The Most Vexing Questions on Dating in the Outdoors
Hate craft beer? Dogs? Urinary tract infections? We have answers to some of the most pressing outdoors issues.
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Welcome to Tough Love. Every other week, we’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at email@example.com.
We get a lot of very serious relationship questions, but just as often we hear from readers with simpler dilemmas. Below, we’ve gathered and rapid-fire answered them, in order from least to most complicated.
What’s the best birth control for thru-hikers?
Can hunters and vegans date each other?
Yes. They both see their food with open eyes.
Is it appropriate to break it off with a woman after three dates because she doesn’t like dogs?
After three dates, you can break it off with anyone for any reason you like.
Sleeping bag or quilt for couple’s backpacking?
Once you backpack with a quilt, you’ll never go back. Sew on a DIY footbox with fleece if your toes slip out and get cold.
What have been your favorite outdoor dates?
Inner-tube float trips down the Oconto River, surprise dog-friendly campouts, slacklining over a snowbank, and riding horses double-bareback. I’m also partial to trying things, like surfing, that neither of us have done before; there’s no pressure, and there’s nothing quite like falling down together to get you laughing.
My friends are all geeking out on craft beer, but I think it tastes gross.
Find another drink you like so you can join in without yucking their yum. Try a dry cider or an on-tap root beer. If you want to geek out on something, too, read up on cheese or chocolate or pretzels-and-mustard and bring samples for everyone to try. I guarantee they’ll be happy to oblige.
Why does my husband always bring an elaborate espresso-making setup camping? Cowboy coffee has always been good enough for me.
Because, like the best of us, he’s hooked on caffeine and wants to get as much pleasure as possible out of his addiction. Get off your high horse, cowboy, and take advantage of his excellent standards.
I get jealous when my dog cuddles with other people.
Take your cues from polyamory and try to cultivate compersion, which is basically taking joy in your beloved’s joy. Your dog is happy! He’s enjoying himself and building social skills and probably getting petted very nicely. There’s still no question, of course, that you’re his person. You’re just helping him learn that the world is full of goodness.
I’m a woman with a vulva, I love multiday hikes far away from modern plumbing, and I am sometimes lucky enough to hike with someone who also wants to have sex with me. The problem is if I have sex in the woods and don’t manage to get a shower afterward, I almost inevitably end up with cystitis—“feminine wipes” just don’t seem to work. Any tips for avoiding this?
Humans have been successfully sexing it up outdoors since before we were humans, so this is a great one to talk to your doctor about. In the meantime, switch out scented wipes for a plain wet washcloth, drink lots of water, make sure everyone washes their hands, and—since different positions can spread bacteria differently—try to treat this limitation as a challenge: What are some new and different ways you can hook up?
My best friend and I met this girl (“Mary”) in Telluride, Colorado, at a festival. When Mary left, he called dibs on her and told me that I needed to back off. I didn’t want to create any problems between us, but I was getting more vibes from her than he was. Ends up we go back to our hometown and all three hang out for like four weeks biking, paddleboarding, drinking, etc. Every time we are out, Mary gravitates toward me and is very touchy and flirtatious. Recently I told her that I liked her through a little bit of a drunken text and asked where she stood with my friend. She responded that she likes me as well and loves being around me but really didn’t know where they stand, and now that she knows how I feel, this is a game changer. The next time we were all out at another festival in town, she was getting pretty drunk and hanging all over me in front of him. I told her she needed to make a decision or tell me to step aside. Her response was, “I don’t want you to step aside.” The problem I have is that she and I get along really, really great, and I know more about her life than my friend does by far. Since then, I have found out that they have slept together recently, and I am really disappointed but happy for him at the same time, if that makes sense? He is a great guy and a great friend, but I am as well, and we both met someone we both like. It’s hard to be around them and act like it’s no big deal. And who the hell calls dibs on a girl? By the way, there is a 20-year age difference between us and Mary.
You can have two great friends here or possibly none—and since Mary isn’t making an explicit decision, it’s time for you to be decisive. Congratulate your friend, don’t engage with Mary’s flirtations, and dial back on the drunk texting. Maybe Mary even has some cool outdoorsy friends she can set you up with for a double paddleboarding date.
My hunch is that since Mary’s a lot younger than you and your friend, she may be intentionally holding back to avoid starting a commitment. Or maybe she’s genuinely crushing on both of you and doesn’t know how to decide. Either way, if you step back now, you’ll give the message that you’re not interested in competing or playing games. And if your romantic paths end up crossing at some point in the future, she’ll know that you’re a man who takes friendships—and relationships—seriously.