Preparing a multiple days hiking trip in France, you have three main choices to rest and pass the night:
- An hotel or guesthouse in civilised area
- Camp or bivouac with the equipment you carry with you
- Sleeping in a refuge or mountain hut
This article details how the mountain refuges work and the things you should know before you go.
How does a mountain refuge works?
A refuge (or mountain hut) is a maintained house in a key location. It enables hikers, climbers, skiers, mountaineers to enjoy the mountain in good conditions. While bringing some comfort in remote place, they are not hotels but convivial shared places.
In France, refuges are sometimes public, sometimes private and sometimes managed by the French national mountaineering club (FFCAM, or CAF).
Guarded and non-guarded refuges
A refuge can be guarded or non-guarded. A guarded refuge is manned and managed by a gardien who takes care of the guests by providing a place to sleep, dinner and breakfast. Each refuge has its own functioning but most of the times, here how it works. When you arrive, present yourself to the gardien. Dinner is served at set times. You should give a hand to set and clean the table. Food is usually good, not gastronomic but perfect to restore your energy.
Sleeping in dormitories is the rule, even if some refuge tends to build separate and smaller rooms. Guests usually sleep early and wake-up early, sometimes very early…
In non-guarded refuges, you will have access to a dormitory and sometimes to a place to prepare your cooking. As nobody manage the refuge, you are in charge of keeping the place clean.
Prices of a night in refuge
In guarded refuge, prices are usually between 40 and 50 € per person and per night for half-board. Night only would cost you around 20 €. Non-guarded refuges are not free and you will have to participate in the operating costs (gas, wood, kitchen ustensils, etc.) and drop around 10 € in a box.
Water and electricity
Most of the time, refuges are limited in water and electricity supply. As a consequence, a shower may not be available, especially hot shower. Some refuge even have no water supply and you should bring your own. As for electricity, power is supply by solar cells, sometimes by a genset. Hence it is limited and you may not be able to load the battery of your phone.
Besides, you should take your rubbish with you when you leave.
Booking your night in advance
Booking in advance is appreciated. Usually people book by phone. If you have trouble with French language, ask your previous host to book for you for the next night. Alternatively, you can try to book online, as more and more refuges enables online booking. For example, the Vanoise national Park and the National Mountaineering club provide an online booking solution for some of their refuges.
Equipments for a good stay
The refuges usually provide you with blankets to keep you warm during the night. However guests are asked to bring their own travel liner or sleeping bag. A headlamp, a light towel and earplugs are also essential.
You are now ready to enjoy a night in the middle of the Alps!
Pictures Wild France / ©