Six ways you can be the best hut guest

Department of Conservation —  11/06/2019

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!

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Hanging out in the Upper Gridiron Hut, Kahurangi National Park. 📷: Ashlyn Oswalt 


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!

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Chancellor Hut, Westland Tai Poutini National Park. 📷: Petrus Hedman


Be prepared

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.


Interior of the Dillon Homestead hut, West Coast. 📷: Janette Asche


Shoes/boots off

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.

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Mt Brown Hut at dawn, West Coast. 📷: Ray Salisbury


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!

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Hanging out in the Upper Gridiron Hut, Kahurangi National Park. 📷: Ashlyn Oswalt 


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!

Book a hut today.

18 responses to Six ways you can be the best hut guest

    Jonathan Moake 20/06/2019 at 10:11 am

    Pay your hut fees!!!!!!!


    Trail Angels are one step up from DOC Huts. If you are lucky enough to tent at a Trail Angel place like ours, by Russell Forest in Northland, then a hot cuppa is the first essential pleasure. TA Trail notes Waikare connection.


      Sorry doc huts not hours. And tent not rent a trail Angel but you get the picture.

    Brian Richardson 16/06/2019 at 3:06 pm

    My Daughter and i had a bad time first time in a doc hut.we got to the hut to find that people who had been there first had not cleaned up after themselves as well as used all firewood and kindling so we had to spend two hours walking back and froward to get wood which was wet then we had to try and light a fire with wet wood we only had a hand saw that was at the hut to cut wood with and the end we walked out and left the wood we got there and someone else would have had dry wood but it was a mess in the hut as well there was no respect from people who had used it first


    These are some great suggestions. We’ve actually never stayed at a hut before but keen to take the kids along and test it out


    I like that. It’s a bad habit to manage a society by bans, much better to tell how everybody can be happy !

    Honora Renwick 14/06/2019 at 10:06 pm

    I would recommend carrying some form of shelter to survive a night out injured regardless of whether you’ve booked a bunk in a hut.

    Meredith Schaap 14/06/2019 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks Ashlyn for your thoughtful article. The DOC huts are a fantastic asset. We have used a number of them over the years but have had some unpleasant experiences which have made us think twice about staying in them again. Huts with rangers are usually great. One of our worst nights was when we arrived wet-through at our prebooked hut to find a large noisy group had completely taken over all areas even stringing up clothes-lines everywhere which they would not share with others. They then dominated the evening with a card game with lots of shouting. The ranger had gone AWOL. Not a good night!


    Absolutely. Our family of four recently had a very uncomfortable night in a hut with more than double the stated capacity on sleeping platforms because people didn’t have mats or tents and refused to head out to the car park (1-2hrs) and face what they called “paid” accommodation. If you want to stay in an unbooked hut, you must be prepared for all eventualities, including a full hut.


    Also leave the hut better than you found it. That’s why there is a broom and cleaning supplies available. Also replace kindling and firewood in the hut and gather more dead wood from the area to dry in the wood shed.

    Reuben Hayward 12/06/2019 at 11:26 pm

    And don’t get all anxious around rifles or be demanding or hostile towards hunters. Hunters do more for conservation of our forests than any other group and commit a lot of resource to building and maintaining many of the huts you all enjoy using.

      Honora Renwick 14/06/2019 at 10:04 pm

      Hunters who don’t release pigs into the bush, that is.

      Jonathan Moake 20/06/2019 at 10:10 am

      Absolutely….some of the best hut companions I have had over the years have been hunters and anglers.


    I feel that we should think about the ” first come first serve ” principle: why should the people that are the fittest and fastest to get to a hut have more of a right to a bed than someone who takes a bit longer to get there or someone who has come a longer way and thus arrives later? I think it’s good etiquette to ensure that everyone at the hut has a safe and comfortable night’s sleep. Bringing a tent or a mat is great as a backup, but we all need to ensure that everyone is welcomed and accommodated at the hut.
    Also, I feel it should be etiquette not to tramp in too big groups. If u plan to stay at a hut that accommodates less than double the size of your group, some of your group should be prepared to leave space on the bunks for other parties.


      I agree! I often hike with a larger group and we always carry sleep mats and often tents as well.

      Graham Batchelor 12/06/2019 at 9:26 pm

      Absolutely. And you should be prepared to top and tail with you tramping mate to free up a bunk if it is crowded.

    Stuart Nicholson 11/06/2019 at 8:55 pm

    Spot on comments, Ashlyn. I’ve been using these backcountry huts for 60 years or so, and couldn’t have put it better 🙂

    Natasha Verspeek 11/06/2019 at 1:31 pm

    Great blog and full respect given When tramping and sharing huts. 🙏