Summer is all about getting out into the wilderness, exploring a new area and spending the night away from home. Camping is a one way to get this fix, but then there’s finding a site, putting up a tent, building a fire and all the chores that come with actually camping. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you want an outdoor experience that requires a little less set-up and includes some of the comforts of home — without having to admit to friends that you’re “glamping.” In these situations, a hut trip might be the perfect answer.
In Colorado, there more than 160 huts and yurts (that’s another story) with the vast majority of the huts located in national forests and designated wildernesses in the mountains in the central and southwestern parts of the state. These cabins in the woods come in varying sizes, sleeping anywhere from 4 – 22 people at a time. Some are winter-only huts, which means that you’d access them with snowshoes or skis, but there are plenty of huts that are open in the summer, too. Much like camping, there’s really no wrong way to do this, but there are definitely things that can elevate your hut trip to a haute trip. Here are a few tips for planning a stellar experience.
Step one: Go online and figure out where you’d like to go. A simple search for “huts in Colorado (or insert your state here)” will pop up results on the varying systems in your area. I can’t guarantee that there are huts everywhere, but you’d be surprised what you might find. The good news is that summer hut trips are slightly less popular than winter trips. The bad news is that it still pays to plan ahead. But worry not — if you can be flexible you can find some open dates.
Finding open dates and reserving your spot is key. As mentioned, the huts can sleep a limited number of people and those who already reserved spots are most likely not going to be thrilled to have unexpected company. Along those lines, though, meeting new people is not a bad thing. In the bigger huts, it’s not uncommon for several groups to bunk together for the evening to fill up the hut. Which brings us to the next point…
Make a plan
This may seem repetitive to the prior point but having a plan and communicating with the other folks on this adventure is very important. Before a group of 16 other people and I embarked on our hut trip, we exchanged multiple emails, a shared spreadsheet and several phone conversations. This was mostly due to the fact that we had a trip leader who was a rock star, so consider nominating or appointing your super organized friend to be trip leader. What did we discuss? Meal planning was the big thing.
Yes, you’re getting out into the woods to be one with nature, explore a new place and soak up some sun. But you’re also doing this in a place that is already stocked with pots, pans, gas burners (usually) and/or wood burning stoves, etc. Heck, we found a full complement of wine glasses in our hut when we got there. So since you’re not exactly roughing it, why not take advantage?
Plan your meals. Designate meals to folks or let everyone know that dinner will be a communal affair, but breakfast and lunch are on your own — whatever works for you. Camping food always goes over well, but being creative isn’t a bad idea either. We enjoyed pork carnitas one night complete with all of the fixings; the next night was chicken shawarma. Just cook everything a head of time, freeze it (it’ll defrost on your way there) and reheat. Or marinate and double bag it. Après is appropriate in almost every situation so why not enjoy a little après at your hut? Pack cheese, cold cuts, nuts, etc. for an Instagram-worthy charcuterie spread and enjoy.
True story: You don’t have to eat everything you pack but running to the store is not an option.
What to pack
Remember the part where the huts all have beds? Yep, this means that you can be a lean and mean packing machine: Save the weight you’ll carry for food and beverages. Those are important.
But other than your gourmet spread… As with any camping trip that requires you to pack in and pack out, weight and size are a factor. This is not the time for fancy gadgets and, best of all, the hut should be furnished with cooking utensils which will lighten your load. Pick a sturdy, lightweight pack and be sure to pack your sleeping bag. Once you pick a bed, you can just throw your sleeping bag on top and snuggle in.
You’ll need clothes to hike to the hut, plus something warm and dry to change into once you get there. Though you don’t need a full wardrobe (especially if it’s just an overnight trip), you can’t overemphasize how great cozy is. Pack warm, comfortable clothes to change into after you hike in; a pair of slippers is also a great addition as the floors can be chilly before you get the fire roaring. Be sure to check out the amenities at the huts, too: Ours had a wood-burning sauna.
Other helpful hints/things to consider
Planning and executing a hut trip is a fairly easy, low-key way to get into the backcountry. However, here are some basic tips that you’ll want to remember:
- Start early in the day. This is a good rule of thumb for most things, but not only will you avoid afternoon weather, but you’ll also have more time to relax and explore at the hut when you get there.
- Make sure that you — and everyone in your party — has a good idea of where you’re going before you start on your journey. Most trails are well marked, but extra preparation never hurts.
- The huts aren’t just left open to the elements: You’ll probably need a key code to enter the hut. Make sure that everyone in your party knows this code before you start on the trail.
- Figure out the water situation ahead of time. Some huts have running water, but most rely on snowmelt (in the winter) or nearby streams. Have your water purification system in mind, whether you take a filtration system or plan on boiling everything.
- Be prepared to pack in and pack out — trash can still be heavy, so take that into consideration when planning your libations.
- Take earplugs.
There you go: how to hut trip in the summer. It’s a fabulous way to get out and enjoy nature without the work that can come with traditional camping. Add in the ability to bring a group of friends and the comfort of actual beds and you have the perfect opportunity for an unforgettable outdoor adventure.