To camp or not to camp? That is the question!
For our family, the answer to that question is…yes!
This is the way I see it:
Dealing with diabetes = Tricky.
Taking kids on a camping trip = Tricky.
Taking kids camping and dealing with diabetes = Really tricky.
Taking care of a child with diabetes in the comfort of your own home with a normal routine is hard enough, but add the challenges of going on a family trip: driving hundreds of miles, sleeping in a tent, hiking and cooking outdoors, and you start to wonder… is it really worth it?
Evan and I have always been big road‐trippers and campers. We love to be outdoors and share these experiences with our kids. So when Kaitlyn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we wondered if we would be able to have the same kinds of adventures that we were used to. We were concerned about eating on the road, doing 'round the clock blood glucose checks, controlling her blood sugar levels while she's out hiking or swimming, and being away from the safety net of our doctors, nurses and pharmacies.
It seems like for the first few months after diagnosis, we hardly went anywhere, but as we all became more comfortable with her daily care, Evan and I decided that we would continue to try to make roadtrips, camping and outdoor activities part of our family life.
Last summer we drove up the California coast and went camping in Redwood National Park. Our strategy for eating well on the road was to have an ice chest in the car with all kinds of healthy snacks and lunch items ready to grab. We also had Kaitlyn's insulin and plenty of juice boxes stored in there as well. Sleeping in the tent was another issue. We didn't have our regular alarm clocks to help us wake up and check on her, so we used our cell phone alarms. Everything went fine, although I wished I had a little more than a small flashlight to check her glucose levels.
After several days of camping, we headed for home. For some reason, I got this crazy idea to drive hours out of the way and go through Yosemite for a day. After driving through the park and doing a few nature walks, we decided that we would try to take the kids on one of my favorite hikes the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. So there we were with our four kids—ages 2, 4, 6, and 8— making the 3 mile (1000 ft. gain) hike to the top of the falls. As we were walking to the trail‐head, my 6‐year‐old was already dragging her feet telling me she was tired. I thought "Oh no! What are we getting into?" I really doubted at that point that we would be getting very far, let alone making it to the top. We tested Kaitlyn frequently and helped her along the trail, carrying her in parts, but she did great! As we got to the point where we could see the waterfall and even get sprayed by the mist, the kids were bounding up the steps! The excitement of actually climbing to the top of this incredible waterfall somehow gave us all the energy to climb every step to the very top.
As I stood there, looking at the beautiful view, I thought "This is totally worth it!" This is what I want for my kids! This is what I want for Kaitlyn! I want her to realize that diabetes doesn't have to stand in the way of being active and adventurous; I want her to know that she can do anything in life that she wants to do!
About the author: My name is Kim. My daughter Kaitlyn (the third of our five children) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a few years after my nephew James was diagnosed with the same disease. I'm excited to pair up with my sister-in-law, Jen, to share our story with you!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.