When You Are Pregnant
Physical fitness, especially a low impact exercise like
walking, is one of the best
activities you can do to keep you and your baby healthy.
If you hike now, there is no reason why you cannot continue to do so
while pregnant. Obviously if you've never hiked before, now is not the
time to embark on an epic-backpacking trip. Every pregnancy is different
and you are the person that should decide what you are capable of doing
safely. Here is what I learned when I was pregnant with Kasey.
For me the first trimester was absolute hell.
I was never sick, but always nauseous all day every day. I also
suffered from what my friend calls "the compelling couch
The only thing I ever felt like doing was sitting on the couch and
For some people exercise can quell the nausea, but that did not work for
me, it left me even more lethargic than before.
Despite that I started slow with some easier day hikes, and built up the
confidence to something more ambitious the next time out.
David carried almost everything except the camera and my
A hydration system is great because you can take water, as you need
it. If you have to stop for water breaks you are likely to drink
too much at one time, more water will get absorbed and utilized by your
body if you're sipping.
And while we're on the topic, sure sipping all that water will
inevitably lead to a pregnant woman having to make frequent trips into
You're just going to have to live with that and come prepared, I'm sorry
to say there is no cure or secret tips that I can offer here, but just
remember, it means you're staying hydrated, which means you and your
baby are staying
be prepared to bring a lot more, your working body will need it and at
this stage in your life an energy bar diet is just not going to cut
Another good idea, especially later in the pregnancy is a pair of hiking
poles for stability.
Once you start carting around some extra poundage it becomes harder to
control your balance.
Poles will also take some of the pressure off of your knees should you
attempt trails with significant elevation gain/loss.
it should be noted that pregnant women are not advised to spend time in
high elevations if not used to it, I was able to climb to 9000ft on
Mt. Fairview while five months pregnant and had no difficulties.
Three days after I climbed Mt. Fairview I set a pregnancy distance
record of 15 miles in a single day hiking out from Assiniboine Lodge to
the Mt Shark trailhead.
heavy loads is not advisable for pregnant women, and later on in the
pregnancy your back will protest immediately if you hoist a pack onto it
(if you can even lift it that high!). I had no desire at any point in
my pregnancy to lug a backpack into the backcountry.
I was uncomfortable enough on a day to day basis at home, I didn't want
to get stuck being miserable many miles from home should I start feeling
Car camping while pregnant was not a
problem at all.
Having been avid backpackers we were used to taking only the bare
necessities so being able to bring all the comforts of home was a
Not only did we bring a giant air mattress, extra blankets and enough
pillows to make a sultan happy; we were able to cook real meals quickly
Our last hiking/camping trip came in October and was one of our most
ambitious, a day hike to Lewis and Wing Lake.
This coincided with the end of my second trimester and the end of our
hiking season. I am glad for that because the second trimester is
certainly the honeymoon period of your pregnancy and it really turns
ugly in the 3rd.
You are much larger and getting comfortable can become a problem,
especially at night when sleeping.
The baby starts moving more often and nighttime kicking can keep you up
all hours (especially the boots to the bladder!).
Of course it is still possible to continue hiking into your third
trimester, but be forewarned it will be much harder.
The most important advice I can give a pregnant woman,
especially one who wants to hike is that you need to listen to your
body, it knows what it is doing and knows what you and your growing baby
Take a break when you start to feel tired, eat well, stay hydrated, and
most importantly, take it easy and enjoy the experience.
So you want to hit the trail with your infant but you're not
sure if it is safe, or how you should go about it? Well there is
no reason to give up on your outdoor adventures, the baby can tag along
as long as you are prepared, take a few extra precautions and are not
overly ambitious. Kasey logged a lot of miles in her first year of
life and along the way we met many hikers who shared with us their
wonderful memories of hiking with their babes. Human babies have
been in the outdoors for many more years than we give them credit for,
they're pretty tough critters, you just need to be mindful of providing
them with their basic needs and they'll probably have as much fun as you
Flexibility is the key to hiking
with a new baby. Every baby is different, and worse yet the same baby may
react differently from day to day. It's important to start small and to
go with the flow as you learn how the baby reacts to all this new
stimuli. We took Kasey on her first walk at about seven weeks, but that
had more to do with mommy's recovery than it did the baby. We carried her
in a Baby Bjorn (a Snuggly) and fortunately she loved it! In fact
we ended up using the Bjorn all year, it worked out well although it did become
increasingly awkward as the baby gained weight. One drawback of the Bjorn
is that you are top heavy and the baby's movement can wreck havoc with your
balance. This is made even more precarious because on steep declines
because you can't see your feet. One solution is a backpack style carrier
but you cannot use those until your baby can support their own head.
Although your baby may be able to do this by six months, it is best to wait
until their neck muscles are strong enough to handle the bumps & jerks
inherent in hiking. The Bjorn however had another advantage, or at least
it did for us, in that Kasey slept soundly in its embrace. This proved
vital as she refused to sleep in a car seat and the last thing you want on the
trail is a tired baby.
While a tired baby can be a real
problem, hungry baby can be placated easily if you have the right
supplies on hand. Here is yet another reason why breast-feeding is
preferable, you simply stop on the side of the trail and its chow
time. After Kasey was weaned we carried bottles with a
pre-measured amount of powdered formula and a thermos full of hot
water. All that eating leads to the obvious side effects so
save room in you pack for diapers (bring extras), wipes and a small
change pad. Another item to include in your pack is a change of
There are a hundred different ways a baby can soil their clothes and
even if they don't there is a good chance you will by sweating through
the Bjorn. We also always brought a heavy weight fleece
bunting bag in case of emergency but as a rule we only took baby out
when were confident of a sunny forecast.
Right: Kasey at 20 weeks
Sunny weather however has its own hazards. It is
recommended that babies stay out of the sun during peak hours (10-2),
but that doesn't really work for day hikers. So as an alternative
you should try to keep your baby covered from head to toe. We
dressed Kasey in lightweight sleepers, preferably the ones with feet
because she would pull her socks off. We had the same problem with
hats, even ones that were tied on. In the end we were forced to
carry an umbrella. It may look silly and can be very tiring on
your arms, but it certainly works and keeps baby from getting
| Pharmacists don't recommend that you use sunscreen on babies under the
age of one. Apparently there are nasty chemicals in sunscreen,
which can irritate sensitive baby skin. We found that no matter
how hard we tried to keep Kasey out of the sun, reflected light always
managed to leave her with a red nose and cheeks, especially after alpine
hiking where the sun is more intense. We did our best to mitigate
the problem by putting diaper cream on her face. We preferred the
brand Sudocream for Kasey's face as it has a high zinc oxide content (a
sun block) and it spread easier than other products we tried.
| Left: Kasey at 9 months
Finally there is one other must have
product, one that will make the baby feel better and make the hike more
enjoyable for everyone - infant Tylenol. Teething is a fact of
life with infants and there is not much else you can do besides giving
them something to chew and wiping off the drool.
At times it was difficult to be on the trail with her crying
hysterically but having had the same experience at home, we knew that
being outdoors wasn't the difference.
|Kasey's first night under the stars didn't take place
until she was six months old as we waited until there were moderate
nighttime temperatures in the mountains. To keep her off the cold
ground we had her sleep inside a playpen, and that necessitated
purchasing a larger tent. Setting up camp was a lot more work than
before as one partner had to feed, change and entertain the baby.
It was not until she was put to bed that we were finally able to cook
food for ourselves and pack our bags for the next day's hike.
Camping for us had always been a means to an end that allowed us to
drive farther and hike longer, the baby forced us to rethink that
philosophy. This isn't necessarily a negative as we had a
wonderful fall vacation in the Rockies where we base camped out of a
The baby will grow older soon enough so it is important to focus on the
things you can still do rather than what isn't feasible at the moment.
|It would be dishonest to claim that all the extra work
didn't diminish our enjoyment of our favourite activity. However
over time you forget the many frustrations and just savour the memories
of her hooting with joy while trekking down a trail. Kasey may not
remember looking around and laughing at the wonderful sights and colors
of the forest; nor recall being enchanted at the sounds of a nearby
rushing creek. But hopefully it has affected her in some way and
will lead to a lifetime appreciation of the outdoors.
|Right: Kasey at eleven months
|After doing over a dozen day hikes in the 10 mile range when
Kasey was an infant we did only one family hiking and camping
trip the next year.
|The most obvious difference with having a toddler is that we
needed to use a proper child carrier. This had a profound
effect on what we could do hike-wise since we were burdened with a
lot more weight and at the same time dealing dealing with a 50%
reduction in pack real estate.
|Also once a child gets a taste of mobility the necessity of
being strapped motionless for long periods of time in either a
car seat or a child carrier becomes a tough sell.
|Toddlers like routine and when you mess up their regularly
scheduled mix of activity and naps they become quite miserable
and you start to question your own motivation for inflicting a
hike upon them.
|Left: Kasey a nineteen months
||It wasn't all bad. One good thing that we did discover
was that a toddler can easily amuse themselves with some water
or a little dirt. However we soon discovered that you can
never have enough clothes.
Of course having a toddler out of the pack introduces a whole
new set of problems. Almost immediately after arriving at
our campsite our daughter managed to stumble and hit her head on
a rock. From that moment onward one of us had to shadow
her every move. This reduced our work force by 50% and it
took forever to set up camp, make dinner, pack up etc.
|Truth be told it was bad enough that the next year we only
had one family outing in the alpine. In the end it wasn't
so much all the fuss and bother of having a toddler away from the
creature comforts of home but rather it became a matter of
safety. A three year old can move quite quickly but they
have no sense of danger. We continued hiking but restricted
it to local parks, free from objective hazards and the long
periods of confinement so despised by a toddler.
|The next year, when our daughter was three and a half and our
son was nine months old we did a family trip to Mt. Rainier
National Park. It is one of the few really scenic parks
with a variety of of short , barrier free trails. It was
still a long drive, but by that age our daughter was only enough
to be entertained at length by a portable DVD player.
|Once we got on the trail, boredom was a
real challenge. Our three year old was not impressed by
the grand views, but she did appreciate waterfalls and tangible
elements like trail structures and big trees. Her
favourite hike of them all featured a series of numbered posts.
|"I couldn't carry her
everywhere, I'd hurt my back! I just have this thing about a
three year old around steep drop offs so I put her in the pack
on such occasions, even if she protests. She mostly walked
on her own but, I wore the carrier just in case she decided she'
was bored of hiking"
|Right: The Grove of the Patriarchs
in Mt. Rainer National Park 1.3 miles
Left: Cheakamus Lake in Whistler BC,
the first hike done by the kids primarily
under their own power. 4 miles return, no elevation gain
|The solution to the motivation problem came the next year when
our daughter was four and a half and our son was nearly
two. The one thing that seemed to motivate both of them
was food, particularly the sweet stuff. Fortunately every
fall, the alpine provides a naturally sweet bounty in the form
of huckleberries. Since then hiking and harvesting
huckleberries has become an annual family tradition.