Diabetes and Hiking – What to Pack and Expect

Hiking is one of my favorite weekend activities.  Living in Southern California, I try to take advantage of the weather as much as I possibly can.  After all, I pay more for pretty much everything to live here, so I better enjoy it!

Hiking

Lucky for me, I have a friend who writes a blog about hiking, both in Southern California, and other places she’s traveled.  She is always looking for people to go on hikes, so lucky me, I get to go along all the time.

First time hiking, I didn’t know what to expect with my diabetes.  I took my Camelback and some glucose gel/tabs just incase, but did not expect anything to happen.  I had been having highs with Crossfit, so I totally did not expect lows on my hike.  WRONG.  Holy cow.  Holy low hell.

The first time it happened, I had taken insulin in the morning to correct my morning blood sugar.  So I decided to not correct my blood sugars in the morning before a hike.  This helped, kind of, but sometimes left me high through most of the hike.  The other times I went low, I had been on the higher side of normal, but still plummeted.

I asked my doctor for advice to not go low, and she suggested eating about 10g of carbs every 30 minutes.  Umm.  The point of a hike is to burn calories?  At least for me?  So I really didn’t want to waste my hike calories on eating to just not go low.  And I told her that.  So she suggested doing a temporary, lower basal setting on my insulin pump.  For those not familiar, the basal rate on an insulin pump is the constant drip of insulin you area always getting.  If you take insulin shots, it’s basically the replacement for Lantus/long acting insulin.

The next time I went hiking, I set my basal rate to 50% less than I normally get, about 30 minutes before we got to the hike.  It worked!  For the most part, that has been the key to keeping my blood sugars from being too high, or dropping too low while hiking.  I still sometimes have lows, or sometimes have to take some more insulin on my hike because the lower basal rate makes me go higher.

Hiking

So in preparing to hike, I have a few essentials I always take with me. This Camelback bag has been phenomenal for hiking.  A friend gave it to me when I first moved to San Diego, and I wasn’t really sure I’d ever use it, and now I use it almost every weekend.  I can carry water and all the essentials without completely weighing myself down.

I always keep a debit/credit card, my license, and some cash with me just in case of an emergency of any kind.  For my diabetes emergency planning, I make sure to have glucose tabs, a glucose shot or gel, and a snack with fat and protein in it.  I’ve honestly found that the gels/liquids work a lot faster for me than glucose tabs.  For the snack, I really like KIND bars with nuts because the carbs/protein/fat ratios are pretty good if you notice you’re getting a little lower than you’re comfortable being, but not quite low enough to treat.  Or you just plain don’t want a glucose tab!

The diabetes supplies I also keep with me (not pictured) are my insulin pump, which also has a monitor, strips, finger poker (does that have an official name I’m not aware of???), glucagon, and my phone, which receives my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) readings.  I honestly don’t know how I would hike, or even be as active as I am without my CGM.  It alerts me when I am starting to approach going low, so I can more easily prevent a low.

I love hiking, and overall, when I really watch my blood sugars around hiking, I am able to take less insulin overall the days that I hike, because my body absorbs the insulin I do have a lot better.  Aerobic activity such as hiking does wonders for helping maintain normal blood sugars and keep insulin levels low.  It’s a great activity for diabetics, as long as caution is taken and emergency supplies are on hand.

Happy hiking!

Megan

Hiking

 

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