I didn´t grow up in Scandinavia, so at first, the thought of being member of a national trekking or tourist association seemed not exciting to me.
But I was wrong.
Even many Swedes or Norwegians that like to be outdoors, hike, ski, climb or bike might not be all too familiar with the advantages of these organizations.
The cool things about the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT – Den Norska Turistforening:
- They have over 500 huts!
- They maintain 20.000 km of marked trails in summer and 7.000 km of marked skiing tracks in winter.
- Some huts are more like mountain hotels with a restaurant and gear rental, other´s are locked with a key.
- You can get a key that opens the doors of several hundred hut doors, in the most incredible places for 100kr (10€).
- In the self-service huts there are groceries stocked, which you can pick and pay for them afterwards.
- They also do have organizes hikes, as well as courses for glacier travelling or climbing, for instance.
The cool things about the Swedish Tourist Association (STF – Svenska Turistföreningen):
- There are 43 mountain huts and 14 mountains stations you can use as accomodation. In the huts things are simple, with no electricity and a fireplace for warmth. In the mountain stations you get all the comfort – from a restaurant to phone connection.
- As a member you can even use the huts throughout the day for free to cook food, use the sauna(!), use their outhouses or just hide from the rain and the mosquitos inside the kitchen.
- If you aren´t comfortable with hiking/skiing in the Swedish mountains or you can´t find company, you can join one of their guided tours (which is even possible if you can´t spreak swedish, cause everyone will talk english to you).
- By being a member in STF you will automatically get all the benefits in all Youth Hostels, not only in Sweden.
- STF members get all DNT member benefits (and the other way around).
The general advantage in being a part of these associations is, that you feel a bit like being member in a secret club, especially in Norway.
To me it feels everytime like a little adventure to hike through the mountains, until you come to one of the huts, in the middle of nowhere. You take out your key, open the door and see what will be your home for the night. The first thing you should do, is to write yourself into the protocol and see when the last guests where here – this might have been yesterday, a month ago or last year. Maybe there are even other hikers that already arrived in the hut, just today. You may want to start a fire in the oven if it´s cold, take a bucket and go to the river to get some water and check out what the hut has to offer.
In the swedish huts, it´s pretty much the same, besides the fact that there is a warden working voluntarily throughout the season. The warden will welcome you, do the payment and make you familiar with the hut. Also there are little shops and wood fired saunas in many huts. Outside of the season one of the huts several buildings is always left unlocked, to serve you in the case of an emergency.
This immense offer of cozy accomodation, often combined with the chance of getting to know other hikers and having a chat over dinner in a warm, wooden hut, is so much cooler than just staying in a camping or a hostel. From my point of view, at least.
There are so many volunteers, who make these associations what they are and one traveller will take care to leave the hut for the next, just as they would wish to find it themselves. This makes staying in the huts of STF and DNT so special.
The Swedish Tourist Association recently changes their guidelines and has made all huts free to use during the day. This is really good news for all members, who want to camp somewhere else, but perhaps still like to have lunch indoors or wish to relax in the sauna for a bit. Even if you just want to use the toilet or wash your dishes it´s pretty awesome, I think.
Of course these organizations even do a lot of other stuff, that I haven´t listed here, but since they don´t pay me for advertising, I´m not obliged to write it all 😉
If you are interested just visit their websites and inform yourself about their prices and conditions.