Norway Expedition: Pre-Trip Planning with Diabetes

Posted by sean on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 14:55 in

Last winter, professional snowboarder Sean Busby led an expedition to Norway with a team of skiers. In this series you will learn about their experiences in Norway and the role diabetes had on their adventures. In this entry, Sean provides valuable advice for planning ahead before going on any trip with diabetes.


Check out this video for an overview of Sean’s expedition and a look at the crew joining him on the trip.

One of the hardest components of my expeditions is figuring out the proper gear that needs to come along with me. Traveling through various countries and flying multiple different airlines to reach my destination causes its own general headaches. Then you add in checked bag weight restrictions and I ultimately find myself having to closely evaluate what gear I really need. Below is a picture of the gear I brought on my expedition to Norway, known as my “kit shot.” It covers everything that I needed for this single ski/snowboard expedition, excluding a few layers of clothing, toiletries and some vials of insulin that were sitting in the refrigerator (you get the picture).

Diabetes-GearMaking sure we have all our necessary diabetes gear can really throw off a packing routine.  I must always take into account extra supplies and emergency back-up supplies, in addition to techniques and ways to preserve my insulin from various temperatures. My thought process looks somewhat like this usually when it comes to initial planning:

  • Insulin pump and general diabetes supplies:
    I pack one entire box of Omnipod Pods for 15 days and a two-week buffer supply of Pods in case of emergency; many vials of test strips, averaging about 15 per day due to exercise and to also create an emergency buffer; and at least two emergency Glucagon Kits.
  • Emergency evacuation insurance and medical insurance:
    Since medical insurance usually does not cover out of country, this is something I have found to be helpful and reassuring. I look at the medical and evacuation coverage in terms of other issues, not from a diabetes standpoint (i.e. broken leg, avalanche trauma, etc). There’s always a nightmare guaranteed in terms of wasting hours on end finding the right plan for you with a pre-existing condition like diabetes. Knowing, for the most part, that if I have a diabetes emergency abroad, I would have a better chance of being able to build a spaceship and fly it to Mars than I would of being covered by this insurance. However, you can apply for a waiver if done under various strict guidelines.
  • Insulin:
    The amount of insulin I take with me is based on how much I typically use when exercising, plus a buffer amount for possible sick days, as well as a pen of fast-acting and long-acting insulin for an extra emergency buffer. I also bring a cold storage device to carry and insulate insulin during travel.
  • Lancing device:
    Always bring an extra one! I have watched my lancing devices go on many of their own downhill descents without me, only to never be found. I also change my lancing devices to fit my needs. If I am going to be storing it in a ski jacket pocket, I must be confident that the top will not pop off. I have had too many “lancing device surprises” while snowboarding (where you reach in to grab the device and end up poking your hand unexpectedly as the cover has popped off). I prefer a lancing device with a screw-on top over one with a pop-on/off top.
  • Low blood glucose supplies:
    I usually struggle to eat when I exercise. Being prone to more low blood sugars due to exercise in extreme environments makes it hard to predict what my stomach will want to tolerate in various situations. I choose organic and gluten-free energy gels, bites, bars and protein bars. They provide me with a quick and simple boost in my blood glucose since the products are honey based and sustain my activities/blood glucose levels with some of their more complex carb products. I usually pack a shoebox-size amount of these products with a back-up container of glucose tabs.I then have to check international laws in regards to bringing forms of honey into another country, as I have watched a few hundred dollars worth of low glucose supplies get confiscated in New Zealand while clearing customs for a month-long expedition. Lesson learned very quickly!
  • Foot care:
    I abuse my feet from traveling on long flights, hauling gear and climbing mountains for hours on end in freezing environments with tight-fitting performance footwear. My feet need time to recover and re-circulate. In other words, even with all the proper footwear/products, my feet are going to be put through a workout and will take some abuse. When possible, and when my feet are resting, I take care of them with various components of footwear. My two go-to products include custom moldable footbeds/footwear, ski socks, as well as a diabetic line of socks for travel/après ski.