There are few responsibilities I wouldn’t totally blow off for a hut trip. Getting fully off the grid at a cabin in the woods, skiing until the sun goes down, and making snow cone margaritas might be as close to heaven as you can get.
Once you’re there, a backcountry hut trip is bliss. But wrangling gear into small spaces and getting organized for a group trip can be daunting. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that will hopefully keep packing stress to a minimum while you get ready for a refresh in the mountains.
Photo Credit: Eagle Creek
Packing cubes are cool
These cubes from Eagle Creek make packing for a hut trip like a fun game of Tetris. When dealing with a ton of gear, getting it sorted into smaller cubes or bags makes hauling your gear a lot simpler. It’s really valuable to be able to reach into your pack and grab out all your food, or all your sleeping stuff without having to dig through everything. If your backpack is a little small, it also allows you to strap more gear to the outside if it’s contained like this.
If you aren’t Type A enough to purchase packing cubes (reasonable), you can use anything from an extra skin bag to sleeping bag stuff sacks to keep your gear organized within your pack.
Prep and organize your food ahead of time
Depending on how we’ve divided up the food, I try to take everything I’m bringing out of whatever packaging it comes in to make it smaller and easier to pack. For instance, if we’re making eggs for breakfast, I like to crack all the eggs into a Nalgene to consolidate them and protect them. Even chopping up onions and or other vegetables ahead of time can save space since you end up throwing away stems or extra parts you wouldn’t eat anyway. Likewise with salsa or other dressings—take it out of the glass jar and double bag it to save weight and space.
Photo Credit: Therm-a-Rest
Don’t go warmer than 20°F
It sometimes comes as a surprise, but you don’t always need a super warm sleeping bag for a hut trip. I’ve found 20°F to be the sweet spot for many of the cabins and huts in the Rockies—super packable yet warm enough if I don’t get a spot closest to the heat source. Depending on what kind of bedding is available, I’ve had good luck with a down quilt like the Therm-a-Rest Corus 20F/-6C Quilt, which doesn’t provide quite as much warmth as a full sleeping bag but is far easier to stick a foot out in the middle of the night when the wood stove gets going. Plus, it saves a fair amount of space in my pack.
Photo Credit: Mammut
Choose a good pack
Some prefer to stuff all their gear into a massive 80-liter backpacking pack and carry in a smaller ski pack, but I’ve found a good 40-60-liter ski pack (when packed correctly) can get the job done and saves you the extra bulk of carrying two packs.
Mammut’s Trea Spine 50L Pack is my go-to hut pack. It’s spacious enough for a week’s worth of gear, but most importantly, it cinches down small and is incredibly comfortable while skiing. The Active Spine technology articulates as you ski for a more natural feel, and it also lets you adjust the height of the back panel if you’re on a big mission and want to take turns carrying the load with your partner.
Mooch off your friends
A few years ago in the Italian Alps, I remember being blown away at how small our guide was able to keep his backpack. Granted it was Europe where a hut trip has twice the amenities of a cabin in North America, but still—a 32-liter backpack for a seven-day trip was impressive. Another guide told us his tendencies led to the nickname “Moochevi”, since he had a habit of packing light and mooching heavy. I’m not saying do this every time, but if you have a friend who always seems to be over prepared…well, I’m just saying it’s an option.