Opinion Series

Words and Phrases That Should Never be Heard in the Outdoors

From pretentious climbing jargon and lazy walker's cliches to silly marketing guff, we all have pet hates when it comes to outdoor lingo. Beginners might be forgiven the odd slip of the tongue, but some of the most cringe-inducing examples come from people who really ought to know better, and sound like a cliquey code for the in-crowd. These are the stock words and phrases that make my toes curl. What are yours?

Apologies if there's anyone I've forgotten to insult in the following glossary. 

Views as far as the eye can see when I conquer the mighty Ben (note the triumphant leg position) on a rare bluebird day  © Dan Bailey
Views as far as the eye can see when I conquer the mighty Ben (note the triumphant leg position) on a rare bluebird day
© Dan Bailey

360 degree views

It'd be an odd sort of summit that didn't have those.

Bluebird days

Vera Lynn's ornithologically unlikely White Cliff warbling has found its echo in modern outdoor-babble. We all love a cloudless day in winter, with the sun glinting off pristine snow. Why add foreign birds to the picture? Here's one Americanism [there'll be more later] that should make like an actual bluebird, and stay west of the Atlantic.


A tabloid newspaper's way of saying 'get to the top of', this anachronism feels like it belongs in an Imperial age, and should have been left there. On the gale-scoured extremity of Cerro Torre you may feel like you've won a victory, but the one thing you've really vanquished is your own fear/weakness/common sense (delete according to bias); let's not pretend the mountain somehow knows or cares.

Love the new wind effects graphics  © Mountain Weather Information Service
Love the new wind effects graphics
© Mountain Weather Information Service

Considerable buffeting

With apologies to MWIS, who do a great job. While it doesn't set my acceptable mountain discourse gatekeeper alarm jangling, I do have a fond chuckle every time I see the phrase. Since this one is deployed whenever it's pretty windy on the hills, we get plenty of exposure to it.


As the sort of bimbler who could just about juice a grape, I know my place. This word does not apply to the likes of me. You couldn't give a VS or a 6a anything more than a parody crushing. Does it become less ridiculous the harder you climb? No, obviously. The crusher has not yet been born who cranks hard enough to pull this off with a straight face. If we insist on squashing routes instead of just climbing them, let's mix it up a bit with some more imaginative synonyms. Pulverise it, dude or she really liquefied that one.

Crush it, before it crushes you...  © UKC Gear
Crush it, before it crushes you...


As in The Ben delivers yet again, or Gogarth always delivers. Often delivered (and that's actually correct usage) by guide types on social media, this cliched coinage should be sent packing. Days out can be great, and some venues are almost always awesome; but only posties and midwives deliver.

Fast and light

Applied to everything from walking to climbing, this is the outdoor fashion industry's equivalent of the undernourished model fad. There's nothing inherently wrong with well-considered minimalism of course, especially if you're an alpine type or a runner, yet it's hard to love the way it's sold as almost a moral imperative. Many of us are fine with going a bit heavier and slower; we're not all out racing the clock; and most people want kit that'll last more than a season. Let's dial back on the less-is-more evangelism.


No you're not. You can go backpacking with big boots and pockety trousers on, or you can wear skorts and trainers. You might go slow, fast, or a bit of both. However you do it, you're still just backpacking. The outdoor world does not need a new word designed primarily to sell niche product, we've got plenty of niches already.

Anyone up for some slowpacking/weight training?  © Dan Bailey
Anyone up for some slowpacking/weight training?

Fort Bill

Just no.


A staple of AI-generated-style gear review, it's supposed to mean something like this is the cam/jacket/energy gel I invariably find myself choosing. While it has brevity on its side, that's the best I can say for a phrase repeated so often that there's nothing left but a hollow echo. You know where you can go with this one...


Laying it on thick with the harshest conditions, steepest faces, most extreme environments schtick may be a superlative way for high-end outdoor brands to flog the most technical shells to a breed of aspirational customer, but for the rest of us the relentless macho overstatement gets tiring. At what point do product catalogues become an elaborate form of self parody? I can't help wondering if the ubermensch school of advertising copy puts off as many potential buyers as it attracts. But what's the alternative? This jacket will keep you dry in the rain... I know, don't give up the day job.

Lake Windermere

Fascinating fact: It may be the Lake District, but most of its lakes are actually meres, waters or tarns. In this case the suffix contributes nothing, and for some reason - to do with my own smugness, no doubt - it makes my teeth ache.

Put a lid on it  © UKC Gear
Put a lid on it
© UKC Gear


Inoffensive quick way to say helmet, or annoyingly jaunty affectation? It's pretty obvious which way I'm voting: Lids are best left on jars.


Is what most of us call a weekend.

Mount Snowdon

To Welsh speakers it's Yr Wyddfa, to linguistically limited Anglophones, Snowdon, and modern consensus seems to be coalescing around the bilingual Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). It's never ever been a Mount anything.

Nice day for it

Whether it's genuinely sunny or you're just trying to lift dampened spirits with some ironic bantz, this chirpy all-weather greeting seems to be embedded in British hillwalking, a cultural reflex we're barely able to contain. I'm as guilty as anyone. What else is there to say? You don't want an actual conversation with all 100 people on Schiehallion, but politeness does demand some sort of utterance in passing. Morning will only serve til mid day. You're nearly there is too location-dependent. At least reliable old nice day fills an awkward silence.  

Nice day for it... are you having fun yet?  © Dan Bailey
Nice day for it... are you having fun yet?
© Dan Bailey


At risk of coming across as a frothing old Yank-o-phobe, here's yet another grating Americanism to disapprove of. An abbreviation of pantaloons, the sporty leggings of yesteryear, it's crept back into British English via a sneaky process of reverse-colonisation. Of course its use goes far beyond the outdoors, but I can't help holding outdoor brands at least partly responsible. If you're a climber or hillwalker shopping for legwear, it's hard to find trousers these days. Pants are taking over. Worse still, 'pant'.

(The) Peaks

It's barely got one proper summit, let alone a plurality. But adding an s irks Peak(s) locals, and that may be reason enough for the rest of us to keep using it.


This and its bedfellow plummet seem to be the only way anyone ever falls off a mountain in a certain breed of red top newspaper. It's almost as if the words are mandated in a hack style guide.

Psyched to be front pointing in my poons  © Dan Bailey
Psyched to be front pointing in my poons


For crampons. Why? It's not even a proper abbreviation. Let's call them cramps.


What does it even mean: motivation; enthusiasm; va-va-voom? Why not just say that then?

Pulling on plastic

Subtext - that's not proper climbing. If the proper climber who used this sniffy phrase spent more time down the wall, they might actually end up climbing better. Hell, they may even lighten up and learn to enjoy it.

It's plas-tastic  © Nick Brown
It's plas-tastic
© Nick Brown


If you're not Robert the Bruce, think again. 


Fine as a technical term when learning or teaching navigation, but dropping it in everyday conversation on the hill just looks like a lame attempt to seem competent. Lovely morning for it. Which way did you come? I took the spur to an altitude of 457m, then aimed off and followed the re-entrant... See what I mean?


Walking guidebook descriptions are often guilty of this one. Climb the relentless slope, they'll say. But as someone once pointed out to me, all slopes relent eventually: it's called the top.


Looked at from the side, a ridge is a skyline. Considered as a route of ascent, it's often the most obvious line. But what on earth is a ridgeline? That second syllable adds little but ink and pixels.

Inverie, Knoydart - very scenic, a bit of a drag to reach, but not exactly Kamchatka  © Dan Bailey
Inverie, Knoydart - very scenic, a bit of a drag to reach, but not exactly Kamchatka
© Dan Bailey

Scotland's Last Wilderness

Often said of Knoydart, but no truer however many more times its trotted out by metropolitan travel writers or overexcited Youtubers. This famously awkward peninsula may be lightly populated these days, and it's never been easy to get to unless you own a boat; but wilderness? In its deforested and deer-wrecked way, Knoydart's rugged landscape is as artificial as the South Downs. It's not even the 'wildest' bit of the highlands anyway. That accolade has to go to somewhere that doesn't have a pub.


In the same naff transatlantic ballpark as crush, but possibly worse, send does not travel well from sunbaked California to gritty Northern England or rain-lashed Wales.


On Trent? Newington? The fire? Something's definitely got lost in translation here. Probably me.

The alpine


There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

Said no one, ever, who's been outdoors in actual bad weather.

Nice day for it: Getting on for a whiteout, but that cairn spoils things  © Dan Aspel
Nice day for it: Getting on for a whiteout, but that cairn spoils things
© Dan Aspel


An irritating way to say you're walking a long distance trail end-to-end rather than doing shorter bits of it. Might just about make sense for the 3500km Appalachian Trail; less useful on the 150km West Highland Way.


A fine descriptive word, in context. Well, not so much fine as scarily disorientating. My beef is with folk using it who've not actually been in one. Don't believe the hyp(othermia). A bit of mist and some light slush does not count; you'll know it when you (don't) see it - when sky and ground are as one, your visible world shrinks to the ends of your boots, and it's no longer possible to tell if you're walking uphill, or down... towards that imagined cornice.

Wild - anything

Swimming, camping, gardening. Can we give it a rest and go back to sploshing about in lakes?

Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email