I’ve always loved hiking and being in nature. From our first hike to Preikestolen in 2008, my husband and I have probably covered thousands of kilometers together. We have been to many places – Nepal, Iceland, Malaysia – and have extensively explored Sweden and Norway. Many other destinations were also on our list. However, in 2014, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Of course, this diagnosis was not a reason to give up on our plans, especially since physical activities are essential in managing diabetes. However, hiking with type 2 diabetes requires some extra planning and precaution to ensure safe and enjoyable experience. That’s why adjustments had to be made.
Not everything was perfect right away. Many things had to be learned through trial and error. So that you don’t have to repeat them, I want to share my experience with you.
Here are some tips based on my personal experience. I hope they help you to you hike safely with diabetes type 2.
First, I make sure to consult my doctor and get personalized advice on how to manage my diabetes on the trail considering that I’m on low-carb diet and already use insulin and some oral medications.
Before I lace up my hiking boots, I do the trail research in order to find how long or steep it is. I select the route that match my fitness level and health status. Now, when I have almost 10-year diabetes experience, I’m trying to avoid super-challenging trails.
I always pack my diabetes supplies very carefully. Even for 2-3 hour long hikes I bring:
- Blood glucose meter (Accu-Check Instant)
- Extra batteries for it
- Blood test strips in sufficient quantity.
- Insulin pen and extra needles
- Insulin storage wallet to keep it in right temperature.
- Emergency gear – glucose tablets, dried fruits in order to rise blood sugar quickly in case of hypoglycemia.
- Fully charged cellphone.
I also carry plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can affect blood sugar levels. However, water can’t fully rehydrate the body on its own. I also need so called electrolytes – salt, potassium and magnesium, to replete its lost energy stores. Here you can find my recipe of diabetes-friendly DIY electrolyte drink.
During the hike, I pace myself and take breaks as needed. I listen to my body and check my blood sugar levels frequently – every 2 hours or as needed.
One of the most important things for me is to pack diabetes-friendly snacks as nuts, jerky, cheese sticks or protein bars to maintain my blood sugar levels throughout the hike. I stay away from high-sugar or high-carb snacks to prevent sudden spikes and crashes.
I never do long-distance hikes alone and always inform my hiking companions about my diabetes and teach them how to recognize signs of high or low blood sugar levels, and how to assist me in case of an emergency.
To avoid foot-related issues, I invest in comfortable and supportive hiking shoes. Taking care of my feet is essential, especially since diabetes-related neuropathy can be a concern. It’s better to break in your shoes in advance. If there is a problem with blisters, it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Planning meals and snacks is part of my pre-hike routine. I ensure I have enough food to last the entire hike and avoid skipping meals, as it can affect my blood sugar levels negatively.
Despite following a low-carb diet, during the hike, I allow myself to consume a bit more complex carbohydrates to avoid hypoglycaemia.
Hiking with diabetes can be an incredible experience, but it requires preparation, caution, and self-awareness. If you’re considering hiking with diabetes type 2, make sure to consult your healthcare team and adjust my guidelines to suit your specific needs.
Regularly monitoring blood sugar levels and taking necessary precautions will help you enjoy the beauty of nature while staying safe and healthy on the trail.