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Trail Hut Systems and Environmental Sustainability

Trail Hut Systems and Environmental Sustainability

On 2 September, Jeff Marion and Sam Demas joined the World Trails Network’s Trails Talk session to discuss with participants how trail huts impact the environment in positive ways.

This online discussion looked at the results of a recent groundbreaking recreational ecology study conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Marion, as he chatted with Sam Demas. The study compared the environmental impacts of huts, lodges, and tent sites. It seems that huts are designed to absorb human impacts and put more people through the backcountry with less trampling of soils and vegetation, etc. Do they actually work this way?

Jeff Marion
Dr. Jeff Marion is a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, stationed at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he is an Adjunct Professor with the Natural Resource Recreation program. Jeff specializes in recreation ecology research – the study of recreation impacts to protected natural areas. He is among a small number of scientists internationally who focuses on trail and campsite science research, which examines the elements of sustainable site design and management. He is a recreation advocate who regularly consults with land managers on actions to avoid or minimize visitor impacts through sustainable trail and campsite design, management, and low impact educational practices. He is a founding member of the Leave No Trace Board of Directors who helped guide development of the LNT principles and practices and authored their official book “Leave No Trace in the Outdoors.” He is an avid outdoor recreationist who is active in backpacking, climbing, canoeing, and caving and has led a co-ed youth Venture Crew for 16 years.

Sam Demas
Sam is a self-described “hut nut”, an independent researcher studying hut systems around the world. His aim is to inform a growing conversation in the USA about the roles of huts on trails. He is particularly interested in huts supporting multi-day treks, and in their potential roles as affordable, environmentally friendly infrastructure to support recreation, conservation, education, therapy, and spiritual development. As USA becomes increasingly urbanized, huts may provide affordable solutions to getting urban and suburban citizens on trails for multi-day pilgrimages fostering an ethos of biophilia. Sam is working with US hut operators to establish a community of practice, the US Hut Alliance, and he has a website disseminating information about huts ( He and his partner have just completed a book introducing Americans to the idea and reality of hut systems: Hut to Hut USA: the complete guide for hikers, bikers and skiers Mountaineers Books).

You can watch our interesting discussion via the relevant recording.

Moreover, you can have HERE a look at Dr. Marion’s insightful presentation on overnight camping options – huts vs. others – during the session, plus additional material on trails, recreation and sustainable camping management he has shared with the World Trails Network. Thank you, Jeff!

More to come on how the ‘hut experience’ protects the environment by Sam Demas in the upcoming Trails & Beyond magazine (Vol. 6) about to be published in late Fall 2021.

Stay tuned!

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