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Thru Hike et randonnée longue distance

Vocabulary to know before a thru-hike

“Nobo”, “thru-hiker”, un “zéro”, mais que sont tous ces anglicismes?! Dans le monde de la randonnée longue-distance, de nombreux termes apparaissent dans les forums, les chaînes youtube liées à la culture randonnée anglophone, et spécifiquement nord-américaine.

L’académie française se meurt à petit feu devant cette pléthore de terminologies mais vous, humbles randonneurs curieux, voudriez savoir ce que signifient tous ces termes?

Vous êtes au bon endroit! Nous avons établi pour vous une liste des termes les plus communs rencontrés sur la toile et le terrain afin de vous équiper pour vos rencontres avec les anglo-saxons et s'immiscer de la culture thru-hike américaine.

The thru-hiker's lexicon

Base weight -> The basic weight: 

This is the weight of all your equipment "dry", i.e. without water, food or other consumables, and without the weight of objects worn on your person (clothes, shoes, sticks...). A good platform for weighing all your equipment in a spreadsheet is . Get your kitchen scales!

Cat hole -> The cat hole: 

Feline owners will understand the practice. The idea is to dig a hole about 20 cm deep and then fill it up once you've finished so that no trace of your cat's passage is left on the surface. Remember to take a small shovel with you!

FKT -> Fastest Known Time -> Fastest time: 

For those experienced with stopwatches, FKT is the practice of recording the fastest time to complete a trail or section. Tracked by GPS beacon, results can be found at

Flip flop: 

The practice of not starting from the terminus of a trail but somewhere in the middle (e.g. on the HexaTrek, from Lake Geneva or the Vercors) and walking in one direction to the terminus and starting again from the middle and walking in the other direction. It allows you to complete your thru-hike in its entirety, while avoiding the crowds that all leave at the same time by hiking against the current.

Hiker bubble -> Hiker bubble: 

Accumulation of large groups of hikers due to bad weather, closure of a section due to natural hazards (floods, fires etc), or a large departure of hikers on the same day. Being in a bubble can cause concerns about the use of shelters, huts, bivouac areas and water resources. Avoid as much as possible, either by moving on or by taking a few days break in a nice place!

Hiker hunger -> The hunger of the hiker: 

Eating three pizzas in a row in town seems impossible? Not at all! Hiker hunger is part of everyday life on a long-distance hike. Your body is in an endurance effort and draws on its reserves. You will eat much more than in normal sedentary life, so take this into account when refuelling!

Hiker trash -> The "trash" hiker: 

Originally a derogatory term but taken up by American long-distance hikers as a descriptive and communal adjective. After many months on the trail, dirty and patched clothes, body odour, messy hair and hairy beards will be the hallmarks of the long-distance hiker and easily distinguishable from Sunday hikers with their delicious shampoo and laundry smells!

HYOH -> Hike Your Own Hike -> To each his own: 

A common expression on forums to remind us that everyone has their own way of doing things, it is often used when giving material advice. What is valid for one person is not necessarily valid for the other!

LNT -> Leave No Trace: 

A great environmental responsibility movement based on the principle of leaving no trace of one's passage, i.e. take your waste with you, respect the fauna and flora and leave nature as you found it, even cleaner! More information is available on the website

Cameling -> the camel technique: 

Think of the camel drinking at the oasis. When you come across a watering hole, drink as much as you can to avoid carrying litres in your bag, while being well hydrated. It weighs less when it's in your stomach!

Nobo/Sobo -> NOrthBOund or SOuthBOund - > direction South-North or North-South: 

Common term to define one's direction of travel on the trail. On the HexaTrek, walking NOBO is the same as walking from Hendaye to Wissembourg and SOBO the opposite.

Section hiker -> Hiker in section: 

Taking 4-5 months off is not common, and many people will prefer to complete a trail over several years rather than in one go by doing small sections of one or more weeks each season. On the HexaTrek we have 6 stages of 2-3 weeks each to facilitate this.

Thru-hiker -> Long-distance hiker: 

A word that deserves to be at the top of the list, the thru-hiker is a hiker who rides multi-week or even multi-month trails from one terminus to another. With his entire house on his back, he walks the trails from day to day, living at the rhythm of his body and nature. WARNING; thru-hike is an addictive activity! Fortunately, there are more and more trails available around the world, of which the HexaTrek is now one!

Trail angels -> the Trail Angels: 

No, this is not a new reality show! Trail angels are individuals who come to the aid of hikers by offering services, such as a meal, a garden to pitch a tent in, a shower, a cool drink in the middle of a heat wave, in short, to assist hikers. They are great and some are becoming real legends on their respective trails.

Trail family/tramily -> The trail family: 

Those who have done thru-hikes will know the importance of the trail family; it's a family unit that naturally forms on the trail with other hikers who befriend each other, and have a similar walking pace. It's a bit like brothers and sisters in arms on the trail with whom to laugh, decompress, share hotel costs, divide up your runs etc. Very important for mental health, we are after all social creatures!

Trail magic -> Magic of the trail:

Jerry cans of water in the desert, a cooler full of cold beers, a crate of fruit from the orchard left on the side of the road with a note of encouragement... Trail magic can take many forms but it is usually a nice surprise that will boost your day!

Trail name -> Nickname: 

A very North American concept of giving/receiving/having a nickname related to an anecdote or a particularity of the hiker in question. It can be the name of an animal, a type of food, or sometimes less flattering things... In any case you don't choose your trail name yourself, but you have to make it your own!

Yo-yo -> 

Didn't get enough of a thru-hike? Go back the other way! The Yo-yo consists of doing a thru-hike twice, once in one direction and once in the other

Zero/Nearo -> Rest day/low mileage: 

A little tired? Want to take a break in a nice place? Shops closed today? Waiting for your trail family to catch up? A zero or nearo is probably the answer! The zero meaning zero kilometres and the nearo being almost zero kilometres, these are days of rest, laundry, organization, etc. necessary from time to time to resume your trek in good conditions. As a general rule, a day off every ten days is good for you!


So there you have it, you now know most of the terms in a thru-hiker's lexicon! Wishing you to enjoy the trail magic, to found your tramily, and to realize the HexaTrek respecting the LNT principles!


Club Vosgien is partner of the HexaTrek

Whether it's a simple bench, a picnic table, a shelter or even a refuge shawl, you will come across many facilities maintained by the Club Vosgien and their volunteers. Through their trails and their markings of a unique quality in France, you will discover the Vosges mountains and their historical and cultural wealth as well as their remarkable biodiversity.


Hexatrek - The French thru hiking trail

United States has the Pacific Crest Trail, New Zealand has the Te Araroa, it was time to give France a trail that would hike all the beauty and diversity of its landscapes! A team of true enthusiasts are launching the HexaTrek in 2022: 3,000 km of trails through the mountains!

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"Nobo", "thru-hiker", a "zero", but what are all these anglicisms? In the world of long-distance hiking, many terms appear on the forums. The French academy is slowly dying in the face of this plethora of terminology, but you, humble hikers, would like to know what all these terms mean?


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