Kayak camping and Dexcom: a tough challenge

We just came back from a 10-day kayak camping trip on Lake Superior, where we tested multiple levels of CGM and GM redundancy (which is why we were all gone so long from the forum btw).

The results were worse than I expected. We left with an iPhone, a Dexcom receiver, multiple sensors, a transmitter, 2 glucose meters, and with external batteries galore. After a week, we could not monitor the Dexcom anymore, and we were down to one glucose meter:

  • The receiver was mechanically damaged by blunt trauma (a soft pocket hitting rocky ground I believe).

  • The iPhone Dexcom app packed it after 3 days and required a full reinstall, in a place with no coverage whatsoever. By some miracle I found a place with minimal coverage after 10 hours of hunting for one (the reinstall was very painful btw).

  • Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, the iPhone itself was damaged by humidity despite being protected by two waterproof enclosures (a soft one and a hard one), and became inoperable.

  • So we were down to our manual glucose meters. But quickly one of the glucose meters, although always being protected in dry bags, called it quits for no reason.

  • At the end, we had to deal with the last few days on a single glucose meter and no redundancy whatsoever.

I will post more soon, after I have caught up on my life, where I am behind in every respect. Clearly, we need to up our equipment protection to a much higher level. I had expected that our level of redundancy would give us no trouble, but I was also wrong in that respect. Kayaking represents a significant challenge to diabetes equipment.


Congrats on the trip. Bummer about the equipment failures, but sounds like great fun anyway. At least you weren’t down to just how he felt, or maybe Eric will suggest that :wink:

Willing to bet there might be some sore shoulders in the family, and probably not on the young ones.

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I have lost meters/strips from humidity. It happens.

You can mock it, but the “mental meter” never has equipment failure. You just have to get it calibrated correctly.

If you got stuck in the woods with no lighter, matches, flint, food, water, weapons, or shelter…which of these sets of people would you rather be with?


@Chris, I had to chuckle on this one, because it is SO true! My older son has a broken foot, so he could not put any pressure on it while paddling, but I was shocked at how strong my younger T1D son’s paddling was. He is only 12, but he pulled hard all through, hardly ever stopping: his seemed indefatigable and strong pulling at the same time!

It is the first time that I look at him as a source of power – but I look at his longer, lanky body (he is already 5’8"), his broad shoulders (he used to be built like a stick, but swim team for two years now has broadened his shoulders a lot) and his long spider-like arms and I figure – he is going to outpower his dad in a year or two!

Funny how things change quickly:-)

@Michel We’re all glad you’re back in one piece :grinning:
You were definitely missed!

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I should mention, btw, when the first glucose meter failed, i was seriously considering what would happen if… My son is not able to distinguish clearly when he is low if you suddenly wake him up at night – it takes him 10-15 minutes to realize where he is at (unless he wakes up on his own, which happens – but he won’t always do it when he is really tired).

Glad you guys made it through OK, and with GREAT memories! All these struggles and solutions you discovered out on this trip will help @Kaelan deal better when he’s older and doing these with his school/college buddies! Everything works out in the end – it’s awesome that you had plans A through G covered! Having more redundant plans helps do exactly what you guys were able to do this trip. I always say HOPE FOR THE BEST, BUT PLAN FOR THE WORST!

The memories will last forever!

So, you found out on a previous trip that “sunburn” causes extremely high (and prolonged) sunburns. I’m sure you covered that base this trip; however, did you find that prolonged exposure to sun in general did anything to his BGs?

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We did a lot of paddling every day, and his basal needs decreased by about 20% during the trip. It was sunny every day but one – I did not notice any effect of the sun on him. But it could have been that the physical effort alone would have warranted more of a drop, except that some of it was compensated by the paddling?

On the whole, though, if I had to guess I would say that the effect of the sun was negligible on his basal.

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I spent years being anxious and bummed that I couldn’t find those BG test strips they used to make that didn’t use a meter. You would put your drop of blood on, wait 60 seconds, wipe it off, wait 60 seconds and then match the color to the spectrum on the bottle for a glucose range. In my youth I spent 6 weeks on an isolated island in the Bering sea (St. Matthew Island) with only my test strips and insulin vials for diabetes management. I’d still love to have some of those old test strips in a bottle for backup!

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Betachek visual blood glucose strips. Yay internet! I’m going to order some!

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I would have killed for these in our trip.

That is AWESOME! I will look for some today and buy some too. This is the perfect backup.

@PegE – let me know if you find a good place to buy them, right now I can only find an Australian reseller on Amazon who ships from Australia

EDIT: Be careful, it must specifically be the Betachek Visual, not the Betachek G5s.

I just ordered it through betachek.com. $30 including shipping. Fingers crossed for long expiration date. Retro/analog ahoy!

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Awesome! I am getting some too:-)

Expiration: I read about someone in the UK who had an 18-month expiration date:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/forum/threads/more-than-one-meter.55752/ (Michael David).

He is posting in March 2014, bought the Betachek Visuals directly from Betachek 2 months before (Jan 2014) and has an August 2015 expiration date.