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All About Nude Hiking
While most people don't have much of a reaction to the mention of skinny dipping (besides some giggling), when it comes to hiking nude it just seems, well, strange.
People who hike naked say they feel much more comfortable without the weight and feel of clothes and being naked gives them a sense of freedom and enhances their experience. For anyone who has never hiked naked (such as myself), some questions about logistics arise like: What about bugs, chafing of sensitive skin and the comfort of jiggly bits that will be bouncing around for miles?
Not a problem, say nude hikers. Sweat evaporates off your body much quicker without clothes that would otherwise hold the moisture making you less attractive to bugs. Plus, ticks are much easier to spot with nothing on. Chafing of newly exposed skin can be a problem for some but a little Vaseline takes care of it. As for the jiggly bits, I didn't find any solutions to that one except perhaps to embrace the experience and freedom of letting them jiggle.
In general, hiking nude in the United States might seem to be a bit of a new concept but is quite popular parts of Europe. In fact, a hiking trail specifically catering to nude hikers will open in Germany's Harz Mountains this year. The trail will not exclude hikers who would rather wear clothes, but there will be signs posted along the trails that say things like "If you don't want to see naked bodies, don't go any farther!". This is to ensure there are no surprises for clothed hikers and to help make nude hikers more comfortable on the chance they run into clothed hikers.
Great Britain's most famous naked hiker, Stephen Gough, aka "The Naked Rambler", twice hiked the length of Great Britain wearing nothing but shoes, socks, a backpack and a hat. His purpose in doing these Naked Walks was to celebrate the human body and to "campaign to enlighten the public, as well as the authorities that govern us, that the freedom to go naked in public is a basic human right." He was arrested and released several times during both treks (and subsequently jailed for other public displays of nudity).
In Switzerland, a case against a nude hiker recently made headlines. A man hiking nude was detained and fined by the police in the town of Appenzell for indecent behavior. The hiker challenged the charges in court and although he was cleared and the charges dismissed, there are now politicians working to pass a new law that would make hiking without clothes on illegal. (On a side note, the town of Appenzell is located in the northwest part of Switzerland and is notoriously conservative. It was only in 1990 that it granted women the right to vote.)
If you decided to leave your clothes behind on your next hike, here are some practial tips:
- Check your local laws before heading out. Getting stopped by the authorities wearing only shoes, socks and a backpack will not enhance your hiking experience.
- Hike in places away from populated areas and high traffic trails. Some people hike fully clothed until they've reached a remote place and then disrobe, while others get to the trail heads early, take their clothes off there and head out. It's also best to hike on weekdays when they are less likely to encounter other hikers, especially families with children.
- It is better to hike in groups if you're going to go nude. It shows any people you may come across that you are a legitimate naturist hiker and not a pervert.
- If you do come across other hikers, act natural (I love this piece of advice). Acting nervous while naked in front of clothed people can cause more problems than if you just say hello and keep going.
- Wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Remember you have more surface sun exposure without clothes on plus areas that may never have seen the sun.
- Have an article of clothing handy in case you do come across anyone, such as a family with children or a ranger, and need to cover up quickly.
- Have clothes with you in case of an extreme weather change or treacherous climbing. Sliding down gravel and picking your way through a thorny patch of shrubs is a much different experience without shorts on.
- Do some research on what kinds of poisonous plants, such as poison ivy and oak, are in your area. Make sure you know what they look like since you will not have the same protection from them as you would with clothes on.