THE BUDGET TRAVEL MINUTE
Just because you love the outdoors doesn't mean you want to sleep on the ground. There's a solution for people who are interested in great hiking, but don't want to totally rough it.
It's called hut-hiking. You stay in lodges and huts right off the trails in places with beautiful scenery, such as New Zealand, New Hampshire's White Mountains, and the Alps.
Inside each hut are bunks similar to what you'd find in hostels, but occasionally there are private rooms.
Guests generally have access to hot showers and a communal kitchen, and sometimes there are even restaurants that serve four-course meals with local wines. And after a long day on the trail, you certainly deserve a reward.
Networks of backcountry lodges make it possible to hike a new trail each day and wind up in a different hut each night. In the alps, the distance between huts is usually about five miles, which is doable for beginners as long as you're in decent shape.
Remember: most huts come with beds and food, so you won't have to carry all that much gear. Prices are around $70 to $80 per night for lodges that provide cozy comforters and include breakfast and dinner.
To find backcountry huts, consult guidebooks or local tourism offices. You're guaranteed to meet cool, friendly people, and the huts are sure to come with more comfort--and fewer headaches--than camping.