Turks – a new design for a lightweight cabin in the hinterland

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A lightweight plastic mountain cabin that can withstand extreme conditions and can be transported by helicopter to remote locations could be the future of accommodation in the hinterland and beyond.

The huts are called Turks and are made up of 26,000 liters of plastic water tanks, so they are waterproof.

A club has been set up to build and set them up, but also to have fun using them. There are currently nine setups – three in Antarctica and six in New Zealand, including on Treble Cone and Coronet Peak.

Adventurer and designer Erik Bradshaw told Checkpoint until now they had been built by volunteers and were cheaper than some traditional mountain huts.

He had wanted to find a way to make mountaineering a more comfortable experience, to encourage people to get outside more.

A Turkish cabin among the mountains at Vanguard Peak, near Queenstown.
Photo: Delivered/ Mountain Turk Club

“Many nights” spent in frigid, ice-covered tents motivated him to come up with a new solution.

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“I thought about the idea of ​​carrying bags of cement up the mountains and plastering rocks together and things like that… I wasn’t the first to think of all the different uses of a plastic water tank, but I definitely took the quality of it to a new standard.”

Bradshaw said the Turks were round, 10m2, with four bunk beds each, double glazed and fully insulated.

They had cooking facilities inside and a toilet in a separate building.

The inside of a Turkish mountain hut at Vanguard Peak, Queenstown

The inside of a Turkish mountain hut at Vanguard Peak, Queenstown
Photo: Delivered/ Mountain Turk Club

“So even though it might be minus 10 degrees outside, with four people inside, it’s a nice temperature,” he said.

“They have all the sort of stuff that makes your backpack heavy if you’re already going up into the mountains, so you can pretty much go in with some sort of daypack and some lightweight food and have a really enjoyable night or two.”

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The Turks are light enough to be towed to their locations by helicopter, but to avoid being blown away by the wind, a cavity under a false floor allowed 3 tons of gravel to be loaded into each to counter it. to keep.

Bradshaw said each Turk cost about $20,000 to build and install — which works out to about $5,000 per bunk.

By comparison, he said Department of Conservation (DOC) cabins cost about $50,000 to $70,000 per bunk to build — about $700,000 for a ten-bunk cabin.

So while the Turks couldn’t sleep large groups “as far as a small hut it’s unbelievable,” he said.

A Turk mountain hut at Deep Creek, near Wānaka'

A Turk mountain hut at Deep Creek, near Wānaka’
Photo: Delivered/ Mountain Turk Club – Shayne Galloway

At the time there were none on DOC land.

“There’s tremendous community support for building these things…I’m just doing it for the love and the fun, and to get together with good people,” Bradshaw said.

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“The hard part of this project is to work through the bureaucracy and just get permission to build them. Then once you get the permission, to get 50 people together to go ‘yahoo, let’s do this “Let’s make it happen” is quite simple.

“I have yet to tackle the Department of Conservation.”

Bradshaw speculated that the Turks could also be a useful low-cost solution for situations such as emergency housing in the event of a disaster. But he pointed out that if road access to sites was available, there were already a wide variety of other alternatives – while the Turks were unique in their aptitude for being helicoptered to a site.

Bradshaw said he was happy to share the design without charging for the intellectual property, but he was careful to ensure that anyone who adopted the idea built their own Turk to a high standard.