Are you tired of being limited by how far you can walk in one day, but not a fan of sleeping on the ground? Maybe hut-to-hut hiking is for you.
Already very common in other countries, this style of “backpacking” is gaining great popularity in the United States too, with some large huts functioning like communal dorms while smaller cabins can be reserved privately. Here’s everything you need to get started:
Planning Your Trip
Rule number one of hut camping: Never assume you’re getting anything more than four walls and a roof, and never assume you can just walk right in. Always research permits, hut bookings and amenities well beforehand; the most popular walks around the world are usually booked months in advance.
Some trail cabins in high-traffic areas (as opposed to communal huts) may even be locked, so make sure you read through your reservations carefully and understand any access specifics before you leave cell phone range.
Also, be realistic when you map out your trip plan. If you get caught short when you’re out backpacking, you can just pitch your tent; but you don’t want to pull up four miles short of your cabin if you can help it.
You might need money
Pay for reservations in advance if you possibly can — and bring proof of that payment, whether in paper printouts or on your smartphone, to help resolve any disputes.
If the huts are pay-as-you-go, they probably won’t accept credit cards. Nor will there be an ATM around the next corner. Plan accordingly.
What should I bring?
Back to the “don’t assume” rule: As a general rule, you should still pack most of what you’d carry on any backpacking trip. Unless your hut has a fully functioning kitchen (some are even staffed), you’ll still need a camp stove, dishes and utensils.
You can leave your tent behind and carry a lighter sleeping bag, though — as long as you still have adequate supplies for spending a night out in case of an emergency. You may check toolwinner to get the tools that you need for hiking.
Don’t be suckered in by the occasional hut that has running(!) water… most don’t, so bring a water filter — or a water purifier — just in case and be on the lookout for ready water sources nearby.
Also: Always double-check what the hut offers in terms of sleeping accommodations. Some huts offer blankets to keep you warm; at others, you get nothing but a bare wooden shelf to sleep on.
Even if the hut offers mattresses, there’s no guarantee you’ll get one if things get overcrowded. When in doubt, bring your sleeping pad and a light sleeping bag or bag liner.
Don’t Leave Anything Behind
It may be tempting to leave extra belongings as “gifts” for other hikers or cabin campers. This is usually discouraged, because rangers or caretakers eventually have to come in and clean out all the accumulated stuff. The only exception is if there’s a box or shelf designated for books, food, or other free cast-offs.
Get up Early
If you’re traveling on a popular hut route (where the huts are basically communal dorms), get used to the idea of getting up early so you can be among the first to hit the trail.
Not only is this the best way to avoid crowds, it also gives you the best chance of grabbing a good sleeping spot at the next hut along the trail.
Keep a Clean (Hut) Camp
If you’re worried about bears, sleeping in a hut is a great way to feel more secure — but you still need to keep a clean camp. Store all your food securely in the hut or cabin, close all the windows and doors when you’re not there, and keep the area around your hut or cabin — including the deck and nearby grounds — clear of food waste, trash, or any other “smellables” that might attract a bear. Also you can keep camping knife or axe for more safety.
Be Consider of Others
If you’re in a private hut or cabin, you can get away with pretty much anything as long as you leave the hut in the same or better condition than you found it.
If you’re in a communal hut, though, bring slippers so you can take your boots off at the door; and plan for quiet reading or lights entirely out relatively early in the evening.
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