Camping while pregnant may seem like a bad idea to your mother’s generation. But with the right preparation and reasonable expectations, it can actually be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities you can do during pregnancy.
Maybe you’re on the fence about camping while pregnant. Or maybe you’re already packed and just want some last-minute tips. Wherever you are on the spectrum, rest assured that camping during pregnancy is perfectly safe when you take the right precautions.
Read on to learn how to plan for, pack for, and stay safe when camping while pregnant!
Preparing to Camp While Pregnant
Check in with your Obstetrician
You’re probably sick of hearing this by now, but before you do anything out of the norm, check with your OB/gyn to make sure they don’t have any concerns about you camping during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to ask if your doc has any advice, especially regarding what to do should you need care while you’re away.
Choosing a Campground
Once you’ve gotten the okay from your OB/gyn, start looking at campgrounds! There are a few specific things you want to pay attention to when you’re camping while pregnant. Sites like Campspot can help you narrow down your search.
First off, stick to campgrounds that sit at lower altitudes. You may have already felt that it’s easier to feel short of breath doing even the most mundane, day-to-day tasks since you got pregnant. THis breathlessness will only get worse at higher elevations, where oxygen levels are lower. This can put undue strain on your already stressed system and result in dangerously high heart rate and shortness of breath, which can cause complications for your growing baby.
Another thing you want to look for when researching campgrounds for camping during pregnancy is the general condition and location of bathroom facilities. Being pregnant definitely means more frequent bathroom breaks as that growing munchkin presses on your bladder. You’ll need to be able to access a bathroom relatively easily at all times of day and night!
Check reviews on sites like Tripadvisor to see what real people say about a specific campground’s bathroom facilities. See if people say anything about the lighting (or lack thereof) or point out any slipping concerns.
Cell Phone Coverage and Proximity to Medical Facilities
You’ll also want to try to find out how reliable the cell phone coverage is at the camp. Although you’re not likely to have an emergency, just in case you do, you’ll want to be sure you can call out. If you have any doubts, consider calling the campground’s office and ask about coverage in the area.
Similarly, check out a map to determine where the nearest hospital, urgent care center, or other medical facility is to the campground you’re considering. Just in case.
The Good Kind of Shady Locations
Once you get to the campground–or if there’s a way to ensure this while making a reservation–look for a site with at least some shade. Camping in the spring and summer months can get hot, especially if you’re camping while pregnant!
What to Pack
Camping while pregnant also requires you to put a little more thought into what you pack.
Most importantly, make sure you have all your medications, including prenatal vitamins, pain relievers, antacids, anti-nausea medicine (we like these PreggiePops that come with a boost of energy from vitamin B6), and even a sleep aid, like Unisom (safe to use while pregnant). Getting good sleep is hard enough while pregnant, let alone trying to get it inside a tent!
Sun and Bug Protection
Don’t forget to pack bug spray that covers all the critters you may encounter, as well as tick-removal tools, just in case. And, because pregnant women experience heightened photosensitivity, it is imperative that you pack–and actually use–a good sunscreen if you’re camping while pregnant.
For Your Feet
Make sure you have comfortable, sturdy shoes with lots of room for swollen feet. If you have the means, consider buying a pair that’s a size up from your normal size. You’ll want a pair of easy-to-don, slip-on shoes for around camp, too.
For Your Stomach
Bring along any anti-nausea snacks and drinks, like saltine crackers and ginger ale, that can help with morning sickness. If you must keep these items inside your tent because you just cannot bear to move from your sleeping bag when nausea hits, make sure you use a bear bag.
For the daylight hours (or, really, anytime you want them. You are pregnant, after all!), pack lots of high-protein snacks, like nuts, cheese, and yogurt, to keep you nourished and as energized as possible. Fresh fruit is also a great snack if you’re camping while pregnant; it will help you stay hydrated.
Consider cutting up some of your favorite melon or packing some washed berries in your cooler, or even grab a bag of mandarin oranges from your local supermarket.
Speaking of hydration, pregnant women need enough water to hydrate for two! Generally, you need about 8 to 12 cups of water per day while pregnant, but that increases with increased exertion (like, say, hiking) and increased temperature.
Why is hydration so important while pregnant? Dehydration can lower amniotic fluid levels, which can affect your baby’s development and even lead to preterm labor. Pack a big water bottle!
So, you’ve considered all the extra things you may need during the day at camp. What about at night? Along with your pregnancy-approved sleep aid, make sure you have some kind of air mattress (preferably an elevated one) or cot with a thick sleeping pad (or two). If you use an air mattress that self-inflates, be sure that you have the power source to inflate it (these are usually compatible with a standard 110-volt power source, which you may have access to in your vehicle).
You may not need to pack anything extra for this, but consider using a rolled-up jacket or small pillow to place between your knees for sleeping; this will take some of the pressure off your hard-working hips! And, in addition to a sleeping bag (or even in place of one), bring a light sheet or a blanket so if you get too hot, you can move outside your bag but still have some cover.
And, speaking of getting too hot, think about bringing along a tent fan to help keep you cool. The steady noise it provides might also help block out any weird campsite sounds that would otherwise keep you awake.
Last, but far from least for those who are camping while pregnant, pack a comfortable camp chair with footrest to elevate your swollen feet at the end of the day. If you already have a great camp chair but no footrest, and you’d rather not elevate your feet on a stack of dwindling firewood or the often-accessed beverage cooler, you can even buy a footrest attachment that pops on to your existing chair.
Now that you’re all prepared to go camping while pregnant, it’s time to hit the road!
Take a look at your route ahead of time. Remember that you’ll likely need to stop at least once for a bathroom break, so try to find a route that has some options of places to stop. Your body will also be grateful for a stretch break!
Given that you’re being brave enough to go camping while pregnant, don’t add extra stress by booking a campground far away. However, if you must, it might be a good idea to invest in some period panties to protect against leaks or accidents.
If at all possible, avoid bumpy, curvy roads, which can contribute to motion sickness. Have a stack of emesis bags or other sturdy receptacle nearby in case you do get sick.
Bring along an inflatable or cushioned donut to sit on to take some pressure off your hips and pelvic region, especially if you’re in for a long ride. A tennis ball or lacrosse ball can also be a lifesaver on a road trip. Use it to massage those tight spots on your back, glutes, and hamstrings while you ride (but don’t massage yourself while driving!).
At the Campsite
Setting Up Camp
You made it to camp! A few modifications here can help camping while pregnant be even more rewarding.
First, leave the heavy lifting to someone else. That doesn’t mean you need to rest on your laurels while everyone else unloads the car, but be reasonable and don’t overdo it. Some non-pregnant person can lift that heavy cooler out of the minivan!
Pregnancy wreaks havoc on your balance and equilibrium, so watch your step around camp, and especially when hiking. The smallest unanticipated tree root or rock can leave you flat on the ground.
Along those lines, also make sure that, when you’re setting up your tent, you leave–and maintain– a clear pathway from your bed to the tent door. No one wants to stub her toe or trip on a midnight bathroom run!
Meals and Snacks
One of the most important things to think about when camping while pregnant is food safety. Bacteria like listeria can be extremely harmful to your developing baby (remember why you can’t eat that delicious hunk of brie or chevre while pregnant? Same culprit).
Think about freezing items, as possible, before packing them. Taking hamburger patties? Freeze them first. Hot dogs? Buns? Yogurt? The colder you can keep your camp cooler, the better.
A Clean Cooler is a Safe Cooler
Before packing your cooler, clean it with bleach or a non-bleach sanitizer. Then, load it with ice in leak-free bags or ice packs. Keep your cooler out of the sun, and pack it back into your car at night.
Consider taking two coolers: one for drinks and snacks, and the other for the perishables that need to stay very cool. The drinks and snacks cooler will be opened frequently, leading to a warmer interior.
Toss a bottle of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in your camp kitchen supplies to remind everyone to take hygiene precautions when cooking and eating.
If you’re camping while pregnant, you may need to adjust your expectations for yourself in terms of activity. Don’t worry–there’s still plenty you can do!
Hiking is great exercise and totally okay for pregnant folks. Just don’t go crazy and try to push yourself to nail that 5 mile out-and-back that you did nonpregnant. And be more cognizant of your compromised equilibrium so you can avoid slips and trips.
Swimming and wading are excellent camping activities to enjoy while pregnant! Water pressure reduces swelling and relieves pressure on your overworked joints, while cool water tames your (probably raging) body temperature.
Just watch out for hazards like slippery rocks, currents, and sudden drop-offs. Also be aware that you will fatigue more easily.
And, of course, keep your mouth closed! Bacteria in natural bodies of water can cause problems for your growing baby if ingested.
Perhaps the best “activity” when camping while pregnant is simply relaxing! Being pregnant is a lot of work, and the work doesn’t end once you meet your baby on the outside! Take time to relax, read a book, sketch, color, knit, or just absorb the peace of nature, guilt-free.
On any camping trip, safety needs to be a priority, but this is especially true if you’re camping while pregnant.
As mentioned, know where to get medical help. Pack pregnancy notes, OB/gyn’s information, and emergency contacts in a place that’s easy to access. Go somewhere with cell phone coverage.
Always wear long pants when hiking to protect against ticks and other little biting nasties.
Never camp, swim, or hike alone while pregnant (or really ever, but that’s a more reasonable cost-benefit analysis to make when you’re not pregnant).
Special Considerations Based on Trimester
This period of your pregnancy may seem like a great time to go camping. Your body has yet to expand to sometimes seemingly uncontrollable proportions. You can still see your feet, which is helpful when navigating rocky or root-strewn trails. You can probably still even wear your regular camping clothing and hiking shoes.
However, there are some real challenges to camping while pregnant in your first trimester. These first 12 weeks are essential to your baby’s development as major organs begin to form. At the same time, your growing fetus is the most vulnerable to infections, toxins, and harmful chemicals that can impede proper growth.
On top of the risks your baby faces during these weeks, you’re probably not feeling awesome, to put it mildly. Sore boobs, mood swings, fatigue, and nausea are some of the hallmarks of this trimester that could make your camping excursion feel like a nightmare.
For some, getting out in the fresh air can be an antidote to the discomfort of the first trimester, though. If you’re feeling up to it and your doctor gives you the green light, there’s no reason to avoid camping while pregnant in your first trimester. Just be prepared to deal with any pregnancy symptoms you’re already experiencing (keep those saltines close at hand!) and allow yourself time to rest.
Be vigilant about using bug spray and checking for ticks, and be uncompromising about food safety and hand washing.
For many, the second trimester is the honeymoon period of pregnancy. Energy returns to closer-to-normal levels, and your baby’s organs have formed. Nausea, breast soreness, and fatigue tend to ease up, making this a great time to go camping when you’re pregnant.
On the flip side, your growing belly can lead to more backaches and lower-body joint soreness, so make sure you have as many creature comforts as possible to help you relax (bedding, pillows, cushions, and the like). Leg cramps are also common during this stage of pregnancy. Consider packing a hot water bottle that you can fill at camp in case cramps start, and try to stretch your calves before bed.
As your circulatory system adjusts to the pregnancy, you might get bouts of dizziness during the second trimester. If this happens, take it easy, drink some water, and sit down or lie on your side. Long hikes and other activities that keep you on your feet for long periods should be avoided at this point to decrease the likelihood and severity of dizziness and disorientation.
You’ve made it to the home stretch now, and you may be considering taking a “babymoon” in nature before your bundle of joy makes an entrance. During these last weeks, you will have a nearly impossible time getting comfortable, so all those sleep suggestions we mentioned should be considered gospel.
It’s imperative that you locate the nearest medical facility before you go camping in this trimester. Regardless of how smooth your pregnancy has been thus far, you never know what complications may arise, including preterm labor. Have a plan in place for such a contingency, just in case.
Braxton Hicks contractions might hit during this trimester, too, especially after you’ve been active. That hot water bottle you bought to deal with leg cramps in the second trimester can come in handy now, too.
Heartburn can be awful during the third trimester, so make sure your bring–and take–some antacids. It’s also helpful to have a way to prop yourself up at night to elevate your chest and head.
Finally, you’ll be back to having to pee ALL THE TIME, so be prepared for lots of bathroom breaks.
Honestly, camping in the third trimester is probably the least enjoyable scenario of camping while pregnant. But if you can’t resist, a little extra preparation can make it a fun and relaxing experience.
Camping and Pregnancy Go Well Together
As long as you’re prepared, camping while pregnant can be just the experience you need to refresh your body and soul during this challenging time. And you are more than capable of spending a few nights in the arms of Mother Nature–you are, after all, growing a human inside of yourself!
So don’t let pregnancy keep you from reconnecting with nature and enjoying a last camping trip with one fewer kid demanding s’mores around the campfire!
Visit our Camping page for tips, from meal prep ideas to national park guides, on our website!
- About the Author
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Ronda Lindsay is a professional writer and editor who has worked in government communications for nearly two decades.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, she fostered her love of nature and the outdoors by exploring the Pacific Northwest’s many natural playgrounds before moving to the Washington, DC, area to see what the eastern side of the country had to offer. She’s also spent plenty of time camping, hiking, and floating around central Texas, where she now lives.
With a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in professional writing, Ronda loves to learn and write about the latest trends in outdoor adventuring and share that information with Beyond the Tent readers.