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How To Keep Insulin Cold While Traveling

Travelling abroad with insulin? Here's what to do ...

Written on
November 4, 2016

Keeping My Insulin Cold While Travelling In South America

I'm often asked, how do you keep your insulin cool in the heat? Or how do you keep your insulin alive in the cold? My answer to that is always FRIO bags.
Frio bags

I have taken my type one diabetes to the depths of cold, where I thought my insulin wouldn’t last the night, to the Atacama desert were I didn’t think it would last an hour. 

Knowing how to keep insulin cold while traveling is essential, and I can honestly say that if I didn’t have my Frio bags to regulate the temperature, I would have little, if not no insulin left. 

I have spoken before about why I think Frio is perfect and essential for diabetics, but I wanted to update on how it has actually saved my ass (insulin) on this trip so far.

First up, Patagonia (How do you keep insulin cold without a fridge?)

It is COLD at the bottom of the world- Ushuaia, and travelling in Patagonia hasn’t always left me with access to fridges to keep my insulin cooler- especially when camping outside or day tripping it to the Perito Moreno Glacier!

It has been my Frio bags that have kept my insulin at fridge temperature so it hasn’t died. I hiked up my first glacier in Ushuaia, and it was absolutely freezing, I actually thought the Frio bags wouldn’t be able to handle this kind of cold, so was prepared to hold a insulin funeral- however, she never failed me!

Diabetic monitor in Ushuaia, Patagonia

Atacama desert (How do you keep insulin cold without electricity, and in the heat?)

This was the first time I had ever been to a desert! I am not actually a massive fan of heat, not just because it can increase my hypos which are just plain annoying, but I am so pale I burn like a tomato and never ever tan- and I like to wear makeup...in the heat..I cannot.

Anyway, despite this, being in the desert was going to be an interesting challenge for my insulin. I thankfully did have a fridge to store the majority of my insulin, but on day trips out, my Frio wallets served me well! Not once did they feel warm.

Do you want proof more that it can be done? Then Check out this fantastic article on how a brave fellow diabetic managed to keep her insulin cold while travelling in India

Cazzy in Atacama desert

Torres del Paine (How do you keep insulin cold while camping?)

Torres del Paine goes from sunny, to windy, to cold too...if you are lucky..snow! So, naturally insulin stops working at a certain temperature and even freezes- this was a definite possibility with -4 temperatures, so it was my trusted Frio that helped regulate the temperate of my insulin here and it worked, no insulin died!

Be aware, I have been using these Frio bags every single day for over 3 and a half months now. That is a true testament to their ability to succeed in keeping your insulin working- and giving you one less thing to worry about when on an adventure! 

I brought 25 bottles of insulin with me, and I have around 20 left (I tripled over estimated) - remember insulin companies state that insulin dies when out of the fridge after 28 days- well Frio has completely stopped that from happening, as I have not a single issue with dead insulin yet.

I don’t like having to fuss around my type one diabetes; I like to get what needs doing sorted, and enjoy my adventures. Knowing I haven’t had to worry about my insulin, terrified if it’s not in a fridge it will die, has completely taken the stress out of that aspect of this trip.

I have been using insulin coolers for when I travel ever since my first trip away to Paris; then to Bangladesh, to Thailand, & Rome.

Blood glucose monitor camping

Insulin and flying:

Many people have asked me how to keep insulin cool on a plane as well. With a vast amount of experience of plane travel I can tell you the key is the same as anywhere else, use a Frio bag. Just activate them in cold water and your insulin pens and cartridges will stay at a cool temperature on the plane for any length of flight!

All of the information here is the same for anyone looking to keep their insulin cold on holiday. You don’t have to be backpacking for a year to use this advice. The bags work just as well if you want to spend 2 weeks lying beside a pool in 35 degree heat ... which right now I would really love to do!

For more information on flying and diabetes, check out this post


Keeping my equipment cold

Equipment-wise, you can place your Frio bags in a diabetic travel case, and Myabetic actually does one that has a built in compartment for your Frio bag! How perfect is that? I recently received one and can’t wait to try it out.

With regards to keeping your diabetic equipment cold, Frio also make an insulin pump cover that keeps your medical device at the right temperature but with your handsets, the plane temperature won’t affect your diabetic devices negatively! These cases can be used to store anything including insulin syringes and insulin pump accessories.

Frio is now definitely my go-to choice. I will never stop using them; they are the best investment I have made to my travels and diabetes.

Insulin pump in the Atacama desert

Remember the great things about Frio are.....

  • It keeps insulin cool and safe! 18-26 degrees is the required temperate for in-use insulin, so it’s perfect for keeping your insulin cold when it’s not in a fridge!
  • Its stylish and compact - They come in a range of colours, and a new colour, TEAL! My favourite is red. They have a variety of sizes and styles so you have a Frio bag to fit every occasion.
  • The Wallet can be reactivated and used for subsequent periods of 45 hours minimum for up to 28 days- however I am two months in and mine still works! 
  • You simply activate them with cold water- no complications there; and last up to 12 months minimum or even longer depending on how you care for them and how frequent- my oldest Frio bag is 2 years old and still going strong!

So once again, THANK YOU FRIO.

Let me know your own experiences or ask any more questions below :)

Other useful resources:

American travel trips for diabetics

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