Backpacking while Pregnant: Advice from First-Hand Experience
I acquired my trail name “Little Momma” while out in November for a week-long backpacking trek in the Grayson Highlands on the Appalachian Trail. I was six months pregnant, couldn’t see my feet, and had to get out of the tent every hour to pee at night. It really made me grow a deep appreciation for the times I could see where I was stepping and being able to get eight hours of sleep. Needless to say, I didn’t do proper research before hitting the trail, thinking it wouldn’t be much different than before. Wrong. Really, I couldn’t have been more wrong. All that being said, getting out of the house into the fresh air and being able to explore saved me nine months of agony. So ladies and future daddies, I’m here to help you learn from my lessons!
My husband, soon to be baby, and I headed out on the AT, trying to get one last trek in before the arrival of our son. The weather was perfect, low 30’s at night and low 50’s during the day – just the right temperature to balance the travel heater I had in my stomach. Being that time of year, our packs were naturally heavier, making sure we have the required equipment for the cool nights. Hubby packed most of equipment on the heavier side, giving me some extra room to smuggle a few extra snacks out onto the trail.
I’m here for you, mommas… I understand the urge to be able to keep adventure alive even during those draining months, so I hope these tips will give you a sense of freedom!
You’re eating for two…
Remember that you have a tiny human inside of you and you need to get the proper nourishment for you and baby. When packing, protein and high fat content in your meals is key to help repair and rebuild muscles. For my pack, I left extra room in the top for extra snacks to replenish during the hike. Make sure to take breaks every couple hours to have a snack and to rest.
When planning your trek, make sure you’re near water sources. Plan to set up camp near a source or make sure to have the day mapped out for refueling. Taking frequent breaks to make sure that you are replenished will help you avoid aches at night and give you energy for your trek during the day. The general rule for pregnancy is to drink anywhere from 10-12 cups of water a day, but that goes up if you’re in a warm climate or exercising.
Don’t push yourself too hard…
Before leaving on our trek and at the beginning of my pregnancy, I was on bedrest due to some complications. When the doctor gave me the go ahead to start exercising again, we took off hiking right away! The months of sitting down eating coffee cake nonstop caught up to me on the trail. When I would feel winded or like I needed a break, I would simply take a few moments and take a couple sips of water, then continue. It is important not to push yourself and put too much stress on your body.
The general rule of thumb for pregnancy is that you can continue the same exercise you were doing before baby. That means that you shouldn’t decide to run a marathon if you were only running a mile a day. Make sure you map your route for what you know you can do. Keep elevation and daily mileage to the next camp in mind. Plan for extra time during the day so that you’re not rushed to get to camp.
Try your equipment out before hitting the trail…
What fit you or worked for you before, may not while pregnant. My pack that once was the perfect size couldn’t buckle around my lower belly during pregnancy, so I had to MacGyver twine around the buckles as to avoid too much weight on my shoulders. My favorite Merrell hiking boots couldn’t squeeze my swollen feet into them, so I packed my Chacos and warm socks to wear under them (yeah, you’re not going to be impressing many with this style tip). This gave me the extra room and ability to adjust the straps for whatever my feet may need. Make sure you lay every single thing out, even clothing, and go for a walk around your neighborhood to make sure you’ll be comfortable during your trek.
Probably the main struggle I had was my bladder being squished by a kicking baby all night. The urge to pee every 30 minutes cut into my sleep time, which in return made for a grumpy momma! Make sure you’re somewhere that you will not have to wander far from the tent to potty. Also, even though drinking water will make you potty more, never hold back hydrating because you do not want to get out of the tent. Also, test your sleeping equipment and make sure that is going to be enough support. I use the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir which provides the perfect amount of support to help with my sore joints! I packed Hot Hands to give me a little extra heat during the nights due to the low temperatures.
There is no reason to stop adventuring while pregnant. Keeping active and doing things you love will help those nine months go by so much quicker. Being prepared for your trek will provide peace of mind for you and help you to be more comfortable mentally and physically.
A once very pregnant and sore,
Back Country Momma
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