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Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jul, 2021 1:45 pm
by Zapruda
Hi all,

I'm interested in doing some walking on the South Island next year and want to get a feel for how the huts are used. I'm still weighing up what I would like to do but it could be the length of the TA (SI) or a combination of smaller walks like the Dusky, 5 passes, Rees Dart etc

I don't like the idea of ending each day at a hut. I prefer solitude and camping in the bush as opposed to a building with a bunch of others.

I understand why the huts exists but lets just assume (dream) that the weather will be perfect the whole time. I am fully aware that last sentence and tramping in NZ are not compatible but please humour me anyway.

    - I get the feeling the huts are quite popular?

    - Do people generally opt for huts over free/wild camping?

    - Is wild/free camping frowned upon when huts are available?

Here in the Aus alps, where I frequently walk, we have a good network of historical huts that can be used for emergencies etc. It is always my preference to avoid them in the busy seasons. I cherish solitude at the end of each day, and sitting in or near purpose built shelters when in the bush does nothing for me.

Thanks in advance!

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jul, 2021 2:20 pm
by wayno
some huts are full all summer, a lot of those usually require booking..
the te araroa trail has put a lot of people on tracks that have small huts , putting up to a dozen or more people at a hut with a few bunks.
a lot of people prefer huts esp in bad weather. a lot of tracks have them regularly spaced.
theres no issues with wild camping except near great walks where its not allowed in the summer season outside of the bookable campsites
thers no huts on the 5 passes.
the rees dart huts are usually packed in summer.
the dusky is never packed.

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jul, 2021 6:57 pm
by Aardvark
I generally try to avoid huts but in saying that i have used many. I do my best to avoid Great walks.
If going on a walk with huts that are likely to have more than a few people in them, i make it a point to carry a tent. I recall spending a night in a wood shed next to a hut. I have had many a hut to myself.
I have been on the Five Passes, three times since 2000. Each occasion was structured differently in terms of direction and varying side trips. It's enticing because there are no huts. It brings up the issue of rock bivvies. Of these there are many over the whole south island. Their existence can conveniently save the need for a tent.
Between the first time a saw Dart hut and the last i think it has doubled in size. The campsite a short distance away was pretty full last time too.
Unfortunately camping in valleys where huts are common also means many sandflies. Be prepared. This is a reason why i often choose to camp at altitude. It is not a failsafe but generally less sandflies exist above 1000m. A breeze can make a difference too.

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jul, 2021 7:10 pm
by Zapruda
Thanks guys. I appreciate the responses.

And just to clarify. I’m looking at avoiding huts where possible.

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jul, 2021 10:45 pm
by Joynz
Google the tramp name and select the result from DOCS. The DOCS brochures/descriptions online give info about camping and where it’s permitted e.g. ... ochure.pdf ... art-track/

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Thu 22 Jul, 2021 10:01 am
by Kott
The last time I went to NZ, I didnt take my tent and I did miss it. Some of the huts were full and it was like staying in a hostel...which in it self but sometimes, it was a bit noisy when you wanted to sleep.
Next time, I will take my tent and stay close to the hut as its nice to dry clothes, cook and talk to people if thats how I'm feeling.

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Sun 25 Jul, 2021 7:13 am
by wayno
in the summer season if you are on a great walk and booked on a campsite, you're banned from being in the huts.
its a fine line, since theres gas cookers in the huts, and you're not entitled to use them so they just ban the campers from the huts . although they cant really stop you for using them if you're passing through to the next campsite or road end...

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Sun 25 Jul, 2021 1:44 pm
by Joynz
Bad form though - to use the gas if you haven’t paid the hut charge!

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Sun 25 Jul, 2021 9:31 pm
by bernieq
Joynz wrote:Bad form though - to use the gas if you haven’t paid
Indeed it is.

Also bad form to freeload the huts as well. There are (pre-paid) charges to use all huts (other than a basic hut) and a booking is required for all Great Walks and a selection of other heavily used huts.
The categories of DOC hut are : Great, Serviced (inc Alpine), Standard and Basic.
For details, see

Although noisy huts is certainly one reason to carry a tent, safety is another. A tent can be life-saving if stuck on the wrong side of a flooding river, stopped by accident, seriously bad weather etc etc. (and always carry a PLB - not a substitute for thorough planning but ... ).

If I were tramping a Great Walk (benched track, major streams bridged, lots of people, booked bed), I'd probably not take a tent but I would still take a sleeping mat - those DOC vinyl mattresses seem to suck the heat out of you ;)

If you make it to NZ and the Five Passes, I would recommend including Lake Nerine - shear magic.
Lake Nerine - Mar 2013

Re: Hut culture and camping

PostPosted: Mon 26 Jul, 2021 8:53 am
by Zapruda
Thanks for the responses.

So it seems completely possible to avoid staying in or near huts. That's all the info I was after.

As I said in my OP, I cant really stand ending a day of walking in a building with a bunch of other people. Does nothing for me.