Camping with insulin can be intimidating if you’re not used to managing diabetes away from home. However, getting away from your daily routine is necessary. Taking a break, benefiting from the healing power of nature, losing yourself in the wilderness, and simply doing what you like is essential and entirely part of your diabetes management.
Remember that diabetes-related burnouts do exist and can lead to severe depressions. So, take some time out and go camping even and especially with diabetes!
Related article: Does Insulin Really Need to Be Refrigerated?
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Camping with Diabetes and Insulin: Prepare your Excursion!
Camping with diabetes is a lot less crazy than it sounds. The only difference with camping without diabetes is that you must pay attention to the foods, take your meds, inject your insulin several times a day, and have your hypo snacks just in case…
Isn’t that what you’re doing every single day of your life anyway? So, why couldn’t you do it while camping? The key to traveling with diabetes is preparedness and organization. All the rest is in the power of your mind.
Conscientiously organize your diabetic supplies before departure
Organizing your gear is essential when camping, whether in a campground or in the wilderness. It’s even more essential if you’re carrying diabetes gear. You need to know where your diabetic supplies are at any time so you can quickly and calmly face any unforeseeable situation.
I personally like to pack all my diabetes stuff in a separate bag. Diabetes organizers are a good solution. They come with inside pockets and straps specially designed to hold your insulin pens, needles, test strips, and glucose readers.
Pack backup insulin & diabetic supplies for your camping trip
Camping is unpredictable. Weather conditions are unreliable, physical activity varies, you might get lost or lose a bag. The rain could damage your gear, you might come back a few days later than you thought… You can’t plan everything. But you can plan backup.
I always pack about twice as much diabetic supplies as I need. Double the quantity of insulin, the numbers of test strips and needles, take backup glucose readers and insulin pump materials. Take extra fast-acting sugar snacks for hypoglycemia. Pack all these items in another separate bag that you’ll keep safe at the bottom of your backpack. Chances are you’ll never open it. But you know you have it in case something goes wrong.
Related article: Traveling with Insulin on a Plane.
Bring fast-acting sugar snacks for hypoglycemias
Taking diabetes out of your comfort zone brings additional challenges to blood sugar management. While camping, you’ll probably sleep a bit less, be more tired, and have more physical activity than usual. All these factors, along with many others like different foods and different mealtimes, can considerably affect your blood glucose levels.
You will probably have to make some insulin units adjustments while camping. These changes might cause more low blood sugar episodes than usual. To handle this, pack plenty of fact-acting sugars! If you have limited packing room or need to limit weight, glucose tabs are a good solution. These chewable sugar tablets are compact, lightweight, and work very fast.
Related article: Tips for Hiking with Diabetes!
Consider a Glucagon Emergency Kit if you’re camping in the wilderness
If you tend to experience severe hypoglycaemia, or plan to have intense physical activities, consider bringing a Glucagon emergency kit. If you’re hiking and camping in the wilderness, you won’t have access to hospitals in case of a very low blood sugar level.
Glucagon emergency kits contain glucagon for one injection. The injection triggers the liver to release stored body sugars which quickly raises blood sugar levels in the event of severe hypoglycemia. It’s very simple to use and it’s an essential safety for insulin-dependent diabetics hiking in the wilderness.
Related article: All You Need to Know About Diabetes Camps for Kids and Adults!
Bring low-carb diabetic camping snacks that don't cause sugar spikes
Diabetic camping snacks are nutritious snacks that help kill your hunger in between meals without causing sugar spikes. When you’re out camping or hiking with diabetes, it’s imperative you bring plenty of low-carb snacks. Even more so if you’re planning hikes and other physical activities.
Mixed unsweetened nuts, no sugar added trail mixes, sardines’ cans, olives in pouch, and beef jerkies are some of my favorites. They’re lightweight and easy to pack. Leave no waste behind!
Related article: The 10 Best Diabetic Snacks on the go for Travels and Road Trips
Learn about diabetic-friendly camping recipes
Without any doubt, one of the main adversities when camping with diabetes is food. Camping and hiking foods are often processed industrial ready meals with high carb contents and lots of unhealthy things. You’re right, eating healthy while camping away from farmers’ markets and healthy fresh foods is challenging. But it’s doable.
Bringing a small camping stove definitely helps you cook some very basic yet healthy recipes when outdoors. Angela Manderfeld, diabetes nutrition expert, published a great guide to eating healthy while camping.
Now, from my own experience and every other diabetic camper’s, the biggest challenge of camping with diabetes comes if you’re on insulin and it’s hot outside!
Camping with Insulin: How to Keep insulin cool without electricity?
Remember that insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that must be protected from heat. Your unopened insulin vials, pens, or cartridges need to be kept at fridge temperature – between 36°F (2°C) and 46°F (8°C). Once out of the fridge and opened, they’re stable for about a month but need to be kept at room temperature – between 56°F (13°C) and 80°F (26°C). Insulin should never be exposed to temperatures higher than 80°F (26°C), nor should it freeze.
Related article: How to Keep Insulin Cool While Traveling?
Keeping insulin cool while camping under hot weather
If temperatures get higher than 80°F (26°C) during your camping trip, you need a solution to keep it safe and cool.
You can DIY something yourself but honestly, after dozens of wild camping trips with my insulin pens, I came to the conclusion that the unique hassle-free solution is to get yourself a real medical-grade insulin cooler. Not having to worry about ice and enjoying the peace of mind that your insulin is kept safe whatever happens really makes the difference and has no price.
Use a medical-grade insulin cooler
There are dozens of different insulin coolers out there. From basic cooling pouches to top-notch portable medical fridges.
At 4AllFamily, we’ve launched our own models a few years ago and they’re now best-sellers among campers and outdoor people. Why? Because we’ve made it so versatile you can use it in any situation!
Our performant medical travel coolers can keep your insulin cool at fridge temperature for several days in a row without electricity. If you’re gone for longer, simply plug them into a portable power bank or a travel solar panel. We offer temperature-control options as well as auto shut-off security.
Tricks: Put your insulin cooler into a zipper plastic bag in case it rains! Always keep your insulin and your cooler in the shade and away from direct sunlight.
Prevent insulin from freezing while camping
Be aware that your insulin should never freeze either. Frozen insulin won’t work anymore and is good for trash. If you’re camping high up in the mountains, or if it gets below 32°F (0°C), you need to protect your insulin from the cold. Place it in your inside pocket, close to your body. Your body warmth should be enough to prevent your medicine from freezing.
Related article: Diabetes and Cold Weather, Managing Blood Sugar During Winter.
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