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Backpacking Terminology: United Kingdom, United States and Australia

The online backpacking and hiking community is fairly small and I read a lot of personal blogs and forum postings outside of the United States, in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Japan.

So as a former linguistics student, researcher, and postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, I find that I’m very sensitive to the different words and terminology used to describe backpacking gear and techniques in the United States, England/Scotland and Australia.

I’ve started keeping track of these differences and have listed them below, but if you can help me add to my list please leave a comment.

United KingdomUnited StatesAustralia
bothy bagemergency shelterbivvy bag
bumbagfanny packbumbag
cagoulewaterproof anorakrain coat
camping matsleeping padsleeping mat
foil blanketemergency blanketemergency blanket
head torchhead lamphead light
kitgear listgear list
meths or methylated spiritdenatured alcoholmetho
overtrousersrain pantsoverpants
pegsstakestent pegs
waterproofsrain gearwaterproofs
wild campingstealth campingbush camping
trainerstennis shoesrunners

If I’ve made any errors in translation, I hope you’ll tell me too.


  1. I like the sound of "wild" camping. It makes it sound really adventurous.

    I think you should probably also include:

    trainers – tennis shoes

    jumper – sweatshirt/pullover

  2. Having owned both an anorak and a cagoule when I started backpacking in the mid 1970's, I thought they were different. The anorak was a hip-length pull-over (mine was not waterproof), while the cagoule was a waterproof knee-length pullover. The bottom of the cagoule could be folded up and snapped so that it only came down to your hips. The cagoule had a drawstring on the bottom hem — you could pull your feet inside, and use it as a bivy. The cagoule worked best in cold, wet weather (White Mountains in early spring). Mine was from a company called Sierra West.

  3. That reminds me of when I used to do a lot of rock climbing with an Austrailian friend. He always called Rappelling "Absailing".

  4. Don't forget braces to keep the overtrousers from falling down…

  5. OK,

    Will give you a bit of help for Australia – hope the format works ok…..

    bothy bag emergency shelter – bivvy bag

    bumbag fanny pack – bumbag

    cagoule waterproof anorak – rain coat

    camping mat sleeping pad – sleeping mat

    foil blanket emergency blanket – emergency blanket

    groundsheet footprint – groundsheet

    head torch head lamp – head light

    kit gear list – gear list

    meths or methylated spirit denatural alcohol – metho

    overtrousers rain pants – overpants, waterproof pants

    pegs stakes – tent pegs

    rucksack backpack – pack, backpack

    trousers pants – pants

    waterproofs rain gear – waterproofs, wet weather gear

    wild camping stealth camping – bush camping

    trainers – tennis shoes – runners

    jumper – sweatshirt/pullover – jumper

    Good list, hope the Aussie additions are helpful


  6. Frank, I was hoping you chime in from down-under. I'll update the post with a new Australian column soon – just got back from a 10-day stretch of day hiking.

  7. Interesting list – what really struck me was that most of the terms relate to things invented pre 1985 or so. The internet, and emergence of global brands, has caused a lot of convergence – a soft shell is probably a soft shell no matter where you go nowadays. Except in HongKong, where it will get you some tasty crab..

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