellent.

self-supporting tent  theoretically, a tent which needs no staking. However, all self-supporting tents must be staked or they'll blow away in wind.

semi-mummy bag  a sleeping bag with a barrel-shape and no hood. A good choice for those who feel confined by the mummy shape but want lighter weight and more warmth than that supplied by standard rectangular sleeping bags.

sewn-through construction   same as "quilt" construction.

Shell  The outermost material in a sleeping bag or outdoor clothing, consisting of a fabric used to meet a particular demand such as abrasion resistance, water repellency or suppleness.

Shock cord  An elastic cord running through tent poles to separation or loss of the poles, and to expedite set-up.
See below

SHOCK CORDED POLES: This means that a bungee cord runs through each pole assembly. This keeps the pole together so you don't have to hunt for pieces. As the poles sections slip together the cord holds them together so they can be handled as a single pole.

Side Canyon   In decreasing order of size, local usage is: canyon, fork, gulch.

Sigg   Fuel bottle  traditionally refers to aluminum bottles, which are used for the storage of gasoline and kerosene.

Single-walled tent  A lightweight, single-fabric construction tent that is chemically treated for insulation and waterproofness but which may not be very breathable.

Sixty-forty parka: a parka made from fabric which consists of 60 percent nylon and 40 percent cotton. The term "60/40" is now generic; it defines any mountain style parka, regardless of the fabric composition. See "mountain parka."

Mountain  parkas of water - repellent 60/40 cloth, polyester/cotton blends, or waterproof Gore-Tex are  light-weight,  windproof and  "breathe-able", making them an excellent choice for use as the outer shell of your layered clothing system.  In  a  downpour, 60/40 and polyester/cotton mountain parkas can be  augmented with a lightweight, loose - fitting poncho of plastic or coated nylon, which can be worn to protect your  pack  as well as your body.  Gore-Tex mountain parkas need no additional rainproof layer.

shell (garments) refers to unlined garments, or the interior or exterior wall of a sleeping bag.

side-wall baffle  a baffle that is opposite the zipper on a sleeping bag; it keeps the down from shifting along the length of the bag.

siwash   means to live off the land with a bare minimum of essentials. Modern campers do not siwash!

Slickrock  Generally a smooth, weathered sandstone surface that becomes slippery due to the presence of sand grains. Can be dangerous to walk across.

Slot Canyon   A deep, narrow, steep-walled canyon, most often cut through sandstone, and often with water running along its bottom. Sometimes referred to as narrows.

Smores  Simply a great camping treat to make for kids, big and small, around a campfire at night.


Bag of Marshmallows
Hershey's Chocolate Bars
Graham Crackers

Toast marshmallows over a campfire and place them on a graham cracker with a piece of chocolate. Mash a second graham cracker on top to complete the s'mores.


snow-flaps  ear-like flaps which are sewn to the perimeter of a tent floor. Snow-flaps are folded outward then piled with snow. This eliminates the need for staking the tent. Snow-flaps are an extra-cost feature of special purpose winter tents.

Solar blankets see Space Blanket

Sou'wester: the traditional rain hat of sailors and commercial fishermen. The sou'wester was developed centuries ago and it is still the best of all foul weather hats. The best sou'westers have ear flaps, chin strap, and a flannel lining.


space filler-cut   where the inner and outer shells of a sleeping bag are cut the same size. This construction allows the inner liner and fill to better conform to the curves of your body than the Thermos bottle shape of the "differential cut." The merits/demerits of space-filler versus differential cut are still being argued by sleeping bag manufacturers.

Space Blanket: a Mylar-coated "blanket" used in survival kits. Space-blankets are waterproof and are very warm for their size and weight. Every camping shop has them.

 They are also called Mylar blanket, Aluminized blanket. The blanket measure 84" X 54" when spread open, they are the perfect for retaining warmth in any emergency.

Easy to store with it's compact design and light weight packaging. A must have item in your survival or emergency response kit. The blanket can serve different uses. It can deflect heat when used as a shelter from the sun. You can decrease heat inside your automobile by using the solar blanket to cover the roof and windows.

primary use is to reflect back your own body heat.
It conserves 90% of body heat when wrapped around a person.

sternum strap   a short nylon strap which connects the shoulder straps of a hiking pack. A properly adjusted sternum strap transfers some of the pack load to the chest.

storm-flap  a panel of material which backs the zipper of a parka

prevents "the storm" from getting in.

stuff sack   traditionally, a nylon sack in which a sleeping bag is stored. The term now defines any nylon bag with drawstring closure.

Swiss Army knife  originally, the issue knife of the Swiss Army. Now, generic for any "Scout-style" multi-tool pocket knife.

Svea  brand name of the venerable Svea stove.

See more information on Camping Stoves by clicking here . . .

Stake  see tent stake

Snow stakes  Wide, platform-type stakes used to anchor a 4-season tent in snow.

Stay  The backbone of aluminum or plastic material supporting an internal frame backpack.

Stile  A structure built over a fence that allows hikers to cross over without having to deal with a gate.

Stream  Any body of flowing water or other fluid, great or small.

Switchback  A zigzagging trail up the side of a steep ridge, hill or mountain, which allows for a more gradual and less strenuous ascent.

Table  See Plateau.

Talus  The loose rock of all sizes that falls from a cliff and accumulates at the base. The distinction between scree and talus is generally that talus is large enough not to move underfoot.

Tank  Tanks are natural depressions in an impervious stratum, in which rain or snow water collects and is preserved the greater portion of the year. Also a natural or artificial pool or water hole in a wash. Seen often in the arid southwest. See also Pothole and Water Pocket.

Tarn  A small rock-rimmed lake in an ice-gouged basin on the floor of a cirque or in a glaciated valley.

Technical Climbing  Mountain climbing requiring use of ropes and fixed belay anchors on either rock or ice. Also includes any sustained climbing where the arms are used to pull upward rather than being used solely for balance.Topographical map A map that identifies land features (topography), as well as roads and man-made structures.

Tent Stake   A piece of wood, metal or aluminum pointed at one end for driving into the ground to hold a rope supporting a tent.

Why you need to stake your tent, for without the stakes your tent could quickly become a kite in the lightest of winds and destroy itself as it tumbles through the woods or across the sand dunes.

Tinder - small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint (ultra-fine dry material).
This should start to burn immediately with a lighted match. 

Topo Map  Sometimes referred to as a topo sheet. See below (Topographic Map).

Topographic Map  A map showing the topographic features of a land surface generally by means of contour lines.

toque  a jaunty wool stocking cap traditionally worn by the Voyageurs.

trenching (also called "ditching")  digging a trench around a tent to carry away ground water which accumulates during a heavy rain.
This form of guttering is illegal in all wilderness areas. Ground cloths and tent floors have eliminated the need to "trench" tents.

Trailhead  The point at which a trail begins. In most parks and popular areas there is a parking lot or turn out for easy access.

Traverse  Horizontal travel across a mountainside or over a ridge. An ascending or descending traverse refers to a gradual elevation change while traveling across a much steeper slope.

Tread  A trail's surface.

Trekking  “to make one's way arduously”. A very difficult or lengthy hike. Or perhaps over unmarked or totally undeveloped terrain

Tumpline  A strap across the forehead and over the shoulders, used to carry loads on the back.

Voyageurs carried hundreds of pounds of furs with only a tumpline. Today this feature is found only on traditional canvas duluth packs which are used for wilderness canoeing.

twist-on-a-stick: baking powder bread made by twisting dough on a stick and baking it over the fire.

See the recipe by clicking here . . .

Tunnel tent  A low profile tent that is long and rounded.



Ultralight tent  A tent designed for one or two people, weighing five pounds or less and designed to carry on or in a backpack.

UV degradation  A breaking down of material due to the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays. UV degradation can be a potential problem with tent flies exposed to the sun for extended periods.


Vestibule  A covered area outside of or connected to a tent, usually created by an extended rain-fly or a special attachment.

Vestibules provide a place to store gear out of the weather

Volume  The amount of space in a backpack measured in cubic inches.



Wachita stone  a medium-hard mineral oil stone used for sharpening knives.

Wady  See Arroyo.

Wash  The wash of a stream is the sandy, rocky, gravely, boulder-strewn part of a river bottom. In the southwest a wash is usually the dry bed of an intermittent stream often at the bottom of a canyon. Also called a dry wash.

Waterproof   impervious to water; especially : covered or treated with a material (as a solution of rubber) to prevent permeation by water.

Water-resistant vs. Waterproof

A garment that is water-resistant is "treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water," while a garment that is waterproof is "covered or treated with a material to prevent permeation by water."

water-repellent  treated with a finish that is resistant but not impervious to penetration by water

Water-resistant  see water-repellent above  Also note Water-resistant vs. Waterproof

Water Pocket  A bowl in rock that has been formed by the erosional action of falling or running water. Often times a collection point for rain and run off water, and thus a potential source of drinking water for wild animals and humans. See also Tank and Pothole.

White-gas  A distillate of petroleum, also called petroleum naptha, commonly used in backpacking stoves.

Wilderness  A tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, essentially undisturbed by human activity, together with its naturally developed life community, generally an empty pathless area.

Wind shirt  differs from a wind-parka in that the shirt is cut to waist length and does not have a hood. Wind pants are made of breathable fabric and are popular for winter camping.

white-print map  a provisional map that's similar to a "blue-print." White-prints are up-to-date maps which show the location of logging and mining roads and man made structures. These maps are designed for professional use; they are not listed in standard map indexes.

WRAP-UP FLOOR - see Bathtub floor

, and 

Terminology for Materials 
associated with sleeping bags, tents, etc.

Acrylic Generic name for soft, washable, colorfast fibers derived from polyacrylonitrile.

Aquator Two-layer knit of 65 percent cotton / 35 percent nylon, with the nylon on the inside for moisture transport and cotton on the outer layer for evaporation. Usually employed for hot weather underlayers.

Bergundtal Cloth Columbia's proprietary Taslan nylon shell fabric, combining a soft cottonlike hand and nylon's water-repellency. Often polyurethane-coated to improve weather resistance.

BTU A 100 percent polyester fiber from Hoechst-Celanese, distinquished by its mix of fiber cross sections. Knit or woven into thicker garments, BTU is an efficient insulator; made into a thin single-layer shirt, its moisture transport properties help cool the wearer.

Capilene Patagonia's treated polyester, used primarily in their underlayers. The fiber surface is treated to make it hydrophilic (water-loving) while the core remains hydrophobic (water-hating). The combination lifts water away from the skin toward outer clothing layers without soaking the fiber itself.

Coated Nylon Nylon fabric (usually taffeta or ripstop) coated with urethane on the inside to make it waterproof, not breathable. Can't be relied on for full water protection without sealed seams.

Coolmax DuPont's naturally hydrophobic polyester fiber with strong wicking action. Often used in linings and light layering garments. Fabric softeners may hurt its ability to transfer moisture.

Cordura  An impressively abrasion-resistant brushed-nylon fabric from DuPont. Often used in luggage and backpacks. In clothing, most often used as reinforcement patches at high-wear areas like knees, shoulders, and arms. Popular Cordura blends: Cordura/Antron, Cordura Plus, Cordura/Polyester/Cotton, Cordura/Supplex, Cordura/Taslan, Spandura, WoolDura.

DryFIT   Nike's nylon/polyester push-pull fabric.

DryLete  Hind's nylon/polyester push-pull fabric.

Dryline  A nylon/polyester push-pull fabric most often used to line WP/B outerwear.

Dryloft   A Gore membrane designed to be used in sleeping bags and down outerwear. It is more breathable than Gore-Tex, but less waterproof. The products which use this membrane are typically not seam-sealed.

DWR   Durable Water-Repellent, generally a silicone-based treatment applied to outerwear fabrics to help keep them from becoming saturated. DWR needs periodic touch-ups: Reactivate by machine drying, careful ironing, or with spray-on treatments.

Elements   REI's version of Entrant.

Entrant   Is an elastic waterproof breathable polyurethane coating that breathes through microscopic pores left during application. Made by Toray Industries of Japan; licensed to numerous manufacturers under various names. Entrant's trade-off between waterproofing and breathability depends on coating thickness; more coating equals more waterproofing less breatability. Popular versions include: REI's Elements and Patagonia's H2No.

Fortrel   Polyester microfiber that adds a softer hand to other fabrics that it is blended with.

FuzzLite  Sierra Designs' name for Polartec 200 fleece.

Fuzzy Stuff 

A vapor-barrier-layer (VBL) fabric from Stephenson's Warmlite. It's a laminate of nylon tricot and polyester film, napped on the inside for a flannel-like feel. VBL garments stop all perspiration from migrating outward into other clothing layers.


This is not a fabric, but a microporous membrane, which, when laminated to an outer fabric layer, provides a waterproof barrier that allows perspiration vapor to escape. Latest versions offer better waterproofness at the expense of some breathability. Garments of ``three-layer'' construction look like a single fabric but are really a sandwich of Gore-Tex laminated to one of a variety of tough outer fabrics, backed by a protective tricot inner face. ``Two-layer'' construction mates the Gore-Tex and an outer fabric, with a separate liner. Gore-Tex is no longer used in sleeping bag construction. A new membrane called Dryloft is used instead.

Gore-Tex LTD  It islaminated to a liner that rides next to the body. This improves moisture transfer but hampers waterproofing, so LTD is used mainly for aerobic-activity apparel.

Gore-Tex XCR   Used in sweaters and outerwear. It is more windproof and breathable than it is waterproof. This is the membrane used in Polartec 1000 Windproof.

Gridstop   A three-layer waterproof / breathable fabric from Patagonia. It's a sandwich of sturdy 2.5-ounce (per square yard) ripstop polyester, a microporous laminate from Gore (Gore-Tex), and protective nylon tricot inner facing.

Gust Buster  Sierra Designs' name for Polartec series 1000 fleece with a windproof, water-repellent barrier between fleece layers. Inner layer is hydrophillic, outer layer is hydrophobic.

Helly-Tech  Helly-Hansen's proprietary WP/B polyurethane coating. Available in three degrees of performance: Helly-Tech Lightning (reasonably waterproof, highly breathable); Helly-Tech Classic (waterproofing and breathability about equal); and Helly-Tech Pro (generally more waterproof than breathable).

Hollofil   Single-hole Dacron polyester insulation for sleeping bags and apparel. Most often found in bargin brands. Hollofil II is a four-hole version that's slightly warmer than an equal amount of regular Hollofil, with improved stuffability.

HP   Sierra Designs' non-porous polyurethane WP/B coating, applied to ripstop, taffeta, and Taslan fabrics. HP relies on body heat to push water molecules through the coating into the outer fabric for evaporation. Works best when the temperature inside the garment is significantly higher than that outside.

H2No    Patagonia's version of Entrant WP/B coating, comes in increasingly less breathable and more waterproof versions called Light, Alpine, and Storm.

Hydrofil   Nylon from Allied Fibers that's modified to become hydrophillic, so it transports moisture outward.

Hydroseal   An elastomeric coating used by Outdoor Research. It is extremely tough and flexible (even at 40 below); ultra-waterproof (greater than 200 psi); and easily tapable. Used in OR stuff sacks.

Lamilite    Wiggy's polyester-based high-loft synthetic fill. Its continuous fiber structure gives it a long service life compared with some synthetics made of shorter fibers.

Lite Loft    3M's high-loft lightweight 77.5 percent polyester / 22.5 percent olefin insulation used in sleeping bags and outerwear.

Lifa Prolite    Helly-Hansen's polypropylene underlayer fabric. It's distinguished by a soft brushed finish that isn't as scratchy as some other polypro garments, and is more odor resistant than most polypro gear.

Microfiber   Just what it sounds like -- an extremely fine, tightly woven fiber that offers natural breathablility as well as wind and water resistance. Two widely available brands are Versatech, Pertex, and Super Microft. Other microfiber fabrics are treated with WP/B laminates or coatings.

Microloft   New polyester fiberfill from DuPont, made up of microfine fibers thinner than a human hair. The dense structure is claimed to trap heat more efficiently than other synfills of equal thickness, and is puportedly highly water-resistant.

Microshed   Solstice's proprietary polyurethane-based WP/B coating. Function is similar to Entrant.

Next-To-Skin   The North Face's polyester / Lycra underwear fabric.

Nomex   A nylon fabric that's been modified to raise its melting point and increase fire resistance. Most often used in uniforms for firefighters, racecar drivers, and pilots. Stephenson Warmlite makes sturdy (but expensive) Nomex trail jeans that won't melt when a campfire spark lands in your lap.

Nylon   Generic term for an artificial fiber made from synthetic polyamides extracted from coal and oil.

Polarguard / Polarguard HV    High-loft synthetic insulation of 100 percent polyester continuous-filament fibers. Polarguard is one of the original and most durable synfills, if somewhat bulky when stuffed. New HV version uses hollowed fibers and is about 25 percent more stuffable while retaining longevity.

Polartec   Generic name for polyester fleece fabrics made by Malden Mills and used by dozens for manufacturers. Comes in several weights for layering versatility.

Series 100   (formerly Polartek) The lightest fleece, stretchy, with a plush face and jersy back. Great base layer, with trim fit and full freedom of movement.

Series 200   (formerly Polarlite) Midweight fleece, faced on two sides. Great general-purpose layering weight.

Series 100S/200S    Lightweight and midweight fleeces made with extra Lycra; extra stretchy and trim-fitting.

Series 100M/200M    Lightweight and midweight fleeces knit with superfine microfiber yarns for a soft chamois-clothlike feel.

Series 300    (formerly Polar Plus) Fleeced on both sides of fabric; best for cold-weather use.

Series 1000 Windproof    Three-layer sandwich of lightweight fleeces with a breathable / windproof laminate in between. Impressively windproof in use, it has a highly water-resistant surface, but it won't replace a truly waterproof outer shell.

Olefin (polypropylene)    A paraffin-based synthetic fiber that's hydrophobic, quick-drying, colorfast, and has good heat retention. Subject to sudden meltdown in hot dryers.

Omni-Tech    Columbia's polyurethane WP/B coating used on several of the firm's fabrics.

Oxford Nylon   Characterized by a basket weave and commonly used in rainwear.

Packcloth   Typically a nylon fabric of medium weave with a urethane back-coating for water-repellency.

Polyester   Frequently blended with cotton, rayon, or other synthetics. A synthetic fiber with features that include quick-drying, high-strength, abrasion-resistance, crease resistance. It is more UV resistant than nylon.

Polypropylene   Paraffin-based fiber that has high strength and great moisture-management properties, but also has a reputation for odor retention and high-temperature meltdown. Newer blends largely overcome these maldies.

Propile   Helly-Hansen's fuzzy nylon pile fabric, knitted so it won't pill like typical polyester pile.

Push-Pull   A two-part fabric of non-absorbant hydrophobic knit next to the skin and absorbent hydrophyllic knit on the outside. Usually polyester inside, nylon outside.

Quallofil   DuPont's six-channel Dacron polyester insulation with a soft, downlike feel. Now being supplanted by newer fills.

Rayon   Generic term for synthetic fibers from trees, cotton, and woody plants. Has a shiny appearance, drapes well, and feels silky. Too absorbent for good moisture management.

Retro Pile   Patagonia's proprietary pile, 1/4 inch thick. This is thicker and warmer than Polartec 300. This is really Patagonia's old Baby Retro fabric. They discontinued the old, 1/2 inch thick Retro pile.

Seal Coat   An elastomeric waterproof coating used by Black Diamond. It is completely waterproof and does not crack or peel. Used on many of their products. Originally developed for Patagonia who still uses it on their Skanorak parka.

Sixty-Forty   The 60 percent cotton / 40 percent nylon fabric used in the classic ``60/40'' mountain parkas. Fabric has reasonable water-repellency, but is not waterproof. Wears like iron, yet exibits a soft, cottony hand.

Solarplex   This fabric combines tough Cordura yarns with extremely supple high-filament-count Supplex yarns. Used by Outdoor Research.

Spandex   Lycra is DuPont's version of this synthetic fiber. Offers great stretch and recovery, good strength, abrasion resistance, and resistance to body acids. Used in combination with another fiber such as cotton or nylon.

Spandura   A high-tech fabric combining the toughness of Cordura with the stretchiness of Lycra. Each yarn consists of 1000d Cordura fibers spun around a Lycra core. Spandura's resistance to abrasion is 2 1/2 times that of plain-weave 330 denier Cordura fabric, and 7 times that of either 70d nylon fabric or typical polyester/cotton fabric.

Super Pluma   Patagonia's superlightweight WP/B fabric. It's a three-layer sandwich of 1.1-ounce ripstop nylon, a microporous laminate from Gore (Gore-Tex), and a tricot inner facing.

Sympatex   Sympatex is a membrane like Gore-Tex but is a non-microporous flat film of ``hydrophilic (water-loving) polyester block copolymer.'' It allows body heat to push perspiration vapor to the outside of the garment. It's available in a direct laminate (applied to the back of an outer shell), a three-ply laminate (Sympatex middle layer sandwiched between outer fabric and lining), or an insert laminate (free-hanging layer between outer shell and lining).

Synchilla   Patagonia's name for Malden Polartec fleeces. Original Synchilla is equivalent to Polartec 300; Lightweight Synchilla to Polartec 200; Stretch Synchilla to 100S/200S.

Taffeta   Any fabric that is woven with a plain weave to give a fine, smooth look.

Thermastat   Thermal version of DuPont's Lycra for use in activewear. In theory, it works according to what your body demands -- it helps cool you when you're warm and warms you when you're cool.

Thermax   DuPont's soft hollow-core polyester fiber that has a cottony feel. Used in underwear and activewear for its insulative properties. Thanks to its warmth, quick-drying capabilities, and low ``stink'' factor, its has become a favorite all-around base layer.

Thinsulate   3M's 35 percent polester / 65 percent olefin blend insulation spun into a low-loft construction. Efficient insulator considering its minimal thickness; most often used in outerwear and gloves for its lack of bulk.

Thermolactyl   Damart's proprietary blend of Chlorofibre vinyon and acrylic. It's soft, cottony-feeling stuff that dries fast and is plenty warm, even when wet.

Thermolite   New 100 percent polyester-fiber compact insulation from DuPont designed to compete with 3M Thinsulate. DuPont claims it is less sensitive to dry cleaning solvents and heat than polyester / olefin synfills. It's usually used in garments where a trim look means more than puffy warmth.

Thermoloft   DuPont's midloft synthetic insulation with a combination of Dacron solid-core polyester fibers and hollow Quallofil fibers. Used where high-loft fills are too bulky and low-loft fills aren't warm enough.

Tri-Blend   Any fabric consisting of a blend of three fibers. Frequently that blend is cotton / polyester / nylon.

Tricot   A fabric woven with two threads that resists unraveling and tearing by the nature of its weave.

Triple-Point   Lowe's microporous polyurethane WP/B coating that's similar in function to Entrant. It comes in two weights: the 800 is less breatable, but has more waterproofing and more durability than the lighter weight 400 version, which offers more breathability than waterproofing.

Ultrex   A microporous polyurethane coating from Burlington Industries applied to the inside of numerous fabrics with a Durapel DWR treatment on the outside. In our experience, it's generally more waterproof than breathable.

Wickline   A bi-component fabric with hydrophylic nylon on one side and hydorphobic polyester fibers on the other used by Outdoor Research. This arrangement accomplishes two things: it wicks water very rapidly, and the polyester side feels dry even when the fabric is soaked.



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