Should You Get a Hut Pass for Hiking in New Zealand?
Multi-day hiking or “tramping” is an iconic Kiwi experience. It’s a rewarding way to spend some time outdoors and soak in the scenery. What’s more, there are around 950 huts along New Zealand’s hiking trails allowing you to ditch the tent and have somewhere to stay along the way. Although you can pay for these huts individually, which you can learn more about in our guide to staying in a hut in New Zealand, you could be saving money by buying a Department of Conservation (DOC) Backcountry Hut Pass. On the other hand, you could be caught out, like so many hikers, and find that their hut pass doesn’t work for the huts they’ve chosen to stay in. It’s kind of confusing, so find out how the hut pass works and whether it is worth getting in this guide.
Backcountry Hut Pass Price
- 6 Month Pass – adult (18+) $120; youth (11-17) $60; child (5-10) $60
- Annual Pass – adult (18+) $160; youth (11-17) $80; child (5-10) $80
Children and infants 4 years old and under are eligible for a free hut pass. Note that there are discounts available to some alpine club members. For individual hut prices, check out New Zealand Hut to Hut Hiking: What is it Like to Stay in a Hut?
Where Can You Use a Hut Pass?
The first thing to note about the DOC Backcountry Hut Pass is that you can’t use it at all huts. Although you can use it at most huts in New Zealand, you can’t use it at many of the most popular ones.
Hut Pass Exclusions
The huts that the Backcountry Hut Pass is not valid for include:
- Great Walk huts
- Serviced alpine huts including Almer Hut, Centennial Hut, Chancellor Hut, Pioneer Hut, Barron Saddle Hut, Empress Hut, Hooker Hut, Kelman Hut, Mueller Hut, Plateau Hut, Tasman Saddle Hut, Aspiring Hut, Colin Todd Hut and French Ridge Hut.
- Private and club huts on DOC land
- Sole occupancy accommodation and lodges
- Popular huts between October 1 and April 30, including Peach Cove Hut, Pukeiti Forest Hut, Pinnacles Hut, Welcome Flat Hut, Angelus Hut, Blue Lake Hut, John Tait Hut, Lakehead Hut, Sabine Hut, Speargrass Hut, Upper Travers Hut, West Sabine Hut, Brewster Hut, Daleys Flat Hut, Dart Hut, Greenstone Hut, Liverpool Hut, McKellar Hut, Mid Caples Hut, Shelter Rock Hut and Siberia Hut.
See a full list of huts where the Backcountry Hut Pass is not valid on this page of the DOC website. Plus, learn more about the different types of huts in Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.
Is the Backcountry Hut Pass Worth It?
If your plans are to mostly stay in any of New Zealand’s most popular huts and/or Great Walks huts, as is the case for many, then the Backcountry Hut Pass might not be for you.
On the other hand, if you plan on staying in huts that are eligible with the hut pass, which is most of the huts, then it’s worth looking into the Backcountry Hut Pass. The hut pass can be good value if you plan on staying in at least seven serviced huts within a year, bearing in mind that individual tickets for serviced huts are NZ$25 per adult (Adult Annual Pass: $160 ÷ Serviced Hut: $25 = 6.4 nights of stay).
How Does a Hut Pass Work?
Backcountry Hut passes work differently depending on whether you’re staying in a bookable hut or a first-come-first-served hut (i.e. a non-bookable hut).
Using a Hut Pass to Book a Hut
Some huts can only be stayed in if booked. Find out whether you need to book your chosen hut on the DOC website. Bookable huts are selected to show on this page of the DOC website.
If your chosen hut is a bookable hut then log in to your DOC account on the DOC online booking page. Type in the name of the hut you wish to stay at and enter the number of people who hold a hut pass and the number of people who do not hold a pass. The booking system will calculate any fees payable, which might be the case if the hut is not covered by the hut pass or if you are booking for non-pass holders.
After reviewing the booking and terms and conditions, click “reserve” and you should receive an email confirmation. Take this confirmation and a copy of your Backcountry Hut Pass with you to the hut.
Using a Hut Pass to Pay at a First-Come-First-Served Hut
At a non-bookable hut, write your name and pass number into the hut book. Also have proof of a Backcountry Hut Pass, print or digital, and identification if requested by a hut warden.
How to Buy a Hut Pass
If you’ve got this far and realised that you absolutely need to have a hut pass, then these are two ways to buy a backcountry hut pass; either online or through a DOC visitor centre.
Buying a Hut Pass Online
Buy a hut pass on DOC’s online booking website. You’ll need to create an account, select a pass and choose a date that you want to first use your pass on. After making the payment through their website via credit/debit card, your Backcountry Hut Pass will be linked to your DOC account. Plus, you’ll receive a booking confirmation email along with a digital pass PDF to either print or show to hut wardens when required.
Buying a Hut Pass at a DOC Visitor Centre
You can also purchase a Backcountry Hut Pass at any DOC visitor centre. Find your nearest visitor centre here. Alternatively, call either the Wellington Visitor Centre or Kauaeranga Visitor Centre who can purchase a pass online for you for a fee.
More About the DOC Backcountry Hut Pass
That’s it for our guide to the DOC Backcountry Hut Pass. For more multi-day hiking tips, campsite passes and more, take a look at the following guides:
- DOC Campsite Pass: How it Works & Is it Worth it?
- Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide
- 15 Free Multi-Day Hikes in New Zealand
- 10 Awesome Alternatives to the New Zealand Great Walks
Finally, check out some of the best hikes across the country in The Top 50 Hikes in New Zealand.