I admit, I was grossly unprepared for my first backpacking trip. We backpacked in Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah in August quite a few years ago. It remains one of my all-time favorite trips, but I had no idea how to properly prepare for that trip in that heat with diabetes. Fortunately, trips like that often turn out to be wonderful learning experiences! Here are the lessons I learned:
- You will eat more food than you think you will. On the last day of our trip, we had 2 miles to go and I was out of glucose and only had a 1/2 of an energy bar left. Not a good situation to be in. If you rely on the serving sizes for many backpacking foods or judge how much food to bring based on what you eat normally, you run the risk of being without food. Remember, you will be on varied terrain with extra weight on your back. You will be burning a lot of calories! Bring extra food for yourself and make sure you have enough glucose to treat any low blood sugar (my blood sugar tends to drop a LOT on backpacking trips). If you use a pump and find that your blood sugar is dropping often on backpacking trips, talk to your endocrinologist about features on your insulin pump that allow you to set temporary basal rates. This may help raise your blood sugar without forcing you to eat constantly.
- Monitor your blood sugar often. Make sure the people you are backpacking with know that you have diabetes and what that means. Help them understand that you will need to stop, check your blood sugar, and have a snack regularly. It’s a great opportunity for them to take a rest and enjoy the scenery! This will help make sure you don’t have any major medical incidents out in the wilderness.
- You need to find a way to keep your insulin cold. You aren’t going to bring a cooler with you when you go backpacking, but you should always have extra insulin and supplies with you, and your insulin needs to stay cold. How do you do it? The product I use is called a Frio Insulin Cooling case. You soak it in water for several minutes, and the water causes the beads in the case to swell up and keep your insulin cool. It stays cool for several days. So as long as you have a water source every couple of days (which you should anyway), the Frio case will work great. I am sure there are other products out there as well. Check them out! This is definitely the one that I find works best for me. I am lucky enough to have a partnership with the folks who make Frio Insulin Cooling Cases. If you are interested in buying one of their products, enter coupon code ACTIVET1 for a 10% discount!**
- Do not eat or keep food in your tent! I often get nervous about my blood sugar dropping in the middle of the night, and typically have glucose tablets or a granola bar handy at my bedside just in case. With all the animals and critters out there, you definitely want to avoid doing this when you are backpacking! Check your blood sugar right before you go to sleep and store your food away from your tent. If you have an emergency in the middle of the night, you are going to have to leave the tent to get your snack.
I am on a constant quest to lighten my backpacking load, as are many other backpackers I know. It is possible to bring your all of your backpacking equipment, as well as your diabetic supplies, and still carry a relatively light load. Backpacking is a fantastic way to get into the outdoors and enjoy all the gorgeous scenery that nature has to offer. I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t been before. I find it calming, therapeutic, and incredibly rewarding. Hopefully, these tips will help make your next backpacking trip even more enjoyable!
** Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I am compensated for the products sold with the ACTIVET1 coupon code.