A Guide to Staying in a Backcountry Hut
Hut to hut hiking is an iconic experience in New Zealand, known to locals as “tramping”. With around 950 huts across the country, New Zealand has one of the best hut networks between its hiking trails. But huts are not hotels; designed to give you basic relief and shelter from the elements when spending a few days outdoors. With that, it’s best to be prepared and set your expectations right for staying in a New Zealand hut. So, find out what it’s like to stay in a hut in New Zealand in this guide.
The Different Types of Huts
There are four different types of backcountry huts in New Zealand that are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). They differ slightly in facilities and prices. It’s worth noting, however, that even huts within the same category differ in facilities. For that reason, check out the hut facilities on the DOC website for the specific hut you are staying in.
Great Walk Huts
There are 10 New Zealand Great Walks with their own hut category. Great Walk huts are equipped with at least a water supply, heating, mattresses, washing facilities, toilets and heating with fuel and a hut warden. Some have gas cookers. Prices range from NZ$15 to $110 per person night, depending on the walk, the season and whether you are a local or international visitor. Prices are updated frequently so head to the pricing page on the DOC website.
Similar to the Great Walk huts, serviced huts have mattresses, water supply, toilets, handwashing facilities, heating with fuel available and sometimes a warden. They are the most common type of hut you’ll find in New Zealand. Prices are NZ$15 per adult per night and NZ$7.50 per child.
Standard huts are more basic. They have mattresses, a water supply and a toilet, and sometimes a wood burner. Fees are NZ$5 per person per night.
Basic huts/bivvies provide basic shelter with limited facilities. Sometimes there are mattresses. They are free to use.
What to Expect and What to Take at a Hut
Knowing what to expect from a hut in New Zealand will help you know what to take. Again, check out the hut facilities on the DOC website for the specific hut you are staying in so you have a better idea of what to expect.
Sleeping in Huts
Huts have large shared sleeping quarters with mattresses lined with a waterproof fabric. There are typically two bunk levels and mattresses lined up side-by-side on each bunk. Quarters sleep from four to up to 40 people, but usually around 10 people.
Cooking in Huts
Most huts have benches to prepare food and that’s it. Some may have sinks with running water, while the most “luxurious” of the Great Walk huts have gas cookers. You will not find electricity, rubbish bins, food, cooking utensils (in most cases), nor someone to clean up after you.
Most huts only have a drop/pit toilet in a cubicle outside of the hut. Some huts have flushing toilets. There are no showers, no soap and no toilet paper. Occasionally, a hut has hot water.
What to Pack for Staying in a Hut
- Camping cooking pot
- Cooking/eating utensil
- Camping stove
- Camping butane gas canister
- Water bottle
- Water filter (or boil water to treat it)
- 4-season sleeping bag
- Food – check out recommendations in our Camping Food List
- Rubbish bag
- Toilet paper
And for general packing tips, head over to How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand with tips that apply for all New Zealand hut to hut hiking.
How to Book/Pay for a Hut
Almost all of the huts in New Zealand have a fee to stay (except for the ones we list in 12 Free Multi-Day Hikes in New Zealand). Some huts require you to book your space in advance, while others are on a first-come-first-served basis with a hut pass or ticket.
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.
Huts are booked through the DOC website by following the links on your chosen hut page or through the DOC booking system. You can pay with a Backcountry Hut Pass, credit/debit card; but not with a hut ticket. You can also book some huts through DOC visitor centres.
Some huts are first-come-first-served but still have a fee. To pay this fee, you need either a Backcountry Hut Pass or a Backcountry Hut Ticket.
A ticket can be purchased at a DOC visitor centre and these retailers are listed on the DOC website. Put your ticket in the honesty box of the hut.
For paying with a Backcountry Hut Pass, write your name and pass number into the hut book. Also have proof of a Backcountry Hut Pass, print or digital, and identification in case they are requested by a hut warden.
New Zealand Hut Etiquette
If you’re new to staying in huts in New Zealand, here are some hut etiquette that you need to know.
- Leave shoes/boots and wet clothing outside
- Roll out your sleeping bag on an empty mattress to claim that place to sleep
- Don’t move other people’s stuff
- If all beds are taken, sleep on the floor (and out of the way)
- Store mattresses upright after use
- Cook with a window open
- Only cook on metal benches, if available
- Keep your belongings and bags tidy and together
- Keep noise to a minimum, especially after dark and early morning
- Follow the fire/log burner rules for the hut
- Restock wood supplies you use (but don’t cut down live trees)
- Fill in the hut book, if there is one
- Welcome new arrivals; don’t act like you own the place
- Don’t put rubbish in the fire or down the toilet (take it with you)
- Be friendly
- Sweep the floor if you’re last to leave the hut
- Kids are welcome, but they must follow the above hut etiquette too.