Image of the December 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2018 Issue
Home / Articles / Wild Comment

The naked truth

Flagrant Type 1 Nudity on full display in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Photo: Thomas Wong/
After being caught mid-stream in nothing but her birthday suit, Hazel Phillips ponders the various types of nudity found in the backcountry

Close to Hope Kiwi Lodge on the Harper Pass Track, the Kiwi River runs past. From there you can see right up the valley, in the direction of Kiwi Saddle, a decent expanse of land where you can see someone coming a mile away. Or so we thought when my friend Laura and I stripped down to our birthday suits and started washing in the river.

Only a few minutes later – barely enough to wash a sweaty armpit – we saw the grey head of an older gentleman bob along the grass line and come over the hill. Foiled! Laura got dried and dressed with the swiftness of a cheetah, but I got flustered and only managed to cover myself with a towel. A very small, tramping-sized towel which left a 5-10cm gap of exposed flesh down one side.

After a few minutes of awkward “isn’t the weather nice” (well, it was!) conversation, we parted company until we met again, respectably clothed, at the hut.

It got me thinking about nudity in the wilderness, and how some situations render nudity more acceptable than in our usual everyday setting. So after much introspection, I’ve come up with the

Taxonomy of Nudity, and tested it thoroughly via the scientific method of posting it on Facebook for feedback. Hold onto your nipples, for here it is.

Type 1 Nudity: Full-frontal, intentional nudity. Usually reserved for nudist beaches, wild parties, or situations where alcohol has been taken. Occasionally medically-related, but more often than not it’s the ‘from-a-bottle’ kind. Initial feedback indicates that German nudity might come under this category, as one Facebook friend suggests: ‘It’s hard to know where to put German nudity – but perhaps under 1d, for Deutsch?’

Indeed, Europeans seem to be much more at home with Type 1 Nudity. I recall a Swedish girl I met at a backpacker’s in National Park who emerged from the shower with a towel around her head but not her body. We had rather a lovely conversation while she was totally starkers. She was entirely comfortable having a naked chat, even when a couple of Kiwi boys came into the room.

As my German friend Mandy pointed out, wearing a beanie
in the hot springs means that technically you’re not naked

Type 2 Nudity: Full-frontal, but unintentional nudity. Our Harper Pass River show comes under this category. Early reports indicate Type 2 Nudity is common in the outdoors:

‘I’ve experienced Type 2 while approaching Neill Forks Hut,’ said one Facebook commenter. ‘I thought it was an albino Sasquatch running through the bush but alas, just an Englishman on the way back from the river. Totes awks.’

Said another: ‘I experienced a Type 2 at Studholme Saddle Hut last year. Dude having a nice wash in the stream as I rounded the corner. Had I known this was important to you, I would have photographed him.’

Type 3 Nudity: This is the sort of nudity Kiwis can cope with: it’s nudity that’s situationally necessary. Tramping huts are a classic example – you can’t achieve much in the way of modesty when there’s nowhere to go except a stinky long drop to get changed. Personally, I’ve long since given up attempting modesty in huts and I usually call ‘Nudity warning, in three, two, one’ so that any potentially offended parties have time to avert their eyes.

The knock-on effect from this is that I now feel much more at home being naked around my tramping buddies, even in non-tramping settings.

Although, as my German friend Mandy pointed out, wearing a beanie in the hot springs means that technically you’re not naked.)

After robust testing, the Taxonomy of Nudity seems to hold up well. So far we’ve found just one exception, but it seems to fit into multiple categories:

‘There’s also caver nudity (which makes trampers look like prudes). It’s hobby-related and therefore a possible candidate for Type 3, but often seems a lot more like Type 1.’

Suggestions for further tweaks to the taxonomy? Feedback on a postcard, please.