Trekking with Type 1: A Guide to Hiking with Diabetes

My summer has been filled with exploring new trails, climbing to new heights, and venturing to new paths in new states. Hiking has been something that i’ve always enjoyed doing with my family, but recently, something has changed to allow me to enjoy the experience of connecting with nature on foot so much more.

Walking away from civilization and seemingly “off the grid” can be a little off-putting for anyone with a medical condition or general sense of anxiety. It’s scary to depend on survival with only the items on your back, and lugging around your pancreas adds a new layer of caution. I can definitely see how type 1 diabetics may be uninterested in getting outdoors and away from home without the comforts of low blood sugar snacks, water, or emergency services so close by.

In sharing some tips ive learned about hiking with type 1 diabetes, I hope to inspire you to lace up your hiking boots and connect with nature while we still can.

Do Some Research

Being prepared is one of the most important parts of being a type 1 diabetic. We prepare for absolutely everything in order to avoid putting ourselves in danger. Hiking is no different. Plan your trail with handy field guides or on trail website like AllTrails, which offer detailed guides, length, difficulty level, and reviews for thousands of trails around the country.

If you are new to hiking and don’t want to rock the boat of blood sugars by trekking up a difficult hike right away, start with something short and easy, and then work your way to more challenging courses.

Bring More Than You Think You’ll Need

As you may know, every day is different in the life of a diabetic. Don’t risk being farther from civilization without a massive amount of low blood sugar snacks. You will never regret the fourth juice box you bring, trust me!

If I am starting a difficult hike in a normal blood sugar range, I will go low. probably multiple times. every time i’m thankful for that extra snack.

I bring capri suns or juice boxes, skittles, dried mangos, fruit snacks, or anything that can bring my numbers up quickly while I wander along. Don’t forget the water! Bring extra just in case your sugars decide to stay a little higher during your trek.

It’s also a good idea to stash your glucagon in your backpack – better to be safe than sorry!

It’s Okay to Take Breaks

I also need to learn this. Once I get going, I hate to stop. I hate making the people i’m hiking with stop. I hate to ask for more time to rest. But I shouldn’t! Low blood sugar breaks help get your body back to where you need to be before you continue on. Take them!!

Hike with Someone Who Knows You

I’m assuming most people hike with someone who knows they have type 1 diabetes, but if not – let them know! It’s important that everyone in your group is aware that you may need to take snack breaks or water breaks a little more often. Luckily, Adam is a well informed hiking buddy.

Don’t Let the Lows Get You Down

I just went hiking this past weekend in Vail, CO. We were trekking up the Booth Falls Trail which is a 6 mile difficult hike to a beautiful waterfall. My sugar plummeted from miscalculating my breakfast insulin before the hike and I started the trek around 110. I must have stopped 7-8 times before we even hit the mile mark. I felt horrible that Adam had to stop with me (although he was very willing to wait), I was irritated that we still had so much further to hike, and I was tiring of eating! I finally leveled out and I finished the hike around 120 (surprising perfection!).

Try not to let the lows discourage you from powering through. If I had quit after a few lows, I would have missed the most beautiful hike i’ve ever been on and another wonderful memory with Adam.

Enjoy the View

As many inspiring quotes of our time have said, just enjoy the view. Being able to hike up a mountain, along a river, or through a park is a gift. We are so lucky to be able to seek new heights and enjoy the beautiful gift of our planet. Even if that means having to eat a few more snacks throughout!

– Ariana

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