Enjoy The Great Outdoors: Tips For Camping With Diabetes

Whether we go to a campground with electricity and running water, or pitch a tent away from it all, camping can be a fun and healthy way to spend time with family or friends.

Though it takes extra planning to manage diabetes while camping, time in nature offers health benefits that support good glucose management. For instance, it helps normalize sleep patterns, relieves stress, strengthens immune system function, and social ties, plus common sense exposure to sunlight increases our supply of vitamin D.

To maximize these campground benefits it’s recommended that TVs, video games, and computers are left at home, or that their use is limited. A solar charger and a one or two smartphones is all that’s really needed for emergency, and rainy afternoon purposes.

Camping With Diabetes: Tips

For those of us who are camp and (or) diabetes novices, here are a few tips shared by experienced diabetes managers who love to go camping:

    Supply List. Once at the campsite you won’t be able to make a quick trip to the store for diabetes supplies - test strips, meds, meter, glucose tabs - so list what to take ahead of time, and check items off as they're packed. Include on the list a way to keep insulin, oral meds, and supplies cool during hot days.

    Smart Snacks. Bring healthy snacks along, such as nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers, veggies, or low-fat string cheese, and consider putting snack-size portions into small zip-lock bags. The single-serving bags are easy to grab and carry on hikes, or canoe excursions, and help prevent over-snacking.

    Reminders. You’ll want a reliable watch or cell phone alarm to remind you about monitoring, or taking medications.

    Move and Monitor. Balance relaxing in the shade with plenty of physical activity: hiking, canoeing, swimming, mountain bike riding, or a game of horseshoes. If, while camping, you are more active than usual (or less) consider monitoring more often than usual.

    Meter Care. Remember that glucose meter function is affected by temperature extremes. Stow your meter somewhere cool during the day, and on chilly nights you might put the monitor in its case or bag and keep it next to you while sleeping.

    Camp Fare. Plan your meals ahead of time, and shop for the trip using a grocery list. Avoid the temptation to bring typical camping fare such as chips, sodas, potato salads, macaroni salads, white breads, fatty brats, cookies, and marshmallows. Instead, consider meals such as kabobs made with lean meat, carrots, potatoes, onion, zucchini, or whatever veggies are in season—and have a cantaloupe wedge for dessert. If electricity is available, make good use of your slow cooker. Bring plenty of water to drink, and flavor it with fruit and cucumber slices.

Keep in mind that some individuals find camping lowers their blood sugar levels. This could be owed to the fresh air and relaxing effects of nature, maybe eating or snacking less, being more active, or a combination of these factors.

Benefits At Home

Despite nature’s many draws, some people will never be interested in sleeping under the stars. However, even at home we can enjoy some of camping’s benefits by getting out in the sunshine more often, staying active, opening windows whenever possible, reducing our exposure to artificial light, and doing our best to get plenty of sleep.

Sources: Health Freedoms; Diabetes Daily; Everyday Health
Photo credit: Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources

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