Victorian High Country Huts Code of Conduct

What are Victoria’s High Country huts?

Huts of all shapes and sizes were built in the Victorian high country from the mid 1800s by cattle musterers, fishermen, miners, loggers, forest rangers and more recently ski and bushwalking groups. Most early ones were built using materials at hand, and with basic tools. Many have long gone, but huts are still scattered all over the alpine and high country area of Victoria. Many huts now have significant heritage value. They are a reminder of the struggles of our forebears to glean a living from a harsh land.

Scattered throughout Victoria’s alpine region are hundreds of historic huts built by a wide variety of groups including graziers, prospectors, the Forests Commission, Country Roads Board, utility providers, and recreational users such as ski and hiking groups.

The huts were built to provide shelter and refuge in remote areas with whatever bush materials were at hand or could be carried in, such as corrugated iron.

Over the last twenty years, concerted efforts to restore these huts has been made thanks to the Victorian High Country Huts Association (VHCHA) and the incredible volunteers.

Given their location among the forested areas of the alps, protecting these high-country huts from the current bushfires has been a challenge for Parks Victoria rangers, Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighters and the Victorian High Country Huts Association.

Some people are under the misconception that alpine huts are there to be used as overnight accommodation. This is not correct. Here’s a few guidelines to help you better appreciate our high country huts and what you can do to help preserve them.

A few important points…

  • Huts are for emergency use only and are not to be used for accommodation.
  • Huts are not for exclusive use of any party. So if you arrive first then be prepared to share the hut with others seeking ‘temporary’ shelter.
  • Under no circumstance are commercial tour operators allowed to utilise huts for overnight accommodation or for their exclusive use. This is a breach of their license code of conduct and if you do find commercial operators using huts for this purpose they should be reported to Parks Victoria.
Bluff Hut Victoria
Bluff Hut Victoria

Use of High Country Huts

The following guidelines apply to all huts in National Parks or State Forests in Victoria.

1. Enjoy the hut, learn about and respect it’s heritage

The hut and its surroundings are in many cases the last remaining legacy of past cattlemen, foresters, miners and settlers. Many are now maintained by volunteers. Please treat them with respect.

2. Always be self sufficient.

Do your research before setting off and take suitable supplies, clothing for the conditions Always let someone know your intentions. Never rely on reaching a hut. For remote trips we recommend carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB ).

3. Fires – the biggest risk to you and the hut

Lack of fire care has destroyed many huts and risked lives of occupants. Keep the fire to a sensible size, which is generally less than half the fireplace opening. You must keep a watch on your fire at all times. When you leave, fully extinguish it.

4. Staying overnight ?

Unfortunately due to building codes, overnight stays are not permitted in many huts, unless in an emergency. You may arrive to find a hut unavailable for many reasons. Always take a tent or swag to sleep in if necessary.

5. You must share the hut with others

Huts on public land are a shared resource. You can’t reserve or take over a hut for your exclusive use. You must welcome others inside if they wish to take shelter or see the hut.

6. Graffiti and Vandalism

Any wilful damage to a hut, including graffiti, is a prosecutable offence. Most huts have a visitors book, please use that to leave your memories.

7. Toileting

PLEASE don’t use a hut as a toilet (yes, people do). Many huts have toilets nearby. If not, take your shovel, walk at least 100 metres from the hut or campsite. Dig a minimum 15cm deep hole to use, and cover with soil after. Do not leave toilet paper on the ground or attempt to burn it.

8. When you leave

Always leave the hut clean and tidy. Take all your food and belongings with you. Ensure the fire is COMPLETELY out by dousing with WATER until cool to touch. Close the doors and windows securely to prevent animals entering.

Ritchies Hut Victoria
Ritchies Hut Victoria

Victorian High Country Huts Code of Conduct

Huts code of etiquette

Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos. Huts are a fragile piece of our Australian heritage and require our care and protection to survive.

Huts are for temporary shelter only

Huts are for temporary, emergency shelter only not for accommodation. Enjoy visiting the huts, but do not use them for overnight accommodation as their cultural values can easily be destroyed. In Victoria some huts are not available for public use.

Never rely on reaching a hut

When mountain weather closes in huts can be difficult to find. Ensure you are equipped to camp out as blizzards can occur at any time of the year. In severe weather, take shelter before you get wet and tired.

Use a fuel stove

Using fuel stoves for cooking reduces firewood consumption around huts. Some areas are designated fuel stove only. Escaping fires will severely damage the delicate environment, and firewood can be scarce or even non-existent above the tree line.

Leave the hut clean and secure

Leave the hut as you would like to find it. Check that the fire is out, restock dry firewood and close the door and windows securely. Don’t leave emergency food stores in the huts, they clutter up the hut and encourage rats.

Keep fires small

Please keep fires small and within existing fireplaces. Never leave the fire unattended and ensure it is out before leaving. If you need to light a fire in an emergency or to keep warm, make sure you keep it small. If you have to light a fire be sure that you replenish all used firewood as someone may need it in an emergency.

Log books may save your life

If you fill in the book in the hut, stating the details of your journey, number in the party and intentions it may assist in search and rescue operations. If the log book is full, please inform the park ranger or VHCHA and it will be replaced

Respect heritage

Huts contain evidence of its past and the people that built and used them. Huts were also often located in areas which were used as camp sites by Aboriginal people, so please do not do anything to disturb the environs around huts.

Got to ‘Go’?

Use a toilet or take a walk – at least 100 paces from hut and campsites. Dig 15 cm deep and cover well.

Collecting water

Collect water from upstream of the hut to avoid possible pollution. Boil water for at least five minutes to avoid gastroenteritis and giardia.

Pack it in, pack it out – Leave no trace

Pack to minimise rubbish, don’t take potential rubbish such as bottles, cans and excess packaging. Don’t bury any rubbish. It is often dug out by native animals and may harm them.

Carry on the tradition

Huts have always been left unlocked, stocked with matches and a small amount of dry firewood and kindling. People generally looked after each other. They needed to if they were to survive the rigours of mountain life. This tradition, maintained today, has helped many people in trouble and will undoubtedly help more, maybe even you.

Guys Hut Victoria
Guys Hut Victoria

Report inappropriate incidents, vandalism or criminal behaviour

Please REPORT any hut damage or inappropriate use to Parks Victoria 131963 or DELWP 136186.

For observed vandalism or criminal behaviour, take details and report to Crimestoppers 1800 333 000.

For further information visit Victorian High Country Huts Association.

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