Wild Dunk: Camping safely when living with Diabetes
What is Wild Camping?
Welcome to the second instalment of #WildDunk. Our first post proved immensely popular. Far better than we had hoped or expected, so thank you all for engaging and sharing. If you missed it though, you can catch up with DadiSkilts at Oxwich Bay. This post coincides with Diabetes Awareness Week so we thought it appropriate to look at DadiSkilts love of wild camping and how he manages that hobby whilst also coping with type 1 diabetes.
For me, Wild Camping is all about being unplugged and free. I work in an office surrounded by PCs, Laptops, Mobile Phones, and all manner of electrical items including the air conditioning and artificial lighting genuinely gets ‘under the skin’ mentally. More often than you might think.
Wild Camping is about getting away from the 9-5. The excitement of being challenged and tested by nature. Freed from ‘the clock’, time slows and changes shape. Time becomes measured by next meal stop, next water source, next campsite and next awesome view. However, I will stipulate that I do carry a mobile phone with me, for emergency use. With GPS positioning enabled as part of my safety regime. Especially when trekking alone (or with the dog).
If you think camping and you conjure up images of tents, air beds, tables chairs, gadgets for cooking, cleaning, washing. A pretty little campsite, with marked, manicured lawned pitches and easy access to the shower block. Wild Camping is none of this. Other than maybe a gadget of a Jet boil kettle and possibly a fire lighting kit. Wild Camping to me is sleeping under the stars as close to nature as possible. I don't take a tent, just a sleeping bag and a tarp. Even if nighttime temperatures can be very cold and Wales is renowned for its rain!
The Ordnance Survey App is used for planning before heading out and always carry a map and compass first and last. As a safety precaution I leave a route plan at home with MamiSkilts and as mentioned above I have Mobile GPS enabled for tracking purposes. I have a detailed solo kit list with weights to plan what I need for each trek depending on destination and duration. I am offering a free copy of the list to anyone who wants here: kit list.
Diabetes - Insulin
I always keep my insulin and test kit in a Maxpedition Cocoon. The cocoon has a stiff back (the black bit) that protects from bumps/drops and I use a dry bag for waterproofing. The Cocoon Pouch is designed as a durable low-profile carry case with a full-length opening zipper and paracord pull. Loops throughout for tie-downs, key rings, SlikClips, or detachable 1" quick release buckles.
I have the Accu-Chek Aviva Expert. It comes with the FastClix finger pricker. Quite of a few of my friends and colleagues have the same test meter. I like its dose calculation feature, give it your intended carb consumption and exercise level, and it’ll read your current blood sugar level and advise what dose to take.
Being in Wales I’ve not hit the issue of a meter overheating, but I often get “E-58 Temp. Error” message from it being too cold (may be the same message for high temp, I’ll never know!). Easiest fix is to tuck the meter into an armpit for 5 minutes to raise its temperature. Fixed!
The @FRIO insulated pouch is used to keep my insulin pens cool in multi-day summer treks. The FRÍO® Insulin wallet keeps in-use insulin and 29 other temperature sensitive medicines cool and safe, within safe temperatures of 18-26°C (64.4-78.8°F) for a minimum of 45 hours, even in a constant environmental temperature of 37.8°C (100°F). Lasting up to 5 times longer than ice packs, FRÍO is now part of my equipment, meaning no more bulky, inconvenient packs or vacuum flasks needed ever again!
No matter how careful you are though with blood monitoring you absolutely need to have a recovery kit close to hand. Mine is kept with my first aid kit and is always the most accessible item, kept on top of my backpack. It includes fast carb glucose, in tablet, liquid or gel form. This brings up the blood sugar level but won't keep it there. Therefore it is required, ensure that it needs to be followed by a slower release carb like biscuits or cake to sustain the recovery. I personally prefer to use and carry either tablets or gels. That way there is less plastic involved, less wastage and litter to dispose of. The drinks act quickest, so I have those for use in the car.
Depending on your warning signs (I consider mine to be good), you need to consider testing more often than the normal meals only regime. If you have your navigation broken into morning and afternoon treks (as I do) I test with each stop. About once every 3 hours. Also, if I know I'm taking on hard terrain (e.g. Pen-y-Fan east to west) I prepare by reducing or stopping taking my slow acting insulin for the two days before setting off. This is as I know I’ll use all the sugar in my blood on the difficult climbs. You may need to experiment, as it depends on your overall regime on how much you need to compensate for the increase in exercise. This approach was born out of hitting a lot of hypos on climbs over 500m. I was getting through a lot of recovery items just to keep going. If you are in any doubt please consult a medical professional for guidance on blood sugar management with exercise. If you’re still not sure either take a lot extra recovery or don’t risk solo trekking. Bottom line - carb up, you’ll work it off.
@KateCornell wrote an excellent article on Camping with Diabetes It is well worth a read as Kate has type 2 diabetes, so whatever your diagnosis, between us, hopefully, we cover all you need to know, to be able to enjoy camping expeditions safely with Diabetes. Join the discussion and let us know your diabetes or camping related stories. Comment below or find us on social media #WildDunk