When I tell travelers that Norway has a huge network of open toursit cabins — for everyone to use — people often don’t believe me. I have yet to see this concept elsewhere, but it works very well, and it is used by foreign as well as Norwegian travelers.
You pay a small fee, and are free to use the cabin like your own temporary home. It is all based on trust, and on treating it like you own it — so that the next travelers that come there can enjoy it just as you did.
There are more than 500 cabins owned by Turistforeningen (DNT, The Norwegian Trekking Association), and 1100 in total between other organizations. This, combined with more than 20 000 km of marked trails in the summer, makes it possible to do a cabin-to-cabin hiking holiday. If you are looking for an active holiday, and to get up an close with nature — this is the perfect holiday for you.
How are the cabins?
The standard, size and “luxuriousness” of the cabins (namely electricity and cooking facilities, not spas and concierge services) varies, but they are all equipped and suitable for use. Almost all the cabins have can be used for accommodation, though there are a few which only offer a place to take a break while hiking, or shelter from the rain.
Some are staffed, others are self-service and some of the smaller ones are no-service cabins. In Northern Norway, all the cabins are no-service cabins. It isn’t always possible to book in advance, but if you go to one of the staffed ones, you will always get a bed (even if you have to sleep on a mattress on the floor).
The self-service and no-service cabins are locked with the ‘DNT key’ — a standard key for all the cabins, issued by Turistforeningen. Members of DNT, or any affiliated organization, can borrow one of these keys for a deposit of 100 NOK — which will be refunded once you return the key. A very convenient system to use.
They all offer credit card payment at site for easy use and so that you will not have to worry about carrying around a lot of money while hiking in nature.
Typically, the cabins can be divided into three categories:
The staffed accommodation will serve breakfast and supper, as well as often having electricity and water. These are only open during certain times of the year, but there will often be a self-service cabin next door, which will be open when the staffed one is closed.
Self service cabins
These are well-equipped with everything a hiker needs. Firewood, cooking facilities, kitchen utensils, gas … You name it. They also have bunk beds, with duvets, pillows and blankets. As a bonus, you’ll also find tinned food, soup and dry food.
In these cabins you look after yourself: fetch water, cook and chop wood — like a real Norwegian!
These are a bit simpler. The no-service cabins won’t have any provisions (unless someone left food behind), and may require you to bring a sleeping bag and some utilities yourself. It basically serves as a shelter for a weary hiker.
The Norwegians and their cabins
To have a cabin in the mountains or by the sea, is a fairly common thing in Norway — ‘Everybody’ has one, and they’re often handed down through the family. Even some employers will have cabins for their employees to use! Yes, everybody loves cabins!
Some people use the cabin as a primitive second home, to get away from Facebook, work, and other hassles of modern society. Many people still prefer to have candle lights, a fireplace and water from the creek — even though they could get electricity if they wanted. Other cabins are well equipped, and are comparable to a modern luxury home — in fact, that’s what they essentially are, but we still call them cabins.
To hike over mountains and valleys used to be a necessity back in the day as part of any travel route. Before proper roads and railways, this was how goods and services were transported. Places to stay while; hunting, traveling, or herding animals, were necessary; usually in the form of simple shelter such as cabins.
Now, transportation is handled by different means, but hiking in the mountains for recreation, is just as popular as ever.
Since the 18th century, after the union with Denmark ended, a new era of national romance blossomed — maybe as a counter-weight to the industrialization seen in Europe? After being unionized for so long, Norwegians wanted to get to know their own country. This can be seen in the literature, and in the art from this era. The simplicity of early times, with a cabin in the mountains and ‘living off the nature’ became a dream and ideal for many, and this is also when Turistforeningen bought their first cabins, in the forests of eastern Norway.
For many people, the dream lives on. It is so easy to be consumed by a busy work schedule during the week and even more hours spent on tasks you bring home from the office or job site, but once you go to your home in the mountains, fish, chop wood and live by simple means for a week, life is good! Everyone needs a break to clear their minds and packed calendar schedules every now and then.
Come take advantage of this fantastic system of cabins and get as up close and personal to nature as you like through the different serviced cabins!
For more information on booking, and cabin specific information, check out UT.no