Being unlimited, anywhere

I have been thinking about this for a couple of days. I have tried to think of one single thing I could not do because I need to have insulin with me. I came to this conclusion: there is nothing. (Except maybe be a spy in MI6. I don’t know. They won’t answer my emails.) I have never considered the need to have insulin nearby a “limitation.”

Maybe I have lived with diabetes so long that I am just used to it. I need insulin in order to live; I also need food in order to live. Why is one considered a “limitation” but not the other?

Or maybe it’s a matter of perspective. I went to a language conference once where a speaker who used a wheelchair said, “If I’m ‘wheelchair-bound,’ then the rest of you are ‘shoe-bound.’” I have never forgotten this.

The following T1s did not consider needing to carry insulin with them a limitation. They did not say, “I will never be able to”:

If these people are #unlimited, that must make the rest of us #super-unlimited.:grinning:


I think you can also be unlimited anywhere and lead an average “boring” life, without marathons, mountain climbing, etc.

I don’t think it is a giant leap for type 1 diabetes, but a leap for society (and PWDs) to not feel limited in the first place.


Or to not be told by others that we are limited.

I think this gets to the heart of what’s bugging me about this. All my freaking life I’ve been told by other people – family, friends, school guidance counselors, doctors – that I can’t or I shouldn’t do certain activities or do certain jobs or eat certain things simply because I have diabetes. And even though treatment is far better and self-management is miles ahead of what it was 40 or 50 years ago and T1s now do all kinds of jobs and all kinds of activities and eat all kinds of things, still other people tell us we’re limited.

To echo the woman in the wheelchair, let me be the judge of that.


8 posts were split to a new topic: Weighing a difficult decision on career, risk, and diabetes

Such an inspiring and thought-provoking topic!

Since my quote was listed in the OP, I will throw one point into the maelstrom. So far, we have tried to live, with my son, a life totally unlimited by D in the activities we have been ready to do. There is one thing we have not done, which we would have done if my son had not been T1D. It is the one that inspired this very specific quote.

My son was diagnosed a few days into May a couple of years ago. That summer, we had planned to go for several weeks trekking and canyoning the low-land jungles of Nicaragua in a high-heat, high humidity climate, and with no access to roads or to health professionals. We could not find a way to carry insulin cool enough when backpacking for weeks in that climate, and we bagged the trip.

Since that time, we have gone camping in the wilderness multiple times for days or weeks (in cooler climates). We have traveled to Central American countries with little infrastructure (not camping away from civilization for long durations though). We have traveled in several developed countries. We have tried many different sports and activities. Barring that one time, we have encountered no limits.

But I am still not sure if we would be ready to do that Nicaragua trip today. Several weeks in temperatures that are pretty much every day above 100, with no practical way to cool insulin—we know that insulin can withstand some temperature stress, but I don’t know that we are ready to risk long-term heat stress with no possibility to get back to civilization if things go wrong. I have not quit on this: I am still looking into what we can do to cool insulin, even minimally, over long stretches of time in hot and humid weather. I figure we will eventually find a way.

So, when I discussed the need for carrying insulin, I had a very specific thought in mind—the one obstacle that we encountered and that we have not surmounted yet. Hopefully, it is a matter of time until we find a solution :slight_smile:


Are you going during the rainy season or the dry season? Temperatures are a tad cooler during the summer/fall, aren’t they?

Anyway - when I had been trekking for a while, I used a swamp cooler technique much like the Frio insulin coolers. Wrap it in cloth, dunk it in any nearby cool river I could, and place it in a bag. I haven’t used the Frio, but they supposedly last 48 hours in one “activation.” But it would require treks where there is access to a cool stream every couple days.


That’s what I’ve done, while canoeing in Algonquin Park and running into an un-predicted heatwave with temps around 100F. I wet a T-shirt in the lake, wrapped my insulin, put it in a plastic bag, and kept it deep in my backpack. When it seemed to be getting even hotter, I also put the plastic bag inside my bag of flour, because I’d remembered reading that flour acted as an insulator, though I don’t know if that’s true. No guarantee it would work in the jungles of Nicaragua, though!


We love this technique and use it a lot! But the problem with it is that it only works when the humidity is low. When you get to 75-80% humidity, it becomes useless:

@Sam always gets mad about the Frio ads because it simply won’t work when it is is humid. So, unfortunately, this technique won’t work in hot jungles.

One thing that does work, I think (we tried it) is to keep insulin in a waterproof bag in the shade at the bottom of a raft, in the water itself. The water of almost any river will be much lower than 87F. So this technique takes care of rafting down or being constantly in a flowing river. We still have to figure out how to deal with backpacking in humid heat.

I am looking into sun cooling right now (electrical cooling). But so far I have not found a good, practical way to make this work low tech, reliably and lightly.

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Trust me, whenever it’s 100F in Ontario in August, it’s also muggy as heck. :sweat::sweat_drops: But it could be my technique only had a placebo effect. Either way, my insulin didn’t suffer during the three-week trip. Still not sure about the flour, though they say it works for keeping butter cool.

That would be interesting. But in lowland jungle, can you get enough sunlight through the canopy?


That is a good question:-) There are several other issues also:

  • What is the best lightweight and robust insulation pack that we could use to cool electrically? None exist out of the box today that are good for backpacking.

  • How to lower electrical consumption to match reasonable sun-powered charger?

  • What technologies can we use to make electrical equipment likely to withstand jungle conditions? It is pretty much the worst environment due to corrosion in hot, humid weather, in particular if you add salty sweat. I figure somehow bedding it all in flexible resin may be a path.

So there are some challenges! It would be a cool product to develop though.

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I’m wondering if you could couple one of those mini-battery powered jobs with a USB Solar unit? I know 7"x3"x1" isn’t exactly small, especially at 3.5lbs (plus the solar), but it might be an option to hack something together. I see several at 5v/2A input… though I notice most USB solar units don’t give more than 1A. Just thinking out loud.

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We are thinking on the same wavelength. But, after having tested a few, these and similar small jobs can’t cut it. But essentially that’s what we need: a solar charger (or 2, or 3), plus a lithium-ion (right now) battery, plus a truly well-insulated, Yeti-like small cooler, with just the right size, that is integrated with a cooling system in a very reliable way.

In a way, the size is pretty critical, because it drives all the other parameters. It needs to be able to carry, imho, 4 weeks of insulin, so a decent size but not giant. The better the insulation, the less the refrigeration needed, so, to me, the best possible insulation is important—that means expensive.

Integrating the cooling element in the reefer is probably the most critical aspect in terms of reliability. Then we need to come up with a very high-end electrical connector, probably sealed, with, probably, gold plated connections on both ends, and a way to make sure that condensation does not accumulate around the connector.


Maybe a modified bulb planter? If you can get it to dig down far enough, it should be cool in the ground, especially under the tree cover.

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You can definitely do that overnight, maybe even every night. That’s how PWDs deal with insulin in parts of Africa which I know and where there is no electricity: you bury your stash.


Couple options… experiment at home with insulins kept at these temps until you do or don’t have confidence that theyll work.

Option 2, instant ice packs, one or 2 per day inside a wide mouth thermos with your insulin will keep them plenty cool.

Or just fill thermos with cool water and float your insulin in it. No problem.

My hunch is that it’ll be fine even without such measures… lots of diabetics in under developed hot countries without refrigeration

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But if you’re still worried about it if you want to give me a $1500 budget I can built you a solar powered peltier semiconductor cooled Yetti cooler. You’ll also need to hire a local villager to carry it.

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Actually, there is a small Yeti cooler, a bit too big still, but I have been considering it as an option to weaponize:


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Coleman FlipLid Cooler, 5 Quart , Red

Buy this instead. Yetti = redneck Rolex. They’re ridiculous.

Or something like this: Stanley Classic Vacuum Food Jar 24oz Hammertone Green

There are probably better options this just happens to be the one I’ve had for 20 years