How many times have you heard people complain, “oh, I just HATE dating!” They usually say this after finding themselves single again, seemingly desperate to get back into a relationship somehow, anyhow. Why this happens, I’ll never know. Just when they knock loose that clinging barnacle of a boyfriend and get a taste of freedom, they want to run back under the net of suffocating monogamy! Not me, I love dating. It’s relationships that make me twitchy. So in celebration of dating, I bring to you the Head Geargal’s tips for dating in the outdoors: the top good outdoor dating activites and the main ones you should avoid. I think these lists can apply to both hetero- and same-sex dating, but rather than somehow neutralize every pronoun, I’ve just gone with what I know best. Feel free to perform a ctrl+find+replace and apply your chosen genders throughout.

Bad Dates

Let’s start with the activities sure to put a damper on your burgeoning romance before it’s even started. If that’s what you’re after (and after meeting some of the singletons of the male persuasion lurking about out there I don’t really blame you) then you might want to put these on a cheat sheet for the next time some mansplainer from the climbing gym offers to demonstrate his endless array of mad skizzilz by taking you out on a outdoor-themed date. If you ask me, just turning him down is a better policy, but even the most savvy Geargal can be caught unawares at times and unwittingly end up on what she thought was just a workout, but is actually a date in disguise. If you want to ditch your admirer, try these activities, and if you actually LIKE the other person, avoid these at all costs:

1. Road biking

This is not a good outdoors date. Not at all. Not only are all participants probably dressed in foolish-looking diaper pants, but the mechanics of road biking means that one or the other of you ends up starting at the other’s ass all day. Chances are, since guys like to be macho and break trail/block wind/prove their worth, the latter will be you. In some outfits, that might be all right, but road biking shorts are really, really unattractive on even good asses.

You won’t be able to talk to each other because of the wind noise issues and the constant need to be vigilant for traffic. Traffic itself might have added some sexy danger points to this activity, but sexy danger points are really only good when adrenaline comes into play, and having a five-ton Chevy plant itself in your back won’t make you so much 100% full of adrenaline as it will make you 100% dead. Dead isn’t very sexy. Bad outfits + mortal danger = bad date.

2. Backcountry Skiing

Now, I love backcountry skiing more than just about any other sport. I fully believe that there is nothing in life one can’t get from powder and no comprable feeling in the universe exists. If you don’t backcountry ski, I pity you. But I like the backcountry to myself so I hope you don’t decide to take up my favorite hobby.

So you’d think I’d love ski dates but I avoid them at all costs. Why? I have to cite scary, nonsexy danger again. It’s really important to understand your partner’s skill level when it comes to backcountry travel. Missing this important information could make you, again, dead. There are probably two men in the universe who will readily admit to any uncertainty about backcountry travel considerations; one is gay and the other is my friend Ted. I know how to get ahold of Ted, but if the other guy would call me, that would be great – a girl needs her gays.

We all know that when it comes to dating, men lose their heads and do all sorts of stupid things to try to impress us. Conveniently failing to tell us small details like “I’ve never turned this beacon on before” and “what’s an inclinometer?” aren’t endearing in this situation, they are life threatening. You might not even find out that your seemingly studly date has no clue about backcountry travel protocols until he drops in behind you when you point ‘em and go at the top of a no-fall couloir. Ski dates aren’t great until you know for sure your suitor’s got backcountry cred.

3. Ski Kiting

Ski kiting is a lot of fun and doesn’t involve your life depending on someone else. So, it would seem to be a great date activity, but in reality you spend all of your time going 50mph while you’re at least a quarter mile away from your companions. So, fun activity for sure, but not so good for dating.

4. Camping

No, not good. Stuffing yourself into a small tent with someone you barely know, other than the fact that he’s interested in snogging you, is just a recipe for disaster. Nothing good can come of it. Most likely you’ll get stuck in a small nylon room in a miasma of discomfort brought upon by too-close quarters, with some smitten guy gazing at you while you sleep. Yech!

Even if you end up really liking each other, really really, one of you is going to end up with a, um, messy sleeping bag. Hopefully you’re a wise chica so it’s not you, but still. It’s hard to contain that type of thing to one area so your own kit is at risk of being messed – and you know, if you ARE able to restrict the thrashing to his side of the tent, it can’t possibly be that fiery of a passion, you know? So just skip the camping and save it for when you loathe the sight of each other and wouldn’t even consider sharing a sleeping bag if you were both freezing to death on Mt. Everest. Actually I think camping might be an excellent breakup activity, but for the inevitable awkward hike back to civilization.

5. Mountaineering

Gah, just terrible! Do you want to be stuck in the death zone with some idiot who turns out to need to talk to his mother every other day to make sure she feeds his fish accurately? No, not speaking from experience here, why do you ask?

Good Dates

Whew! Now that we got that all out of the way, let’s go to the fun part – five great outdoor date activities that will help guide your new interaction along all the right paths.

1. Mountain biking

Excellent date activity. The outfits are better and the effort put out is more in the fits-and-starts category, allowing for convenient rest stops during which you can chat up your date. Riding singletrack requires concentration so there’s no expectation of conversation while you’re actually riding. Also, you can wear a backpack and carry beer and yummy snacks, as opposed to road biking, during which you’re only supposed to eat flavored sugar gel and subsist on one tiny bottle of water because actually carrying anything would ruin your silhouette. Do you really want to go on a date with your date worrying about his silhouette the entire time? Me neither. So mountain biking it is!

2. Bouldering

This is by far my favorite outdoor date activity. It’s social and relaxed while providing a great workout, and it’s easy to take frequent breaks to talk and get to know each other. Best of all, bouldering involves spotting, which involves putting your hands all over your date in the interest of his safety, and he gets to put his hands all over you, which is pretty much the point of dating if you ask me.

3. Stand Up Paddleboarding

Assuming that you live in a warm environment, stand-up paddleboarding is an excellent idea for a date. It’s not that easy at first, so you both look stupid when you start which permits a lot of fun silliness, and falling off the paddleboard is another great excuse to paw each other under the guise of “helping”.

4. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a fantastic winter date activity because it’s so lame that you’ll both quickly lose interest and go get a beer in a nice warm and cozy pub, but since you’ve been out in the cold so you’ll be all sparkly and breathless and flushed in an attractive sort of way. So it’s not really the activity of snowshoeing that counts, I suppose.

5. Hiking

The simplest outdoor activity there is, hiking can be a really fun way to get to know each other. A hike can be as long or as short as you want or need it to be, and you can carry all the necessary date accoutrements without too much bother. It’s a quick and easy way to suss out your date’s abilities without getting into a seriously unfun situation if he turns out to be lacking in the skills department.

So there you have it. My quick guide for ensuring that your dating endeavors stay enjoyable. Best of luck to you, and remember, bad dating situations are best avoided by…oh, I don’t know. Maybe I should start a date reviewing site, but I doubt that testing dates is nearly as enjoyable as testing gear. I think I’ll carry on with this gig instead.