Written by Ylenia Cantello
Making the experience of a night in a mountain hut is an opportunity to get in touch with other mountain lovers.
A refuge is the place where language barriers disappear and friendships can be created throughout life: love for the mountains is a very strong glue.
Furthermore, being surrounded by the mountain environment, so extraordinary in all seasons, brings us closer to the truest and most vital part of ourselves.
But there are rules to be respected and rules of good behavior, just to better enjoy this adventure, respect the nature around you and the other people who are there with you.
In addition, some useful items cannot be missing from your backpack.
1 - WARN OF YOUR ARRIVAL
It is always a good idea, as well as a courtesy gesture, to warn the mountain hut manager of your arrival at least one day in advance, but often even more. In this way it will be able to organize itself regarding the availability of beds and food supplies. You will thus give him the opportunity to welcome you at best.
Also consider the usefulness of communicating to the mountain hut manager that he will have to wait for you that day at that time: if something happens to you, not seeing you arrive will activate to start your search.
Also at the mountain hut it is always a good idea to arrive between 16.00 and 18.30, as dinner is usually scheduled at 19.00, and you have time to relax, have a drink and have a chat.
2 - THIS MOUNTAIN HUT IS NOT A HOTEL
The first thing to be clear about is that a mountain hut is not a hotel.
Often in the most elevated mountain hut there is no mains electricity, nor mains water, nor waste collection, nor internet.
Indeed, generally there is not even a telephone signal.
This way you can ensure a true digital "detox": you needed it, didn't you?
3 - RESPECT, RESPECT AND EVEN RESPECT
I will never repeat it enough: respect the nature, the hikers who are in refuge with you, the people who work in the refuge.
Being fit for purpose, being available and not disturbing others will make you live the experience of overnight stay in a shelter in a more relaxed way.
So respect the spaces of others and the common spaces, arrange your things in such a way as to create the least space and obstruction possible.
Cohabitation and mutual respect for everyone's needs are fundamental.
A smile and a kind word will do the rest!
4 - REMOVE YOUR BOOTS
The boots are made to walk on the paths, not inside the rooms!
Put in your backpack comfortable thin cloth slippers that clutter and weigh little, or light rubber slippers like those for swimming pools, if you plan to take a shower or whatever you prefer.
So when you enter the sleeping area of the refuge (which is on the upper floor) always remember to take off your boots and wear your slippers.
In winter this rule is even more important: boots and crampons must be left at the entrance to the storage room.
5 - WATER AND HYGIENIC SERVICES
Water in mountain shelters is generally supplied by springs in the area and by collecting rainwater in special tanks.
Some shelters may also have hot water produced thanks to solar panels, but will not be available in winter and on bad weather days. If there is a shower, wash quickly and give way to others who, like you, will want to use it.
The bathroom is shared with other hikers and there are never more or less large washbasins where you can wash yourself with cold water.
Put in your backpack:
- toothbrush and toothpaste (preferably in travel format)
- a light and fast-drying microfibre towel
- a bar of soap or biodegradable liquid soap.
Remember: water is invaluable, always use it with enormous parsimony!
6 - ALL AT THE TABLE
If you have decided to stay overnight at the shelter, you will most likely also want to eat.
Many mountain huts now offer half-board solutions at affordable prices. Moreover in the mountain huts of the C.A.I. (Italian Alpine Club) there are reductions on the normal rates for members who present the valid card, or for members of the equivalent association in other countries.
If you wonder how all the food supplies arrive at the mountain hut, know that they are carried on the shoulder, they arrive by cableway or by helicopter.
At dinner you will often find yourself in a single table, or at least the tables are close enough to create a pleasant convivial occasion in which to exchange experiences and get to know each other.
Each mountain hut has its strong dishes, but all bring to the table fresh, genuine local products: mountain cheeses, meats, typical first courses, homemade desserts and the ever-present polenta prepared in large pots.
Good wine never fails, but if you remember to bring a bottle it will be much appreciated.
At the end of the dinner you can't refuse a small glass of flavored grappa of your choice (sometimes too much choice) or local liqueur.
At breakfast you can also find organic jams and honey.
Many mountain huts are becoming increasingly attentive to the dietary needs of the hikers who attend them. For this reason, if you have specific needs, intolerances or allergies to certain products, you can report this to the mountain hut staff at the time of booking. She will be happy to meet you with foods suitable for you.
Last consideration: helping to clear the tables and clean the tables is always a very appreciated gesture. It costs you nothing and you can even live more deeply the spirit of collaboration that reigns in the mountain hut.
7 - AND NOW IT'S TIME FOR SILENCE
At the mountain hut it is recommended to be quiet after 10 pm (sometimes even earlier).
As you can imagine, it is very likely that other people staying with you will have to wake up at dawn to embark on a demanding alpine climb, or simply a long hike. They therefore need silence to sleep, not to hear your talk.
8 - A BED OVER THE CLOUDS
In the mountain hut, generally, there are dormitories with bunk beds formed by wooden planks, even up to three levels high, on which individual mattresses are arranged side by side.
Obviously this scheme may vary depending on the availability of space available to each mountain hut.
For each bed there is a pillow and a warm blanket or duvet.
Remember, however, to carry a light and not bulky sleeping bag liner, in which to place the pillow and slip into it before putting yourself under the covers.
Keep a headlamp handy as from 10 pm all lights will be turned off. If you don't have one yet, buy a good quality one that also has a low-intensity red LED light and activate this function if you have to get up during the night (or if you have to leave at dawn) without risking waking up your companions I'm in a dorm with you.
Also put a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask in your backpack.
In the morning, make one last gentle gesture before you leave: fold the blanket that kept you warm all night and place it neatly on the mattress.
9 - WASTE? IN THE BAG!
In many mountain huts waste collection is entrusted ... on the shoulders of the refuge's manager! Or thanks to the intervention of the helicopter.
And because transporting waste takes time, effort and considerable costs, try to produce the least amount of waste possible and always take it with you when you return to the valley.
This action should now have entered the DNA of every hiker. Show your love for the mountain by carrying your trash in your backpack, and throw it only when you get home.
Read also the post Leave No Trace: seven principles for trekking ethically →
10 - A MOUNTAIN HUT, A BOOK
Before leaving the refuge write your name, where you come from and where you are going, in the mountain hut book.
In this way the refuge manager will be informed about the next stage of your trek and, if necessary, will be able to report your itinerary to the rescue.
IS EVERYTHING CLEAR?
Now, enjoy trekking, the mountain and your night at the refuge!
Quick summary of what you need for a night at the mountain hut:
- Sleeping bag liner
- Thin slippers in fabric or light rubber
- Comfortable clothing or pajamas for sleeping
- Toothbrush and toothpaste, better if in travel format
- Small soap or biodegradable liquid soap in travel size (like 100 ml vials)
- Microfiber towel, light and quick to dry
- Ear plugs and eye mask
- Headlamp with red light LED option
Read also the page How to prepare for photo trekking →
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