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Re: Backpacking with T1 Diabetes

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes at 2 years old but fortunately he hasn’t let it hold him back.  We are avid backpackers but he does tend to struggle the first day or two with low blood sugars especially when we are covering a lot of miles.  He has found that Honey Stingers are an awesome and tasty way to bounce back from a low blood sugar but was wondering if anyone out there also had diabetes and has found something that works well for them for snacks, breakfast or methods to fight low blood sugars.  Always looking for new suggestions and advice from people with similar situations.  Thanks!

2 Replies

@sjb2011 I was diagnosed about five years ago with T1D and have had to deal with this a lot. I'm an avid cyclist and spend a lot of time hiking with my daughter and wife. I'll go through a few things that have helped me, but keep in mind diabetes is super personal, and y'all should go with your tried/true methods as a backup while you test out anything new. If your husband has an upcoming endochrinonlogist appointment, have him run some of these by his doctor to account for any history or personal nuances in his T1D that he needs to account for.

- The first thing that I take into account is my basal insulin intake. If I'm going out for a big day of activity, I'll reduce my morning dosage, and I'll be extra careful about what I eat in the morning so that I don't spike my blood sugar. I split my basal insulin between morning and nighttime doses, and I'll knock it back by 1-2 units depending on how long I'm going to be out. 

- The second thing I look at is what I eat right before I go out. I try to get my levels to a good place about 30-60 minutes before any activity, and then right before I set out I'll eat something like a banana or an english muffin with almond butter (and maybe a bit of jelly) on it to give me a head start on my blood sugar. I'll do that about five minutes before the activity begins. 

- I always take backups that can get my levels up quickly if I'm running low. I take a backpack or a hip pack with a mix of cliff bars (their new nut filled ones are great) or Bonk Breakers or even something simple like a Snickers. I'll also bring gels, like your husband does. The honey stingers, cliff and Gu options are all fantastic. When I take a gel, I take into account which ones have caffeine in them, because if I'm doing an afternoon hike, and I take one that has caffeine, I'm going to be up all night.

- I bring a mix of different hydration options in two different water bottles. I have something that either has no or low carb content (like the Nuun products, sugar free drink mixes from the grocery store or just plain water), and I also bring a bottle of mix that contains some carbs, which I sip on while I'm moving so that I get both hydration and keep my levels up. Most of the drink mixes out there have some carb content. Just pick the one you like best. Skratch, Gu and Hammer all make solid stuff. Try their sample sizes until your husband finds one that he actually likes, and then get a bunch of that. If you like the taste, you're more likely to drink it, and more likely to keep your levels where they should be.

- The last thing I carry with me is something to nibble on. I like whole foods like dried cranberries and rasins, and if I have time, I'll make something from this cookbook: The chef/author used to work with pro cycling teams and developed a whole range of recipes for pocket-size snacks that you can make at home. They're simple to make, really affordable (especially if you're going for a big outing) and super tasty. 

Last piece of advice - bring twice as much of everything as you think you'll need. I always end bike rides and hikes with extra food. Especially if you're going deep into the backcountry, you'll want to make sure that you're over-prepared. 

I'm always excited to see people with Type 1 getting after it in the outdoors. Good on your husband for not letting it hold him back, and good on you for being a great partner. I've got an amazing wife who always looks after me with my Type 1, and it makes a world of a difference.


Thank you so much for your detailed response.  I love hearing from other people that don’t let diabetes keep them from doing the things they love!  This is awesome info.  He has a pretty good system but we are both always open to trying different things.  His endocrinologist is wonderful and also very active so he gets a lot of encouragement from him but not personal experience which is some of the info he craves.  Thanks again!