Tag Archives: hiking tips

Pregnant hiker holds walking poles and looks across mountains

7 Things Every Pregnant Hiker Needs

In this guest post, Samantha Jenkins, founder of maternity wear brand Mother & Nature, explains the equipment that every pregnant hiker needs.

Hiking while pregnant – things to consider

Walking is a fantastic exercise to do while you’re pregnant. It’s a low-impact, cardiovascular workout that will get your body releasing all those happy hormones (hello endorphins!). And you get the benefit of being outdoors in nature – something which is scientifically proven to boost your mood. But that’s not all: walking is free AND you can take your other children and/or dogs with you. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

But here’s the thing, you really need to have the right equipment. This significantly improves your safety when hiking. This is always important, but all-the-more so when you’re expecting, as you don’t want to put yourself or the baby at risk. The correct kit can also make things a lot more comfortable, especially when that growing bump becomes more cumbersome. If you’re comfortable, you’re much more likely to carry on hiking – meaning you’ll continue to reap all the physical and mental benefits that come with it.

Understandably, you won’t want to spend too much money on outdoor maternity wear. But the good news is that you don’t have to! The list below only features kit that you can use during and after your pregnancy. This makes it a sound long-term investment.

Pregnant woman holds bump while standing on beach

7 things every pregnant hiker needs

1. Hiking boots

Your centre of gravity changes as your bump grows, meaning you’ll likely be a bit clumsy on your feet. Proper hiking boots can do a great deal to help this, as they’re designed for both comfort and support. Hiking boots with a high ankle design are best because they protect your ankles, helping you to avoid any mishaps on uneven ground. The tread on the bottom of hiking boots also provides better grip than trainers or other shoes, ensuring you don’t slip.

Amazingly, your feet can grow a full shoe size when you’re pregnant. If you’re in the market for a new pair of boots, be sure to get your feet measured first.

2. Water bottle and snacks

You really don’t want to become dehydrated during pregnancy because it can have an adverse impact on both you and the baby. When you’re headed out for a hike, take a good, insulated water bottle (or water bladder) with you. Hiking is thirsty work at the best of times, so you’ll need more water than you think. However, water is heavy, and you don’t necessarily want to carry gallons of the stuff. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a hike where you can refill en route, whether that’s at a café, pub, restaurant or other safe water source.

Along with water, remember to take plenty of snacks to keep your blood sugar stable.

3. A maternity sports bra

Ladies, it’s time to get real: pregnancy hormones play havoc with your bust. That’s why a really good, non-wired maternity sports bra is a must. This will really improve your hiking experience, making all the difference to your comfort levels. There’s no need to splash the cash. You only really need one maternity sports bra. There are lots of options available, and many are designed with breastfeeding in mind. This increases the bra’s longevity, meaning it can be used for your post-natal exercising too!

4. Layers

Hiking is all about dressing in layers. This is especially necessary when you’re pregnant because your body temperature fluctuates more than normal. Hikers often talk about the ‘three-layer system’. This means wearing a base layer, preferably made out of wool or synthetic materials. Then you can throw on a fleece as your mid-layer if you get chilly. A waterproof jacket makes up your final layer, keeping the wind and rain off you. Walking trousers are also a great idea. Not only do they keep you dry and mud-free, they’ll protect your legs from scrapes and stings.

5. A sustainable hiking jacket

Speaking of clothes, lots of people make the mistake of hiking with a heavy jacket. But you’ll become hot way too quickly. Also, the fit might become an issue as you start to grow in size. Really, you want a lightweight, waterproof jacket that adapts to your body, as your pregnancy progresses. Enter the jackets from Mother & Nature! The Mother & Nature’s range has zipped side-panels that literally grow with your bump and then zip back down after the birth. This means you’ll have a year-round hiking jacket, bump or no bump.

Explore Mother & Nature’s range of sustainable maternity wear.

6. Walking poles

Walking poles have become increasingly popular amongst hikers in recent years, and with good reason. They improve balance and stability, providing you with a helping hand on both the uphill and the downhill. They have also been shown to reduce weight-bearing on your hips, knees and ankles. All of these things are incredibly beneficial during pregnancy, as not only are you more wobbly on your feet, your joints are also under greater strain.

7. Sun cream and the 10 Essentials

Finally, be sure to wear sun cream and a hat, even if it doesn’t seem like the sun’s out. Your skin is much more sensitive during pregnancy, so you’ll need to take extra measures against those damaging UV rays. Along with sun protection, don’t forget the other 10 Essentials of hiking safety which you should always take with you and each and every hike.

Woman hiking while pregnant

(Feature image photo credit: Lucas Favre)

Winter snowshoeing

Top Tips for Winter Hiking

Hiking can absolutely be a year-round activity. However, hiking in winter is a little different to hiking in summer. It’s cold and dark. There are more hazards. And having the right gear can make the difference between a great day out and a downright miserable experience.

If you’re hoping to hit the trails this winter, here are some top tips to keep you safe and warm.

Check the trail conditions

If you’re planning a hike, then you probably have an objective in mind. Do some research to find out what the trail conditions are like.

For recent events, find the nearest mountain listed on mountain-forecast.com and cross-reference the week’s weather with your intended destination. If the hike is in the vicinity of a ski resort, check snow-forecast.com instead. The resort might also have webcams you can check. Then take a look at local hiking forums and social media. Reach out to anyone who’s recently been in the area and ask them questions – was there snow on the trail? Was it horrendously muddy? How’s the access road? Hikers are a friendly bunch and will be more than happy to share information with you.

Let the conditions guide your decision-making. If the trail is likely to present difficulties – such as snow, ice or swollen waterways – then ask yourself if you’re equipped to deal with those kinds of conditions. If not, explore alternative options instead.

Check the weather and time of sunrise/sunset

Checking the weather forecast on the day of your hike is good practice, no matter what month it is. But it’s particularly important during the winter months when small temperature drops can make the difference between hiking in the rain and hiking in a blizzard.

If the weather is less than favourable, don’t be afraid to shelve your plans for another day. Remember, heavy rains can cause rivers to swell, low visibility can make navigation impossible, high winds can cause trees to fall and unstable loading in avalanche terrain. If the weather is going to compromise your safety, don’t go.

Also pay close attention to the number of daylight hours you have available. When checking the forecast, take note of when the sun sets. You can of course hike in the dark if you want (provided you have a sufficient light source), but don’t let it catch you out. You might prefer to start early and finish early. That way, you can be home safe and sound by the time darkness falls.

Woman and dog stand by nearly frozen lake
First snowfall of the season

Wear and carry layers – and lots of them!

Once you’re on the trails, the key is to dress in layers. Actually, this applies year-round, but all the more so in winter when you’ll quickly switch between hot and cold.

In the past, I’d arrive at the trailhead shivering and put all my layers on. Then I’d hike for about five minutes, be sweltering hot and have to take them all off again. I’ve finally learned that I’ll quickly warm up once I get moving. I’ve also learned that it’s bad to overheat while hiking in the winter. Someone once said to me: “you sweat; you die.” This is slightly alarmist, but I get the point. If you start sweating, that moisture will cool on your skin. When you stop, you’ll suddenly be extremely cold.

So, dress in layers. During the hike, remove and add layers as needed. If you’re getting hot, stop and peel some clothes off. If you’re getting cold, stop and add more. It can be tempting to ignore your body temperature and carry on hiking. However, you either risk over-heating – meaning you’ll get sweaty and then eventually become very cold. Or you risk a steady descent into mild hypothermia, from which it can be very difficult to warm up from. Don’t worry about stopping your group so you can layer/un-layer. Chances are, everyone else will want to do the same thing.

On the top, you’ll want a base layer which wicks sweat away. Don’t wear cotton – it retains moisture and will make you colder in the long-run. Then you’ll want a mid-layer, which is something a little warmer like a fleece. Then you’ll want a shell jacket for your outer layer. A waterproof jacket is ideal because it prevents wind chill and keeps you dry. When you stop (or if you get cold), whip out a down jacket and some additional mid-layers to keep you toasty. On your lower half, you’ll want moisture wicking tights/leggings and some waterproof trousers (pants) on top. You can remove the latter if you get hot or conditions are dry.

You should also take a warm hat, gloves and a buff to protect your face from wind chill. I like to take spare gloves and socks, just in case the pair I’m wearing get wet or I’m really, really cold. Take more clothes than you think you need – even if that means taking a bigger bag than you normally would on a day hike.

Top tip – when you stop for lunch or to admire the view, put your warmer layers on immediately! You might feel fine to begin with but you’ll cool down very quickly. Stave off the cold by layering up straightaway.

Related: What to Wear Hiking in Winter

Wear the right footwear

You can get away with hiking in trainers in the summer. Not so in the winter. You’ll absolutely need waterproof hiking boots. They should be high-cut, meaning they wrap around your ankle. They should also have aggressive lugs which allow for better traction in wet, slippery conditions. If it’s going to be really cold, you can invest in a pair of insulated hiking boots.

Synthetic or wool socks will help keep your feet dry. Gaiters can also be helpful if you’re going to be wading through mud, slush or snow.

Carry micro spikes and snowshoes

If the trail is snow-covered, you’ll either need micro spikes, snowshoes or both. Lots of people automatically reach for snowshoes when they’re hiking in snow. However, snowshoes are only useful for floating in deep snow. They provide a greater surface area so prevent you from sinking. But they don’t have very good grip. If the trail is full of compressed, icy snow, then micro spikes are better. If it’s steep, then you might need crampons.

It’s very easy to slip and hurt yourself in winter conditions. In fact, this is a common cause of winter hiking accidents. Even the first snowfall of the season can turn the trail into an ice rink. If you don’t want to be sliding down on your backside, be sure to carry micro spikes and/or snowshoes with you. Micro spikes can be easily stashed in your bag when you don’t need them, while snowshoes can be lashed onto the outside of your rucksack.

Keep eating and drinking

You might not feel very hungry or thirsty while hiking in winter, yet it’s vital that you keep eating and drinking.

You actually burn more calories while hiking in winter because your body is working harder to keep warm. Stay fuelled by guzzling high-energy snacks at regular intervals. Some foods become solid at low temperatures, so things like a traditional sandwich might not be too palatable. Hunks of hard cheese and dark chocolate work well. I also like to take a flask of hot soup to glug at lunchtime.

Stay hydrated by taking regular sips of water. You might not sweat as much as you do when hiking in summer, but you’re still losing moisture. The tubes on hydration bladders often freeze in cold weather. You can combat this by filling your bladder with warm water and sipping on it frequently throughout the day. You can also try an insulated tube cover, or simply switch to insulated bottles instead.

Prepare for the unexpected

I once read that when even if you’re planning on a day hike, you should be prepared for an overnight hike. This is all the more pertinent in winter when you have fewer daylight hours to get yourself out of a jam.

Always carry the 10 Essentials with you. Then, think like a catastrophist and pack extra of everything. This includes extra layers, food, lights and batteries or chargers for electronics (which often die in cold weather!) Take a bivvy bag just in case you end up camping overnight. Stick some handwarmers in your bag which will save your fingers if you get really cold. And always leave a trip plan with a friend or family member.

Get avalanche safety training

If you plan on venturing into avalanche terrain, then you need to attend an Avalanche Skills Training (AST) course. This gives you the knowledge required to identify avalanche hazards and minimise the risks. You and every member of your party will need to carry an avalanche receiver, probe and shovel – and know how to use them!

It’s a common misconception that only skiers and snowboarders get caught in avalanches. Actually, snowshoers and winter hikers are frequently killed or injured in the mountains, be it in avalanches or collapsed cornices. Obviously, it all depends on where you’re hiking. If you’re trudging across the Mendip Hills in England, you don’t need to know the meaning of surface hoar. But if you’re headed to snowy peaks, it could be crucial. If you’re not sure, book yourself onto a course anyway. You’ll learn a bunch of interesting (and potentially life-saving) information and maybe even make some new hiking buddies in the process.

If you have any other tips for winter hiking then I’d love to hear them!

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