It’s no secret that major outdoor retailers have all but ignored the needs of pregnant and nursing outdoorswomen. Not one carries maternity or nursing-friendly clothing, a sad fact I discovered while hiking in my second and third trimesters.
As my pregnancy progressed, my favorite hiking pants became way too snug, and my trusted base layers no longer stretched over my baby bump.
I rapidly ran out of viable clothing options for my prenatal outdoor adventures, and I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the outdoor industry every time I hit the trail.
Outdoorswomen can continue to encourage major outdoor retailers to emerge from the dark ages and design some maternity and nursing options – along with additional plus-size options for both maternity and everyday gear, which is another gap in outdoor retail and problem unto itself. In the meantime, what can you do to stay comfortable and feel supported while pregnant in the great outdoors?
Pregnant hikers need tops that stretch with our growing bodies, wick away excess sweat, and keep us cool and dry. Unfortunately, most mass-market maternity activewear tops are designed for low-intensity sports.
It was hard to find any that were durable enough for the trail and didn’t feature the telltale mark of a maternity top: side ruching. Ugh. I wore a mass-market top on a hike in early pregnancy and I was a hot, sweaty, and smelly mess in minutes.
After doing a little more homework, I found two quality base layers for the trail: Mountain Mama’s Marni Movement Maternity Tank and Title Nine’s Live Wire Tank. Both are excellent options for growing bellies, made of brightly-colored fabrics that stretch and expand without losing their shape. They don’t have side ruches, making them both great transition pieces for postpartum hikes. Marni is cut longer in the front to provide additional coverage where pregnant women most need it. Live Wire’s odor-control feature makes it a powerhouse tank for the trail.
“We wanted something that worked as a true active tank for sport but was feminine enough to wear every day,” said Kristina Casey, Director of Product Development Design and Merchandising for Title Nine. “We worked particularly hard on getting the fabric perfect — super soft, wicking, anti-odor, and easy care.”
Most of my pregnancy hikes were summertime ones, so I didn’t need multiple layers up top. On cooler days, I layered UK company Mother & Nature’s super comfortable and stylish microfiber maternity fleece over my baselayers. This fleece has zippered side panels, so it grew with me over the summer. It is also the softest fleece I’ve ever owned, and at $38 USD, it’s a great deal.
Providing affordable, stylish, and practical maternity clothing options for outdoorsy women across the globe is Mother & Nature’s number one goal, said Managing Director Samantha Jenkins, who founded the company in 2015.
“I think it’s terrible there are no options out there for the active mum-to-be,” said Jenkins. “Just because you have a bump doesn’t mean the end to being active and getting outdoors.”
Pregnant hikers in cooler climates can check out Mother & Nature’s maternity waterproof jacket, which is both practical and super chic. I run cold on the trail, so I loved the fleece detail around the collar. The jacket is fully waterproof and comes with a hood, so it will keep hikers warm and dry. At $124 USD, it’s an investment piece, but the expandable side panels can be securely tucked away for postpartum wear.
If you already have a favorite hiking jacket or want to work with your existing wardrobe, you may want to try a jacket extender. MakeMyBellyFit is a Canadian company that makes soft shell and fleece panels that zip into your existing jackets. I only wish I had discovered this product, which retails for $68 USD, before an early-pregnancy camping trip, during which I struggled to zip up my go-to hiking hoody and favorite fleece. A few extra inches of fabric would have gone a long way.
Whether you’re a fan of shorts, skorts, tights, or pants, pregnant outdoorswomen need hiking bottoms that fit and feel great and can support a growing bump. Bottoms made of breathable, technical fabrics wick away sweat and keep hikers cool and comfortable on the trail are key. Unfortunately, these pieces can prove to be nearly impossible to find, as no major outdoor retailer carries hiking bottoms in maternity sizes. Most mass maternity retailers only sell activewear yoga leggings, which, while great for the gym, are definitely not suitable for the trail.
Mountain Mama, a California-based maternity outdoor wear company, offers dozens of fashionable and durable clothing and gear options, including maternity hiking pants and, my current favorite exercise bottom, the Riley Maternity Running Skirt. This skort is made with a technical fabric that’s breathable, quick-drying, and designed to stretch around a growing belly bump while retaining its original shape.
“We worked really hard on the perfect proprietary blends that combine wicking, stretch, shape retention, and colorfastness with a small environmental footprint,” said Teresa Delfin, founder of Mountain Mama.
This was my first experience wearing a skirt running and hiking, and while I was initially skeptical, now I may never go back to shorts or pants. The Riley skirt features internal shorts and a roll-down waistband with side ties you can wear under or over your bump. The skort looks cute either way, but I think that the under bump style looks much smoother when paired with a fitted tank top or tee. So, how does the Riley hold up during a hike or trail run? Like a champ. Two words: no chafing.
If you prefer the look and fit of leggings, the New York company goodbody goodmommy makes a stylish and comfortable maternity running tight in a high performance, silky smooth, matte fabric that’s also wicking and UV protective. The small company started in 2014 after co-founder and marathon runner Erin Howard grew frustrated searching for maternity running gear during her second pregnancy.
“My belly was big, and my hips were big, and nothing fit right. I felt ignored, and I didn’t want other athletes to feel that way,” said Howard, who teamed up with midwife Melissa Peard to found the company. The duo is now making giant strides in the area of high-quality active maternity and athleisure clothes.
I wore these leggings on hikes, runs, and at the gym during my third trimester, when my bump grew the most and I needed more support to keep moving comfortably. The leggings are stylish and soft, but their very best feature is the built-in, adjustable velcro support belt that you secure under your bump.
“My belly was big, and my hips were big, and nothing fit right. I felt ignored, and I didn’t want other athletes to feel that way.”
You just don’t see this level or care or detail in mass-market maternity activewear, and it makes a huge difference.
The belt provides ample bump support and lift without adding excess bulk. I will definitely wear these when I return to the woods and the gym postpartum.
If you prefer the look, feel, and functionality of a classic hiking pant, check out Mother & Nature’s water-resistant maternity walking trousers, which are mesh-lined for breathability and feature expandable side panels.
I could have used these pants on a few early-pregnancy hikes, when I got caught in a few showers on the trail and had to hike in sopping wet yoga leggings. These pants feel and look great, and they are practical, affordable, and super durable. They are my top choice for a longer or multi-day hike. Jenkins is also currently working on a version that will feature zip off legs, so the trousers could easily be converted into a pair of shorts.
A lot of mass-market maternity bras and underwear are made out of cotton, the absolute worst fabric for any hiker, let alone pregnant ones who sweat a LOT more than usual.
Outdoorsy mamas-to-be need lightweight, moisture and odor control fabrics that can stretch. I live in Patagonia’s Active Briefs ($24) and Barely Bikinis ($22) on all of my hiking trips, and I was relieved to see that they worked like a charm during pregnancy. They won’t stretch out all the way over your bump, but they have seamless waistbands, so they aren’t tight-fitting or restrictive and they won’t roll. The synthetic fabric is soft, quick-drying, and sweat-wicking.
I also loved the wicking properties of Patagonia’s Barely Bra ($49), which is so comfortable and soft I wear it even when I’m not on the trail. The bra has lightly-padded cups (emphasis here on light). The support is pretty minimal and it’s most appropriate for smaller bust sizes.
If you need a little more support, Title Nine sells several fashionable and functional maternity and nursing-friendly sports bras, including the Fits-To-A Tee bra ($50), which I wore on several hikes and trail runs this summer. This racerback bra features velcro straps for easy access and removal. I love this bra, but be warned, it is a compressive bra and it runs small. I grew out of it at the start of my third trimester. You should definitely size up in either the band or the cup if you plan to wear it throughout your pregnancy or while nursing.
After a few false starts, I was relieved to finally find some comfortable, practical, and stylish maternity options to wear on the trail throughout the later stages of my pregnancy.
Smaller outdoor and activewear retailers are obviously working hard to address the needs of pregnant and nursing outdoorswomen. In this area, they are outpacing larger outdoor companies who have pretty much ignored this demographic. I spent hours combing websites and researching different clothing options, and I wish that it hadn’t been quite so hard.
A woman’s passion for the great outdoors shouldn’t have to be put on hold during pregnancy and early motherhood for lack of clothing and gear options. Major outdoor retailers should recognize their oversight, look to smaller companies for inspiration, and work on providing pregnant and nursing outdoorswomen with some basic clothing and gear options.
This is one mountain that outdoorswomen shouldn’t have to climb.
Amy Montemerlo Roberts is a high school dean and English teacher who loves hiking, surfing, and writing about women and the great outdoors. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and their one-eyed beagle. They are expecting a baby girl any day now. You can check out her blog at havebabywillbackpack.com and follow her on twitter @AmyMontemerlo.
Editor’s Note: Hiking photos courtesy of Amy Montemerlo Roberts, and gear images sourced from linked page of products mentioned. Follow the hyperlinks to find out more about the products listed. This post is not sponsored and all opinions are true recommendations of the author based on her personal experience.
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