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Travel with Diabetes 101: Insulin Care

There are only a few things that a diabetic must have at all times: meter and test strips, syringe, lancet, a sugary treat in case of emergency, and insulin.  All of those items travel well except for insulin, which is tricky because heat kills its effectiveness.  A normal vial of insulin will spend 90% of its life in the refrigerator.  One must be prepared to face a few realities while planning a backpacking trip… such as the lack of a fridge in most accommodations like hostels and budget hotels.  So how is a diabetic supposed to keep the insulin cold?  There are a few creative solutions, but none are as effective as I would like.  I once filled a sink with water and left the insulin vials in there along with some cold bottles of beer to keep them safe from the Venice summer heat.  That’s some creative problem solving! Will I get in trouble if I post a picture of MacGyver on here?  Luckily, on this trip I managed to find a really economical solution…

Travel with Diabetes: Insulin Care | The Alternative Atlas

The FRIO insulin cooling wallet.  I swear I do not get anything for plugging this product, I just love it and it is a lifesaver.  Jaime found it at a CVS pharmacy before we left Arizona.  It’s a simple two-piece wallet that holds 8 vials of my insulin.  At the start of this trip I performed (and camped) at TechFest metal music festival in the English countryside for four days.  Obviously there was no access to a fridge, so I used my Frio to keep my stash nice and cold.  The wallet is reusable, activated by submerging in water, and it stays cold for about 45 hours each time.  I once turned my umbrella upside down and left it out to collect water, then put the Frio in there to recharge.  I wonder what would’ve happened if I had managed to put some bottles of beer in there as well?  There are tiny little crystals in the pouch that turn to gel and become cold when set in water.  How metaphysical does that product description sound?  Keep that insulin cold for when you need it, like after eating fried plantains at a street food market in London.

Travel with Diabetes: Insulin Care | The Alternative Atlas

Interestingly, there are a few companies that manufacture battery-operated cooling units designed specifically for holding vials of insulin, but I found them to be expensive and more suited for traveling inside a suitcase than a backpack.  Also, the Frio is the only insulin cooling wallet endorsed by MacGyver!  I swear I’ll post some pictures of him soon…

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