One of the best things about hiking in the Alps is the number of high-quality mountain huts offering hearty meals and a comfortable bed for the night. The convivial atmosphere, spectacular sunsets and hearty local cuisine make staying in a mountain hut a cultural experience not to be missed!To make your stay more comfortable, I’ve put together a list of essential kit to pack for your overnight adventure:
Although some mountain huts offer private rooms, you should expect to be sleeping in a mixed sex dormitory on bunk beds. For some reason hikers seem to snore very loudly, and so you won’t want to be without your ear plugs!
Sleeping bag liner
In the Alps mountain huts come equipped with duvets and pillows so you don’t need to carry a sleeping bag. However, the sheets are by no means washed every day. It is therefore considered essential etiquette to sleep in a sleeping bag liner to keep the sheets clean for the next hiker. You can buy silk or cotton liners. Silk ones are more expensive, but they pack down much smaller, are lighter and stay cleaner thanks to natural antibacterial properties.
Read more about etiquette in a mountain hut
There is electricity in most mountain refuges in the Alps, but a head torch is still a good idea. Some hikers go to bed very early and it’s considered extremely rude to turn on the dormitory light if you enter the room when people are already asleep.
Clean clothes for the hut
Whilst not essential, a few clean items of clothing will certainly make your (and everyone else’s!) stay more comfortable. I always pack a clean t-shirt, socks and underwear that I can change into when I arrive. The t shirt can also couple up as a pyjama top for sleeping in and I wear the clean socks the next day for hiking. If I’m staying in huts a few days in a row, then I keep one t-shirt and one pair of socks aside to wear in the hut only.
Personal wash kit
The extent of your personal wash kit depends on how much you’re willing to carry and the facilities available in the hut you are going to stay in. Huts on popular hikes such as the Tour du Mont Blanc and Haute Route often have showers that you can pay for. In this case you will want to carry a small microfibre travel towel and shower gel as they are not supplied. If I’m just staying in a hut for one or two nights, then I tend to skip the shower and take baby wipes with me instead.
On the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route, Alpenwild stay overnight in the Cabane de Louvie and the Cabane de Prafleuri, both of which have a shower.
Don’t expect to be able to pay by card for your night’s stay in a refuge. On Alpenwild trips the guides will pay for your night’s stay and food – you only need cash if you want to buy alcohol.
A pack of cards
One of the best things about sleeping in a mountain refuge is the friendly, communal atmosphere. Everyone sits together on long tables to eat dinner and afterwards most people stay up for a while to chat and play games.
Spare batteries/solar charger
Charging points for mobile phones and cameras are at a premium in mountain huts. To save the stress of fighting over a charging point, I suggest carrying spare batteries or a solar charger to wear on your pack when you’re hiking.
Lunch and snacks for the next day
Your stay in a mountain hut includes dinner and breakfast the next day. Some huts offer packed lunch for the next day but it’s worth checking ahead just in case. If you’re a particularly hungry hiker, be sure to carry extra snacks. Although dinner is huge, breakfast is usually just bread with jam and a hot drink. On Alpenwild trips, our guides will make sure you have extra snacks for breakfast and the next day’s hiking.
To save overcrowding in the dormitories, you will usually be asked to leave your hiking bag and poles in a dedicated room. I keep all of my ‘refuge specific kit’ such as my sleeping bag liner and wash kit in a separate waterproof bag. That way, when I arrive at the hut, I can just pull that bag out of my back pack and leave it on my bed. This lets other people know that bed is occupied and saves me faffing in my back pack to find things. Simple!
Learn about Hut etiquette
To find out more about what to expect in a mountain refuge and the important etiquette rules you should follow, check out my other blog: ‘What is it like to stay in a mountain refuge.’