Backpacking with a young T1D?

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about wanting to go on a real outdoor trip with my kids. I think the experience of being self-sufficient, of pushing their limits, etc. will really be good for them. Of course, with Samson’s diabetes, that will take more planning. Planning is not my strong suit and any time I start thinking about this potential trip I get overwhelmed with just figuring out the regular camping supplies, let alone the diabetes piece.

I guess I’m hoping this can be a thread where people can offer suggestions and ideas on how to go about this?

My idea was that we could start with a relatively small hike-in distance to a campsite, both because the two kiddos I’d be taking are 7 and 5, and because if Samson had some kind of issue (bear eats his insulin or his glucose tabs or something), I’d want to be able to hike back to civilization quickly enough that it didn’t become a true emergency.

We live in Northern California, so I am guessing there are a lot of hike in campsites that don’t require a 10-mile hike to reach.

Anyone have experience with this? Where would you suggest hiking/camping? What types of supplies should I be expecting them to carry? What contingency plans need to be made for the diabetes? Anything else you think could help make this a fun experience?

We’ve gone car camping before and the kids love it, but we’re never more than 3 hours’ drive from first aid, and usually like 20 minutes from food options. This would be different.


@Michel posted about his experiences camping with his son a couple years back i believe. Were there any tidbits that helped you from that thread/experience? I know his son is a lot older but i would think a lot of the d-related activities would probably be the same regardless of age.

I did a quick cursory search and found quite a few camping related posts. Maybe some of them will be helpful!


Due to the ages of your kids, I think I would start with a day hike, and plan on coming home for the night. It would give both you and them lots of confidence for an ultimate overnight camp.


If it were us i would probably go bare bones. Bring the tech but count on it crappimg out…so going old school in my treatments. Flexpen or syrimges, fimgersticks periodically if cgm wasn’t workimg, lots of hydration, lots of breaks while walking combined with carb refills to prevent the lows.

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You did not say if it was the 5 or 7 year old that is T!D. If 7 put responsibility on him for planning his snacks and care (extra insulin, syringes). You probably have knowledge of how to lower his insulin for activity, and what snack to eat before exercise. That is all you need. HE can carry raisins for fast carbs, protein bars for slow carbs and bed time snacks, and candy for maintaining BG.
When I was a teenager I went camping with Boy Scouts one month after diagnosis, and all I had were the urine strips. As an adult with a pump I did several week long backpacking trips in Cedar Mesa Utah. At no time did I ever have an emergency requiring help.
So - do it!


we’ve done day hikes and they are pretty hearty, given that they have to “hike” a lot just to get around the city. So that’s why I want to try the next step.


the 5-year-old! So I’ll definitely need to plan out some of it. But he can definitely pick out the preferred low supplies.


Hi Tia!

Is today your birthday or Samson’s birthday?!?

Happy Birthday either way!

There are a lot of general safety rules that apply to everyone, not just diabetics.

And you can bring all kinds of backups for BG testing and CGM and stuff.

When you boil it all down to what you really really need more than anything else, it comes down to 2 things.

In general, I think the survival emergency scenarios - like bears, getting stuck, getting lost, etc, etc - it comes down to just two things. Insulin (and a way to deliver it) and carbs.

You can carry a few years worth of insulin in your pocket, but carbs take up a lot of room!

General backup rules, having multiple sources of everything - extra insulin, syringes, plenty of carbs - and having them in different places, like different packs.


If your pump dies, Loop dies, Riley link dies, gets lost, water damaged, who knows. If your infusion set gets pulled off. Anything like that. Syringes and insulin in a few different water-proof containers, and stored in different places, packs, pockets.

Same for carbs - different sources, different pack places, etc.

Think of it like like this - if any single pack gets lost it won’t matter.

The carb sources are a bit of a challenge from a space standpoint. I can think through some things for that.


@TiaG Have you considered Big Basin Park in the Sta Cruz mtns? The Jay trail camp has flushing toilets and bearboxes on site, and has the added benefit of being near the ranger station should a crisis develop. The Jay trail camp also happens to be centrally located to take advantage of numerous day hike trails, some of which lead to the coast, waterfalls, or other parks such as Portola Valley.


Diabetes adds a wrinkle, but my kids have done a good amount of point to point backpacking and it has made a huge difference in their confidence in life and in the woods. First, my story then the stuff. When my son’s were 6 and 8 we did a 4-day 20 mile backpacking trip around and up the side of Mt Hood. (Wahtum Lake to Timberline Lodge). Why so low on the mileage, well since my youngest was 3 we had worked on hiking and understood that 5 miles wasn’t the physical limit for a 6 year old, but it was the physchological limit that was easy to achieve and kept the days fun. So we broke a couple day backpack up into 4, and had a blast on the trip. The short days allowed for plenty of exploring/fighting imaginary zombie time for the kids. So I think your idea of hiking in a few miles and staying for a few days exploring the area is great. But they are really close to being able to do extended point to point backpacking which is such a blast for everyone.

The stuff, always ensure everyone has the 10 essentials and knows how to use them. There are plenty of kits that fit in a pocket and have everything you need. Everything else is being brought for comfort, so pick the light stuff, and realize that small kids can’t carry much, so you and your significant other will need to carry most of the stuff, we purchased a winter backpack for the longer trips so my wife and I could carry the rest. Now, my kids carry everything (16 and 18) and my wife and I are rewarded with 15 pound packs. It is a great payback for the years we carried everything except their clothes.

Diabetes, just pack a bit of everything, but ensure you have the ability to go back to syringes and vials, and bring a back up meter, and perhaps a second back up meter in the car. We have often timed our trips to coincide with pump vacations just to make thing easier. You will do great and it should be awesome fun for everyone.


I’ve seen that one! That park is on my list, the other big one I was considering was Point Reyes National Seashore, because they have a few hike-in sites that are just a few miles away from a trailhead where you can park. Other suggestions definitely welcome.


Point Reyes is very family friendly too! Big Sur is also a good choice with the exception of immediate access to emergency services.

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This is a great idea. :slight_smile: While my parents tried to help me feel like I could live a normal life when I was younger, I always had the impression that backpacking was too dangerous for me. I don’t think they ever even considered that to be an option. Day hikes and camping trips were okay, and we did those a lot. Backpacking was considered to be another matter though. It wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve felt like I could take on this kind of a challenge (another somewhat similar example is traveling to a less-developed country).

So I’m learning too :slight_smile:

In my preparations, I’ve prioritized a few things based on what makes me feel comfortable and keeps me in control while hiking. Eric discussed a couple of these in his post.

  1. Humalog & pen needles. I use combinations of Afrezza, Lantus, and Humalog. But Humalog will always be my priority insulin. It is hardy stuff, and I can always do multiple shots of Humalog to cover my basal if something were to go wrong with my Lantus. Of course, I bring back-up pen needles. It looks like I’ll have to switch to Novolog in January… so hopefully that is just as hardy.

  2. Glucose. I need at least two sources of glucose on me while hiking: slow-acting & fast-acting. I use the Transcend gels when I need a big bump of glucose to digest quickly. I use something like fruit leather (10g of carbs) when I need glucose to digest slowly over a period of time. I always bring these on long hikes.
    I’m not sure if I’ll bring the exact same stuff while backpacking, but the idea will be the same - fast-acting & slow-acting. The gels can get a bit messy, and they’re a little fragrant. I’m still thinking through other options. We won’t be able to do a backpacking trip until it starts to warm up in the spring.

  3. Low-carb high calorie meals. I have to decrease my basal when we do long hikes. I often crave high-carb meals after a long hike though. It can be difficult to predict the right dose after exerting myself all day and then eating a high carb meal. I always feel like the exertion was enough that I need to be worried about lows later on, but I’m actually more likely to be dealing with highs because of the decreased basal. @TravelingOn recommended Next Mile Keto backpacking meals, and I’m excited to try these. This may be less of an issue for Samson because he uses a pump, but since a basal insulin dose is active for several hours, it may still be a consideration.

  4. Back-up meter and battery pack. I personally wouldn’t bring a back-up sensor on an overnight trip- maybe not even on a 2 night trip. I plan to bring a battery powered meter and a rechargeable meter when I start backpacking. I also have a battery pack that I have brought on really long hikes (with rechargeable meter) and that I plan to bring backpacking. The batter pack can be charged very slowly with solar power for emergencies (I’ve tested it). It’s a bit heavy, but I think it is worth the peace of mind. The one I use is this:

  1. I have a waterproof day-pack, but for backpacking, I’ll probably use these cases to hold my diabetes supplies:

I used one of these nearly the whole time we were in Belize since we were doing a water activity nearly every day. It was awesome!!! Everything stayed dry, and it was just the perfect size to hold my pens, phone, meter, glucose, and some pen needles.

Once we get to the point where we are backpacking multiple days, I’ll want to get a satellite device that would allow us to call for help if something were to happen, preferably with a high quality gps. I personally think this is a good idea regardless of whether someone has diabetes. I haven’t figured out which one yet though… there are a lot of options so it is a bit overwhelming.