Public Use Cabins, Yurts, Fire Lookouts
So you have a little kid or two and you want to go camping but the thought of sleeping in a tent gives you pause. No worry; the backcountry is loaded with some amazing public use cabins, fire lookouts, yurts, and shelters. These homes in the woods offer a great alternative to tent camping for those who want to get out –with a solid roof over their heads.
- How much do they cost? Fees range anywhere from free to $60 or more per night. Most can be reserved up to 6 months ahead of time. Many fill up quickly, so you would be wise to reserve yours well ahead.
- How big are they? Some are just 12 feet square and sleep 6 whiles others will easily sleep 12 or more.
- What about heat? Lots of variety here too! Some have wood stoves, others oil stoves and a few even have propane heaters. Find out before you go what the heating option is. If it’s wood, there should be an axe/maul/saw at the cabin, but don’t count on it. I always pack my own. Cabins are harder to heat than tents due to their larger size, so plan accordingly. In the winter, we usually pull out at least one sled with just wood on it. Oil stoves can be a hassle to light—at least for me! I try to reserve cabins with wood stoves.
- Other considerations? Go to your local public lands office to see pictures and detailed descriptions of the structure. Make sure you check out access—some are only accessible by air, others by boat. I tend to avoid ones with stairs with toddlers. Likewise, a fire lookout may not be best choice with early walkers, but tons of fun with older kids. In cold weather, I get the smallest cabin our family will fit in to reduce the amount of heat we will need. Some folks pack out kiddie gates to put around wood stoves—a much easier task when you are pulling a pulk in the winter. Some cabins come equipped with sleeping pads—I usually bring my own—comes from too many years working in a hospital.
Before I had kids I have to admit I considered cabin camping to not be “real” camping. Post kids, I think cabins and yurts are great. They provide a dry, warm, bug free haven after a day’s hike/ski. They give kids who are unsure about sleeping in the woods, a more familiar surrounding. They make cooking and food storage a whole lot easier in bear country. They give you a space to dry out your gear in wet conditions. They are significantly cheaper than hotels and get you deeper into the backcountry allowing you and your family to experience wilderness on a more intimate level. Reserve yours today!
What to read more about camping? Check out these great links: