DOC manages a network of over 950 huts of all shapes and sizes but it’s up to you to treat them right. Hut etiquette plays an important part in this, and as you’ll be sharing the hut with other people, it would be beneficial if everyone played by the largely unwritten rules. So if you’re about to lace up your hiking boots in NZ and set off for a multi-night trek involving stays in several huts, here are some words of wisdom from DOC rangers:
- Be sure to pack all the essential gear you need. Don’t earn a reputation as a bludger by trying to borrow basic equipment from people who have done the right thing and packed correctly.
- Light fires only in the wood burner inside the hut, and always burn dry, dead wood; never rubbish! Don’t leave the fire unattended and make sure it is fully extinguished before you leave. A handful of backcountry huts have burned down in years past and that is not something you want on your conscience.
- Wood should be used sparingly as much of it is flown in by helicopter. Never smoke inside huts, even if you’re the only one there, and always take your cigarette butts out with the rest of your rubbish.
- Talking about rubbish. Hikers hate seeing rubbish alongside tracks and around huts, so the golden rule is if you carry it in, you can carry it out. Take two extra plastic bags with you: one for recyclables and the other for rubbish. And don’t throw food scraps into the bush; that will only attract rats and mice and in turn, they’ll kill our native birds.
- DOC standard and serviced huts have toilets. Use these instead of answering the call of nature while you’re actually out in nature. And don’t forget to take your own toilet paper.
- It’s plain good manners to leave the hut tidy for the next person. You can do this by stacking mattresses vertically on the bunks (this prevents mice from nesting), sweeping the floors with the brooms provided, and wiping the benches.
- Help DOC maintain the huts for everyone’s enjoyment by paying your hut fees instead of trying to cheat the system. Hut tickets and annual passes are available from DOC offices and visitor centres and the money you pay goes towards keeping the huts in good nick.
- Finally, be considerate of others. All hut etiquette comes back to this simple point. Make room for latecomers, be tidy with your gear and keep it in one place, remove your boots before entering the hut, and keeping your noise down while others are trying to sleep are some of the more common courtesies you can extend to your fellow hikers.
New Zealand’s hut system works best when everyone keeps everyone else in mind. So once you’ve invested in a pair of new hiking boots, focus on that old fashioned hut etiquette.a