Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Etiquette in Trail Shelter Living

Who hasn’t loved the idea of finding a safe and dry place in a trailside shelter to shield one from the elements?

Especially when the rain is falling hard, and you don’t need or want to get your tent or gear
any wetter. In times like this, shelters can provide a safe haven from storms. But there is also etiquette that needs to be observed. After all, this is not just one person’s dwelling place for a night, but many. You will share that space with those you may or may not know. You will also likely be sharing it with shelter creatures too – anything from insects, to mice, snakes and even larger mammals.

I stayed in a shelter one stormy night while on my sectionhike of the AT (Appalachian Trail) a few weeks ago. What I observed in the shelter led me to write up seven ideas of etiquette in shelter living:

Rock Spring Hut in Shenandoah
1.       Realize that you will likely NOT be the only one in the shelter. That means, don’t monopolize it with your belongings, taking every hook, etc. DON’T set up your tent and hammock in it either. A guy had strung up his hammock in it that then limited other hikers trying to find a place to bed down for the night and store their gear. NOT courteous.

2.       If you know you are a snorer at home, chances are it will be magnified outdoors. PLEASE then don’t use the shelter. There is nothing more miserable than sleeping beside a snorer, even with earplugs in (which everyone should carry, btw). To the snorer - you will likely have many more enemies in the AM too.

3.       If you know you will be getting in late, like after hiker midnight (usually 9 PM) set up your tent. I was rudely awakened at 10 PM by three dripping wet hikers looking for space. If you choose to hike late, that’s fine. But be courteous by not waking up others in the shelter by coming in and demanding space, making everyone move, firing up your stove, etc. Set up your tent. That also goes for the early
A tiny shelter on the Allegheny Trail
riser before 6 AM. In both instances, do the right thing and tent. And also, use a headlamp with a red night light feature. There is nothing worse than a white LED light glaring all around the shelter. One guy flashed his for half the night as he wanted to read at 2 AM. A red light would have made things much better for those that would rather sleep. If you are a late nighter like that – tent.

4.       Don’t smoke cigarettes, pot or anything else in the shelter. Don’t use your cell phone in the shelter either. Other hikers don’t care to inhale the nicotine, drugs, or hear you talk to your girlfriend. That’s your business, so do it away from the shelter or better yet, tent.

5.       If you are feeling sick, DON’T use a shelter, period. This is mainly how norovirus epidemics hit the AT every year. Avoid all public places – picnic tables, privies, etc. until you are totally well. If you know of someone who is ill, get out of the shelter area. Wash your hands. No sharing food either.   

6.       Make sure your food is stored away properly for the night. I was appalled the next AM to find not one of the other five hikers in residence had hung their food. They left it all in their packs sitting on the shelter floor. Normally it would have been attacked by critters. Always hang your food and cookware preferably by bear rope away from the shelter. That goes for NOT leaving excess food, trail magic or otherwise in shelters or hanging from poles, cables or in bear boxes. Someone had left trail mix just sitting there in the shelter when I arrived. Don’t do it!

A bag of trash left in a shelter fire pit at Niday Shelter. NO!
7.       The shelter is NOT for creating a library of books, magazines, or other reading material that then turn into fodder for mice or the beginnings of a trash pile. No one wants to drag your book around. Don’t leave extra gear and clothes (no one wants that either), food, empty fuel canisters, or trash. The shelter area should be left clean. Volunteers take care of it and they do NOT want to go and clean up your trash. That also goes for the shelter fire ring. DO not leave trash in it. I even found a full trash bag in one shelter fire pit. Empty food wrappers weigh a lot less! Carry out everything!

With some common courtesy and keeping your gear and food safe and carrying out all trash, shelters can be a place of refuge and fellowship for all. 


Bridget Carlson said...

That's great advice! I have never used a trail shelter before, but I assume as I start doing much longer hikes (I just day hike now) I will come across shelters that I may need to use.
Bridget | http://nuttyhiker.com

Virginia said...

Well said...especially about those that snore. They sleep peacefully while everyone else is awake. I just don't get why they are so rude and insist on sleeping in the shelter.

Davin said...

I thought these tips were really useful. It drives me up the wall, when I walk into a shelter off the trail and see garbage laying around. Fortunately, most hikers I come across in Utah are pretty clean. But there is always room for improvement.

Aileen Curfman said...

Love the Tumbling Run Shelters (iirc) in PA. 1 labeled "snorers," the other "nonsnorers." Way better than 1 big shelter.