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Hiking in the Nude -- Naturist Backpacking
Hitting the Road to the Modern Wilderness
If you visit only the most famous
places you'll find plenty of crowds, but
there's a lot of remote country people
skip just because it's not well known.
Don't tell anyone you found it unless
you want more company.
Although nude hiking is officially discouraged in most countries, when you get
deep into the backwoods it's not too unusual to blunder across people in
various states of undress, and every now and then it's intentional. Nude hiking
groups have sprung up in many places in the U.S. where trails are remote and
contacts with officials are rare.
In my experience, nudity on the trail seems to increase the farther out you get
and the longer you've been gone. Most of that isn't lewd, it's a reaction to
conditions. When you've been hiking for a week, clothes have become musty
and unpleasant and you want as little contact with them as possible.
Practically that means wearing the outer layer more often than the inner one,
and some people shed more of the outer than others do. Going commando
isn't just hygienic for the military, it works for anyone who's out in primitive
conditions for a long time. The more ventilation and the more sunshine you
get, the better you feel.
European tolerance of public nudity is more common than anywhere in the more prudish U.S., with at least one 18 kilometer trail
where nudity is not just tolerated but expected. Connecting the towns of Dankerode and Wippertalsperre in Germany's Harz
Mountains, the nude trail opened in May of 2010 and offers naturist hikers a legal alternative to the other naturist hiking mecca of
Appenzell Innerrhoden in the Swiss Alps. That region gained some notoriety recently when Swiss officials tried to crack down on
nude hiking by German tourists and discovered there was no law on the books to prevent it -- in Switzerland, public nudity was
legal so long as no lewd behavior went along with it. At least in the Appenzell area there's now a fine to pay if you're caught
nude, lewd or not.
Actually long-distance nude travel is still rare in the U.S. but don't be surprised if there are naked people in the cool pool at the
end of the hot trail. Some remote hot springs are famous for that pleasure and you shouldn't go there if you don't approve.
Unofficially there's even a Naked Hiking Day, declared by those who enjoy the sport, which is unofficially observed on the
Summer Solstice. Anywhere there are mountains and German hikers to travel them, you may occasionally meet an alpine
traveler wearing nothing more than boots and a pack. It's surprising the first time -- the two fellows I met on a trail in the
Cascades some years ago carried breakaway shorts in case they needed to re-enter civilization quickly, but didn't seem inclined
to do that much. And they were only a little bit lewd.