Across the Alps there are numerous mountain huts in the most breathtaking locations. Depending on what country you are in, the may be called Hütte, Rifugio, Refugio or Refuge. These mountain huts provide shelter for hikers during multi-day treks and a place to sleep after a long day of hiking. Last weekend I spent my first night in a mountain hut, so I want to share with you what to expect for your first mountain hut experience.
What To Expect From Your First Mountain Hut Experience
Whilst mountain huts differ in their size and facilities, there are some things which are pretty universal wherever you are heading. So what can you expect for your first mountain hut experience in the Alps?
Mountain huts are relatively small and beds are limited so it’s essential to book in advance. It’s best to arrive early, especially if you’re with multiple people, as beds in the rooms are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. You should aim to arrive before 6pm, and must let the hut know if you will be late, as some huts will give away beds after this time as they may assume you are not coming. Once you’ve found your room and picked your bed, it’s best to make up your bed right away so that you’re not fumbling around in the dark later in the evening when some of your fellow hikers may have already turned in for the night.
Facilities in huts vary, but don’t expect luxury. Mountain huts are basic – after all, they are usually in pretty remote locations where upkeep and even general maintenance can be challenging. But they are warm and dry, and give you the chance to rest after a long day on the trails. WIFI is a rarity, mobile phone reception can be sparse and hot water comes at a price. Most have communal wash rooms with sinks and toilets, but if you want a hot shower, expect to pay €1-2 per minute of hot water. Most have electricity, but you might find that it’s turned off during the night.
Food & Drink
Most huts offer hot meals, either as part of the rate or the option to upgrade. The food is basic and you might find it’s a set meal, but it will be warm and filling, which is exactly what you’ll need after a long day hiking. Meals are served in the communal area of the hut, usually around large tables where everyone sits together. Dinner is usually served between 6-8pm and breakfast from 6-8am. Most huts are self-service, so you’ll need to go up to the counter to order and to get drinks, and be expected to clear up your table when you’re done. It’s usually cash only and huts prefer small change so make sure you have plenty with you.
Some huts may offer smaller rooms for 2, 3 or 4 persons, but because space is in demand, you’ll mostly find bunk rooms for 6 persons and the “Matratzenlager” (mattress room) where mattresses are laid out in a long row (with small dividers in-between). Mattress rooms are the cheapest option in mountain huts. You’ll get something soft to lie on, a cushion and up to 2 blankets. They are usually in the attic and can sleep from 10+ people, with 2-3 people per mattress. Even though there are cushions and blankets, these are not changed everyday. You’ll be expected to have your own hut sleeping bag, which is a thin sleeping bag liner for sleeping in.
The first thing you’ll be expected to do when you enter a mountain hut is to take off your boots. There is usually a boot room, and sometimes there are slippers that you can borrow. Otherwise, walking around in your socks is also fine. Many boot rooms also have clothing lines hung from the ceiling where you can hang up your wet clothes too – just make sure they aren’t dripping on someone else’s stuff. When it comes to sleeping, be respectful of your roomies. Have a torch if you need to see things in the dark, and try to be as quiet as possible if you are coming in late or leaving early.
Most huts don’t have a lot of options for waste disposal, so you’re expected to take your rubbish with you when you leave, and generally leave everything exactly as you found it.
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