Keeping insulin cool - suggestions?

My son is going to Boy Scout camp next week. It’s really hot here - several days in the 100s already. He’ll be camping in the mountains several hours away, so hopefully, it will be a bit cooler there. He’ll be at a back country campsite a few miles’ hike from base camp for a week. It’s primitive camping - no refrigeration or access to electricity.

Any suggestions about keeping insulin from getting too hot under these circumstances? I bought a frio pouch, but I don’t know how well they work; I’ve read mixed reviews. We’re planning for him to leave a back-up insulin supply with the medic at base camp where there will be refrigeration. If he has his insulin outdoors and buried in a back-pack so it doesn’t get direct sun, will that keep it cool enough to stay potent?

Thanks for your suggestions.

Frio works really well for me. I keep the bottle of insulin I am currently using in it. (We turn the AC up to 85 while at work, and that is too high for my insulin to live in) I use room temp insulin for my pump and never use refrigerated.

What about a small cooler? I am sure the camp would be willing to freeze ice packs. He could switch them out at meals. Also, there are the one time use chill packs.

I have had fairly good experiences with the Frio pouches. But he will have to remember to rewet them every 24-48 hours to keep the cooling gel activated. I’ve had good experience with humalog in my pump in the heat (i.e., it hasn’t seemed to go bad). Is he using pens or a pump? I’ve actually found the pens to keep fairly well in the pouches. If you put them in the pouch and bury them in a portion of his pack that is both away from his body and away from direct sunlight, it should be fine. If he’s using a pump, he should make sure to take back-up pens as well.

Also (I hope he alread knows this), his insulin requirements will likely be reduced if he’s outside doing a lot of physical activity.

I live in South Texas as well. I use a frio pak. Just got it a month ago and it has worked very well for me so far. Just tell him to make sure every two days to re-soak it in the water so it will keep the insulin cool enough. I was out in the heat on a ranch all weekend and my insulin stayed cool the whole weekend. Just make sure not to put it in a ziplok or something that doesn’t “breath” it won’t work without evaporation. Otherwise cooler with freezer paks works as well if he can have them replinished. But that’s just something else to keep him thinking about D and not having fun!

Agree Frio pack works well for me in the hot temperatures.

When I was in Boy Scouts, I did a lot of camping like what you’re describing while wearing a pump. I never had any trouble with insulin spoiling, even when I spent 3 weeks in back country New Mexico.

Frio cases work pretty well.

Good to know as he’s going to Philmont next year and should be on a pump by then. Thanks!

Thanks for the input. It sounds like the Frio has worked well for several of you, so hopefully, it will work for my son. A cooler would be great, but he’ll be in the backcountry and has to carry everything he needs for the week on his back. There won’t be access to ice or ice packs while he’s there. Hopefully, it will be cooler up in the mountains and the
Frio combined with cooler temperatures will keep everything working as expected. Thanks!

Thanks -I’ll be sure he has a good strategy on where to keep his pens in his pack.

We do know he’ll need less insulin due to the heat, altitude, & activity level. This is his first experience with altitude & hiking since diagnosis, and he’s on shots, so I expect some trial & error over the first few days. Fortunately, his dad is one of the adult leaders going on this trip, so he’ll have someone to bounce ideas off if he needs help adjusting. My son has gotten pretty good at figuring out what he needs, and, to keep my sanity, I keep telling myself he’ll be fine!

I agree with bherrick. I have always found it appauling to have my insulin swimming in a cooler of water with who know what else. For many years I have just kept my open bottle of insulin with me or close by on excursions like boy scouts. I have even forgotten the open bottle in a locked hot car a few times and have not noticed any effects on the efficacy or efficiency of the insulin. I have even talked with a buddy of mine (a T1 PhD), he had no/little fears of hot temperatures on insulin. It was common practice for him to leave a humalog pen in his car. He reasoned (correctly) that if insulin gets denatured (loses its tertiary (3D) structure) then it will renature (return to its normal shape) when it cools. IMO the warnings of insulin and high temperatures are over the top and we have more flexibility then our Drs and the insulin manufactures will tell us. I would keep the insulin cool if possible, but if he is out for a while and needs to take it with him, then he should with little or no concerns for the heat.

That being said I am not a medical doctor and I do have small concerns over freezing insulin (weather the ice can break or damage the amino acid chain of insulin.

Philmont is amazing. I have a few tips. I’m not sure how hardcore his training is going to be, but when I was at Philmont, it was far and away the most intense backpacking trip I had done. If possible, try to come close to imitating what Philmont will be like on training trips, that way his body’s response won’t be new. And fwiw, I didn’t really even bolus for meals while out there.

Good luck!

Frio users – do you put your pump in a ziplock or something inside the frio case? I’ve only used mine once, and the inner pouch let my pump get all damp.

I just use a cheap sandwich bag (the non-zip kind). Works well even w/ dark pants.

My son is very excited about Philmont and will definitely be training before he goes. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to simulate the altitude well in Austin, but there will be plenty of long hikes carrying a heavy pack. We’re also planning a family hiking trip over spring break next year, so we can have a chance to road test our strategies and get at least a few days with some altitude. He should also be on a pump by then, so we’ll be able to fine tune a little more easily.

If you have any other Philmont tips, diabetes related or otherwise, I’d love to hear them. Thanks!

I backpacked around west africa in upwards of 100 degree weather with my insulin just in my back pack, not cool at all, and it was fine. I made sure to keep it out of the blazing hot sun, but I’m sure it got pretty hot in my little back pack. I wouldn’t suggest keeping it like that for weeks on end, but I imagine it will be ok for a week, especially if you’re using a frio, which I’ve never used but have heard good things about. Good luck, and I hope your son has a great time!

Thanks. It sounds like insulin doesn’t spoil as easily as I thought. This is our first summer post-diagnosis, so dealing with the heat is yet another variable to toss in the mix.

What a fabulous trip for you - I’ll bet Africa was an amazing experience.

The Frio isn’t supposed to go in a zip lock bag. It cools through evaporation and works very well. Ice, on the other hand, will ruin your Insulin.

We’re talking about putting the PUMP in a ziplock bag INSIDE the frio. Not putting the frio itself in a bag.

I put the whole bloody thing in a non-zipped plastic. As long as the top is still open it evaporates just fine and you don’t end up with a wet ***