Camping with diabetes and insulin – What you should know

It can be fun spending more time outside in the summer camping. However, being away from home can be hard when you have diabetes, especially if you take insulin or pills that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). To stay safe while camping, it’s helpful to pack everything you might need, try some simple switches to replace common high sugar foods and know how to deal with changes in blood sugars. Being careful around alcohol is also needed if you do drink. 

It can be handy to write a list of things you need to leave the house for an extended period of time. For diabetes supplies, a good rule of thumb is to pack twice the amount you think you’ll need. Don’t forget your:

  • Charged glucometer and testing supplies,
  • Medications, insulin and injection supplies (store under 25֯C and out of direct sunlight), and
  • A source of sugar to treat hypoglycemia (make sure it’s something you can carry with you).

It’s common to rely more on convenience items when out camping. However, typical camping foods can be higher in carbs than your normal choices. These are fine to include sometimes, but it can be worth switching to options that don’t spike your blood sugars as much. Instead of large meals, stick to three meals each day with snacks as needed. Pick up smaller whole grain buns or wraps instead of white grains, and popcorn instead of chips. Nutritious snacks that travel well include nuts and apples, or crackers paired with flavored tuna, cheese or peanut butter. It’s also important to stay hydrated with water and limit pop. For some variety, try cans of sparkling water or packets of Crystal light to add to water bottles.

Walks after meals or regular exercise can be helpful to lower blood sugars even up to the next day. That said, if you’re more active than normal, keep a closer eye on your blood sugars as this can also lead to hypoglycemia. Speak with your diabetes team if you forget how to treat a low blood sugar or if you want to learn how to adjust your insulin to lower your risk.

If you drink alcohol, it’s best to test your blood sugars often and to limit to 2-3 drinks per day for adult men and 1-2 drinks per day for adult women. Normally, your liver makes sugar for your body between meals and while you sleep for ongoing function. However, the liver can’t do this when it’s busy breaking down alcohol. This can lead to insulin or pills driving your blood sugars dangerously low, even the day after drinking. It’s important to eat regular meals and wake up for your next day’s food at your usual time. In addition, eat quality carbs while drinking and again before bed if your blood sugar is lower than normal.

Alcohol can also dehydrate you, which is very dangerous if your blood sugars are high. Avoid alcohol if your blood sugars are not well controlled. If your blood sugars are in target and you want to drink alcohol, try sugar-free mixes and be sure to drink water as well. It’s important that someone around you knows you’re drinking and signs of a problem so that they can help you if needed.

Diabetes can be complicated to manage. Before spending time away from home, planning what to bring and what to do about your blood sugars can feel helpful. As always, your diabetes team can help you along the way as needed. 

Michelle Broughton, Registered Dietitian

Try this recipe: Campfire pie irons

What you need

  • 2 slices Country Harvest bread
  • Margarine
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella low fat cheese, sliced
  • Optional: any pizza toppings you want (leftover roasted peppers, onions, spinach, etc.)
  • Cast iron square pie cooker (available at Canadian Tire or online through Home Hardware)


  • Butter 1 side of each slice of bread
  • Place the first slice of bread buttered-side down in the cast iron pie cooker
  • Spread pizza sauce on this slice of bread then top with cheese and optional toppings
  • Spread pizza sauce on the second slice of bread and place on top (buttered-side facing up)
  • Close the cast iron pie cooker and heat over the fire, at least 2 minutes per side, until golden