SEX IN THE TENT|
by Vivien Lougheed
It is summer. You and your partner are young or even a little bit old. You both have a few days free time so you decide to go on a short hiking trip. You pick a place, away from people but with beautiful scenery. You buy dehydrated food, grease your boots and pack your gear.You drive to the trailhead.
The sun is shining as you place your pack on your back. It feels good, just the two of you off for an adventure in Canada’s wilderness. You know bears are in the area so you attach your bear bells and do a lot of chattering while you walk. Your bear spray is attached to your waist.
You are soon in the alpines. Your partner has never looked healthier and your conversations during the day are interesting. You find a tent site, make a hot toddy and then have supper. You clean your site and put away your food. The sun sets red and the moon shines romantically. Your hormones start to rage so you light the survival candle and place it beside your tent for effect. You go to bed early. You haven’t felt this good for a long time. Since there is no one else around, you do the most natural thing possible. You have sex.
This scene is common to me except for the sex part. My partner John and I both know that the resulting smell after a sexual act could be attractive to bears and John is very paranoid. He would never have a lit candle in the tent unless he was in the last stages of hypothermia, and he is especially paranoid about bears.
In fact, we are so careful about smells in the tent that we make our camp fire about a hundred yards from the tent, change all our clothes at the campfire site, leave everything we own except our pepper sprays at the site and dash for the tent in our clean long johns. John’s paranoia lets him kiss me good night but only after he is safely zipped into his sleeping bag and I into mine.
This is noble of him because sex in the tent is more dangerous for me than for him. The woman is left with the stronger smell.
The subject of sex in the tent (or anywhere in the wilderness) has never been studied by the bear experts nor do the national park wardens talk about it to visitors. Whenever I speak to officials (usually men) about the matter, they smile, think for a moment and then say that it hasn’t been proven so they can’t say anything. The conversation usually develops into a round of embarrassed jokes where they offer to be subjects in the study.
The one legitimate reason for avoiding the topic is because it is difficult to gather information from survivors, particularly if the survivor is the husband and suffering loss plus the guilt of being unable to defend his partner. Also, discussing old cases publicly can awaken painful memories.
However, I believe the subject should be dealt with. Whenever I speak to young people about dangerous smells when in the wilderness, most of them never think of sexual intercourse as producing a smell.
I spoke to Steve Herrero, the Canadian bear specialist, about the issue and he said that there have been many studies done on the subject of the female menstrual cycle and its significance in bear attacks, but there have never been studies done on the odour produced from sexual intercourse. When I pointed out some incidents where sex in the tent could have been a cause, Herrero said that my theory was a “reasonable hypothesis”.
I have read about many encounters. Those involving young couples, where there seems to be no other explanation as to the bear’s attraction, leave me suspicious, especially since some of these attacks are directed toward women.
Some stories in the books Bear Attacks by Herrero (Hurtig, 1985) and Bear Encounter Survival Guide (self published, 1994) by Shelton tell of bears attacking women from mixed groups, but the authors attribute the attacks to predatious bears rather than human error. I agree that there may be some unexplainable bear attacks but until scientific research is conducted and until I am proven or disproven, I shall continue to advocate abstinence from sex in the tent (or anywhere in bear country). And girls, since you are in the greatest danger, I would suggest you follow me like a disciple - just in case I am correct.
Copyright Vivien Lougheed.
Vivien Lougheed has hiked the Rockies, the Andes, the Sierra Madre, the Alps, and the Himalayas. She calls Kluane the most beautiful country and the best hiking anywhere. The author of internationally acclaimed guides to Bolivia, Pacific Mexico, Belize, Cuba and the
Kluane Park Hiking Guide, she lives in Prince George, BC.