By Meghan O’Dea
Sure, sex in a bed is great, but have you ever felt your bare ass slide against silky tactical nylon as you kick your sweaty undergarments into the brush, the scent of woodsmoke and hair oil radiating from your partner’s body as you turn an ENO Double Nest hammock into a backcountry sex swing and stretch your trail-tired body into thrilling new positions?
It’s true that I’d never felt less sexy in my life than the second date I’d spent trudging out of a gorge on a trail far beyond my capabilities in rural Tennessee. I was mosquito-bitten, sweaty and chafed, carrying a pack laden with an unnecessarily wide assortment of meats, bagels, and canned goods which I’d curated in hopes of impressing my incredibly hot AF, experienced wilderness partner.
It grew dark and we realized we were nowhere near the site we’d hoped to reach. I bit back tears as we made camp, convinced this whole thrilling romantic enterprise was going to end in my untimely demise. But while dusk dipped into a late spring blue hour, the bourbon started to warm my aching limbs. My date’s dark brown eyes locked with mine from across the crackling campfire and, oh. It was on.
For the rest of our relationship, my former partner and I loved to hike and camp together. When the opportunity arose, we also loved to drop trou and grind it out. We had sex against boulders that perfectly fit my lower back and left flecks of lichen clinging to my salt-crusted skin after a mid-trail quickie. We fucked in, and using, hammocks, tents, and trees. We came up with creative new ways to defile our well-worn sleeping bags by the dying embers of our campfires and in the mornings when dew was still dripping off the humid grass like, well, you know.
Though I still rarely feel sexy when I’m sucking serious wind at the top of a ragged series of mountain switchbacks, my hair stuck to the back of my neck and musky pheromones wafting from my pits and nethers, I have come to realize that few settings are quite so alluring or primal as the great outdoors when it comes to getting down, whether with a partner or the tender touch of my own right hand as I wind down—and rev up—to the song of tent-side tree frogs and babbling brooks that gently mask and harmonize with all the usual gasps and moans.
I’m definitely not alone. As the outdoor industry diversifies, so does outdoor sex. And as everyone from BIPOC to LGBTQI to the disabled break barriers outdoors, barriers are falling, too, for talking about the myriad ways we can fuck outside and really, really enjoy the experience.
“Sex outside is FUN! It adds a level of excitement that can make an orgasm last longer or increase intensity, and who doesn't want that?” May, a 34-year-old outdoor enthusiast, said.
Making time to please your partner or yourself can even enhance the activities you’re ostensibly heading outdoors for, upping your endorphins and helping with recovery, both for your body and your mind after an especially big challenge.
“Full days on a bike can leave you fatigued, chaffed, and inflamed,” cyclist Jen Engers said. “But there is no better place for sex than under the stars, or in a tent if privacy is an issue. Having your partner go down on you at the end of a long day of riding feels like a sexy, soothing, orgasmic trip to the spa.”
After all, so much of heading outside is about discovering the awesome things you can do with your body, whether it’s about getting on top of a mountain, working your fingers into a tight crack on a challenging climbing pitch, or finding the right rhythm for your paddle stroke as you flow down white water. Having sex outside can be equally full of physical and emotional discovery, helping you and/or your partner get more creative, in tune, and deep in the present moment.
“My story is rooted in trusting your mind as you learn to trust your body,” Laura West said. She describes an adrenaline-fueled round of sex after completing an early climb, in a shady gully with a view down the wash. “My fingers scraped the rock and my feet held. Just as they did on the wall, now as he held me angled on the uphill face. We rocked gently together, my legs strong in their shake. My climb and sex instincts mirrored…to move as I could, and trust my body.”
That opportunistic use of the landscape to enhance the sexual experience is one of the most thrilling parts of backcountry hanky panky for many participants. When you find a spot that looks like it has the right blend of privacy, comfort, height, angles, curves, or textures, all you need is consent and an amorous mood to make the most of your surroundings.
“The sex I have outdoors is usually spontaneous—like when we found a secluded cedar grove with a fallen log in the middle that was the perfect height to bend over or ended up on the rocky beach by an alpine lake that happened not to have any other visitors that day—and so I don’t worry about being ‘properly prepared’ or having the ‘right supplies,” Lacey explained, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA community.
“What's most important for me to enjoy sexy activities outside is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” she added. “There will probably be something buzzing nearby, likely some dirt involved, usually some scratchy, hard, or uneven surfaces. It's all part of the experience.”
While some of those sensory irritants can pull you out of the moment at first, some experienced outdoor sex enthusiasts say that the lack of walls and presence of so many other living creatures—as long as they aren’t fellow humans—can make sex feel more expansive and even spiritual.
“Intimacy in nature is a soul-deep connection—not only are you and your partner engrossed in one another, but with Mother Earth as well. I feel it brings us back to our calling, our true form and allows us to embrace the universe,” Hannah Greene said. “My boyfriend and I have had sex on the beach, in the mountains, camping, etc. It definitely gives me vibes of animal-ness and wildness, but also makes it sacred because nature witnessed it, not just our own eyes.”
That said, there are a few precautions you can take to make all that spontaneous, soul-shattering sex a little more cozy, safe, and accessible—from packing certain items like cushy sleeping pads (looking at you, Therm-a-Rest) or double-wide sleeping bags to knowing how various landscapes tend to contribute to your sexual experience.
“First, get consent with your partner(s) on just how outside you want to get. Choosing a location that makes you both comfortable yet lends itself to a sense of adventure will provide a happy and memorable experience for all, and can be a kind of foreplay,” Molly McKinney, a queer outdoor enthusiast who identifies as disabled, said.
“Now, consider the sensations you’d like to include. How would it feel to find a breeze-lit patch of sunlight, with alternating heat and cool on skin that isn’t normally so exposed? When you lay your lover down, would you like them to feel springy moss or slightly prickly pine needles?” McKinney added. “Perhaps take advantage of new spring blooms and find a patch of aromatic wildflowers to bed down near. You can even work some of the environment into sensory play, like running lamb’s ear over the skin. Or, take advantage of the thunderstorm that rolled through and strip down for lovemaking in the rain. Just make sure to watch out for the stinging nettle. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. And use protection, natch.”
It’s ok to try different things and cross them off the list if they don’t work for you and the people you’re having sex with. Lisa, for example, said, “As much as hammock sex seems like a great idea it has never worked for us! Turns into a circus act with a weird rhythm. I prefer hanging out on a warm rock in the sun followed up with a quick dip in the river or lake’s cold water.”
In the great outdoors, as anywhere, it’s important to be clear about what you like and dislike, what you’re willing to try, and what wasn’t a repeat technique. Often you might have a good idea of what positions you like from getting hot and heavy at home. But when you take your show on the road—or trail, as the case may be—you might find that settings that seemed sexy in your fantasies, at the cinema, or in the pages of your favorite book don’t translate as well when it’s your body in the middle of them.
“As a kayaker, I've spent a lot of time on western rivers. Especially on the Grand Canyon where sand is everywhere, try to have sex on a Poco Pad on a raft. Otherwise, just assume you will have sand in every orifice of your body,” Jo Jones said, who at age 36, has had decades to perfect her game at both white water and the ol’ motion of the ocean. “You can have sex in the river but be careful of the current, whirlpools, crazy eddy lines or you may end up heading down stream. Want to be the safest? Both you and your partner can wear PFDs with one of you hooked to a flip line of a raft.”
Thirty-year-old outdoor enthusiast Rose seconds the concerns about sand. “Sex in the outdoors was a part of us,” she said of an old flame, with whom she enjoyed trysts everywhere from Bahamian beaches to the groves of Yellowstone National Park. “Doggy style works great, take those extra steps into the woods to ensure you don’t get caught by a stranger (but remember the way to the trail!) and you will, no matter the precautions taken, get sand in your vagina if you have sex on a beach.”
In addition to communicating ahead of time about what making love in the wilderness may or may not include for the people involved and what settings you prefer, you’ll also want to plan ahead insofar as to pack a few supplies that will facilitate the experience.
“My sex tip is always to carry a little container (tightly sealed!) of coconut oil. I use it as a natural lube that travels easily, moisturizing without the scent and chemicals,” West said.
Another hiker named Hayden agreed. “If you're trying to have a quickie while on a hike or somewhere people might come along, bring lube,” she said. “You won't have time to ‘warm up’, per se. Keep as many clothes on as you can, especially if you're doing it against a tree or other rough surface. If you have a more private area where people are less likely to come along, set up in a spot so that if people do come, you can see and get covered in time. Bring a blanket or whatever else is feasible as well as wet wipes to clean up both before and after—before is important if you've been backpacking for several days!”
There are a variety of travel-size, reusable containers you can use to transport your preferred lubricant—like humangear’s GoToobs, for example, or Matador’s FlatPak Toiletry Bottles. Just be sure to label them and store them in a different part of your pack from similar containers filled with, say, cooking oil, biodegradable soap, or—I wince just thinking about it—the hand sanitizer you’ll want to make sure your fingers are penetration-ready.
You might also consider an (aptly-named) fanny pack to keep your frisky essentials close at hand. You don’t want to kill the mood searching high and low through your gear for lube when you just wanted to get in a quickie en route to your final destination or when, after a long day of alpine seduction, you suddenly can’t wait even a moment more.
Don’t forget to include a sealed container like a Ziploc bag or odor-proof Loksak Opsak for your used wipes when all is said and done and you’re basking in the afterglow. It’s also wise to dodge an appropriate distance from the trail or any water sources to have a quick post-coital pee. After all, Leave No Trace principles say you should leave with only memories, not a nasty UTI.
Planning ahead for a quick cleanup is especially important in peak seasons, when hot weather and binding athletic apparel can leave you feeling less than fresh. “Bike shorts are tight and can trap in heat and sweat,” Engers said. “I recommend stripping down before your partner's face is two inches away to give things a chance to breathe. Wipes are your friend. Test these out before you go—some are heavily perfumed and don't mix well with your natural body odor. I like to smell like myself, just clean. A dip in a lake or river is even better!”
If you don’t have the luxury of time, picking a good location and the right outfit can go a long way to creating the conditions for satisfying nature nooky. “When we were younger, my partner and I would hike out high enough and far enough that we could strip down, take our time and revel in our nakedness in nature,” April explained. “Now that we have kids at home, and the mountains around us are much more populated, our adventures tend to be quicker and more clandestine. We seek out granite formations where we can sneak in a quickie. The rocks give us privacy, creative position options, an early warning system, and a great view of the sky above. Plus, if you hike in a skirt, that gives quick access.”
If you’re looking to go all the way in all seasons, it’s inevitable that early spring, late fall, and winter can present their own challenges. Year-round adventurer May recommends that horny hikers or snow sports enthusiasts who anticipate cumming on the summit pack gear like full side-zip pants or butt-zipper bibs to ensure easy access when the time is right, especially in cold weather or if you’re locked into skiing or snowboarding equipment. That way all you have to do is “get flirty and set the mood—teasing talk on the chair lift or skin track, flash of the underwear, whatever you like.”
Clothing that you can quickly remove and get back into can also offer peace of mind for safety-conscious campers whose minority status leaves them feeling more vulnerable in the outdoors. No one wants to get caught in the act outside (well, except serious exhibitionists), but marginalized groups often feel especially cautious about being publicly outed in such a private moment.
For example, when I was on that initial long weekend rendezvous with my former partner, we were very aware of our visibility as an interracial couple in the rural south. When we hiked out for a beer run to a nearby town, he waited in the car while I stepped inside to make the purchase after we noticed an abundance of Confederate flags on the vehicles in the parking lot and the package store itself. But because our campsite was so secluded, we felt very free and comfortable once we were back in the woods.
However, being mindful of passersby is important no matter how you identify, not only for safety, but just to be respectful. Not everyone traipsing by consents to seeing or overhearing your private porno, no matter how hot you and your partner(s) may be.
“As a former trail crew member, my first tip for sex outdoors is to be respectful of ‘the public’ on public lands and practice LNT,” Marieke Flynn noted. “Be conscious of delicate terrain (i.e. crypto or the tundra). Second, I cannot stress how liberating bringing a closed-cell foam pad for outdoor sex can be. Although the tent can be very intimate, sex outside of the tent is exhilarating, keeping my first tip in mind. Also, a small camp towel is better than a sock or your sleeping bag for clean up. Trust me.”
That said, if you’re the only ones around for miles and have room in your pack, it can be fun to bring other gear along to enhance the fun, from pocket rockets and discreet necklace-style vibes to you and your beloved’s favorite strap-on. Just don’t forget to go wireless, pack extra batteries, or bring a solar charging system to keep your toys running, and opt for waterproof, lightweight, non-breakable, and easy to clean versions over, say, a heavy glass piece or your longest, girthiest suction cup dildo.
For those who drink, a little tipple can help ease any anxieties about having sex in a new and different way. Or, if it’s legal where you live (and you aren’t on federal land), cannabis or even hallucinogens can help you feel even more present in your body or aroused by the sensory nature of your surroundings. Just be extra sure to stay safe and discreet—especially if you’re new to either the substances or getting amorous au natural.
Another option, especially if you’re car camping, is to bring along a portable speaker or LED lantern with party settings that let you change the colors or brightness. While you’re there to enjoy the sites and sounds of nature, sometimes you want to set the mood no matter where you are, and having a little control over the environment can help you get from clammed up to ready to roll.
Whether you dip your toes (or any other body parts) into the wild waters of outdoor sex by getting hot and heavy in your car or find yourself awash with lust after skinny dipping in some secret spot far from civilization, the most important thing is to stay safe, take care of your partner(s) and to have a lot of fun. Check the legality of what you might get up to in the area where you’re planning on going before you head out, pack the essentials to feel your best, and keep your mind open to how sex might be different, more challenging, more vulnerable, and more spectacular when you’re free of four walls. You just might find a whole new meaning to when nature calls.