What do you do with your middle-of-the-night glucose when you’re camping/backpacking? Are bears attracted to insulin? When doing some research on this question, I came across a few posts where people said that insulin should be packed up with the food because a bear might think it smells interesting. I’d love to read how people have handled camping/backpacking with diabetes.
On my most recent camping trip in black bear country, I left my insulin in the tent, and I kept the glucose in the bear bin. We didn’t have any visitors during the night, but there hadn’t been recent sightings in the area anyway.
When backpacking in the spring, we’ll have to use a bear bag or canister- I guess. We’ll probably just be in brown or black bear country. I would still be interested to hear what you would do in grizzly bear territory though.
I bought a bear box for this purpose. I got tired of trying to get the hang bag down in the middle of the night to get the sugar out. The guy who sold me the bear canister – which is admittedly the Cadillac (Tesla? Ferrari?) of all bear canisters – suggested that we keep a few candies in a smell proof Ziploc bags in the tent, and put the rest into the bear canister. He pointed out that bears generally won’t work very hard to get to the good stuff. He’s got over 40 years of backpacking experience and thousands of trail miles, although many in the Sierras (no grizzly bears). I trusted him.
Switching to the keto meals has really helped the nighttime lows – EH actually didn’t need any sugar on our last backpacking trip! That was amazing.
The bear canister guy will rent you one for cheap, and he has great suggestions and stories if you’re so inclined. He answers his phone. He said to stick the canister 40’ away or so from the tent, and place it somewhere that it won’t roll into a creek or off a cliff if inspected by bears.
The smell proof ziplocks I got were okay but not great. Less smelly candy would be good too. I might bring an empty water bottle and mix up some table sugar + water for next time. Smells less than flavored candy/powdered drink mix.
Also - EH wore his pod, which is full of insulin - and nothing even sniffed at our tent. In the past I’ve backpacked in non-bear-country with people who didn’t hang their food and their tents have been destroyed by mice/squirrels.
I think that the likelihood of you getting attacked by a bear for insulin is relatively low. Realistically, it depends on how habituated bears are to human smells. And how hungry they are. But it doesn’t seem likely.
Full disclosure: bears scare the everliving ■■■■ out of me. I’ve done a lot of research so I feel confident going out into the wilderness with someone who’s covered in insulin and sugar all the time. I chose to purchase the following Bear canister after realizing that I couldn’t open any of the other containers that exist out there easily. I am actually the only person I know with that problem. But you need to make sure that you can get the canister open if/when you are low/asleep.
Long long ago in the way back days, I was new to hanging food and I was pretty literal about it. I hung my food. I didn’t think about hanging my chapstick, deodorant, toothpaste or anything else. I was later told that I was supposed to hang those things. Oops.
@TravelingOn seems pretty knowledgeable so I throw my chips in with hers.
The best part? He’s about an hour from my house. So that was a big motivator - I got to go meet him in person. And he has the best stories ever! He used to be in aerospace engineering but upon retiring he kicked his bear canister business into full gear.
I always found glucose a bit scary because the stuff produces so much powder. I was afraid I would sprinkle that powder all over the tent and turn all my gear, and myself, into a bear magnet. Consequently I used hard candies an kept those with me in a zip-lock in the tent.
Black bears seem to steer clear of humans. I do see them from time to time where I live but they don’t get closer than maybe 50ft. If you have a dog they run away. Round here they know about trash cans and in general they know formal campsites are good foraging grounds, so I suspect that is where the bear canister is most important. The things are heavy; I’ve carried them while backpacking but for the weight they don’t hold much.
I use fruit leather when I’m slowly trending down and these for when I really need a bump. They digest faster than candy does, and they’re lighter than gatorade (which I generally prefer because I can have a little or a lot, but it is too heavy for hiking).
I bet the gel packets in the sealed ziplocks would be fine until I actually used them. The packaging might smell afterward though… maybe I should get some hard candies for the nights…
I bought the keto packs you recommended Haven’t had a chance to use them yet and probably won’t until the spring. I’m excited to give them a try though. Definitely appreciate the recommendations- all of them!
I think we’ve decided that our first trip will be in the Massanutten mountain range in GWNF because it’s only a couple hours away and has some nice backpacking spots. Mount pleasant is also on the list, but it is 3+ hours away so I might want more than one night in that area if we go down that way.
Anyway, I’ll look into those canisters. They look nice! But super expensive!!! I can see why they have a rental option. I’ll make a trip to REI to see if I can open the cheaper ones. Maybe after we’ve been backpacking a few times, we’ll decide that the nicer canisters are worth the investment.
Very good point. I think it’s highly likely that my day pack has some smells that would attract bears. Luckily my backpacking pack is new, so I can start fresh. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about how to keep it that way.
Have you gone backpacking without one in bear country? What did you use instead?
I don’t think I have. I was pretty paranoid about bears when I was backpacking. The times I’ve used it have been in locations where there were relatively few trees. I think in a forest I would go for the hanging approach and, anyway, I would keep emergency food and insulin with me. A bear can carry off a canister if it feels like it and it is said that bears can get stuff that has been hung from a tree down. After all, bears run up trees really fast.
My wife and I have done many hundreds of miles of backpacking, including our 400 mile honeymoon. We have always hung our food between two trees, or elevated on a rock when no trees are available simply because the mice and other critters have destroyed a bunch of our stuff. We have not backpacked in brown bear country, just black bear, and so we have never really worried about the bears, and haven’t been bothered, although we could have been trampled by an elk. We have had mice destroy a backpack by boring through it though, even though there was no food in it, so all of our destruction has been critters not bears. Take it for what it is worth.
What do you mean by this? How would you store it? I’ve wondered about a canister being carried off or critters getting into the food if we hung it. I’m not sure how to keep the emergency food with me without risking critters getting it somehow or attracting bears?
We only backpack, we don’t camp, so racoons aren’t in the back country around us. If they are in your area, they are truly painful to deal with, they are smart, work in teams, and are mean as well as voracious. Tough hombres, you don’t want to deal with in your skivvies. Yes, a bear cannister will stop a raccoon, if it can stop a bear it should be able to stop a racoon. Additionally, as you mention it will be heavy.
Yes, hanging it in the middle of the two trees that are sufficiently far apart is your best defense short of a bear cannister. We have hung our backpacks, but now just hang our food deordorants toothpaste etc, and use our rain covers to cover the backpacks and leave them against a tree in a pack huddle. It has worked, we have had a few rain covers with critter holes, but those can be easily fixed with duct tape.
If you are in black bear country, I wouldn’t think it would be a problem to keep your insulin and a small amount of sugar in a heavy duty ziplock. Brown bear country, well that is a different issue, which I am not sure what I would do. While in Alaska on some hikes where brown bears were likely everyone we ran into had a very large caliber handgun on at least one member of the party.
It’s not just bears, or critters, and it’s not just hiking. If you are hiking with a bear canister strapped to your backpack there is a chance that it will come loose and fall off. Imagine slipping while crossing a stream and having the canister float down the stream and over a waterfall; it can be a whole-day hike to get from the top to the bottom of some of the falls in Yosemite Valley and, anyway, your chance of finding a floating canister at the bottom is minimal. Similarly bad things can happen to complete backpacks, to stuff hanging from trees and so on.
So I keep an emergency supply of food on my body; in a jacket pocket or a bumbag. I also tend to keep the insulin there too, in my case it is in a KwikPen so it’s not likely to smell. The emergency supply needs to be sufficient to get from the most distant point in the hike back to your origin or a point where assistance is available. You probably want to store additional emergency food in your vehicle if you leave it at a remote trailhead, despite all the warnings. I’ve done that and wrapped everything up then stored it in the bear canister.
In my case these days I don’t need much emergency food because my basal is set to a maintenance rate, so I can hike without going low, at least for a while. Normally I carry glucose tablets, but if bears are going to be around I would go for the hard candies.
If a bear tries to raid the tent while I am in it I would grab my bumbag and try to escape out the back but I suspect most bears have their olfactory organs overwhelmed by the smell of sweaty hiker whenever they are near an occupied tent.