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Mountain hut do’s and don’ts

Over the past couple of years we’ve stayed in various mountain huts all over the world. From tiny to small to average to large to huge … we’ve basically tried all kinds of huts. The first time I (Anto) stayed in a mountain hut I was quite amazed … it was in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and everything was taken care of. Three meals a day were served, there were showers and you could buy drinks and snacks. It was more like staying in a hostel rather than a refugio up in the mountains.
 
w-trek-chile
Two years later we went to New Zealand and that was the complete opposite. We had to carry all of our stuff up the mountain, including stoves, and cater for ourselves. Oh, and there were no showers. However, they were much smaller and there for much more pleasant for enjoying the peace and quiet area you’re in.
 
moturau-hut-kepler-track
 
After staying in many different mountain huts, we can say we have learned to adapt to each different one without any trouble. But remember: it’s not a five star hotel and you will have to be openminded to actually enjoy staying in one.
 
How about sleeping on one big mattress with 10 people, the next person so close to you that you can feel his breath on your face? Or having to use the same loo with 20 others when there’s no running water? It’s not all pleasant you know, but it’s part of the experience. Here’s some tips and tricks to consider before deciding if staying in a mountain hut is something you would enjoy:
 

1. First come, first serve.

As you will be sleeping in dormitories most of the time, the general rule for finding a bed is on the “first come, first serve” base. If you want a good spot (e.g. a lower bunk, in the corner or next to your love) make sure you won’t come last as the best spots will then already have been picked by someone else.
 
bunkhouse
 

2. Take off your shoes

After a long day in the mountains, you have probably gathered a ton of mud, snow, scree and other dirt attached to your shoes. So do as your mother taught you: take off your shoes when entering! Usually you can leave them in a rack at the entrance. It’s wise to bring and wear hut shoes while inside (we love our Crocs for this, they are light and comfortable).
 

3. Respect the food that is given to you

In quite some huts (for example Iceland and New Zealand) no meals are served and you have to cater for yourself. In others however (Chile, Austria) you can purchase meals or they may even be included with your stay. In that case, it’s usually not possible to cook your own meal. The food you are being served (usually just one option, sometimes two) may not always be your taste but remember, the food has to come from far, sometimes even by horse or by helicopter. Therefore pay some respect and eat, or at least try to eat, what you are being served. Or go to bed with a hungry tummy.
 
cohcamo-dinner
 

4. Expect to pay the prize

Yes, we know and we’ve experienced it: food and beverages are not cheap in mountain huts. As we said before, they have to come from far. Water is usually free but sometimes it’s asked that you pay for hot water. The fuel needs to come from far too, you know.
 

5. Don’t steal from each other

We should not have to say this but we’ve heard stories where people were stolen from. Trekkers are (supposed to be) one big family and you should be able to leave your valuables unattended. Should, yes. It’s rude to steal but even worse when you steal from a trekker who is in need of every item he/she has carried up the mountain. Keeping an eye out on your stuff should not be necessary.
 
Furtschagelhaus
 

6. Be quiet when others are sleeping

When you are the last one coming into the bunkroom and everyone is asleep already, make sure you are as quiet as you can be without waking the others. Respect it when people are tired and go to bed early. Same goes for the early risers.
 

7. Use a headlight

When moving around the hut in the dark, or when reading at night, use a headlight. It will keep others asleep and save much needed electricity.
 
berliner-hutte-dorm

8. Respect people that snore

In each hut you will for sure find someone that snores, possibly even in the bunk next to you. We agree that it can be pretty annoying when you are trying to sleep and your neighbor is chopping trees, but just imagine yourself in their place. Wouldn’t you feel bad if someone came over to you in the middle of the night, asking if you can be quiet? Snorers can’t do anything about it, so just use earplugs instead… you will get used to it, eventually! (Or, like I sometimes do, make sure you are fast asleep before everyone else).
 

9. Leave hot water for others

Some mountain huts have showers but usually the water needs to be heated by a fire. There for be as quick as you can with a shower so everyone else can enjoy a nice, clean body too. In many huts there’s not even warm water by the way, so we consider this a total luxury.
 

10. Clean up after yourself

For those huts that are self catered, clean up the mess you’ve made while cooking. Same goes for using the bathroom, nobody really wants to see your leftovers in the loo. Trust us…
 
mangatepopo-hut
 

And last but not least: socialize!

Looking back on our travels, we usually met the best people in the mountain huts. While cooking, while playing cards or while having a beer. They are like minded, adventurous and always have good stories to tell. If you are not a social person, staying in a mountain hut is probably not for you.
 
mackenzie-hutcochamo-chile
 
If you live by these “rules” you will make staying in mountain huts more comfortable and a memorable experience. Not only for other trekkers but also for yourself. A laid back attitude will do the trick and will make you want to come back again.
 
Have you stayed in mountain huts before? Which rules did we miss? We’re curious to hear!
 
Want to read more? You may also like these posts:
Things nobody tells you about hiking to Everest Base Camp
The best hikes in Colorado
Food on multi-day treks: our tips and tricks
 
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Thanks for sharing!

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Anto is a 30-something outdoor fan who travels the world about 100 days a year, combined with a full-time office job. She loves to go hiking, enjoys a good class of wine and can usually be found with an iPhone in her hand. Favorite destinations: New Zealand, Patagonia, Austria and Alaska.

3 Comments

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet

    Fantastic post guys. I am an avid trekker and I have stayed in mountain huts many times, I agree with you on all of these. So annoying to find people not respecting food or haggling for price up high, knowing the hassle that is involved in carrying the stuff up there. Thanks for sharing!
    PS. You guys should come to Italy for some trekking in the Alps!

    • anto

      Thanks Margherita! We know, we should make it over to Italy for some trekking. Martijn has climbed the Gran Paradiso but that’s pretty much all the hiking we’ve done there! Happy traveling and trekking!

  • SleeperMan

    I just love reading about things like this. I don’t think I’m going to find myself traveling, much less staying in a mountain hut, but I do like imagining that =) Thanks for sharing your experience!

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