Adventures with the Snowmobile

Keeping your diabetes supplies safe while traveling in the cold weather.

Theresa Garnero By Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE

My husband and I are planning a weekend snowmobile trip. We’ll travel some 70 miles into a remote area that has no services. How do I travel in the cold with my glucose meter and insulin pen?

Keeping your diabetes supplies safe while traveling in the cold rarely gets addressed. The main issues:

  1. keeping your meter and insulin from freezing temperatures (and within a range that the manufacturer guarantees their ability to work), and
  2. being able to perform the glucose test when your hands are extremely cold

Insulin: keep it close to your body to prevent from freezing. You can wear a money belt or sports bra and stash it there. Insulin pens are more vulnerable in cold weather than an insulin vial. You can prefill your short-acting insulin in a syringe (and discard any units you wouldn’t use at the time of injection), which would reduce steps and make it easier in the cold. Play it safe and bring the insulin vial. You can be clever, stop by the hardware store, buy a piece of foam insulation (the kind that wraps around water heaters) and insulate a pocket with it. The heat from your body will bounce back from the insulation into the pocket. Put the insulin vial in a plastic bag to keep it dry. If you wear an insulin pump, keep it next to your body and protect the insulin set tubing from exposure to the cold as it can quickly freeze.

Glucose meter: call the toll-free number on the back of your monitor to ask about the manufacturer’s temperature guidelines. You may want to use a smaller meter that has fewer steps involved (preloaded strips) to minimize its exposure and time spent fumbling with strips when your hands are cold. Keep the meter close to your body in an inner, warm and dry pocket. A backpack or outer pants pocket may be too cold. You can get a digital thermometer to keep next to your diabetes supplies to know for sure. A trick to warm up your meter is to put it in your armpit for about a minute. If your insulin freezes, don’t use this method since is not recommended to use insulin after it freezes.

Safety: For any snow-related activity, don’t venture off on your own. The risk of hypoglycemia in the cold is not worth it. Pack quick-acting sugar, lunch, snacks, protein bars, and water. It never hurts to pack twice what you think you’ll need. For safety’s sake, bring things to keep you warm if your snowmobile or equipment fails. While we’re at it, does your cell phone have coverage if you need help for whatever reason?

Read Theresa’s bio here.

Read more of Theresa Garnero's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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