Here are interesting thoughts from two freehikers about covering up when encountering textiles on the trail. Does anyone else have advice about covering up?
Thoughts by Milt: Except when hiking in very remote and little-used areas, I usually carry a pair of shorts in my hand as I walk. When I get wind of textiles approaching, I turn around (since buttocks are seen as somehow less offensive than genitals) and quickly slip on my shorts. This is easy enough for me since I hike in sport sandals rather than heavy boots, but loose-fitting shorts should even work with boots. Most times when I'm hiking alone, I am fast enough that the approaching textiles don't realize that I was nude, but even if they do realize it, they don't react strongly and respond appropriately when I turn back around and give them a cheery hello. Whatever may have been "wrong" in their minds has been quickly "righted" and they are not terribly offended.
Recently, however, I went walking in the woods with no shorts or anything else, and unfortunately got lost and ended up out on a road where I encountered a woman walking her dog. I explained, as I asked for directions, that I was terribly lost and had intended to stay on private property, and apologized for any offense, but it seems not to have worked because she later called the police (according to a newspaper account of the police log). How I wish I had had my shorts in my hand that time.
Some naturists argue that one shouldn't rush to cover up when surprised by textiles because it implies that we were doing something wrong. In fact, according to the laws in most jurisdictions, and in the opinion of the vast majority of textiles, hiking nude is in fact "doing something wrong." Dressing quickly minimizes the sense on the part of the textiles that something is wrong or even sinister.
Sometimes the encounter happens so quickly that you can't put on shorts. Whether to scramble to cover up minimally at that point depends, for me, on whether there are children, older women, etc etc. It is a judgment call.
Lately I've been hiking with groups of naturists, several of whom are not prepared to dress quickly if approached by textiles. That changes the dynamic -- unless all get dressed, there seems no point in anyone getting dressed, and perhaps then it is best for all to brazen it out as though part of some unusual hiking club.
Lee's Thoughts: I have managed to avoid nearly all encounters entirely in recent years, and very much by design, but remarkably I did have one a couple of weeks ago. It was on a trail that I've considered "safe", sufficiently safe that I've taken groups there. . . I was walking along carrying my wrap . . . and was rounding a corner in a very shaded/dark canyon bend in the trail. As I looked forward I thought I saw something that seemed out of place, but I couldn't see it well enough to identify it. Once I got probably within about 10 feet that "something" said "hi". Since I couldn't see much, or gauge reaction, I decided to stop and put my wrap on (presumably right in front of whoever it was). As I walked toward them and into the shadow, I realized it was an older guy (Dad, I'd guess) and two young boys (sons I'd guess). I followed my philosophy of making the best of it and greeted them warmly after putting on my wrap and walking right by them, and to which Dad (presumably) responded quite warmly. One of the sons (presumably) was laughing. Still, I just went with it. I worry about the legal ramifications, but I'm surely not embarrassed by it. I think stopping like that and putting on the wrap sends the message that I'm both not there to shock them and I'm also not scared of my own naked shadow. Hopefully that gets realized. There usually isn't a lot of time to try to make a positive out of the encounters. I carried on my way and hoped they wouldn't get my license plate (which given everything, they might could have, but I have no idea what direction they were even going on the trail, since they were just laying down in the shade on the side of it). Nothing came of it, so I guess it ended okay. In fact, I'd say considering, that "Dad" seemed surprisingly unbothered.