Hiking while pregnancy, or any amount of physical activity, during pregnancy is a hot topic and one I’d like to address. There many opinions from those being shocked and concerned, those who are extremely supportive, and those who were active themselves while expecting. If you’re currently pregnant, hoping to have kids at some point and are a hiker, or know someone who is; this article is for you!
These are some of my personal tips and experiences on hiking while pregnant and are not to replace the medical advice of your midwife or doctor. Please be sure to consult with a professional and note that your mileage may vary (perhaps quite literally!)
Being Active is Good for Baby and Momma-to-be
There are so many benefits to staying active during pregnancy. Being physically active will:
- Help you to carry the weight you gain during pregnancy
- Reduce your chances of getting pre-eclampsia and guard against gestational diabetes
- Prepare you for the physical stress of labor and birth
- Help you sleep better
- Improve your self-esteem
- Make getting back into shape after your baby is born easier
Your body will go through a lot of changes. The average woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy between the weight of the baby, extra fluid and blood, the placenta, and more. Keeping active will not only help physically carry this extra weight, but mentally help you feel strong. Labor lasts hours and the endurance hiking takes (not to mention moves such as squatting to pee on the trail!) will be extremely beneficial when the time comes.
Considerations and Precautions
If you are not an avid hiker, I wouldn’t recommend trying to become one while pregnant. Before I got pregnant, I had hiked all the NH 4000 footers in each season (plus many other repeats and other hikes). This is hundreds of hikes on some of the most difficult trails in NH. Because of this, I was able to keep hiking these rugged trails.
I personally hiked 9 4000-footers while pregnant. They included the Osceolas, Garfield, the Bonds Traverse, Moosilauke, Pierce, and Eisenhower. I did an overnight of the Bonds at 12 weeks and I was hiking on a regular basis leading up to this. I had minimal morning sickness in my first trimester which helped to stay active. During my overnight I was sure to keep my pack light enough and paired my hike down from my previous overnight routes of these peaks which often included the Twins, Hale, and Zealand.
If you are having morning sickness, are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or have other concerns, be sure to take it easy and stay local. Always keep your healthcare professional in the loop with what you’re doing. My midwife is a big advocate on staying active and I had the green light to hike throughout.
Your Mileage May Vary
After 25 weeks, I went from hiking 4000 footers to smaller hikes. This included peaks in the Belknap range and ones of similar length and difficulty. Some women have terrible morning sickness or health/pregnancy related issues that make slowing down earlier necessary. Others are able to keep hiking longer. This can differ from one woman to another and even from one pregnancy to the next. If you are carrying high, you’ll feel like you’re breathing for two which makes going uphill a lot slower! If you are carrying lower or once your baby drops, waddling makes hiking steeper trails virtually impossible, especially with obstacles like rocks and boulders.
Keeping Comfortable and Safe on the Trail
It is always important to always let someone know your hiking plans, and especially important while you are pregnant. Always leave a note with your route and expected completion time with someone you trust (as well as what to do if they don’t hear from you). You may want to take a hiking buddy, especially as you progress through your pregnancy, but I will leave that up to you! Always carry a map and compass as well as all the necessary gear for hiking, even for a small hike.
Two of the most important factors to consider when hiking during pregnancy is hydration and worn gear. I was lucky enough to become pregnant in June so the weather became cooler the more I advanced. You’ll want to be sure you have plenty of water as well as electrolytes to keep your levels up. Pack a few more snacks than you think and give yourself an earlier start to account for being slower in general and the numerous bathroom breaks you’re bound to take. I recommend keeping an eye on your pace, even when you’re feeling good, to conserve your energy.
If you hike year round, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper footwear for dealing with ice and snow. In the fall I began bringing my Hillsound Crampons for icy sections. When it turned to winter and my belly was getting much bigger, I knew bending and attaching the crampons to my boots would be more difficult. I found a solution by wearing one pair of shoes driving and then switching to my winter hiking boots at the trailhead which I already had the spikes attached to. I ended up going from 4ks to smaller peaks at this point so with a more mild winter, I was able to keep hiking without the need of snowshoes. I do own mountaineering snowshoes if I did need them.
I recommend hiking mainly on trails you’ve done before. Why? For one, you’ll have an idea of how long it typically takes and can tack on extra time. It also makes it much easier to turn around if you’re not feeling up to it since you don’t feel like you have to get to the summit.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
I have never been a fair weather hiker, but now is not the time to hit the trail during a cold rain storm or high winds. I like to check out numerous weather sites including Mount Washington’s Higher Summit Forecast and Mountain-Forecast. If you’re hiking in summer, avoid extremely humid days and look for trails that have shade from the sun. Definitely be sure to stay hydrated on hot summer hikes!
You’ll have a gear set up that works well for you since you regularly hike, but there are some items you’ll want to purchase or be aware of specifically for pregnancy.
- Tops that fit a growing belly
I recommend checking out the clearance section to get some tops a size up, especially if you find your chest getting significantly bigger. I found some tops that come down past your waist that are great because they’ll fit longer. Be sure to look for material that has some stretch to them.
- Stretchy bottoms
It can be hard to find pants that fit well, especially if you are used to ones that feature normal buttons and zippers. The waist band will need some stretch to fit under a growing belly. You’ll likely gain some additional weight in your thighs too.
Leggings are a great option in fair weather and can be cheap to purchase. They don’t always stand up well though. A few other options to try include:
Mountain Hardwear Dynama Ankle Pants– stretchy pants great for 3 season hiking
REI Co-op Tilt Capris– great option for warmer weather hiking
Gore Windstopper Tights– will keep you warm on winter hikes
Purple Rain Skirt– versatile option to wear on its own or over leggings with thick yoga band top
- trekking poles
If you start to find your balance is a little off or just want some extra support, trekking poles are great to use on the trail. I find them especially helpful for stream crossings. Once it gets cold out, it can be difficult to tell if a rock is slick and you can test it out with your poles before stepping onto it yourself.
I recommend poles that fold up so you can stow them easily when you don’t need them. Two great options are:
- Comfortable pack
If you are in the market for a new pack, I’d recommend one where you can easily access water and snacks as well as small essentials like sunscreen. Look for a lightweight pack (some overnight packs weigh 5+ pounds empty!!) that easily fits everything you’ll need for your hike.
Gossamer Gear Type II 26 Summit Pack– my go to for all my day hikes
Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack– perfect for overnights
Gregory Jade 28– popular midsize pack
Feet can be problematic during pregnancy. I was lucky to not have any swelling, but that’s not always the case. Your feet will likely get a bit bigger so swelling or not, you’ll need footwear that fits well to avoid blisters and overall foot pain.
A couple of years ago I was having a hard time finding trail runners that fit my feet well. I had switched from heavy and blister causing boots, but didn’t have much luck with trail runners that worked for me. I ended up discovering Altra Lone Peak from some hiker friends and they are pretty amazing. Popular along thru hikers, these shoes have a larger foot shaped toe box and fit wider feet. They work very well for me and they come in a few different styles depending on your preference. You can get a low cut (traditional style trail runner), mids which give you a bit of ankle support, or a neoshell option if you’re looking for some weather resistance.
For winter I’ve been wearing Salomon Toundra boots which have a rating down to -40 F. I’ve found them to be extremely comfortable and warm over the 5 winters I’ve used them. I recommend going up a 1/2 size when ordering.
For those late fall through early spring hikers, traction is a must have! Even in my own driveway, it has been helpful this winter. I used to only wear Kahtoola Microspikes until I discovered Hillsound Trail Crampons which has two great features: slightly longer spikes and a velcro strap to prevent them from coming off.
- Belly support
If you feel like you need an extra bit of support, there are a couple great options to try. The first is a belly band or belt. I don’t like the belt as much (at least the ones with velcro) as it makes noises as you move.
The second option is KT (Kinesiology Theraputic) sports tape. This is very versatile depending on any discomfort or additional support you may need. I found this article to be extremely helpful in ways to use this tape during pregnanacy.
- Body Glide
If you end up with a bit more weight in your thighs, body glide will be a life saver. This is especially true if you are contemplating dealing with thigh rub vs overheating in long pants during summer hikes! I am not sure what the difference between the BodyGlide for Her vs the original other than the packaging being pink, but either way, it will definitely help you hike those extra miles comfortably.
Were you an active hiker throughout your pregnancy? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences as well!
Last modified: February 25, 2018