Pregnancy can be tough and if you are one of those people who love to go out hiking, you may be wondering whether you can go backpacking while pregnant.
For many people, backpacking is one of the most fun-filled experiences. A lot of women go backpacking multiple times a month so it can be very disappointing if you have to miss out on all the fun for at least nine or 10 months.
Fortunately, pregnant women go backpacking all the time. In fact, exercise can be very beneficial for you. However, you should first consult your doctor. You will also need to choose practical trails, pack light, take care of your nutrition and hydration, and be prepared for emergencies.
If you are expecting, this guide can help you understand what to expect during a backpacking trip, including planning your hike during the different stages of pregnancy and some important things you should follow to ensure your trip goes smoothly.
As a woman who has gone backpacking when she was expecting her daughter, I have had a very safe experience with no issues whatsoever. If you are concerned about hiking or backpacking during your pregnancy, the advice in this guide can help you decide whether it is a good idea.
Backpacking During The Three Stages of Pregnancy
Before you decide to embark on your backpacking trip, you need to take a few things into account if you are pregnant.
Backpacking During The First Trimester
There are many women who suffer from morning sickness and nausea during the first three months of pregnancy. Because of this, a lot of women may not be in the mood to go backpacking at all. However, if you definitely do want to go, it may be difficult for you to decide which type of food to pack for the trip.
If you feel queasy, some good food options to pack are olives, beans, fresh fruit, and dried fruit. You may also pack small jars of nut butter, small packages of bread, or some muffins. To beat your pregnancy cravings, pack some chocolate as well.
You may also experience more difficulty in hiking since you will be carrying extra weight – your unborn child – so you may experience shortness of breath quickly. However, one good thing about a first-trimester pregnancy is that you will be able to sleep comfortably and deeply. Just pack a super-comfortable sleeping bag and you are all set.
Backpacking During The Second Trimester
During the second trimester, nausea will have eased off and it will be easy to walk and sleep. However, you will gain weight noticeably during this period so it is important that you pack light.
Using a hip belt to secure your backpack is not the best idea since it will be too tight for your growing baby. You will need to rely solely on the shoulder straps to support the weight of the backpack so pack only necessary items like clothes, food, and snacks.
If you want to hike during your pregnancy, this is possibly the best trimester. You will get a lot of fresh air which is great for you and your baby and will be at the stage where you can eat and sleep comfortably. At the same time, you will also be able to get away from all the stress and busyness of the city, which can do wonders for you at this time.
Backpacking During The Third Trimester
If you decide to go backpacking in the last semester, be sure to pack extra loose and roomy clothes to accommodate your growing baby. One frustrating thing about the third trimester is that you may not be able to find a comfortable position to sleep.
For myself, I would sleep on my side and slide a pillow between my legs, which helped a lot. However, simply spending your days walking in the fresh air and enjoying the stunning mountain views can lift up your spirits.
If you want, you can also opt to sleep without a roof over your head under the stars, which can also improve nighttime rest.
Important Advice Pregnant Women Should Follow Before/ During a Backpacking Trip
Backpacking is a healthy activity for all people. For pregnant women, it contains many benefits like improved blood circulation, which can reduce swelling. However, backpacking during pregnancy requires some planning.
Consult Your OBGYN
Even if you are having a very healthy pregnancy, it is important to consult your OBGYN. Each and every pregnancy is different, even for the same woman. Whether you are having your first child or are on Baby #6, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Let them know that you would like to backpack, how long you have been backpacking, and your skill level. This will help them determine your condition and the health of the baby and give you their medical advice.
If you are healthy, your doctor might give you the go-ahead to backpack. In other cases, they may ask you to wait until a particular stage of pregnancy and will assess your health at that stage to give you their professional recommendation. They most probably will also advise you on how much distance you should travel, what kind of terrain you should travel on, and how much exertion you can take during the activity.
In some cases, your doctor will tell you that you should not go backpacking since it could be dangerous to you or the baby. This might not be the answer you want to hear but it is important that you follow your doctor’s advice to ensure your pregnancy goes smoothly.
If you are thinking of going for an extended trip that can take weeks, it is important that you remain in touch with your OBGYN to make sure it is still safe for you to continue to backpack.
Re-evaluate The Terrain
If you are an experienced backpacker, then you will have spent a lot of time scaling technical terrains, reaching high mountain summits, and even traversing log bridges over torrential rivers. However, while you are pregnant, it is important to lower your difficulty level since pregnancy can result in many physical challenges due to your growing belly.
As such, you will need to reconsider the steepness of the inclines, the number of slopes, the ruggedness of the terrain, and any sites that will require balance. As you progress in your pregnancy, your belly will throw off your center of gravity, reduce your ability to see where you are placing your feet and make it challenging to bend in the middle. All of this can result in an increased risk of tipping over so don’t attempt any activities that would harm you or your baby.
Trekking sticks are very important if you want to keep your balance on uneven ground so my advice is always to keep one at your side when you are out of the tent.
Reconsider The Altitude
This depends on where you are going backpacking. As you ascend, the air will get thinner which means you will not be able to take in as much oxygen. Most people experience minimal breathing issues at 8,000 feet but anything above that you will experience you will get short of breath quickly.
For pregnant women, shortness of breath may be worse because of the extra weight they are carrying. In addition, the shortage of oxygen means that less oxygen will be available for your baby. As such. Many pregnant women will feel breathless even at around 6,000 feet.
Although the view is gorgeous over 8000 feet, it is important you stay at an altitude where you can breathe comfortably and easily during your pregnancy.
Hydration is crucial during pregnancy and it is important that you keep drinking water throughout the day to keep yourself well-hydrated. Drinking water frequently also helps to recover aching muscles and increase energy levels.
Even if you are hiking in a cooler climate, it is important to remember that you should drink around 12 cups of water every day. It is a good idea to set up camp at a site where you can easily get safe drinking water.
For many women in their third trimester, urinating frequently because of the pressure of the baby on the bladder can be irritating. However, this should not be the reason for not drinking the right amount of water each day.
Care For Your Nutrition
When packing your food or eating during the hike, you need to always keep in mind that you have to provide nutrition for two people now. Hence, it is important that you pack lots of healthy snacks that are high in protein, vitamins, iron, and fiber.
These foods can help build up your muscle and blood which will give you strength for backpacking. Stash lots of nuts and dried foods at the top of your pack for easy access on the trail.
Check The Load
In this instance, I am referring to how much your backpack and hiking gear weighs. Carrying a large and heavy backpack up the mountain can quickly result in shortness of breath and will send you gasping for breath, particularly in your third trimester.
Always keep in mind that this can be dangerous for your baby.
It is definitely OK to carry some weight but you won’t be able to carry as much as you did on your past hiking trips.
If you are backpacking while pregnant, it is important to discuss how to distribute your weight with your hiking partner. Make sure that they understand that they will need to carry more than the usual weight and that it is OK with them.
Pack The Right Clothing
Since your belly is growing out, you will need to pack in much bigger pants and shirts. However, one very important thing that many women forget is to pack some good sports bras, which can provide you the right amount of support and prevent aches and pain as your breasts start growing.
Another very important thing you need to invest in is some good maternity braces and ankle support, which can help keep your balance on uneven terrain.
Sturdy footwear can also be a game-changer when you are backpacking while pregnant. Since most women experience foot swelling, it is important that you buy footwear that is comfortable and can be removed and worn easily.
Bring Your Phone
A lot of people leave their phones at home since they want to get off-grid when hiking and do not want to worry about calls from work. However, when you are pregnant, it is important that you bring your cell phone with you.
A cell phone is an important way to communicate, particularly if you are in the last months of your pregnancy. If you do not want your peaceful trip to be constantly disturbed by the ringing of the phone, keep it shut and stashed in your backpack. However, in case of a health emergency or your baby arriving early, the phone can be a lifesaver.
If you decide to keep your phone on during the trip, then it is also a good idea to install a heart rate monitor app on your phone if you already do not have a fitness tracker or smartwatch with this feature.
If you are hiking in a place that has no cellular reception, then you should consider alternative two-way messaging devices.
When planning backpacking while hiking, you should factor in taking a lot of breaks on the trails. A lot of women crave sweet things during pregnancy which can make them less fit.
On the trail, if you feel yourself getting exhausted, you should just sit down, take a few sips of water, and slow down. There is no need to rush so do not push yourself and put an unhealthy strain on your body.
Make sure you map a less strenuous route for hiking and keep your daily mileage, elevation, and altitude in mind. Plan for plenty of extra time so you do not have to push yourself hard to get to the camp.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks