So you're looking to head into the mountains for a number of days walking, climbing or biking. Maybe you don't fancy having to pitch up a tent every time you move on, or maybe you're carrying a load of kit and want to base yourself from which to explore the area. Well luckily people have been disappearing into the wilderness for donkeys years... and that's a long time, creating a network of permanent buildings that would provide shelter whilst out for days on end, whether tending sheep, droving cattle or hunting and fishing.
If you're lucky enough then you may well find some form of backcountry hut network in your country, whether that's American and Scandinavian wilderness huts, New Zealand tramping huts and of course the UK bothy. Quite often huts will be situated along long distance trails, which makes them ideal, convenient places to stay if you're planning on really getting away from it all.
Of course it is important to do your research first as the vast majority will be basic with no facilities, so it’s important you still take appropriate equipment, plus some hut networks will have special rules and regulations that help and ensure a continued up keep. Even in well established areas such as the Alps, customs will vary between countries, so either check on line or even better speak to people who have been before.
So journey from our home grown Bothy. Often simple and basic, with the bare minimum of facilities. A place to shelter and have a fire but often no wood provided, unless you're really lucky, so be prepared to hunt out your own! To cook up a hearty stew or warming cuppa whilst you spin tall tails of endeavour late into the evening as the storm lashes outside. Each of these bothies standing strong with its own majestic beauty set into the wild landscape.
Or journey up high and stay high amongst the amazing stunning vistas of theAlps, where there’s a wonderful network of Alpine huts or rifugi that offer anything from fairly basic to luxury accommodation. Most huts will have some form of bunk accommodation with blankets and pillow, but a sleeping bag liner can prove very useful and saves on laundry. In terms of food, again the wardens of most huts will provide some food options. So overall this can really free you up to travel with a fairly minimal kit list when trekking from hut to hut. Due to the popularity these will often need booking in advance, certainly through the busy summer months.Whether pushing for alpine summits or taking on some long distance trek such as the Haute Route, they make convenient stop overs for drying kit, refulling, making early alpine starts, or to just sit in comfort with a coffee or beer and soak up the view.
Now we know it's not always easy to share your sleeping space... In our latest issue of Outpost we included a few tips for those more sociable of huts...
Calling the top bunk often gets it.
Leave those smelly socks out of the bunkroom.
If you're first up get the coffee on.
Don't flush in the night just for a wee. If it's brown-flush it down.
Take your sense of humour with you and don't let the language barrier be a fun barrier.
At least have earplugs and ideally comfy headphones and some ambient music to soothe you to sleep (fancy noise cancelling ones are good).
Once the lights are out keep the stories and songs to a minimum.
If a persistent snorer is keeping you up, take a few deep breaths. Chuck something at them and quick as a flash jump back into bed. As they come to terms with waking up and getting back to sleep you have a few precious minutes to get to sleep. (waiver - we can take no responsibility for peoples retaliatory actions should they catch you in this act)
So next time you're planning to get away, whether for a single night or 10, consider ditching the tent and explore a bit of hut living. More often than not if you're wanting to really get away from it all you’ll still be needing to carry the same as you would on a self supported multi day trek. You'll need to take food and appropriate cooking equipment, so stove and pots, a sleeping bag (don't forget it can still get cold inside so take an appropriate one for the season) and probably a mat to make the hard floors more comfortable.
What else? Well a lantern may prove useful for those social evenings, a head torch for nipping out at night (particualrly finding the door) when nature calls and if you want to go extravagant a pair of hut slippers are nice, but a spare pair of thick socks kept dry would stil be a winner whilst your other pair dry out. A warm insulation for colder evenings and of course some entertainment. We'd no doubt have a set of Pass the Pigs, but if you know anyone who can play the fiddle that could be good for some sing songs, although remember not eveyone might appreciate it like you.
Ditching the tent can bring its rewards. Run the chances of sharing with strangers as you decend off the hills from your own seperate adventures. Or spending an evening of reflective isolation within a shelter housing the memories of a rich history of indvidual transient journeys.
But remember to show respect to others who are there to share it with you, those that will seak it out in the future and of course to the building itself.
For more information on Bothies then be sure to check out the Mountain Bothy Associationand for more inspiration on what the bothy experience can bring we've picked just a selction of our fave bothy inspired stories. Video. Mountain Bikes and Bothy Nights. Podcast. The Angel of Camasunary.Photo. Our Humble Abode.
For a bit more helpful advice on alpine huts check out the BMC and information on huts from theSwiss Alpine Club, the Department of Conservation if off tramping in New Zealand, theNational Parks in Finalnd and... well we could travel on and on...