The wilderness hut network in Finland is probably one of the best in the world. The network if supported by the state and the huts kept in immaculate condition, due to both the consideration of the hikers and regular maintenance. British clients are regularly astounded at the pride in, and care of, this great resource by the Finns and are they inspired, when visiting, to treat them with the same level of respect.
The most common and well-known type of free, open huts are open wilderness huts which are meant for one-night stays. They are usually located in the northern and eastern parts of Finland, usually in roadless backwoods. Other open huts include day trip huts, open turf huts and Lapp pole tents although these are all intended as places to stop and rest in daytime rather than overnight locations, unless in exceptional circumstances.
Pets are permitted in Open Wilderness Huts and Day Trip Huts in Northern Lapland, but only if other visitors agree. They are generally not permitted in the reservable huts.
Nature tourism enterprises may use wilderness huts and other service structures such as campfire sites as resting places when arranging group tours or hikes, but this requires permission from Metsähallitus. Please note, however, that staying overnight in open wilderness huts is forbidden if on a paid tour or hike. In these cases, groups should stay overnight in reservable or rentable wilderness huts or hotels or lodges. We also recommend that all larger groups use tents or reservable wilderness huts as accommodation because of the impact on accommodation availability such a group will have on others hoping to stay in the open huts.
Reservable huts are meant for hikers, skiers and paddlers to use. These are different from reservable turf huts, rental huts and rental cabins. Rental cabins, for instance, are meant for longer-term stays and rental huts can be rented in their entirety (which wilderness huts generally cannot be).
Reservable wilderness huts may either be detached or semi-attached cabins, with the open hut sometimes in the nextdoor space. As with open huts, users may or may not be the only people in the hut. Obviously you can check how many people have booked space before you at the time of booking since all reservable huts and cabins require a fee to be paid in advance in exchange for a key.
Reservable huts have a few advantages over the open huts and we generally encourage our guides to opt for these when doing personal journeys since the cost of using them is marginal and paying the fee contributes to the continuation of this amazing service. Not only can you be sure of your bed, when you have booked it in advance, but you can also take a lot less equipment with you when hiking or skiing since all of the bookable huts are equiped with bunks for sleeping on, a table, benches, cookware, a stove and sometimes a gas cooker. In addition, there are usually mattresses, blankets and pillows as well as firewood, an axe and a saw, so you generally need to only carry a sleeping gbag liner and your food with you, even in winter (although having a small emergency sleeping bag with you in winter is always going to increase your general safety).
You can check what exactly is in each cabin prior to setting off from the detailed Metsahalitus website if you are unsure.
NB: Once you reach your hut, you will find that most contain an information booklet which tells you everything from what to do nearby and how to use provided equipment like stoves to any specific rules and regulations which pertain to its use. The information folder will also include a statement from the health authorities about whether or not the quality of water at the hut's water point is tested regularly. If not, it is always wise to boil drinking water before use.
Neither smoking nor pets are allowed in most of these huts and you should always take care to assess the condition of the hut's fireplace or wood stove before lighting a fire. In most huts you should only burn clean paper and guidance is provided as to what is acceptable to do with other waste products. In general, there is the expectation for you to simply carry it out unless there is a compost / dry toilet where you can put biodegradable waste.
Camping is allowed within the vicinity of the huts and shelters.
Before you leave each hut, you are encouraged to sign the hut’s guestbook and to write down your next intended destination as well as making sure that there is a supply of chopped firewood ready for the hut’s next visitors in the designated place. Before leaving, tidy-up the hut and its surroundings, empty the water container, take the ashes out of the wood stove to the place marked for them and close all the hut’s doors and windows properly!
Rental huts are meant for hikers, skiers, canoeists or row boaters to use in nature reserves or wilderness areas. They are locked and a fee is charged for staying overnight. Huts are rented as a whole for a certain night or for a couple of nights. They have the same facilities, more or less, as the reservable wilderness cabins and the same rules of use. However, the entire hut may be used by the individual or party who have reserved it for the amount of time they have reserved it for.
Locked rental cabins are suitable for hikers who like to stay with their own group, and maybe stay for a week or so. There are many kinds of rental cabins, of different size and with different standards of facilities. More information can be found on the Wild North website (www.wildnorth.net) or from the customer service number tel. +358 203 44 122/ +358 203 44 122.
Open wilderness huts are simple buildings meant for hikers, skiers, canoeists or row boaters to use. These unlocked huts are suitable places to stop and rest, or stay in for one or two nights without making a reservation. Whilst all of the equipment which may be available in a reservable hut may also be available in an open hut, the general rule is that when there are both types of huts in an area, there will be fewer facilities in the open hut and therefore you will have to carry a little more equipment with you (eg sleeping bags, pots and pans etc) if you want to opt for the open hut option. Information is available as to exactly what information can be found in each hut ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly. Smoking is still not allowed in the open huts but pets are accepted in some of them so long as any fellow overnighters agree.
One new rule with open wilderness huts is that they are really targeted at people moving under their own steam so visitors using other modes of transport or those out on an organised group tour or hike may only use open wilderness huts as resting points during the day (and only then if they have permission to do so from Metsähallitus). You also have to make room for visitors arriving after you, as the last to arrive at a hut has the primary right to stay there overnight (presumably on the basis that they are generally, then, the most in need). In reality, it is rare for late-comers to kick those already settled in, out. Normally everyone just tries their best to fit the new people in but beware...some of these huts are pretty tiny!
Day trip huts, whilst similar to open wilderness huts, are generally located near to tourist centres or on well worn trails and they are only meant as resting places for eating or warming up for hikers passing by rather than for overnight stays. Of course, in an emergency, it is possible to stay overnight in a day trip hut but you will likely have to sleep on the floor because there are usually no sleeping bunks in them. Other facilities might actually be quite generous (pots, pans, wood etc) but it just depends on the hut. Each hut also has its own rules about whether or not pets are allowed in, so it is worth checking ahead of time.
Tourist enterprises wishing to use day huts with their clients must again first get permission to do so from Metsähallitus.
Turf huts are small buildings which are partly underground with a roof made of turf. Some turf huts are only meant to be used during the day whilst others can be used for one or two nights without reservation. Occassionally there are turf huts in which sleeping space can also be reserved. The facilities in turf huts are very basic. In some turf huts, there are bunks for sleeping but in most, hikers have to sleep on the ground. There is usually a fireplace or a stove, and a dry toilet.
Lapp pole tents are meant as stopping places for hikers passing by. Lapp pole tents are usually located nearby marked trails or snowmobile tracks. In an emergency, it is possible to stay overnight in a Lapp pole tent around the central fireplace but there are usually only benches around this - ie no sleeping bunks - and there may not be a wooden floor. There will, however, be firewood, an axe and a saw so you will at least be able to make a warm fire.