Planning a Backcounty Cabin Stay

Destination selected, group set, dates picked, reservation made, gear packed, food readied – even a stay in a backcountry cabin takes planning. I’m just back from a spectacular three-day ski trip into the backcountry where everything went off without a hitch – even the emergency ski repair!

Why did it go so well? It’s simple; we were prepared.

First-class backcountry accommodation!

Tips for a hassle-free backcountry hut getaway:

  • Call to confirm cabin lock combination a day or two before departure.
  • Know your group and plan travel time to accommodate the slowest skier.
  • Do you need to bring a stove and fuel, or just fuel, or is it all at the cabin?
  • If the list says “pots and pans, cutlery, and dishes  provided” and you want a cheese grater or wire whisk or French Press for your coffee – consider that it may or may not be there.
  • When the fine print reads “mattresses supplied”, give a cheer – you don’t need to pack a sleeping pad.
  • If the sleeping is “dormitory style”, don’t forget to pack your earplugs and deodorant.
  • Pack at least one full change of warm clothes (from socks to skivvies to sweater-weight fleece coats and pants) to avoid chill while the fire is heating up the cold cabin.
  • The fire won’t provide much heat if it can’t be lit; always pack a lighter and/or waterproof matches and some firestarter or newspaper.
  • Don’t forget to bring cabin slippers. IMHO, down booties rock.
  • Always pack a well-stocked repair kit – think ski bindings coming loose – and first aid kit.
  • Take a bivy sac or tarp for emergencies while on the trail in or out of your cabin destination.
  • Yes, you’ll need a sleeping bag, but skip the pillow and use your down coat and extra clothes.
  • Use the extra space left from not packing a pillow for packing pillowy-soft toilet paper.
  • A shovel is always worth packing – whether for digging out the outhouse entrance, uncovering the woodlot, or building a practice quinzhee.
  • Chocolate fondue with fresh or dried fruit for dessert is always a hit!

Hut Etiquette (or hutiquette):

  • Carry in/carry out all garbage and unused food – always.
  • For the record, sticking a candle in an empty wine bottle doesn’t mean you get to leave it behind – and why you’d want to pack in a heavy glass bottle when you can use a water bottle or wineskin is beyond me in the first place.
  • Clean up before your departure – that means doing the dishes, wiping down the cooking and eating areas, sweeping the floors, and emptying the ashes Cinders! Others will follow your lead.
  • Leave a well-stocked kindling box and chopped wood supply.
  • Be sure to close up shutters, outhouse door, and fasten necessary locks to avoid hut damage.

What is one of your favorite backcountry cabins?

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