Sunday, September 5, 2004

Essentials for the Nude Hiker

1. Sun Tan Lotion or Oil: Especially if you are hiking the mountains where the sun is much more intense. If you are new to nude hiking, consider using a high SPF factor on your private parts as these areas are very sensitive and prone to severe sunburning. Do not use products containing PABA because many people develop an allergic reaction to PABA. Also, PABA only blocks one component of UV radiation. Use products that block both UV A and UV B. Do not use scented or aromatic lotions and oils as they attract insects (see next item)

2. Insect Repellent:

"It is said that fully 95% of the protoplasm in the far north is concentrated in the bodies of mosquitoes and blackflies. I believe it."

Cliff Jacobson

That's a lot of mosquitoes and biting flies looking for a landing pad to alight and enjoy a blood-sucking meal, and a nudist's bare skin provides a lot of opportunistic real-estate. Take measures to protect your skin. Mosquitoes are attracted not only to the warmth of exposed skin, but also to sweat, fruity fragrances and the carbon dioxide we all exhale. Biting flies in particular in the lower alpine meadows are attracted particularly to the sheening droplets of perspiration on the legs. 100% DEET is the most effective product but I find it irritates me. There are eucalyptus-based sprays on the market that are almost as effective as the toxic DEET (Cutter and Off). I use the Eucalyptus pump spray when I first start a hike, spraying from feet to neck, not forgetting the exposed buttocks and back. Spray a little onto your palms to apply some to the face and then carefully to the genitals for protection.

Apply insect repellent after the suntan lotion as sun tanning products need to be absorbed to work.

The verdict is still out on the electronic bug repellents but I clip one to my pack just for good measure. One product that I do like are the wrist bands available at most stores . . . coiled plastic with an organic repellent. I wear one on a wrist and an opposite ankle.

3. A good Sun Hat and Sun Glasses: Don't risk heat stroke of sun blindness. The sun is extremely strong at the higher altitudes.

4. The BEST Hiking Shoes or Boots you can afford: Your feet have to get you in there and then carry you out again. Some of the places you will hike are best described as goat trails and this is particularly true for the nude hiker who usually has to do his or her hiking on lesser-maintained trails. Take care of your feet. Flip-flops, shower clogs, and cheap sneakers are inappropriate and will get you hurt sooner or later.

Wear two pairs of socks . . . an outer cotton athletic sock and an inner wicking sock that pulls moisture away from the feet and helps keep them dry. The inner liner helps prevent blisters by acting as a sliding surface with the outer sock.

I carry a pair of good AquaSocks on a clip on the pack or fanny belt. Eventually, you are going to reach an alpine lake and want to wade into the refreshing water . . . or clammer over slippery rocks to a refreshing waterfall. You don't want to get your all-important hiking boots soaked. AquaSocks are lightweight, easy to put on, unaffected by water and provide good grip and protection for the feet in water.

While we're on the subject of feet, keep those toenails clipped short. Besides looking ugly should you find the opportunity to go barefooted as well, long toenails cramp your hiking boots and after only a short distance you are going to feel the pressure on the toes . . . especially on the downhill slopes.

5. A Walking Stick: Indispensable! You can buy walking sticks or just find a good, stout fallen branch and make your own. It needs to be stout and reasonably straight. A slight curve is actually an advantage on slopes. The length should be slightly above the elbow from the ground.

6. Backpack or Fanny Pack?: The choice, of course, depends and how far, how long, and what you need to carry. For a two to three mile hike my choice is almost always a fanny pack. We want to maximize the exposure of skin, after all. Some would say why cover it back up with a day pack and I tend to agree. Your destination and the activities at the end will determine which choices to make but here are some of the items that I commonly take along with me on my hikes:

a. A camera We want to see the pics, after all
b. A towel to sit on
c. A float toy if the destination is a lake
d. A trail first aid kit Small pouch kit; Styptic pencil is handy for scratches
e. GPS Receiver and compass; maps if appropriate
f. High-energy snack bars A few glucose and salt tablets as well
g. Cell Phone Surprisingly, they connect if you're on a high ridge
h. Matches in waterproof container or lighter The ability to make a fire could be a lifesaver
i. Clothes (see below)
j. Water (see below)

7. Clothes for the nudist: Rarely is the entire hike going to be naked. Some trails are popular, particularly near the beginnings, and it is not polite to 'shock and awe' unwary and unsuspecting hikers you may encounter on the trail. Likewise, starting from your car and arriving back may be inappropriate in the buff where others may see you. So you need at least something that can quickly cover your nudity on those chance encounters. For men it's as simple as a pair of loose-fitting shorts that you can quickly step into without removing your shoes. For women, a tank top as well. A female friend of mine likes to pull her tank top front over her head and when she needs to, she can pull it back over to quickly cover her breasts . . . and it's long enough to provide coverage to mid thigh. When I hike I like to tuck my shorts in the belt of my fanny belt where I can reach them quickly when I hear another person coming down the trail toward me.

Of concern in the Pacific Northwest is the way weather in the mountains can quickly change for the worse. If you plan on hike more than two or three miles the day pack may become necessary so that you can bring along a rain suit or emergency poncho. Hypothermia is a real danger in the mountains. On these extended hikes, carry along an extra pair of socks as well.

8. Water: No matter how clear it looks, you cannot drink the water in a mountain stream. You must carry along all the water you are going to need and/or a water filtration kit. On a day hike into the mountains, I like to carry at least two quarts of water or Gatorade along with me. My fanny pack has two holders for water bottles . . . and the day pack has a hydration bladder built right in. Heat exhaustion is the result of dehydration because of perspiration. You need to carry lots of water with you.

For those hot spring afficianados, resist the temptation to use the water from the hot springs as a potable water source. Depending on how deep the source of a hot spring is, and the temperature it reaches, minerals will be present and in some cases toxic levels of arsenic, which is common in volcanic-origin hot springs. Though safe to soak in, hot spring water is not safe to drink.

In another post, I will go into the items I carry when I do extended, overnight nude backpacks. Till then, try it. Get up and explore the great Pacific Northwest in the buff. If you're not sure or you just can't find anyone to keep you company, give me a call on Yahoo Messenger (my cell phone can be IM'd thru Yahoo)


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