Pedal Down, Top Off: Nude Road Tripping Is A Thing, And It Rules

words :: Carmen Kuntz

illustration :: Dave Barnes

Sun on bare skin. Fresh air through the car window, music cranked, the road unravelling and adventure on the horizon. I drive naked. Not around town or running errands, but on long drives, drives with destinations. I road trip naked, why don’t you?

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Road tripping feeds the soul and being naked recharges the body. Combined, the two offer an invincible feeling of adventure and freedom. Few feelings compare, especially in an environment as strict and regulated as a highway. It’s a celebration of being alive that is raw, real, and completely in the moment.

I started naked driving a decade ago, 20 years old and heading west on another cross-country voyage in search of rivers to kayak and mountains to ride. Watering the roadside grass somewhere in Northern Ontario, with the strong July sun beaming down on my bare bum and bare shoulders

I thought, ‘Damn, this feels good!’ Back in the car, I peeled off my jean shorts and tank top, tossed them on the passenger seat and drove all afternoon through the endless jack pines with sun-deprived nipples basking in warm, northern summer air. I didn’t cause any accidents; I don’t think anyone even noticed. But it felt freeing.

Since then I’ve driven classy – long stretches through the prairies where no one knows what I’m doing – and I’ve driven trashy – hanging out the window waving goodbye to downtown Queenstown, New Zealand with two girlfriends I converted to my nude highway ways. We stopped for drive-thru burgers and snapped nude photos at tourist stops while motorhome husbands did their best not to notice.

For me, driving naked isn’t philosophical or political. It’s simply a fun, light and (used to be) secret thing I do for myself. Much like how people sing in the shower because no one can hear, the semi-privacy and comfort of my car provides similar security. Whipping down the highway, I’m free from wandering eyes, judgment, and social rules.

“Driving topless is an opportunity to be free,” says 37-year-old Pemberton resident, Chantal Limoges, who chucks her bra in the backseat every chance she gets. “It’s an opportunity to be alone and confident with what you have. It’s the wind, the sun, and an openness to living life without worry for a moment. No judgement, no fear, and hopefully no hot coffee spills.”

Chantal also views being topless – at the wheel or at the beach – as both a physical and political statement, a cry for equality with men who can hike, swim or bike with their tops off. “Equal nipple rights is a thing,” she says. “And driving naked is a way of saying I give zero f*cks about what you think. I’m going to love myself without any judgement from anyone.”

I peeled off my jean shorts and tank top and drove all afternoon through the endless jack pines with sun-deprived nipples basking in warm, northern summer air.

Of course, being naked has its time and place. Frozen Canadian winter ‘nude-tripping’ sounds far less fun and one needs to be considerate of the public in any season. There are also some legal ramifications to consider, although there don’t seem to be a set of clear-cut guidelines.

“There are several factors to consider for a police response to this situation,” explains Squamish RCMP Media Relations Officer, Corporal Sascha Banks. “Was there a complaint from the public? Did the person driving commit any motor vehicle violations? Is the vehicle that has persons without clothing located near a park, school zone, or place where children would gather? What would be the reasoning for such behaviour: protest, discomfort, under the influence of substances, or preference? There are multiple circumstances and components taken into consideration and it would be determined on a case by case basis.”

Interpret that as you will, the key is probably to obey the laws of the road (distracted driving could take on a new meaning!) and be respectful. However, on a long drive on the open road, when your only task is keeping the tires between the mayo and the mustard, that’s probably the best time to let it all hang out.

So embrace that impending adventure and the carnal simplicity of fresh air on bare body parts. Nude tripping simply enhances the excitement of road tripping. Just keep your eyes on the road, your hands to yourself, and your windows wide open. –ML

The contemporary history of public nudity in Canada begins in 1996 when the Ontario Court of Appeal granted women in that province the right to bare their breasts in public. British Columbia soon followed and these days, ‘Topfreedom’ is legal in Alberta and Saskatchewan as well. But each summer, a handful of women in Canada are charged for being topless in public. The Supreme Court of Canada has yet to weigh in, however, and societal prejudices still remain. Even in the seemingly liberal Sea to Sky Corridor, simply tanning topless can be complicated and controversial, with a number of women receiving fines last summer for being topless at public beaches. For most women, being topless in public isn’t about getting attention or showing off. It’s about the feel-good freedom of sun on skin. Especially on the open road, in a convertible, pinning it.