Tips for Camping with Type 1 Diabetes

We’ve now logged three (soon to be four) camping trips with type 1 diabetes along for the ride. It seemed impossible at first, but it’s totally doable – fine, in fact. Like anywhere we go and anything we do, it’s just another thing to keep track of, more supplies to bring, more vigilance required. Camping is no different. Camping with kids is hard work and T1D does add in an extra element that is tough, no doubt, but it’s that way with lot of things we have to do anyway like airplane travel, school, etc. So, if you enjoy camping with kids (totally understandable if you don’t), don’t let T1D be the thing that stops you – let all the other horrible aspects of camping with kids stop you (only half joking). Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Keeping Low Supplies  in a Tent Overnight
We live in Colorado and when we go camping there is usually a very real threat of bears and other wild animals. As a general rule of thumb, no food, drink, or smelly toiletries (toothpaste, lotion, chapstick) should go in the tent with you at night, as it can attract hungry animals. But when you have a type 1 diabetic toddler (ok, she’s a not really a toddler anymore) in your tent, there’s no way you’re going to skip having low supplies nearby. So, we’ve used these odor proof bags to store juice boxes or honey sticks in for overnight in the tent.

Packing + Storing Insulin and Other Supplies
We have a toiletry bag that we keep packed at all times with backups of everything except insulin because that needs to be stored in the fridge until it’s ready to be used.  It’s nice to have this bag ready to go at all times in case there’s an emergency or for when you’re packing for a trip, you can just grab it and go. For camping we also pack a small insulated bag filled with a full insulin pen cartridge (in case our pump fails and we need to do shots), as well as 1-2 pump cartridges filled with insulin for her pump so that we don’t have to fiddle with that part during a site change while camping. We keep that small bag in our cooler at the campsite, always making sure to keep the cooler in the shade.

Changing Pump Sites or CGM Sites While Camping
If you have the kind of pump where you can fill the cartridge up in advance, do so (see above)! We had two cartridges filled up and stored in an insulated bag in our cooler. While camping at the Sand Dunes this summer we only had to change Lily’s pump once, but it was on the last day and by that point we were all SO SO SO dirty – not ideal for trying to keep the whole operation sterile. There was running water at a nearby bathroom so I made sure my hands were thoroughly washed and I got a washcloth wet to use on Lily’s skin. We got situated in the tent (I brought the iPad and only broke it out for this occasion), and I first wiped her skin down where I planned to put the new site and then used about 100 alcohol wipes on the area (only a slight exaggeration). It was not so bad. Just walk through how it will all go down in your head well in advance so you’re not fiddling and fumbling when the time comes.

Dexcom Is a Must
I really don’t know how we’d do camping without our Dexcom, or another CGM. There are a lot of variables that you deal with camping that you don’t in your normal routines, so it’s so important to see what those blood sugars are doing at all times. Otherwise, I feel like I’d be pricking her finger 20 times a day.

Check out some pictures from our three days/three nights tent camping at Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. The trip was fun, but it was so much work. However, diabetes really wasn’t the reason it was so hard. It was just all the logistics of having two little kids who still nap in one tent, feeding said children, keeping track of them, etc. I’m glad we went and I look forward to next year when my youngest isn’t so dependent on me and on naps to be happy. We got to celebrate his first birthday at camp, which was special…

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