With a little bit of organisation and the right equipment, hiking can be a fantastically healthy and diabetes-friendly activity for all ages and activity. Just follow these 3 simple steps below to set you on the right ‘trail’!
Step 1. Choose the right walk.
The best thing about hiking is that it exists on a continuum; on one side is a short walk along a nice gentle path, to the other side where you can be climbing across mountains! So don‘t worry if you’re just starting out, or introducing hiking to someone who hasn’t done it before, there are plenty of walks for you to get started on that are only a short drive or train ride away. Or if you’ve been hiking a few times then you can take it up a notch by going for a further or longer walk.
To select the right walk for you make sure you check the grading: The grading system below is used by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service:
So if you’re looking to get started then find a Grade 1 or Grade 2 that you like the look of and then…
Step 2. Get prepared.
What you need to bring for a hike largely depends on the length and difficulty of the walk; will you be camping on the way and will you need a tent? Can you fill up your water bottle somewhere during the walk? Will you be walking through a meal? Two?
However, here is a list of things to consider bringing that you can augment based on your specific walk:
- Water (all you think you’ll need and some extra);
- Shoes and comfortable socks (ideally that draw moisture away from the skin to reduce blisters);
- Blood Glucose Monitor (we’ll talk about why we like the Dario meter below);
- Your recommended diabetes medication;
- An insulin cooling solution- especially if you’re hiking in summer;
- Backup lancets or test strips;
- Something to hold used strips and lancets, like a personal sharps bin;
- Emergency snacks/source of glucose;
- Mobile phone;
- Trail map.
Something I’ve noticed is that people assume that to do some hiking you’ll need a carry around a MASSIVE military-style pack, and it’s just not true! If you make sure to pack only what you need and leave what you don’t at home you’d be surprised by how little you can carry. Usually, a small backpack is enough for a walk of no more than an hour or two.
What’s more important is that you have a way to keep everything your taking 1) safe, and 2) together. You can do this in a number of ways, but keep in mind that you need to physically protect your diabetes gear and any insulin from heat.
Step 3. Start small.
If you haven't hiked before, or are introducing someone to your favourite hobby, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and the most import step is the first one. You don't need to go straight to a Grade 3- start small, and achievable and slowly increase in length, difficulty, or duration.
One great thing you can do is bring a friend! having people to walk with is great fun and great motivation- especially if you teh person you're going with is also living with diabetes and you can better support each other and understand particular needs.