I recently went backpacking for a few weeks in Europe, which was my first experience abroad without my family! It was a great adventure, seeing new cities, trying new food, drinking delicious wine and beer!
One of the bigger challenges was trying to figure out how much supplies I should bring, as space and weight are big factors when backpacking. In order to not have any problems, I decided to pack 1.5x the amount of supplies I would need if I were using it as prescribed. I am a “pumper” (I used the Minimed Paradigm) – for those of you who have the smaller cartridge (I believe it is 180 units), it is easier to change the cartridge less often, so if you have an update coming soon, think about getting the bigger 300 unit size! For pump sites, 24 days = 8 pump sites (24 days/ 3 days per site). So, I took 12 pump site insertion packages (remember, I took 1.5 times the amount I would need if following my prescription). I go through around 70 unites of insulin a day, so normally, each pump reservoir lasts around 4-5 days (300 unites / 70 unites per day). However, as the amount of exercise and the types of food I would eat were going to be different, I calculated the amount of reservoirs if I was using 100 unites a day, meaning that each reservoir would last me 3 days. 24 days of travel = 8 reservoirs, for a total of 12 reservoirs. I also brought 3 bags of needles (10 needles/bag, total of 30 needles) in case any pump malfunctions occurred. For insulin, I brought 1 bottle of Lantus (for backup if my pump failed or was stolen etc.), and 4 bottles of Novolog; I calculated that I would need around 2.5 bottles (so 3 bottles) if I was using 100 unites a day (1000 units / 100 units a day), and an extra in case I dropped a bottle. I also brought some alcohol swabs (backpacking and travel in general is usually dirty), an emergency glucagon kit, and glucose gel. The amount of supplies made me feel very comfortable as I went off, BUT IT WAS MORE THAN ENOUGH! I went through 5 pump sites, 4 reservoirs, 2 bottles of Novolog, and 10 needles – this is because I packed for the “recommended” dosing – not the dosing I generally use at home.This is because I have found that my pump sites generally are functional for 5-6 days (sometimes longer, but I don’t like to risk going beyond 6 days). I typically also refill my reservoirs 1-2 times before throwing them out (meaning that a reservoir can be used up to 3 times before I change to an unopened one). For the next trip, I will most likely pack a little more conservatively, and factor in the duration for actual use versus prescribed use, while also considering external factors such as heat and food, which will effect the amount of insulin and the length of time I can use a site!
Tip: When packing, always pack a few extra!! Yes, space is limited, but you never know when you’re going to rip out a site, drop an open needle on the ground, or even shatter a bottle of insulin! However, be realistic about how much supplies you will most likely use- do you use your pump sites for 4-5 days? Maybe you are okay refilling a reservoir 3 or 4 times. Being realistic will not only help the space issue, but you won’t be subjecting extra supplies that could be safely stored at home to the dirt/crushing that happens in a pack or suitcase!