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New Zealand's Hut System
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Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
New Zealand's Hut System on 09/16/2007 23:19:17 MDT Print View

I was surprised to learn that New Zealand's back country is home to over 950 huts. Instead of established camp sites, many trails have huts which provide trampers with water, a mattress, and possibly a fireplace, gas cookers, and solar powered lighting. Huts cost anywhere from 5 bucks a night to 40 bucks a night.

More info on huts:

Observe:nz hutnz hut yonz hut4faffdfjhf

So what do you think? I'm interested in whether or not you guys find this "true" hiking, if it takes away (or adds) to the experience, etc. For me, it's a nic e place to spend a stormy, awful night. Comments?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: New Zealand's Hut System on 09/17/2007 01:39:37 MDT Print View

> I'm interested in whether or not you guys find this "true" hiking, if it takes away (or adds) to the experience,

Well, the Continentals have been doing it for ... 100 years? They include Guardians who provide meals in the more popular huts. 'Popular' - like 140 beds!

Yes, it's hiking, just different.

Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: New Zealand's Hut System on 09/17/2007 19:26:52 MDT Print View

I stayed in some huts while backpacking in NZ. I hadn't brought a tent since I wasn't initially planning on hiking. The huts meant I could actually hike, rather than just stay in hostels. The huts themselves weren't very comfortable or glamorous. No mattresses, no lighting, no fireplace or cooking system. The heat was just adequate to not be freezing (it was a winter trip).

It was definitely still hiking, I spent all day walking and carrying all my gear. The benefits were allowing me to change plans and actually hike, and enabling me to save a few pounds by not carrying a tent. I really needed the savings, since I knew nothing of light hiking at the time.

Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
NZ hut system on 09/18/2007 03:49:37 MDT Print View

It's nice not to have to worry about carrying a tent. However , there's always that looming prospect that you will not get to the hut, you will get lost etc and you will not have a tent or some sort of shelter. Of course, you can always go "makeshift" but the New Zealand weather is ruthless at times, making this a cluster of disaster.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: New Zealand's Hut System on 09/18/2007 04:24:01 MDT Print View

I've found it's a great way to get into hiking if you don't have all the gear to start off with, or if you're encouraging others who might initially hesitate at staying in a tent (think candles + a wood fire and room to sprawl on a stormy night). Roof water is a nice convenience too.

Of course using your own shelter ultimately gives you much more range & more independence though. Sometimes your tent will be cleaner/better smelling/less rat infested than a hut. And as someone mentioned relying on getting to a hut for shelter can catch you out if you get lost or misjudge distance: you still need a backup which some don't realise.

Only a very few have solar powered lighting + gas stoves. Some of the large huts on the popular South Island walks (eg Routeburn) are more like hostels than huts (40+ beds, booked out every night during peak season), which might not be the experience some would be after. But it does make it accessible to just about anyone, and to be fair the campsites are busy on these walks too.

Some on the other hand are tiny things with lots of soul that have been around forever, in some awesome remote spots, & during winter unvisited for weeks at a stretch. Much more part of the experience.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Hut Hiking on 09/18/2007 10:21:00 MDT Print View

I would consider it hiking - some still bring a shelter, and stay in the huts every few nights....and along with what the above says...depends what you are looking for. I have been on 2 trips where there is an option to stay in huts. While I didn't do it every night, it is nice to have a table to eat on, place to sit, no wind....this is especially appealing if altitude (or another reason) is forcing short days and/or weather is nasty.

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
My experience in NZ on 09/21/2007 00:56:37 MDT Print View

I just did a two month trip in NZ this year. I started with a mountaineering course in Mt. Cook for five days and then did the Routeburn and Milford back to back and then the Dusky Track a week later. First thing to think about is the swarms of sandflies which are the size of gnats but pack the bite of a mosquito If you want to see the special Fiordland area the huts are a fact of life. It is a great way to go ultralight and if you are travelling there from overseas leaving the tent and sleeping pad at home is definitely nice. If you have walked through these areas you realize how truly difficult it would be to camp. Unless you are above treeline the density of the forest is really astounding and a good tentsite is hard to find. There is no camping on the Milford so if you want to see this spectacular area you must stay in the huts. The number of people certainly can detract from the "wilderness" experience. Just get up really early and you have the trail to yourself. I experienced about two and a half inches of rain in the period of half a day on the Milford and if it hadn't let up overnight we would have been flown out by helicopter to make way for the next days group to come to the hut. The sight of that much water pouring from all sides into a U shaped glacially carved valley is something not to be missed. You also get the chance to meet people from around the world and hopefully some legendary kiwis in the huts and maybe experience their hospitality. I ended up staying with two families later in the trip that I met in huts on two different tracks. On the Dusky track I met 10 people over the course of 9 days and 7 of them were in the same group. After concentrating on every foot placement you make for 5 to 8 hours a day as you bash through roots and mud and get soaked to the bone a hut and a chance to dry out gear is a welcome sight. You could always just do the Routeburn in a day or two and then the Milford and be off to other spectacular areas off the beaten track where camping is allowed and try your luck with the infamous NZ alpine weather. It is a hikers paradise for sure.