Words by Jen Hanson | Photos by Blair Ryan
At Connected in Motion, we love adventure. We love connecting people around adventure. We love the intense sense of community that forms when a group of people take a stroll to the edge of their comfort zone and leap into the unknown. We love finding ways to be empowered by adventure and to redefine life with Type 1 diabetes.
In August, 13 members of the Type 1 community took on the North Coast Trail– an epic adventure is a 60km trek on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island in BC. We tackled cable cars, river crossings, beach trekking, mud to our knees, ladders, rope rappels and wait – people do this willingly?
In February, applications flew in from around the world from individuals who wanted to push their limits and help Connected in Motion do more of what we do best – bringing the community together to experience what it’s like to ride in one another’s slipstream. The slipstream metaphor is the foundation upon which the Connected in Motion community is built. Just like a flock of geese flying in V formation or a peloton of cyclists, everyone taking turns at the front, driving forward and making things easier for the group as a whole; we can also take turns following in behind, joining along for the ride and feeling the power of the slipstream. When we come together as a group, it allows us to travel further, move faster and accomplish so much more than we ever could on our own– which is exactly what we’ll be doing on the North Coast Trail.
As you can imagine, many months of planning and prep go into making sure that we are set up for success on an adventure like this. A lot goes into the finishing touches. From tweaking the menu to make sure we have the perfect amount of spice in our trail Pad Thai to cleaning water filters to ensure we’ll stay hydrated while on our hike. Perfecting diabetes plans and creating plan B, (and C, AND D); and, of course, my favourite part: packing our bags!
Now for some people out there, this probably sounds crazy. Bringing diabetes along for the ride on one of the most challenging backpacking treks out there? Bring it on! I wanted to share with the community a bit more about what you’ll find in our packs and what we have to think about a little differently when we’re out on the trail.
Each member of the team brought a 60+L pack to carry not only personal gear, but group gear, as well! Now, anyone who has been out backpacking, or even just on a sleepover knows that approximately 1/3 of our personal space is taken up by diabetes.
Whether it’s extra pump sites/pens, our insulin (plus a mechanism to keep it cool), our testing kits, extra strips, or power banks (for those of us with rechargeable gear), we’ve consistently found that we need 1/3 of our overall personal space to make this fit. Here are some of the tricks we are using to make sure our precious space is used best (we’ll hit on diabetes-specific packing in another point!):
Bringing only 1 or two of each of our communal items
We definitely don’t need 13 tubes of toothpaste or 13 squeeze bottles of sunscreen on trip! Before heading out, we made a plan to be sure we only brought what we need.
Making a solid clothing plan before we head out
On this type of trip, we don’t have the luxury of bringing anything extra. You know when you’re heading out for a cottage weekend and throw in 1, 2… maybe even 3 extra hoodies or sundresses ‘just in case’? Not on this trip! We knew without question what we would be wearing each day – 1 set of ‘hiking clothes’ (ones that can get wet and dry quickly), 1 set of ‘camp clothes’ that we changed into on site, and a few extra layers (to sleep in, for rain protection, to bulk up against the cold coastal winds)
Double up on diabetes supplies
As a general rule of thumb on all our CIM Adventures, we bring twice as much as we need to be sure we’re ready for anything. I change my pump sites every 3 days, and was on trail for 6– instead of just bringing 2 pump sites, I brought 4.
For those of you who haven’t seen a Frio Pack, they’re worth checking out. Frio packs have a cool substance inside them that when in contact with water will cool down and keep whatever is inside of it an even, consistent temperature. We’ll be bringing Frio Packs along for extra insulin so we don’t have to worry about anything getting too hot while we’re out in the sun.
Site & CGM Placement
Where will your site and CGM live?
While on trail, you are putting packs on and off all day, cinching waist bands tightly, and peeling layers on and off. You have to think about where the best place to put your pump and CGM sites before hitting the trail. We avoided places where our packs consistently rubbed (certain areas on our stomachs), or places that could snag when loading up a heavy pack (certain areas on the arms).
Diabetes Back-Up Plan
Plan A – Regular, everyday, ‘what we hope will happen’ plan
We each knew how many pump sites or pen caps we needed (for the record it’s 2x/person). We knew how many test strips planned to use in a day, we knew how many times we expected to refill our pumps and we packed all of the supplies necessary for these budgeted numbers. Most of the time, our prep means everyone can stick to Plan A! But sometimes…
Plan B – Oh no! Something went wrong.
A pump has failed! Ketones are wreaking havoc! We all brought along our basal rates, insulin: carb ratios, and correction factors written out and waterproofed, along with a back-up plan for what would happen if we had to switch from a pump to long-acting insulin while out on the trail. We were ready with what our plan for ketones was (HOW much insulin are we taking to correct?) before heading out. That way, if something went wrong, we were ready.
Plan C – Well, we were NOT expecting this!
An entire bottle of test strips gets dumped in the ocean. A pack unclips and goes for a swim down the river (and then a whale eats it – because, pretty much no matter what we’d get that pack). Now what? We planned ahead to make sure we each had a diabetes buddy on the trail and knew who used the same insulin, the same test strips, the same pump sites. This way, we knew who to go to if disaster had struck. Knowing that the team has your back really helps to put minds at ease!