Hiking in the buff

Canadian hiking trail sign – well, I couldn’t show you nude hikers could I?! Source: Padraic Ryan via Wikimedia Commons

My brother recently shared this article with me. He lives in Germany and goes hiking – though as far as I know with his clothes on! After reading it, I thought I just had to share it with you all.

So what am I talking about? A TIME magazine article called Hike Naked: Germany Opens New Nude-Friendly Nature Trails. To put you in the picture, here is a quote from the article:

When “Germany’s first hiking trail for nudists” opened on May 29, 2010, near the town of Dankerode, enthusiasm was running high — and not just among those who enjoy braving nature in the buff. Mayor Monika Rauhut hailed the trail as “the latest attraction here in beautiful Wippertal.”

The trail was an instant hit, which got us wondering if such a thing might be a good idea in Switzerland, where the issue of nude hiking will soon be taken up by the Supreme Court. The “unofficial spokesperson” for Swiss lovers of the outdoor activity isn’t so sure. But Puistola Grottenpösch (not his real name) does see some upsides. A sanctioned trail would give many people an opportunity to experience the “bodily freedom” that only hiking in the nude offers — an experience that “fills you with happiness,” he says.  . . . Read more

I love the “not his real name” qualification in the above quote! Surely, “Puistola Grottenpösch” is not the Swiss equivalent of “John Smith”?!

I have no problem with nudists – as long as they don’t subject unsuspecting people to their cellulite and other bits – but I really cannot understand the appeal of hiking in the nude. I understand that it’s liberating to be outdoors without your clothes on – millions of babies rip their clothes off every day. Nude swimming makes sense, nude sunbathing (with the appropriate sunscreen applied) makes sense. But hiking in the nude just seems plain dangerous to me!

What about snakes, spider and ticks that can access your bare flesh more easily? Okay, I don’t think that Germany has any (or a lot of) snakes, but they do have ticks. Ticks that carry Lyme Disease. I was always told to wear long pants, with the cuffs tucked into the top of my hiking boots, when walking through tick-infested areas. Must be a reason for that.

Then there are the practical issues. Sunburn, windburn (although one would hope they put something on before they start suffering from hypothermia!), chafing from your backpack straps, getting scratched as you walk through denser vegetation, and scraping your skin if you take a tumble. There must have been a reason why people started wearing weather and activity appropriate clothing.

Not to mention the psychological trauma you could face, having to look at some people’s out of shape bodies. [Have a look at this cartoon by Mark Parisi.]  Somehow I don’t think that everybody who goes hiking in the nude is fit and toned. Just look at the photo which goes with the article!

If somebody does find nude hiking appealing, I’d really like to hear from you! [Other readers are welcome to leave comments too, of course]

Also read: A response to “Hiking in the Buff”

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Categories: Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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20 Comments on “Hiking in the buff”

  1. July 13, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Germans seem to love strutting about without clothes. I can’t think why.

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:17 am #

      It’s a question I frequently ask myself! 😉 I think Wyrdsmyth might be able to answer it in part. Check out today’s post.

    • July 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

      I don’t think it’s “Germans” like in “all Germans” that love strutting about without their clothes. I for my part would never even go to a nudist beach, let alone hike in the nude – and i do consider myself not an untypical German. I do admit though, that – as far as I know – nudism is not frowned upon in Germany.
      As to hiking in the nude, I think that’s absolutely ridiculous an idea, and I really don’t know why somebody came up with that idea. A publicity stunt, maybe?

  2. Lu
    July 13, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Ha ha! Not a chance! I too am far more conscious of spiders, ticks, sticks and thorns – not to mention that I have zero interest in showing myself off like that 😉 I can’t help but think it a ridiculous look – wearing only a backpack, boots and maybe a hat… pffft 🙂

  3. July 13, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Ha, yes, having grown up in Australia, there’s no way you’d get me hiking in the nude. I’ve already had enough painful experiences with insects even when I was wearing long trousers and sleeves – you might as well smear yourself in honey and lie on an ant’s nest!

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:14 am #

      I agree! I don’t think it would okay to many South Africans either to go hiking nude. Too dangerous out there! You need that extra bit of protection that clothing gives you.

  4. July 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    This post made me laugh out loud, Lisa–especially the part about it being just plain dangerous! Gotta love the Germans and their love of all things naked–cellulite and all! Too fun, my friend!

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:13 am #

      Glad you enjoyed the post Kathy! I laughed so much when I first read it, and when I was later telling the story to a friend, she suggested writing a blog post about it. As you know, I don’t often write humour pieces, so I thought I’d give it a go.

  5. jacquelincangro
    July 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Now that I’m done laughing…Why, is the question that comes to mind. Why would someone want to hike in the nude. I can’t even think of a good reason.

    And you know, it’s usually not the George Clooney types who are in the buff, if you get my drift. 🙂

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:11 am #

      Yes, “why???” was also my first question. I think I’d have trouble concentrating on staying on the path if there were George Clooney types wandering around naked! 😉

  6. July 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    Germany Calling …

    I think it’s important to point out here that it’s not “the Germans” who are all hiking “au naturelle” but just a few nutty specimens!

    Unfortunately, Heidi Klum (arguably one of Germany’s most famous exports and also arguably a bit nutty) only takes her kit off for lots of cash and a star photographer – and does not walk around the German geography showing off her contour lines.

    Another point against wholesale cavorting in the hills without “ze lederhosen” is that the Teutonic weather – at least in high-lying regions – is often wet, cool and windy. So the article must be relegated to the “Interesting People” folder (see Monty Python) for filling up some magazine space in a hurry.

    (Warning: gross over-simplication now follows)

    Alright, having said that, I must come clean and report that Germany does have quite a tradition of public nudity. There are photos from the Nazi era of lightly clothed (or not) and athletic people doing sport and generally getting fit for the Fatherland.

    After the war, West Germans got down to the serious business of rebuilding the country and working hard. Kind of emulating the American Dream: straight ahead, a bit straight-laced and rather laced up. Yes, there was “permissiveness” in print and deed, and there were some nudist camps, but most people thought they were weird.

    Post-war Eastern Germany had more of a history of public nudity (i.e. during the Communist-Socialist period), but this was mainly done on the beach etc. in summer (no ticks, no mosquitoes, no goose pimples …) and – I am told – as a kind of joyous revolt against political über-control. So even today, as a kind of tradition, many beaches along the Baltic coast (much more than in the Western part of the country) have FKK sections (Freikörperkultur, literally “free-body culture”, i.e. naturism) where you are allowed, nay, encouraged to drop your shorts and get down to the nitty-gritty. Whole families bask in the sun and there are also good-looking people to be seen. Also female. Also playing beach volleyball. All good clean fun. ‘Strue …

    • July 14, 2011 at 6:06 am #

      And we believe you . . . really! 😉 I have “re-posted” this comment as I’d like to present a more balanced view of the topic and I’m not sure that everybody reads the comments which are left.

  7. July 14, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Noooo! Hiking yes, buff . . . uh-uh.

    The thought of doing something like that is just plain scary. The logical part of my brain assumes that they take some ground cover for when they want to sit, but yikes! Just the idea of something seeking shelter in places it doesn’t belong is enough for me to pay gold (if I have to!) for my trusty protective layers of clothing.

    I’d definitely have to invest in a pair of blinders if ever I land on a trail marked as friendly to nudists. Naked flesh tend to attract the eye, doesn’t it. It’s like a magnet, for goodness sake! Come to think of it, not sure how prominent this is indicated on signs so maybe they should also add a huge PG rating to the signs – just to prepare the mind, you know? Ha.

    • July 15, 2011 at 7:49 am #

      Yes, I agree. Definitely not something one wants to spend too much time considering the consequences of! I have to wonder who thought up this idea first – a group of men or a group of women. In my experience (and you’ve said this to me too) women are fair less exhibitionist.

      I think the hiking trails are clearly marked, so hopefully that provides some warning to non-nudist hikers!

  8. August 5, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    Hey, Lisa. This is a severely late response to your post but I only just came across it 😛

    I figured I should let you know that I’m a nudist South African who’s done several nude hikes in Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the North-West. Regarding the why, like you said, babies rip their kit off all the time. It’s a freeing experience and, provided it’s warm enough, I prefer being without my kit to being covered up. I’ve personally done quite a few activities nude; being a bit of an outdoor adventure, these include hiking, diving, rock climbing, and, of course, the standard skinny dipping in lakes and the ocean.

    In terms of insects, I’ve never had an issue. The only times I’ve ever walked into spider webs was when I was clothed but usually I’ve hit the webs with my face anyway so the clothing didn’t really matter 😛
    I’ve alternately used shoes and hiked barefoot depending on the terrain, and the worse I’ve ever had were a few callouses. I have had blisters in certain shoes but nothing when barefooted.

    So, really when it comes down to it, being in the buff is a personal choice. I’ve hiked naked alone, with other nudists, and with mixed nude/clothed company. These have always been mixed gender and usual mixed race groups by the way. The trails that we have been nude on have either been in secluded and private areas (where there was little chance of bumping into a non-nudist) or on nudist-friendly farms (in which case, textiles would expect some folk to not be wearing anything).

    As an experience, I love the feeling of the air and sun (and occasionally water) on my entire body. There’s no cloth rubbing against my legs as I walk. As there’s just a greater sense of connection to nature (who hasn’t worn clothes since time began!) 😀
    These sentiments are echoed by my fellow nudies and, while we do use adequate amounts of sun block, hydrate properly and keep our heads and feet covered if need be, the “potential dangers” of insects and vicious animals have never been a concern. We are always aware, for the most part, but then anybody should whether you’re wandering kalgat or have a thin fabric to protect your assets.

    • August 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Hi there!

      Even if it is an older post, I appreciate you leaving a comment about the realities of nude hiking. Good to hear from somebody who actually does it.

      As you say, it is a personal choice and I do understand the feeling of freedom. Although I don’t do sunbathing of any kind – clothed or unclothed – I have enjoyed some skinny dipping. Your comment has made me wonder again what happened first: did humans start losing their body hair, and then start wearing clothes; or did humans get self-concious, start wearing clothes and did their body hair then grow finer?

      Nice to hear from a fellow South African! 🙂

  9. February 13, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

    Whilst I googled Nude Hiking in South Africa, I came across your article. South Africa is a beautiful country with many many wonderful natural places to visit. Unfortunately South Africa is still very conservative in some ways as a naked person is still seen as offensive. (another matter on it’s own but violence, language is acceptable).

    Now I’m not saying that everyone must conform but I enjoy being in the nude. I feel more comfortable, relaxed, and peaceful. Now there is nothing better than combining my nudeness with hiking. It is a unique chance where I get to really enjoy nature as many of the ancestor did. Many African, Pacific island Tribes, Amazonian, Ancient Greece and even the ancient Egyptians enjoyed clothed free living/activities.

    The only problem is that there is too few places to go nude hiking in South Africa. I’ve hiked in the Groendal Wilderness Area but bumped into a group of other Hikers and they were offended by my nakedness and instructed me to get fully clothed. I have found a “Day Hike” where the family and I can hike in the nude with no repercussions though. The Striptease Trail at Tsitsikamma Lodge & Spa. We have done this hike numerous times. we get undress at the first pool and stay nude until we return to the first pool again.

    As for snakes, spiders and ticks . . . I have often found more ticks on me when hiking fully clothed than when I’m in the nude. Also you are able to spot the ticks far quicker whilst hiking and not after the hike. As for spiders and snakes it is their territory you are walking in whether you are clothed or not you can be bitten by one of these. Sure wearing long thick pants can help stop a snake bite, but then again you feel all hot and sweaty being over protected with thick clothing.

    Sunburn, windburn, hypothermia. Whether clothed or not a person will in most cases put on sunblock due to our lovely sunny climate. A clothed person will just put on less sunblock than a nude person. I’ve have never experienced windburn so can’t comment. Even though i have never experienced Hypothermia can i just say that nudist/naturist are not stupid or trying to be brave and face the elements just like clothed people if we feel cold we put on clothes so if a nud”Naked in Natureist/naturist ends up getting hypothermia as a result of staying in the nude then I can only say that they are stupid.

    When i go hiking clothed I normal prefer wearing 3 quarter shorts. so no matter if I’m nude or clothed i still get scratches i will admit though that the scratches are far more when in the nude, however I do not see this as a issue it’s all part of hiking in our wonderful country.

    As for chafing of backpack I can also say that I have never experienced this before.

    Your last comment about the psychological trauma a person my face is not based on seeing a out of shape body but based on the lie that the media has created about the perfect body. You will never see Joe or Jane average advertising beauty or fitness products, you don’t see them gracing the fashion catwalks either. why?? Because media wants us to believe that the average body is fit and toned and if you are not, there is a problem with your body. No wonder we have major issues from teens to adults that “Hate” their body because of the fact that they are not fit and toned. Take a look at some of the runners who finish the Comrades marathon or the Full Iron Man Triathlon, there are a large number that does not look fit and toned. So because they don’t look the part we don’t support them or cheer them on, nonsense. We still close them as heroes for finishing the grueling challenge that we cannot do at the moment.

    So to end off . . . there are some people who enjoy eating Brussels Sprouts whilst there are others who do not. Just like hiking/walking there are some that enjoy hiking/walking fully clothed and there are those like me that enjoy hiking/walking in the nude. And if you pay attention to the Garden Route Walking Festival you will note that in both 2016 and this year in 2017 there is a “Naked in Nature” walk. So there are a number of people who enjoy being naked in nature and my wish is that South Africa can have more clothing optional trails.

    • February 14, 2017 at 8:47 am #

      Hi there!

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this post. It’s good to have a different opinion expressed on the topic of nude hiking. I certainly believe that it is a case of each to their own as long as it isn’t impacting on other people’s enjoyment of nature. Especially in areas where family groups may be hiking.

      I personally prefer to wear light clothing which covers my arms and legs when out in the sun. I’ve had a couple of extremely bad sunburns when walking in a bathing suit (even with sunscreen on) and have no desire to repeat the experience. I think our ancestors (except for the very early ones who still had a lot of body hair) also covered themselves for protection from the elements.

      Again, thanks for your comment! 🙂

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