I know that there are a number of people on the forum who live in places that are much colder then California, and who seem to spend time outside when it’s cold. Late December and early January @EricH and I are traveling to Austria, Russia, and Sweden. Where it will be cold to very cold (possibly down to -10°F, more likely around 10°F - 30°F).
We are not cold weather people - have done a few days in cold weather (28° outside, layers of sweaters and coats, and lots of walking, for instance). But this will be an extended trip, traveling by public transit, and probably doing a few outdoor things (ice skating, holiday markets, Christmas tree gathering in the country with friends).
I am wondering how people deal with the cold weather and their CGM’s and pumps and insulin. Are they affected? I read the thread about frozen insulin and overheated insulin a while back and will try to find them again.
Also, somewhat unrelated: how do you stay warm/the correct temperature? Do people really wear long underwear under pants under more pants?
How do you deal if you wind up inside? Can’t exactly drop your pants in a museum or restaurant I don’t think. And shoes? What shoes?
@TravelingOn, here in SE Wisconisn we frequently get to between 0 and -10F. With the windchill factor it can feel much lower (even without, actually).
The hardest thing to keep warm is feet and hands. For both, you need very large boots and gloves, with plenty of air in it. Undergloves may be useful. I use Canadian Baffin Bay boots, bulky but NEVER cold, with a thick pair of wool socks. They are not ideal for travel because they are big. When you are going to be inside, you bring sneakers, and change into your sneakers while leaving your boots at the door or in a locker.
We all use longjohns under thick pants. My son and wife often use insulated pants – me not so much. But I use thick pants to make sure that I won’t be affected by the wind – the wind is the riskiest part, I feel, with pants. There aren’t many options about longjohns. ideally you would change out of your longjohns, in the bathroom for instance – you can get very hot inside with them.
As for the torso, where you lose a lot of heat – layers are key, lots of layers.
Don’t neglect neck, face and head. When going skiing in the great cold we use masks and balaclavas. Always heavy hats with cheek covers if possible. Protect the forehead or it may freeze. Insulate the neck as well as possible.
CGM should be no problem in a core area such as abdomen.
Insulin: we are not experienced in pumping in this weather, but we know cross-country skiers who feel that a tubed pump is dangerous because the tubes can freeze. We keep our insulin pens by the heart under the jacket. Some people keep it in a coat pocket, but I’d be very careful with that: possibly can freeze. I would worry more about freezing insulin than getting it too warm. I would also consider the trick I used in our Costa Rica trick: double insulated thermos bottle with (in this case room temperature) plastic ice cubes.
I am sure you’ll get some great feedback from our Alaskans – what do you think @Sam, @PegE?
Doesn’t really get cooler than that in my part of Alaska. I carry insulin pens inside my jacket breast pocket and don’t really worry about it. It’s never going to be that far below freezing inside someone’s jacket that they’re wearing… I think it’d have to be really really extreme cold to really have a problem just keep your insulin on your body… don’t let him convince you to stash it in your purse. Lots of people live in those temps and don’t even think twice about it cuz it’s just their normal…
I’ll be learning this! It snowed on Monday but its supposed to be back in the 70’s today. Typical Colorado wild swings in the weather. Hands/feet/ears are the key areas. I have so many different combinations of clothing.
Extended time outside, not exercising, I’d go with:
thin tights under jeans
long sleeve base layer and a puffy
mittens (the ones the fold over glove fingers are practical)
hat that covers the ears (preferably some wild pattern with a a big pompom on top). Balaclava its its REALLY cold.
I’ll experiment with the arm dexcom in the cold (just under a thin smartwool/icebreaker top) so it will get cold. I don’t want to put it on my torso. I’ll report back when it gets colder or if I go into the high mountains for a weekend. If I’m xc skiing, I’ll just wear 1 thin layer even when its really cold since that’s full body exercise and generates a lot of heat.
I second smartwool or darn tough wool socks. Socks are key because wet toes equal cold toes, and cold toes equals miserable all the time. Also a good hat with ear coverage is key.
Also if you’re only going for a short time, I’d recommend getting those chemical hand-warmers that you can put inside gloves. This is probably not a feasible solution if you’re going to be out in the cold all the time, but for a day skiing, etc. it’s been quite helpful. Not super expensive and I enjoy the toasty feeling.
I think they’re called hot-hand handwarmers?
Another tip I’ve read for skiing is to keep your meter and your insulin in an inner pocket, close to your body, so that it’s never exposed to the freezing temps. And your phone/receiver; I learned the hard way that an iPhone doesn’t work when its temperature dips below freezing.
Mittens! So much better than gloves. Resist the urge to use glove liners with them—they will make your fingers colder, since the whole point is to allow your fingers to nestle together for warmth, and it makes a huge difference. Really good mittens with detachable finger flaps/covers are key (they have fingers sheaths underneath, but only halfway, so they still allow your fingers to transmit warmth to each other)—I got the ones I once took to Beijing in December at REI and now use them on winter hikes in New England, and they work extremely well.
Oh yeah, I’ve found out that meter one. I got the too cold error first thing in the morning backpacking and had to stick it in my bra for a few minutes before I could test. It was in the high 30s at the coldest so that was annoying. The fewer things I have to keep warm the better.
Wow! You guys! This is amazing! I should’ve just posted weeks ago. I’ve watched a lot of bad videos on YouTube trying to figure this clothing thing out. (Like Mittens?!? I never would’ve thought that! Thanks, @cardamom! And hand/feet/ears @CarolynA - I am the woman who’s wearing a hat with earflaps when it drops below 60º so it makes sense.)
Good to know about the insulin temperature @Sam, I figured that’d be an issue in a bag or purse, inside pocket it is! Or inside the hotel room, which should be okay. We don’t refrigerate insulin while traveling (even for longer than a month) and it’s been fine. And I had read about the meter, but will keep that in mind! Did not know about the iPhone! Currently, have the G4 with receiver.
I wondered if everyone just wandered around indoors in giant boots. Thanks for the explanation. DO you carry your spare shoes in a bag? In your hand? The question is how much time will we actually be spending outdoors, and will it justify the space the boots would take up. Eric’s less cold sensitive than I am, and he owns heavy waterproof hiking boots+warm socks, which might fit the bill if we are not doing that much outdoorsy stuff.
I was wondering if people took the layers off indoors! I would die if I had to wear long underwear indoors - even the subway in NYC we’d both strip off coats and outwear while in there when we lived there - I don’t know how people don’t overheat! We’ve got Smartwool long underwear - love them. We both actually wear them as shirts (the Merino 250 baselayers hold up way better and look thick enough to pass as clothing in my book; the Merino 150 hasn’t held up as well and got more thin and pilly than I’d like) often. For the record, I don’t like the Icebreaker women’s Bodyfit 200 long underwear, it got really thin and crappy looking after about month of use.
@TiaG we also love the Smartwool socks, better than DarnTough by a small percentage, but the best is the REI brand thick wool socks for me (and that could just be my feet). I will pick up the chemical hand warmers just in case. They’re probably light.
Hadn’t read that part of the thread but I’ll throw in my .02c. The meter is the only tricky part in cold weather they can work quite differently or not at all in cold weather. Keep in warm pocket and find a warm place to test whenever possible
I like to make warm little skirts out of sweaters I find in the thrift stores. I pull them on over my pants (and long johns) and if it’s not too cold that will keep my CGM receiver and meter if I want it, warm enough inside my pockets. If it is really cold, like when I go to Fairbanks to visit family at Christmas, I usually hang a cloth bag of some sort around my neck so all my diabetes stuff stays warm inside my clothes. I wear plenty of clothes so that my hands stay very warm. Then when I need to test my BG I can keep my meter warm in my hands. I’d rather be too warm than too cold. Layers.
I just watched Traveling on’s Dressing for the Cold in Russia video. Yikes. I could never stay warm enough with that outfit at -30. I never wear gloves. Always mittens, several layers of wool mittens covered with a shell is best. And a good scarf or two or three. I also like to cut off the bottoms of an old pair of wool socks and use them for anklets when I am cross country skiing to help keep my feet warm. I’ve been known to make a cover for the ski boots with wool felt or old wool socks, covered with a homemade shell when I lived in the Interior of Alaska where it really gets cold.
This sounds like a great idea! Although if I were to stuff Eric in a skirt, he might object. Although, he might not if it kept him warm.
HA! I thought I would be sweating to death in that outfit he put on. But I thought that because I was imagining having to get on a bus or in a subway in that getup.
I think I am having a general misunderstanding of the difference between indoor clothes and outdoor clothes for our upcoming trip, or really, what actual people who live in places where it is cold wear. Thank goodness for you guys! It’s becoming more clear.
Yes. I was thinking about what I would wear to spend a half hour or more walking or skiing outdoors when it is -20 or colder outside. The layering thing can be a real pain going in and out of buildings.I also have some zip on and off down pants. Teenagers don’t like to be stuffed into anything whether or not it would keep them warm( I can’t remember how old Eric is.) which can drive a grown woman a little crazy. My husband doesn’t wear as much as I do in those sorts of temperatures. He also sweats more than I do, by quite a bit.
I am familiar with this phenomenon When we were walking around all day in Canada last week, I never wore even a base layer once under my parka, just a polo, when the rest of the family wore several layers… Of course, I have my own personal insulation layer…
Just wanted to report back that base layers would be amazing for outdoor use, but inside of every building in both Austria and Russia they’re keeping it at around 80°F/26°C. Which is way too hot for base layers.
We both love the flannel pants (thanks, @Michel!) and our Smartwool long sleeve tops. But being able to take the layers off is the key. So we only bundle up for outside walking with the heavy pants.
So far, no insulin issues and we’ve put the OmniPod and the Dexcom through some strange paces. It held up being soaked in 100°F/38°C hot water for hours at a thermal bath in Budapest (located on the arm) and continued to dispense useful insulin afterward. It’s been below freezing outside, but insulin was kept warm in a pocket or left in the hotel room, and the OmniPod hasn’t been exposed to below freezing temps while attached to EH’s body.
Having the pod on the arm HAS triggered extra security at airports, but it was quick, polite and minimal. Wipe down of pod with explosive sniffing machine pad and hand pat down of EH. That’s one drawback for the arm location with layers - exposing the upper arm is harder when bundled up.
So far so good. And unseasonably warm Russian weather so far.
My husband and my boys often have to work outside in very cold weather around here, in particular when needing to fell trees in winter or removing fallen wood.
We have tried to ingrain into our kids that the most dangerous thing you can do in winter in the wilderness is sweat. When you have no shelter around (no way to warm up from an external source of heat), your clothes can never dry once they get damp, and you are vulnerable to the cold the moment you stop your activities. If you are on a long trek, or run into trouble (such as, for instance, a mechanical problem while snowmobiling), this can be deadly.
So we make sure they understand the need to strip layers as they work, even to the degree, sometimes, of ending up with nothing on above the waist in negative temperatures (Fahrenheit, of course), which has happened to my husband a couple of times.
Though you better be ready to put these layers back on in a hurry if the wind picks up