Everything you need to know about huts
“There are a lot of stories out there, waiting for you to live them.” Author unknown
Huts make great shelters for bushwalking trips, particularly in landscapes with unpredictable weather, rain and even snow. Huts are common in alpine areas such as the Snowy Mountains (e.g. Kozi huts) as well as cooler wetter climates like Tasmania (e.g Tasmanian huts).
Check Checking the hut is suitable before your trip
Hut use in Australia is based on honesty and respect. Virtually all Australia huts do not have a permanent warden, caretaker or ranger living there, so visitors are expected to respectfully use the huts and leave them in good conditions for subsequent visitors.
Formed in 1970, the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) helps conserve and manage huts for their heritage value and potentially life-saving service, particularly in high alpine regions where visitors may use huts as an emergency shelter. KHA push the heritage value of huts for cultural and safety regions, coordinate reconstruction work and encourage responsible use by everyone (from recreational users through to scientists). Despite their main focus being in Kosciusko, KHA does maintain and protect huts around Australia.
Not all huts are open to the public. Some are privately owned, and others that are for emergency use only. NPWS does have a few huts that they actively manage, and these have an online booking system: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation
Huts used by bushwalkers generally fall into two categories: huts that are for overnight use where bushwalkers are welcome to spend the night, and huts that are for day and emergency use only. In the case of the latter, people are welcome to hang out in these huts during the day and use as a short respite but are discouraged from spending the night unless there is an urgent need to do so (in which case, guests are welcome). The key thing here then is to plan your route accordingly, and check that your intended hut for the night is open to being used as an overnight shelter. You may also want to include day-use huts on your route for lunch and food stops along the way.
Bushwalker groups must be self-contained and carry all the gear they need to camp out at all times and in any conditions (e.g. tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag etc), in case there is no room in the huts, or they are delayed reaching the huts due to unexpected conditions (e.g. poor weather, injury). Check your gear accordingly.
Use in field Using huts in the field
Most huts used by bushwalkers in Australia work on a first-come-first-serve-basis, whereby visitors simply show up and take pot-luck as to whether or not they get a bed. This means that bushwalkers will generally carry a lightweight shelter as a backup.
Huts usually have a designated sleeping area (usually bunk beds), where people can roll out their sleeping bags. Some huts have mattresses provided, whereas others are simply wooden structures, so bushwalkers will need to carry in a sleeping mat.
There is usually a log book and information sheet in the entrance area or on the dining table. The logbook not only provides a historical record of who has visited, but it also is also an important record for search and rescue authorities in an emergency. Fill in the logbook with details of your party and your trip intentions. If the logbook is full, contact land managers when you get home and request a replacement.
The Kosciuszko huts association has a good summary information for visitors here:
Care & Maintenance Caring for huts
Huts are there for everyone to use, and guests are expected to behave courteously to others and make new guests feel welcome.
In general, users are expected to follow these guidelines:
- Share the facilities with other visitors and make new visitors feel welcome.
- Keep fires small. Never leave a lit fire unsupervised. Make sure that the fire is completely out before leaving.
- Replenish firewood: huts provide refuge for visitors, and there is a culture that current visitors restock wood, kindling and match supplies for future visitors to enjoy.
- When cooking, use gas stoves outside, and away from any materials that could ignite with a flare up. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if stoves are used in closed areas without good airflow. Some huts are gas stove only. If you can, use a gas stove to reduce wood consumption directly around the hut.
- Report any hut damage (e.g. leaks, cracks etc.) to land managers upon your return.
- Use pit toilets if provided. If not available, find an appropriate place 100 away from the hut or water supplies.
- Use tank water sparingly. If collecting water from a source nearby, collect upstream and purify if necessary.
- Carry out all rubbish, sweep and clean up hut before leaving. Do not leave any food behind as this encourages animals.
Selection Choosing a hut
The Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA) is a great starting point for getting information about possible hut use for bushwalking trips. The website has up to date information on hut condition and size. Use this to double check that it will meet your party’s needs.
Some things to consider include:
Is the hut near the track or will you have to detour significantly? Will this impact upon route planning?
Facilities and access
Use photos to check what facilities are available at the hut and that access will work for you and your group. Some huts have pit toilets, while others require guests to go away from the hut. For people with mobility restrictions, check critical issues including things like that rooms have minimal steps and bathrooms are wide enough to access. Likewise for other types of impairments or disabilities within your group.