Keeping insulin cool while camping

I have traveled while carrying insulin fairly often in the past, so I have several carrying cases that are insulated and contain pockets for freezer packs, etc.

In this summer of abating-but-not-over-covid-pandemic, we are going on a road trip and we will be camping. I know how to travel with insulin when there will be a hotel with a refrigerator at the end, but I’m not completely sure what to do when I’m going to be outside for a few days. (I haven’t been camping since I was a child, and I’m not sure if I’m excited about doing it now. :slightly_smiling_face:)

Any suggestions?

I camp/backpack all the time. The thing you need to know is that insulin is so much more ridiculously resilient than we were ever told. I feel like it’s still news to people that in-use insulin doesn’t need refrigerated at all for a month. Now that so many insulin users have CGM, you’ll see all sorts of people sharing their experiences with “cooked” insulin. It’s still really effective, even after being subjected to extreme temps. Not that I’m advocating for you to be careless! Just that you don’t need to get yourself stressed over it.

I won’t post the link because I think there’s a little forum rivalry, but Google “car baked insulin” for one of the most-oft referenced ones.

That said, I never went in for the special Frio cases or anything. I just keep my stuff in a little insulated pouch. It’s actually a padded eyeglass case that came home after an operation, and I repurposed it. It’s even got a clip on it (for attaching to the IV stand I was told) so it doesn’t get lost amongst the gear. Any sort of insulation (cooler, lunch ask, etc…) will give it a bonus layer of protection. Don’t set it directly in the ice, though. Insulin vials shatter when they freeze.

When I backpack, I keep the extra in my sleeping bag. The extra padding had saved me from smashing the vials in a wipeout way more often than the added insulation was needed.


Insulin can be kept at normal temps for at least 30 days after taken out of refrigeration. I actually used to keep it at room temps for on average of 60 days without issues. Once it’s at room temp refrigerating does no good.


@TeslaNova What’s normal temps where you live? I’m in south central Texas in the summer temperature highs can reach 100°+F (38°+C) in the shade.

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If it is really hot where you are headed, you may want to consider a car refrigerator. My car has one that was built in at the factory and I use it frequently, but you can get a portable car refrigerator starting in the $60 range from Amazon or other online sellers.

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Thanks. I’m feeling a bit better about this now. I’m not sure if it came through in my original post or not, but I was somewhat stressed about it.

I have heard that insulin does not need to be refrigerated for 30 days, but I often forget that. It was so ingrained in me to keep my insulin refrigerated when I was a child…

I’m in southeastern PA, where it’s been unseasonably hot recently. We’re going up through New England, so hopefully it will be a bit cooler there.

Huh, a car refrigerator. I didn’t realize that was a thing. Interesting.

Some of us like to picnic in style and this is the very best way to keep the champagne and champagne flutes chilled at just the right temperature. I live in Massachusetts so less than 3 hour drive from the Canada border where until 1 year ago I used to drive to, to pick up my insulin at 1/10th of the cost of buying it in the US. During the Summers, the car fridge came in really handy as I was buying a 9-12 month supply at a time so wanted it refrigerated because it would be so many months before getting used up.

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Yeah, that was my demonstration a few years ago.

In recent times the frost has melted between the sites. There really was no reason to have a rivalry because we all deal with the same condition.

A big shoutout to TuD admin @Stemwinder_Gary who helped everyone make peace and work toward helping one another. Everyone here is welcome over there and vice versa. There are a ton of members who belong to both sites and post in both places.

BTW, I’ve also frozen insulin and it worked. I’ve let insulin sit outside the fridge for 5 years and it worked. And I’ve used insulin 8 years past its expiration. It has always worked for me no matter how I mistreated it. It may lose a little potency, but it can still keep you alive.


I recommend a Frio wallet. I live in South GA, and I can attest that they do work. I also agree w/ @Robyn_H about the resiliency of insulin. I’ve “cooked” a bottle/pen or two in my day and never had an issue. I don’t recommend allowing it to get “cooked” obviously, and the Frio wallet’s tend to prevent that (YMMV).

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You are right there is a slight rivalry but hopefully it is a friendly one because we both have the same mission, to serve diabetics.

For anyone that hasn’t found the link @Robyn_H is talking about, here it is.

“Car baked” insulin. An experiment for Irish - Medicines / Insulin - FUDiabetes

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I have done a fair amount of camping, and just kept insulin at ambient temperature, as long as it was not above 90F. Above 90F the insulin will rapidly degrade. Unless you are tightly controlled you may not notice a 20-30% drop in activity. Also never freeze insulin; the salt buffer that carries the insulin will separate out from the water, and freeze at a different temperature. But then the insulin is not properly buffered, changing the shape and aggregation of the molecule, so the pK/action will not be what was intended. For example, it could take longer to absorb, or have an unpredicted degradation rate in the body. Insulin is specially formulated to be stable in the bottle with the buffer, unfrozen.
You can make a little cooler for your insulin. Get a wide mouth thermas, put your insulin in a plastic bag in the thermos and cover with crushed ice, or even just cold water.

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I have been a T1D for 51 years and never had a problem with insulin efficacy due to being unrefrigerated for long periods of time. Just don’t leave it in direct sunlight. I have lived off the grid for years at a time without refrigeration (I lived on my sailboat for 12 years without refrigeration with never a problem)
Now I just keep it in the insulated lunch bags from Costco in a dresser drawer. I don’t trust refrigerators to not freeze as I have had to throw away insulin rendered useless by freezing.

I don’t travel that much anymore (although probably will be doing a lot of it in the last half of this year.)

Anyway, I use Frios, and they work great. They only need to soak in water to re-activate. When I was touring CA several years ago, my extra bottles were in Frio wallets, and they stayed in the car in 100+ degree heat (probably even hotter in the car) and didn’t have any problems. Also, I over-soak the Frio, so it lasts quite a while…in normal heat, it would last me at least two days before needing to resoak.

Fun (not fun) fact: I always bring at least one, and usually two, extra bottles of insulin with me. On that trip to CA, I brought two extra bottles, since the bottle I started out with was half gone. Started using the second bottle about 7 days into the trip…insulin worked fine. But - on Day 8, we checked into a hotel and I had requested a refrigerator. Put the last bottle in the fridge, and it was frozen solid by the next morning.

I’d much rather rely on my Frio!

@Brianna1 try a Frio - it uses evaporative cooling to keep things cold - all u need is water, no ice, no coldpack etc.

I’ve used Frios for at least 10 years and never been disappointed with their performance.

However, please be aware that Frio packs work by evaporation and you cannot store with your insulin in airtight/waterproof areas of your pack or suitcase. I remember a few years ago reading someone ranting that Frio packs don’t work. They had put their insulin inside a Frio pack inside an airtight cooler….

Frio seems like a good way to go. Thanks for the recommendation, to everyone who gave it. I’m also somewhat relieved to hear multiple people say that insulin does not actually need to be refrigerated.

Ah, yes, good point. Thanks.

Another enthusiastic vote for the Frio pouches. It’s a no-brainer. They are indefinitely reusable and don’t require any freezer or refrigeration to work.

In 2006 we took a 6 month trip to Asia, and our first stop was Thailand in April, which was the height of their summer. After a day or two, the insulin just stopped working! I learned pretty quickly how lucky I was to have thought ahead to buy an insulin pump specific Frio pouch before my trip, because I’m not sure what I’d have done otherwise. (Side note: I now use the Omnipod, and have no idea how I’d have managed to keep that cool.)

We’ve been using them for 15 years now and they work great. Don’t hesitate-- just get them. Every insulin dependent diabetic should have a couple.

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