The most compelling reason that I have found though for hiking in the nude, is the ease of sliding into that magical zone of existence while naked. As my freehiking buddies and I have all experienced, especially while hiking solo, it is the process of just wandering, and slowly drifting into that zone of existence where you are acutely sensitive to everything around you, yet deeply calm, and passively observing. On one hike on an early spring day, I nearly tripped over a bright orange newt (a small lizard-like amphibian) amongst the green undergrowth at my feet, if tripping over a newt is possible.
I just had to squat down and stare at it for awhile. That newt was my total existence for that moment. On another hike, I found myself sitting during a rest break, upon a small ledge halfway up a hillside on the Long Trail in Vermont, in the Northeast Kingdom. Overlooking a medium size pond a few hundred feet below me, the water below was framed by clouds and mist boiling and spilling over the mountain tops several hundred feet above me. Sitting in my nakedness, temps in the low 50s , overcast weather, I was acutely aware of my environment, the sound of the rain drifting down through the trees, the lush green smell, the color of the light filtering through the mists above, the texture of the surface of the pond. I was totally at peace with that moment.
Parts of the past few years have been rather wet for hiking here in the northeast US, a blessing in keeping some of the tourists at bay. A relative delight in discovering how comfortable one can be hiking naked during the summer, in the rain that would otherwise have one miserable, soggy and chilled. This has come at the expense of the trails getting very beat up because they have remained so muddy that they cannot support the foot traffic when the sun and crowds do return. There has also been a lot of damage caused by the hurricanes and major storms experienced in my area these past two years.
A side benefit that I have noticed through this adversity though, backpacking sections of both the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail is that because the going is rough and much slower than normal, I have been able to notice many things along the trail that I may have unconsciously walked by under more normal conditions. The slower pace and the heightened state of my senses brought on by my nakedness have allowed me a deeper appreciation of some very special parts of this planet we inhabit. And yes, I have been asked by fellow hikers that I meet in the overnight huts, how it can be that my clothes have spilled out of my pack dry and why my spirits have remained bouyant. And I have been pleased to have been able to share my personal take on simple nudity with an open minded audience.
Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Dan Kidwell.