Camping While Pregnant
It may be the farthest thing from your mind or it may be the thing you think you can’t do but you can’t stop thinking about. I’m here to tell you that camping while pregnant is doable and can be enjoyable with a few modifications to your gear and your expectations.
Pregnancy can make you feel a bit out of sorts (understandably, you’re growing a human!), but doing one of your favorite activities can make you feel more like yourself again.
Research shows that exposure to green spaces while pregnant can influence fetal growth and healthy growth is integral to preventing many adverse health outcomes in later life. We know being in nature is good for your baby in-utero, but we also know that time spent in the outdoors benefits your mental health as well (various studies have linked mental well-being with nature and if you’re in need of a reminder, The Nature Fix by Florence Williams is a good refresher).
Note: We are not doctors and before engaging in any strenuous activity, we recommend you talk with your health care provider to ensure a positive outcome of your adventure.
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Camping During Pregnancy Mindset
Listen to Your Body
Throughout your pregnancy, your energy levels will likely wax and wane and listening to your body is so important. “Listen to your body” seems to be advice thrown out willy-nilly but how do you actually do this, especially in regards to camping activities? I recommend taking stock of how you’ve been feeling before you plan a camping trip with your pre-pregnancy modus operandi in mind.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with planning to spend most of your time lounging during your trip. So many moms I spoke with, myself included, used camping to enjoy relaxing and recentering in the outdoors, not necessarily to bag a peak (though a couple did this as well).
How you’re feeling will likely change from day to day as well so take stock with a quick 2-minute body scan starting at your feet and working up through your head. Are the bottoms of your feet tender? Does your lower back feel tight from your sleeping position? Is your heartburn already acting up? Now, how does this compare to yesterday?
Use this comparison as you decide what kind of physical activity you’re going to get into on this particular camping day. Of course, sometimes you don’t have a choice. If the plan was for a short hike and your toddler and third-grader have been dreaming of picking up sticks on the trail for days, then it doesn’t matter what your body scan tells you. But you can still modify! Take it slow, don’t go nearly as far, or ask your adult camping partners to take the kids without you.
Check With Your Provider
Don’t think you can’t participate in regular camp activities while pregnant but be sure not to overdo it. Talk with your provider about what activities are safe for you specifically. And then, enjoy your time hiking, grateful to your knees for carrying extra pounds during these 40 weeks. Enjoy a dip in the river, probably the quickest way to cool down a pregnant person. Enjoy a bike ride, thankful that low impact exercises exist.
Love the Lounging
Whether you’re planning for a full-out “lounge about” camping trip or your swollen ankles are necessitating some unplanned relaxation at the campsite, get yourself comfy!
Pack a pair of camp slippers or at least slip-on shoes and your favorite pair of soft pants (as we like to call them in our house). That luxurious blanket you have laid over the couch that you would never think of taking outside, I’m telling you now, take it! Enjoy the luxury of having a super soft, warm blanket to wrap up with and simply toss in the wash when you return.
Spending time in a hammock came up time and time again as one of the most comfortable ways to relax at the campsite. I loved my ENO hammock for camping while pregnant though I’ll admit it was pretty difficult to get myself out of it the first few times.
No trees in sight? Your camp chair will still provide a nice reprieve for your tootsies, just remember to slide the cooler under your feet. Or if your campsite has a picnic table, the bench part is usually the perfect height for a foot rest. And if you can drag your chair to the river, even better! There’s nothing like soaking your toes in the cool water while building an entire child.
Though I didn’t have the foresight to bring a battery-powered fan, I definitely wish I had. So many folks suggested it in my recent conversations. A few even recommended it as a top pick during labor too.
Campsite lounging, if not also tasked with taking care of other children, is the perfect time to catch up on some reading. A few parenting-in-the-outdoors books that have been hits with my circle are:
- The Open-Air Life: Discover the Nordic Art of Friluftsliv and Embrace Nature Every Day by Linda Åkeson Mcgurk
- Outdoor Kids in an Inside World: Getting Your Family Out of the House and Radically Engaged with Nature by Steven Rinella
Catching Campground Naps
Bring the Comfort
Adventurous soon-to-be moms responded to my question “What would you never leave at home when camping while pregnant?” with passion and fervor. The answer that floated to the top? Every and any form of air mattress and pillows to ensure comfy sleep…or as comfy as possible.
I can confirm that my own experience had me wishing for a much thicker air mattress and even borrowing a Sierra Designs 2-person Airbed from a friend for my next pregnant camping excursion.
And why not use this opportunity to take your favorite pillows camping? Though your tent might not be the best place for a large-scale pregnancy pillow like the Meiz U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow (my personal favorite), stealing a few throw pillows from your house to wedge under your belly and behind your back is a must. If you’re looking for a pregnancy specific pillow that’s small enough to pack, the Bub’s Maternity Pillow is a good option too.
As for warmth, even if you’re camping in cold weather, relying on several blankets is preferable to a restrictive sleeping bag. Your belly may prevent you from zipping your sleeping bag all the way up anyway so wearing your down jacket to sleep is a good alternative. Using your sleeping bag unzipped on top of you is an option as well. (Don’t forget that luxurious couch blanket I talked about sacrificing earlier.)
You might find that you’re overheating all the time during your pregnancy. Bringing a lightweight blanket in case your sleeping bag is too hot for you, even when it’s unzipped, is a good add-on for the packing list.
Choosing the Perfect Campsite
If you’re camping in a developed camp-site and tend to reserve a site far from the pit toilets, you may want to reconsider. Since frequent bathroom trips may be in your future, the occasional slamming of the bathroom door near your campsite is worth the shortened walk.
Additionally, if you’re lucky enough to know the campground well, reserve a site with plenty of shade. You’ll likely be spending more time than usual at your campsite so making sure it’s comfortable, even at high noon, is important.
Along the same lines, you may be interested in splurging on a cabin reservation for your trip which many mamas mentioned as a good option during that third trimester when an actual bed is superior to any air mattress or cot.
You don’t have to stray far from home to get your camping on either. Backyard camping can still scratch the “camping itch” for you and the rest of your family.
Tent Camping When Pregnant
Many mamas mentioned that they opted for a larger tent during pregnancy. I tried using our old standard, the two-person Kelty Gunnison, which turned out fine during the first trimesters. By late in the third trimester, I was not willing to climb in and out on my hands and knees, so instead borrowed a tent that I could fully stand in.
Camper Camping When Pregnant
If you have a camper to sleep in and the bed is usually just a quick hoist of your lower half onto the mattress, you may want to think about bringing a small foldable step stool. A camp stool is a key item for getting in and out of bed.
Middle of the Night Bathroom Trips
If your pregnancy has given you the gift of innumerable middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, you’ll want to put a bit of forethought into your tent exit strategy. Position yourself close to a door and make sure you have your headlamp/flashlight and your shoes nearby. And, whatever you do, don’t forget to loosen those shoes for easy on and off!
Pregnant Camping Nutrition
Nourishing Your Body
Fueling your pregnant body while camping is key to a pleasant experience. Don’t even think of letting yourself get hangry. Planning for all of the extra necessities (have I mentioned all of the pillows) means that I usually like to devote little time and space to extra cooking supplies.
When I was pregnant, one-pot camp meals were my go-to. These one-pot wonders required exactly the amount of cooking motivation I had. Pour the ingredients into a dutch oven, cook over heat, and eat.
My favorite one-pot camp dinners ended up being Dutch Oven Chili and Cornbread and Camping Nachos (we added ground elk to both for extra protein). You can also check out Amelia’s book The Easy Camp Cookbook for simple, delicious recipes.
In addition to paying attention to the ease of your camp meals, nutrients are crucial ingredients to keeping yourself fueled during camp trips. Specifically, fiber and protein have myriad benefits and are sometimes easy to miss.
An appropriate amount of fiber is essential to your body while pregnant so now is not the time to leave the fresh fruits and veggies at home. Bring fresh pears, berries, and oranges, as well as dried fruits for mid-day (and midnight) snacks.
Our family is meat-eating but we also aimed to include beans and lentils into our camp meals for added protein. Protein-filled snacks are a must so make sure you’ve packed plenty. My non-pregnant favorites were still at the top of my pregnancy list and included hummus and pita chips, apple slices and peanut butter, and cheese sticks and clementines.
Morning Sickness at Camp
A pregnancy post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of morning sickness. If you’re prone to nausea during your pregnancy, think about packing foods that have helped you in the past. If you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to have a few bland options on hand.
Things like eggs, oatmeal, saltines, nuts, and rice are great options for meals or snacks that won’t further upset an already disagreeable stomach.
Hydration is King
Hand-in-hand with proper nutrition comes proper hydration. Water intake is important for pregnancy and if you’re being active outdoors or just spending time in the sun, you may need more than you think. Keep monitoring the color of your urine to ensure it’s a pale yellow color.
Camping Food Safety While Pregnant
As you’re planning meals, be extra vigilant about your plan for cooler food storage. Food poisoning while pregnant can be dangerous so give extra thought to preventing cross-contamination.
You want to make sure that bacteria from uncooked meat isn’t spread to fruits, vegetables, and other foods eaten straight from the cooler. Opt for frozen water bottles or freezer packs instead of loose ice which can melt and penetrate the plastic packaging of foods. You could also keep separate coolers for raw meat and eggs.
Remember Your Supplements
Are you a s’mores family? Or maybe more of a dutch oven cobbler family? My partner always joked that my pregnancy dessert of choice was a bottle of extra-strength tums. He wasn’t wrong. Don’t forget to pack any supplements or medicines you’ve been regularly taking (prenatals included!).
Favorite Pregnant Camping Gear
A small scale maternity pillow that provides great support for your belly and back while still fitting within the small footprint of your air mattress or cot.
An air mattress thick enough to provide comfort for your hips and other joints while still thin enough to fit nicely in your tent.
Ridiculously cozy and comfortable, these pants are perfect for sleep, lounging around the campsite, and also getting out on a short hike.
Helpful Camping Gear for Pregnant Moms
A chair that not only supports your weight but also allows you to recline in a different position than a traditional camp chair.
This step stool is foldable to space saving in a camper and also provides just the extra height you might need to get into bed at night (or get into a high cupboard or reach a tree trunk high enough to string a hammock). Also doubles as a foot rest when you need to get your feet up.
I’d recommend a DoubleNest Hammock over a smaller version every day of my life! If you can master getting in and out of a hammock while pregnant, this is such a comfy way to lounge. The fabric has a way of lightly supporting a pregnant body in all the right places.
Just for Fun
Who wants to spend their evenings around the campfire with terrible heartburn? These are tasty and help with heartburn that your little bundle of joy is likely causing. Check with your doctor before taking any supplement of course.
If you’re spending more time lounging about the campsite, might as well make it more magical. These string lights add the perfect ambiance for an extra special evening.
If you’re not up for the daily mountain summit, enjoy your time at the campsite with a fun book like this. It will keep you laughing and remembering that there is humor in everything plus you’ll learn a little something about the animal kingdom.
Pregnant Camping Naysayers
You might encounter some well-meaning strangers that seem to be appalled you’d go camping while pregnant. Though it’s easier said than done, do your best to remember that every pregnancy is different and that they may have had a difficult one where they wouldn’t have even dreamt of camping. Assume they have positive intentions, be confident that you know your body, and carry-on up the trail.
Camping While Pregnant is Doable, and SO Worth It!
During my pregnancy, camping was a great way to clear my mind and enjoy the outdoors. The two changes that were most apparent was my propensity to want to take shorter hikes and no longer having the gumption to pick up every pretty rock I saw. Well worth it though!
Camping while pregnant may necessitate you leave behind your ultralight camping aspirations but your time in nature can be just as rejuvenating. Your adventurous spirit shouldn’t be dampened in any phase of motherhood!
- Hike On, Mama! It’s Good for the Baby on Board
- Surviving the First Trimester as an Outdoor Mom
- Make My Belly Fit Review
Camping While Pregnant
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