You wake to the sound of birds chirping, sip your coffee as you watch the sunrise, and decide the morning’s activity: should it be hiking through the woods or reading a book while lying under a tree? This is what camping is all about!
Camping may not be for everyone, but it sure is popular. In fact, almost 40 million Americans participate in camping each year, which equates to more than fourteen percent of Americans over age six. That’s a lot of campers, and I’m an enthusiastic member of this group.
In my experience, the word camping may describe a wide variety of experiences. It nearly always evokes visions of campfires, s’mores, and sleeping bags, but the way we camp differs from person to person. Some people like to “rough it” while others prefer to camp with a bit more comfort. Before you set forth on a trip, take a little time to determine which type of camping is right for you and your family. I’ve included a few varieties below (and it’s always good to have a conversation with your health care team before trying out a new activity):
- Dispersed camping is camping “out there” in a national forest without amenities like running water and restrooms. You drive or hike to a lovely spot, pitch your tent, and relax with only nature as your neighbor. This can be a wonderful way to get away from it all, but requires a lot of planning and preferably someone really experienced along on the trip.
- Campgrounds offer a way for people to “get away from it all” without giving up some of the comforts of home. Most campgrounds offer restrooms and running water. There are usually facilities for tent campers or hookups for RVs. Always call ahead for a reservation and find out exactly what sort of facilities are available.
- Cabin camping may be another fun choice. You can find a nice, rustic cabin in the woods or on a mountain where you’ll have beds, a bathroom, and a kitchen to keep you happy while you explore nature.
Heck, there’s even something called “glamping,” which combines camping with the amenities of a hotel! No matter what your preference, I’m sure you can find a type of camping for you (that’s how much of an enthusiast I am!). The whole point is to get away from the rat race, relax, and enjoy nature.
Now let’s talk about diabetes and camping. As a person living with type 2 diabetes, I know that diabetes can add a new twist to this national pastime but, in my own experience, living with diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t participate, it just means that you should plan ahead. So what are some of the things you’ll have to plan for when camping with diabetes?
No matter what type of diabetes you are living with, food choices are important. You can only eat what you bring along on the trip, which may make it easier to mange your blood sugar, as you won’t be dependent on restaurant food. Camping doesn’t mean that you have to eat dry, boring foods either. Whether you slave over that stove in the cabin or sizzle a steak over the campfire, I know it’s possible to have yummy meals in the great outdoors. A few of my favorite tips include:
- Do make sure you have adequate refrigeration for whatever foods you take.
- Don’t forget to pack foods to treat possible low blood sugar. (Learn more about handling hypoglycemia here.)
- Prepackage snacks in serving sizes to avoid overeating right out of the box/bag.
- Do as much prep work as you can at home to make meals easier.
If you’re camping with a child who has diabetes, it’s important to do what you can to make sure your child doesn’t feel different. Before you go, try and create a meal plan that allows for a s’more or other special camping treat. One of the best things to do with kids while camping is to tell stories around the campfire. It may not raise their blood sugar, but may make for a spooky night! .
Packing enough of your medications is a no-brainer, but it’s always best to pack more than you think you’ll need. That goes for your test strips, as well. Because you will likely be more active while camping, you may need to test more frequently to see how the added exercise may affect your blood glucose.
If you travel with insulin, you’ll want to plan how to keep your insulin cool. Tent camping adds a layer of difficulty here (no electricity!), but there are some great products on the market specifically intended to keep your insulin cool; see some diabetes-friendly bag options here. Get more tips for safe insulin storage here.
For me, camping is a wonderful way to relax and let the worries of the world slip away. Planning ahead can mean that diabetes doesn’t have to slow you down. Enjoy!
Kate Cornell was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in June of 2005. She may have diabetes but it doesn’t have her. She blogs about her life with diabetes at Kate’s Sweet Success. Cornell is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience