As Albuquerque sizzles in the summer heat, the cool, blue, pine-forested mountains of northern New Mexico look increasingly delightful. Normally, my summer is filled with backpacking and geology trips throughout the southern Rocky Mountains. This summer, my backpack and hiking boots have remained in the closet.
Not to be discouraged from enjoying the wilderness entirely by my very pregnant status, my husband and I recently joined my family on a car camping trip in northern New Mexico. At first leery of camping so late in pregnancy, I calmed myself down with the knowledge that should I indeed go into labor a week and a half early, I was not stranded in the middle of nowhere: we were camping a few miles of bumpy dirt road and about 30 highway miles from the nearest hospital, and I was going to be in the company of one “for real” physician (my dad) and two docs-in-training (my sister and sister-in-law are both med students). Apart from being an opportunity to hang out, enjoy summer and be silly with my ridiculous family, this trip also provided an opportunity to assuage the mounting stir-craziness I’ve been experiencing as I watch the summer go by without any of my usual outdoor excursions. So, almost giddy, my husband and I packed up for what seemed to us as a very luxurious car camping expedition.
After spending a fun, laughter-filled and refreshing weekend “in the woods,” I have a few suggestions for any other pregnant car campers that I’d like to share.
Tips for car camping while 8.5 months pregnant:
- Camp chairs: Getting up and down from sitting on the ground
with pregnancy-compromised agility (thanks, baby belly!) takes helpers, stamina and determination. Chairs halve the distance and definitely make the transition more palpable (and more graceful).
- An air mattress (or two or three): While my tender and achy hips and back made my ultra-light, high-tech Thermarest key (especially since I’m sleeping on my side these days), I would have slept much more soundly on an actual air mattress or feather pillow-top bed.
- A pillow (or two): Bury your pride and all thoughts of toughing it out in the woods. If you arrived in a car, there’s space to stash some squashy comfort. Don’t be afraid to try to prop yourself up as you would at home in bed.
- Comfort food/gourmet camping food: Craving salt? Go for fried potatoes, eggs and salsa in a tortilla (you brought a dutch oven, right?). Something sweet? S’mores. Embrace the culinary adventure that cooking over an open flame offers. With the car, there is no need to worry about how much weight you can carry!
- Hot chocolate: While your camping companions might be drinking stronger spirits, you can keep yours up by downing ridiculous amounts of Swiss Miss with mini marshmallows.
- Bug spray: Bring it, but go easy on application, as too much DEET is not cool for you or your baby. However, sleeping late in pregnancy can be challenging enough without the added fun of trying to contort your pillow-propped, sleeping-bag swathed body to scratch itchy mosquito bites, so I spiced my camp-chair seated self with a few fragrant spritzes of bug spray!
- Flip-flops or shoes that you can slip on/off while in a state of semi-sleep: Since the inevitable every-hour need-to-pee will surely strike throughout the night, you may need something to wear when stumbling away from the tent .
- Beverages for your supporting spouse or partner: He or she will have to do the literal and metaphorical “heavy lifting” both in terms of camp gear and for when you need to get up/down from the ground, should you have forgotten item #1, or when you’re attempting to extract yourself from the tent and sleeping bags to answer nature’s call.
- Build a campfire:
As you may recall from earlier notes,I do not have any trouble staying warm – even when camping. Thus, a campfire might seem excessive. However, I say, silly though it may seem, things like campfires and s’mores are just what a pregnant lady needs to get in the “camping mood” and boost her morale when she has to lug herself up off the ground (again) or her back starts to ache. Camping is fun, so relish in camping traditions such as this!
- Sense of humor: Do not leave home without it. Sure, the road may be bumpy, the camp chairs might not have low-back support, the s’mores may drip onto your stretchy pants, but hey, stand back, enjoy the fresh air and have a giggle at yourself as you trundle around the wilderness toting a giant baby belly. When you get up to go pee for the nth time, take a moment to turn off your headlamp and enjoy the brilliance of the stars above you.
…and the safety bonus:
11. Make sure you bring your common sense. First and foremost, know where you are going! Also, have a reliable vehicle, don’t go too far off the beaten track, make sure you can be in cell phone coverage relatively quickly in case of emergency, stay hydrated, keep an eye out for inclement or dangerous weather, and go with a group of good, understanding friends/family.
I’m sure there’s more to camping than just this list. Any suggestions from other pregnant campers? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Until then, enjoy the summer and enjoy your outdoor excursions!