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.

Stay hydrated…

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.

Prepare for the night…

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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Comments 14

  • The Captain : Jul 26th

    This past December I ran in to a couple hiking SOBO. We passed each other near Cherry Gap Shelter in Tennessee. The lady “Break Time” was six months pregnant! I am so impressed by this and it made me think, how much healthier is baby gonna be because momma is happy and healthy.

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Jul 27th

      I totally agree! You’ve got to start the little nuggets in the womb. I love that trail name, haha.

      Reply
  • Lindsay : Jul 26th

    My husband and I did a weekend trip when I was 32 weeks pregnant in may. I noticed my swollen feet improved when hiking. Love your post, great tips!

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Jul 27th

      Oh my gosh! 32 weeks, that’s impressive. I never had swollen feet until I had them in my hiking boots for the first 3 days, and after that I couldn’t fit them into anything for the last few days out.

      Reply
  • Diane Vukovic : Nov 2nd

    Hey! Awesome post and I love that it is so encouraging. I am also a hiking/backpacking mama. My daughter is now 7 and I’ve got another on the way. My first backpacking trip during the first trimester was TERRIBLE because I was puking all over the place (one of those “lucky” women who got severe hyperemesis gravidarum). That trip taught me not to let my ego get in the way. I went home early, leaving a trail of vomit behind me (so much for “leave no trace”).

    Now that the puking is mostly gone, I am back to being active. The one thing I’d really like to add is that I needed to adjust my backpack carrying method. Backpacks can cause kyphosis (shoulders rounding forward). Pregnancy causes lordosis (lower spine sticking out). This = severe back pain.

    I use the Aarn Tate method of packing while pregnant and it helps balance out the extra weight in the front from the baby bump. (Blatant self promotion here, sorry!) – I wrote a post about how to properly wear a backpack while pregnant to keep your spine from getting more messed up. Here’s the post. Hope it helps some other mamas-to-be on the trail! http://momgoescamping.com/wear-backpack-pregnant/

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Nov 14th

      Love this! Thank you so much for the tips. I’m going to have to look more into it for our next trek out.

      Reply
      • Ahra Cromie : Aug 23rd

        How much weight you carry on your pack?

        Reply
        • DANIELLE NEWTON : Aug 23rd

          Hi Ahra!

          I stuck to around 15lb when pregnant. Of course, it’s a bit more difficult to keep lighter when going in the cooler months, but luckily my hubby was able to carry the excess from my pack. Hope this helps!

          Reply
  • Carley Nicole Fairbrother : Nov 14th

    Was there any worry about the hipe belt messing with baby? Thanks for this! I am sick of waiting until we are done our next adventure before starting to try for a bab, so it’s nice to hear this.

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Nov 14th

      I carried very high, so I was not too worried about it. The hip belt didn’t disturb anything but my bladder, haha. If you’re carrying low, I recommend adjusting the shoulder and chest straps to be able to loosely put the hip belt around. Have your significant other take a few extra things in their pack so that it won’t be too much weight on you with not having the hip support. Keep adventuring during every stage of baby! I’m pretty sure my son liked hiking more than I did when I was pregnant. Keep me up to date with your adventures and tips you may have during them!

      Backcountry Momma

      Reply
  • Danielle : Aug 12th

    Hiiii,

    Big congrats for your blog. I’m really thankful to read it.
    Well, I’m a brazilian woman worried about that universe. Well. I’m not sure yet wheter I’m pregnant or not, but I’m concerned to be and I really feel an urge to keep hiking. I usually go for 3 day trips or 4 which means about 40 miles. Did you ever go hiking this distance when pregnant?I’m not sure of what limit should I have as a pregnant woman. I do lots of exercising like capoeira 2 times a week, hiking 1-2 times a month and gym 3 times a week, but I’m worried now. And how much weight were you used to carry in your backpack for exemple in the first trimester?

    tHanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Aug 14th

      Hi, Danielle!

      Always get cleared by a doctor first, but typically for a healthy pregnancy the rule of thumb is you can continue the same amount of exercise as pre-pregnancy. When we go out we usually try and make it about 10-15 miles per day and stuck to that through my pregnancy. We would go out for usually a week at a time through the Shenandoah’s due to being close to home. I did struggle a bit with lower back pain while carrying my pack later on in my pregnancy due to so much weight being on it, but that is completely normal. I carried the lighter items and tried to keep my pack less than 20lb. That may seem like a lot, but we like to go during cooler months, so my husband was a trooper 🙂

      Congrats on your little one! Keep me up-to-date with your adventures with your future hiker buddy.

      Backcountry Momma

      Reply
  • Erin : Aug 22nd

    Thanks for this! So helpful. We’re planning on doing the Timberline Trail in Oregon and it’s 41 miles. I’m going to be 20 weeks at the time so super excited to get back out there. I’m concerned about getting right calories especially protein. Any good food choices that you felt really filled you up during the day?

    Reply
    • Danielle Newton : Aug 23rd

      Hi Erin!
      That sounds like such a wonderful time! You’re going to have to let me know how it goes and maybe add some tips for those reading. For protein, my easy go-to was beef jerky and almonds. I would actually add beef jerky when cooking my ramen noodle or rice and re-hydrate it with the meal (just throw it in the water when boiling your meal). I was a very picky pregnant lady and HATED the taste of meat except for bacon, so I had to really force myself to eat right for baby. Please let us know how your trip goes and congrats on your future hiker!
      Little Momma

      Reply

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