Category Archives: Books/resources

Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts: book review part 1

Book Review by Sam Demas:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part one of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

With its highly-organized system of 1,000 backcountry huts New Zealand (NZ) — about the same size (area and population) as Oregon — is the hut capital of the world.  By comparison, the USA has about 110 huts operating within 17 different hut-to-hut systems; Switzerland and Norway each have about 500 huts.  Every nation’s approach to outdoor recreation — including how its citizens organize overnight stays in the wild — is based on local causes and conditions such as geography, size of the country, climate, terrain, history, economics, politics, and cultural values.  Shelter from the Storm is a richly illustrated, well-researched history of the causes and conditions that created NZ’s unique hut culture, and a beautiful tribute to the huts themselves.

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Shelter from the Storm – Introduction to a Book About History of New Zealand Huts

Below is a reprint of the “Introduction” to the book: 

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

Embedded below is the 14 page, beautifully illustrated “Introduction”, by Shaun Barnett, to the remarkable book Shelter from the Storm. In it he provides an overview of the benefits, history, and architecture of New Zealand huts. His “Introduction” gives the reader a feel for the book as a whole. For more on this book, see my two part book review of Shelter from the Storm click here for: part 1 and part 2. Continue reading

Shelter from the Storm: book review part two

Book review continued:

Shelter From The Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts

(Part two of a two part book review)

2012, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ.

Text and most photographs by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, and Geoff Spearpoint.

For part one of this review click here.  Following are some fascinating themes and stories that are skillfully elaborated in Shelter from the Storm, about New Zealand Backcountry Huts.

This book tells the story of how a geographically remote island nation came to create a robust international outdoor culture, and how a disparate collection of huts built for other purposes – I like the phrase infrastructure lying in wait — came to form the backbone of the world’s largest hut system. Continue reading

“On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor

On Trails: an exploration by Robert Moor, Simon and Schuster, 2016

Book Review by Sam Demas

Robert Moor is intellectually intrepid in his exploration — as a writer and a walker – of the genesis, meaning and wonder of trails.  Trails of all kinds.  He writes in the spirit of intellectual adventure represented by authors like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Robert Macfarlane, Annie Dillard, Jared Diamond, and Bruce Chatwin.  Through fluid writing, artful character sketches, long walks, and deep research, he opens our eyes to the fact that trails are everywhere one goes in the world, and that they all have stories to tell and wisdom to impart.  As Moor says, his book is a trail whose destination is a quest for the wisdom of trails. I’ve read (or listened to) this book several times in the past year and am finally sharing my enthusiasm with the readers of hut2hut.info. Continue reading

How America fell in love with camping: book review

Book Review of Under the Stars: how America fell in love with camping by Dan White (Henry Holt & Co., 2016)

by Sam Demas

This is a pretty good popular-level introduction to the development of recreational camping in the USA, which the author characterizes as “a Victorian passion that got out of hand.”  Unfortunately, a significant part of the author’s methodology is to take the reader along on a series of camping trips that he believes allow him to come close to living through what the people of the era experienced.  While Dan White is an experienced hiker and a very good story teller, I personally found the device of including his personal camping stories a bit tedious and beside the point.  Others will disagree. Continue reading

News: Great New Yorker article about Via Alpina and the hut-to-hut experience

Poet, writer and walker James Lasdun has published a wonderful exploration of the delights and challenges of the famous Via Alpina, and the experience of walking hut-to-hut.  Published in the April 11, 2016 issue of the New Yorker magazine, this is a delightful and serious essay on the Via Alpina, a trail that wends its way through 8 nations and has more than 300 huts spaced a days walk apart.  He describes parts of the trail, gives glimpses of hut life, and relates his own challenges and observations in walking a portion of the trail in the Triglav National Park in Slovenia.  Its not often that an American general interest magazine devotes space to describing the hut-to-hut experience, and this one — humorous, well-written, and informative — is an especially worthy contribution to America’s growing consciousness of the hut experience of long distance walking.

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Book Review: “The Hut Builder”, by Laurence Fearnley

Published by Penguin Books New Zealand, 2010

With 950 huts in a nation the size of Oregon, huts are a vital part of New Zealand’s landscape and imagination.  What I loved most about this novel, in addition to this it’s sensitive portrayal of the life story of a quiet poet-butcher named Boden Black, was an even quieter main character: the “Far-light hut”.

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Book Review: “The Old Ways” by Robert Macfarlane

Book Review by Reidun D. Nuquist

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Penguin Books, New York, 2012). 433 pp., $18.00 paperback.

This elegantly written book by Robert Macfarlane is about “how people understand themselves using landscape.” Or put another way, how “we are shaped by the landscape through which we move.”

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“A Hut in the Wild”: essays on huts from down under

Book notice of “Hut in the Wild” by Dianne Johnson, with a link to chapter one Hut as Inscape.

Dianne Johnson’s quirky, delightful, and inspiring book Hut in the Wild (http://www.loveofbooks.com.au, 2011) explores the hut as an archetype, “a cabin of the imagination, and inscape, it is redolent of a lost paradise regained, a gleaner’s bliss….and sometimes a place of hospitality.”  Dr. Johnson, an anthropologist, has compiled a series of essays as homage to the hut as a powerful “inscape”, or idea and  archetype. Johnson wrote books on many topics (including Aboriginal social justice and indigenous astronomies), and this little book (97 pages) is a flowering of her love affair with huts and wilderness.

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New journal published: “World of Trails”

The World Trails Network (WTN) has published the first issue of “World of Trails”.  Robert Searns, editor, states in his welcome note:

This publication is the first global resource of its kind, serving trail advocates, designers, planners, trail managers, tourism industry professionals, national economic development agencies and, of course, trail enthusiasts from around the world.  Our goal is to offer, on a regular basis, with this digital magazine, current information about trails, featured trails in many nations, access to trails development resources, a forum for exchange on trail matters and much more.

Check it out for an international perspective on the WTN’s movement to bring advocates and experts together around the world and to promote high quality trails worldwide.