This is a guest blog by Ashlyn Oswalt. Ashlyn is an American expat who’s been living in New Zealand for a year. She’s a keen tramper and has lots of experience staying in backcountry DOC huts. She’s put together a list of easy ways you can be the best hut guest on your next hike.
New Zealand’s backcountry DOC huts are one of a kind. There are few other places a tramper can embark on a multi-day walk without a tent and have guaranteed shelter for the night. The amenities at each hut vary, but all allow a weary tramper to escape the elements, cook a warm meal, and sleep before the next day’s journey. Not sure how to be a polite hut guest? Follow these tips for ultimate hut etiquette on any tramp:
Do your research
Some huts can only be reserved online beforehand, and thus require a proof of purchase. Others operate on a first come, first served basis but still need a hut pass. Research the hut on the DOC website beforehand and understand what type of hut pass you need. This will help ensure you have a spot to rest your head after a long day of tramping!
If you didn’t book, bring a tent
For huts that operate on a first come, first serve basis, be sure to plan and prepare. For busy huts or in peak season, carry a tent and sleeping bag in case there is no room upon arrival. Always respect those who have arrived at the hut earlier than you. If you do arrive early, set out your things on a mattress to reserve your spot and be kind to those arriving after you!
No one’s perfect, and we all will forget an essential item on a tramp at some point. If this happens to you, be gracious when asking to borrow items from other trampers. For backcountry tramps, people tend to bring only the essentials and may not be willing to share. To avoid having to borrow items, plan and prepare your pack with all necessary items. Make sure you’ve researched what amenities the hut you’re staying at has and pack other items you’ll need. One should never assume that the hut will have everything needed for a comfortable night’s stay.
The huts may be rustic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be tidy! A great way to keep them clean and respect other trampers is to take your boots off – especially if they’re muddy! Pack a pair of thick ‘hut socks’ if you’d rather not walk around in bare feet.
Tidy up after yourself
Remember that you’re sharing the hut with many other people. Be mindful to not overtake all horizontal surfaces when cooking, packing, and relaxing. Be sure to clean up after yourself, as the huts are for everyone’s enjoyment – so be sure to share the space!
Pack up the night before if you’re leaving early
No tramper appreciates waking up before their alarm to the sound of another tramper frantically packing up. If you’re planning on hitting the track early the next day pack your things the night before and make minimal noise the next morning. Don’t forget to turn your mattress up on its side when you leave!
New Zealand’s huts are a great way to enjoy the outdoors. They offer a unique and approachable way to explore the backcountry and see all the beauty that New Zealand has to offer. Being a kind and respectful hut guest allows others to enjoy the great outdoors with you!