I know many families are making plans to go camping with their family this summer. Camping is fun and with a little planning, diabetes can be managed.
I was asked on Facebook recently about tips for camping. In my book Kids First, Diabetes Second there is a great chapter called “Less Stress, More Happiness,” which includes tips for navigating play dates, birthday parties, holidays, sports, travel, camping, and more.
Here is an excerpt from Kids First, Diabetes Second:
Our family enjoys camping, and diabetes isn’t going to stop us from getting outdoors and enjoying nature. We have a pop-up camper and tend to stay at state parks with electric hook-ups and shower houses. The things that make me the most uneasy about camping are having poor cell phone reception in case we need emergency assistance and being at least a half hour from the closest hospital. The reality is that we rarely have to make a call for medical assistance or need a hospital for diabetes-related care.
If you are concerned with being able to get medical assistance, there are two things you can do. Locate the accommodations for the camp “host.” The host is a person or family who stays onsite throughout the camping season and can answer questions about the campgrounds. They often have a camper and a phone. You should also familiarize yourself with the ranger station. The rangers generally patrol campgrounds often and can be flagged down to ask questions or assist you.
The biggest issue while camping is keeping insulin cool. Our pop-up camper has a refrigerator, but if you are camping in a tent you need to keep it cool either by using a Frio cooling pouch or storing it in the cooler. If you use an ice-filled cooler, take care not to put the insulin directly on the ice. Instead, place the insulin in a plastic container and place that inside a plastic zipper storage bag. The air should keep it from freezing.
As with any type of travel, you need to pack enough supplies for the length of the trip. I usually take double what we need. The campsite we normally go to is an hour from our house and 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and pharmacy. If we forget something, it wouldn’t be too hard to get what we need. If you are camping or hiking in a remote area, pack more than you need; perhaps three times the normal supplies for that length of time.
Because our preparedness kit contains every diabetes supply item we might need, I use that as our camping supply kit, making sure to refill it when we get back home. We also have a first aid kit in our camper. Since we camp frequently, I have a master packing list of all the things our family needs, including diabetes supplies. I keep a small food scale and a set of measuring cups in our camping gear to make carb counting easier.
We don’t make any big changes in the food we take camping because of diabetes. To make carb counting easier, some foods can be portioned out ahead of time. I include plenty of fruit such as bananas, grapes, and cantaloupe, which I cut up ahead of time. We also eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with natural cheese puffs or chips as a side. I pack applesauce pouches and organic fruit strips to take while bike riding or hiking. I have a memory of my grandfather letting me get a box of Apple Jacks when he took me to the lake as a child. To carry on this tradition, I let my kids pick out a box of cereal—any kind they want—when we camp. We never buy sugary cereals at home, and this is a special tradition just for camping.
Plan ahead for the types of activities you might do while camping. We like to take our bikes with us, but biking around the state park usually sends Q’s blood sugar low. I make sure to take a couple of juices and her supply bag with me when we ride. If you will be hiking for a long period of time, take not only your supply bag but extra snacks, lots of water, and low blood sugar treatments. You will be thankful if the trail is longer than you thought it would be or you get lost. Always tell someone where you are going and take a buddy if possible. You can also carry walkie-talkies in case you need to communicate across the park.
When canoeing or boating, don’t forget your supplies. I purchased a waterproof box which is big enough to hold an extra meter, glucagon, glucose tabs, a juice box, and snacks. But I don’t put anything in it that I would be too upset about if it somehow ended up on the bottom of the lake! In other words, I don’t put Q’s insulin pump remote in the box. If she needs insulin, then we come ashore. I also have a rule that my kids always wear life jackets when they are near water. It doesn’t matter if they are fishing off a dock or in a canoe, they must have one on.
Camping just isn’t camping without making s’mores. You would be depriving your child of a life experience if you took them camping and didn’t let them roast marshmallows over the campfire. S’mores are high in carbs, there’s no getting around that, but blood sugar might not spike as high if they are eaten as part of a meal.
1 sheet of graham cracker = 11 carbs
1 marshmallow = 6 carbs
¼ Hershey chocolate bar = 6.5 carbs
Total = 23.5 carbs
If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can read more on the Kids First, Diabetes Second book page. It’s available widely in print from book sellers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and IndieBound.You can also download it as an eBook from iBooks (iPad and iPhone), Nook, and Kindle. (Some of those are affiliate links.)
And if you do read it and find it to be a valuable resource, I would greatly appreciate if you could write a review on any of the online retail sites. Thanks!