Accommodation, in whatever form it takes, is an important consideration for any prospective trail owner. Accommodation can take the form of anything from a cave or camping site to a fully equipped chalet. An important consideration is that what you advertise in your brochure must conform to what is actually present. For instance, if you advertise that you supply hot water showers, then theses must be in working order and capable of showering the entire group that you allow to book.
Whether you are creating a weekend day route trail or a backpacking trail the base camp requirements are basically the same. The base camp needs to be readily accessible by road by standard town cars and under any weather conditions.
For a backpacking trail you can ask hikers to park at the farm and hike a short distance to the overnight hut but here you are limiting the hikers due to the fact that they have to arrive in sufficient daylight time to get to the hut. You will find that you will always get the late arrivals who pitch up at night, so that this is a rather unsatisfactory option.
Safe parking is also vital. Safe from theft and vandalism and also safe from fire. I know of a group of hikers who left their motor cars in a designated parking area only to return after the hike to find that their cars were nothing but a charred mess. The long grass around their cars had ignited and set the fuel tanks ablaze! Not a very good advert for the trail!
The provincial council can be approached for the erection of one of their brown information boards otherwise a clearly visible board needs to be erected indicating the entrance to the trail, visible at night. Clear directions from the road to the hut are also essential otherwise you or your neighbours may find that you might have knocks at your door in the middle of the night. Some fluorescent makers are quite a good idea.
The building can be (and often is) an old farm building. If you decide to build, then a natural stone building is better than a wooden one as it needs less maintenance and is not as prone to fire. A thatched roof is beautiful but one has to consider the fire hazard.
Enough room needs to be provided so that hikers can store their stuff close at hand. Hooks close to the head of the bed are a good idea. Hikers often use candles if there is no electricity and it is a good idea to provide candle holders that are screwed to the walls or ends of the beds.
It is not essential to provide electricity for lighting or heating water. However, this must be noted in your brochure and booking confirmation. Paraffin lanterns are an adequate alternative but these need to be filled and primed before the hikers arrive. A two plate gas stove is a welcome addition to a hut but also not essential. A large kettle is more important, one that can be boiled on the open fire.
A braai lapa with at least one sturdy braai and braai grid is essential. It is better if this is under cover. Wood for the braai needs to be placed in a dry place. I would suggest that you provide sufficient firewood for a braai but offer additional firewood at a cost.
Huts should have bunk beds and mattresses. The mattresses should be a reasonable thickness and should have removable covers that can be taken off and washed. It is not necessary to have separate dormitories for women and men but is is a good idea to have a few rooms so that some hikers can get away from those that snore. A communal kitchen is a good idea with a table and chairs.
At least one toilet and one shower should be provided for ten hikers of part thereof. The ratio should ideally be less with separate facilities for women and men. The toilets at base camp should be flushable and should be maintained to a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene. There is no worse impression of a trail than to arrive at a trail basecamp and find smelly and dirty ablutions. The showers can be heated by electricity, gas or a 'Donkey' boiler. The donkey system is fine if you have a good supply of cheap firewood from exotic trees such as Black Wattle that you might have on your land. LP Gas can be a fire hazard but is quite cost effective.
Overnight camp on a backpack trail
The overnight camp on a backpack trail can be more basic depending on how accessible the place is. The camp can be in the form of an old farm building, a large rock overhang or even tents. I have even seen an old container used as part of the camp. Beds and mattresses are not essential as hikers can carry their own roll up mattresses. Ablutions can be as basic as chemical toilets and a nearby perennial pool in a stream. This is the basic needs of hardened hikers, but if you desire to attract a wider group of hikers then facilities similar to base camp can be looked at. The most important requirement is an adequate supply of potable water and a dry and clean place to cook, eat and sleep. If a cave is used, then it must be wired of to prevent cattle using it for shelter.
It is important to note that, whatever is used for a overnight camp, it still needs to be readily accessible by farm vehicles for servicing, the replenishment of firewood, removing of rubbish and in the case of emergencies.