Gabriel Hut

Gabriel hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park in New Zealand.

Backcountry huts (or backcountry shelters) are huts that serve overnight hiking and trekking needs and can be found in many places in the world.

Backcountry huts by countryEdit

New ZealandEdit

New Zealand has a network of approximately 950 backcountry huts.[1] The huts are officially maintained by the Department of Conservation (DoC), although some of the huts have been adopted and maintained by local tramping (hiking) and hunting clubs by arrangement. There are also unofficial and privately owned huts in some places. They vary from small bivouac shelters made of wood to large modern huts that can sleep up to 40 people, with separate cooking areas, utilities and gas.

Some huts were initially commissioned or built by clubs along commonly walked routes, both for safety reasons as appropriate, and sometimes for convenience. The network of back-country huts in New Zealand was largely extended in the mid-20th-century, when many more were built to serve the deer cullers of the New Zealand Forest Service [2]. Most larger and more modern huts, like some found on the Great Walks, have been purpose designed and built to serve trampers (hikers). Many of New Zealand's back-country huts are remote and rarely visited, and it is common for recreational trampers to design trips with the idea of reaching and visiting specific huts. Some people actively keep count of which huts they've visited; a practice which is informally referred to as Hut Bagging.

Back-country huts in New Zealand were free to use until the early 1990s, when the New Zealand Department of Conservation began charging for their use. For most back-country huts, nightly hut tickets are purchased via an honesty system by people who use the huts, with an additional option of purchasing an Annual Hut Pass (similar to a season ticket) for people who use huts frequently. Huts on frequently used and heavily marketed tracks, such as the New Zealand Great Walks, usually operate on a booking system, and often have resident wardens checking the bookings of users who arrive to stay the night. [3]

Since the inception of hut fees in New Zealand, there has been controversy amongst some hut users. Many users belong to clubs which helped to build and maintain the huts before the government department was created, and consequently inherited them. It is common to find people who refuse to pay for the use of huts in protest, arguing that the government is trying to charge them to use facilities that they themselves are entirely responsible for providing. DoC argues that all hut fees are used for the continued maintenance of huts, and for building new huts as appropriate. It has at times made efforts to demonstrate this by specifically allocating money from hut fees towards budgets for these purposes.

The majority of the huts were built in an era of lower levels of government regulation and the long term use of the huts was not considered. As a result of the Cave Creek disaster in 1995 DoC tightened up on the standards for structures on public land. Some of the huts were upgraded to meet build regulations. In 2008, due to the recognition of the unique situation and the remote locations, the government relaxed the building standards for the huts. They now no longer are need to have emergency lighting, smoke alarms, wheelchair access, potable water supplies or artificial lighting.[4]

United StatesEdit

In the United States, backcountry huts may be provided by the Forest Service, state or national parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park [5]. The Tenth Mountain Huts is a system of 29 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains honoring the men of 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado. They provide a unique opportunity for backcountry skiing, mountain biking, or hiking while staying in safe, comfortable shelter.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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