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MEDICINE MAN - BUCK TILTON - ASK THE EXPERT
Submit Your Question

Food in the Tent

Q.} I take insulin. This means I can have low blood sugar, especially in the middle of the night after backpacking. Do you have suggestions for a glucose boost that I can keep in the tent that will not attract Bear?
Submitted by: Philip, Athens, GA
A.} There is not, in my opinion, a great answer to your question since bears follow their noses through life, sniffing out stuff to eat. I do, however, have suggestions, and the first one is to follow the basic bear safety rules including never going out in bear country alone. Next I suggest you keep in your tent the least amount of whatever you like for a glucose boost, and keep it in one of those new plastic bags that are labeled "odor-proof." These bags cost more than typical plastic bags, but they do trap smells. We like LOKSAK's odorproof Opsaks (look for a review in Backpacker's upcoming spring Gear Guide).  —Buck
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READERS COMMENTS

Paul Truslow
Aug 05, 2011

I have a son who as a child could not store glycogen so his doctor would nave him drink three tablespoons of corn starch mixed in a sugar free drink before bed. The slow break down would keep his sugar up all night. This might be worth experimenting with. By the way it tastes nasty!

Todd
Jun 03, 2011

I am a brittle diabetic 38 years old with an insulin pump and spend alot of time every summer in Northeastern California in the high sierra in established forest service campgrounds that are known for bear problems. I will say that in my experience I will not ever keep anything in the tent at all. We have come back to camp in the evening hours to find bears circling the tent when we pull into the spot with headlights on and their more interested in finding out what's in the tent more then they are of being scared off by the vehicle noises. I have had to deal with lows at night in camp by getting up walking over to the bear proof food locker near the picnic table and grabbing something high in carbs/protein to make it through till morning but I have seen more then my fair share of tent circling trouble makers to take the chance. Also for anyone who might run the risk of severe nightime lows I also keep an emergency glucagon injectable kit in the tent to be used by a tent mate in case that horribl night time low becomes...too low !

Jack abbott
Apr 11, 2011

Philip:
I've been insulin dependent for 20 years and regularly backpack. I also use the Opsaks that Buck mentioned and put GU flavored energy gel (1.1oz single serve) packs- about 3-4 in it, just in case; they give you 25g carbs (5g sugar) and a hundred percent of Vits. E and C. I definitely agree with Dan, adjusting your insulin for the increased physical output of hiking is a means to keep your levels stable.
Good Luck, keep on hiking

Travis
Feb 10, 2011

My daughter is diabetic and we/she typically use juice boxes instead of glucose tabs t raise her blood sugar level. I don't know if juice boxes emit less odor or would be less attractive to a bear, but my nose can smell tubed glucose easier than sealed juice. Either way, I'd seal them in an odor-proof bag and then wipe the bag itself down after sealing it.

Argosinu
Feb 10, 2011

I use an insulin pump. Even after dayhiking, I need to crank down the basal insulin dose. High blood sugars kill slowly; hypoglycemia can kill me quickly. I have double ziplock-bagged my 30 grams of carb to keep in the tent. I did not know about "odor-proof" bags, but Buck says they are new.
It's all about control. I still solo on occasion but my fingers get sore from frequent blood testing.

FireFighter Jim
Feb 10, 2011

Glucose, it's widely available in a one time use tube, and tast like crap to prevent missuse (But you knew that). Not a fan of bad tast before bed, I heard of trying cake iceing, or make your own non flavored iceing. Maybe a liquid sugar in a special bottle that will not be opened & use a straw system in mouth to form a seal so scent cannot excape? AlokSak is great, so is the no scent bags. Vaccum sealing will work too as a emergency one time use, given the outside is scent free. Place or throw the used package as far as possible. Ask around for a no scent no flavored form may be available now with an RX... Just be sure to keep 2+ forms of bear defense, and never venture alone especially if a chance of going into DShock. GooD LucK!!!

Dan McSwiggan Rn, Diabetic
Feb 10, 2011

Peanut butter is one of the foods that Laurie(above) is writing about. You should also adjust your insulin intake(lower) to accommodate the increase in your metabolism

Laurie Ann March
Feb 02, 2011

Philip,

I am a diabetic as well and can attest to the OPSAKS from LOKSAK. I like to buy the glucose gels in the single dose foil pouches as they don't emit as much odor. All the best.

Laurie

Lostfalls
Feb 02, 2011

Have you throughly explored foods that take a long time to break down that you could have just before bed that might help stabilize your blood sugar till morning?? Like maybe something high protein/complex carb??? Not a specialist in that area - but it seems like the doctor told me to do something similar when I was having some trouble stabilizing my blood sugar before I was diagnosed with Celiac Spruce....

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MEDICINE MAN - BUCK TILTON - ASK THE EXPERT

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I've used a UV light pen for water treatment, and typically scoop water into the bottle. But will the pen kill any parasites, bacteria, and viruses that are in the droplets around the rim of the bottle, or does it just kill those in the water being stirred?
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I've been backpacking for ten years and have never had any pain in my legs, but recently I've been getting a severe pain down the front of my legs and swelling in my feet. What could I be experiencing?
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I sprained my ankle two months ago playing volleyball. I can hike on level surfaces, but side-to-side motion—typical of backpacking—hurts. I wear a lace-up cast when hiking. Should I stay off it, or use therapy and exercise to strengthen it?
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Does dark-colored clothing really attract more mosquitoes then light-colored clothing?
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Would taking an over-the-counter antihistamine (like Zyrtec) before getting in the tent help get rid of the itch from mosquitoes or other itchy things for the next day?
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What is the best thing you can do to train for a climb or long hike?

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I once punched a black bear in the nose that was sniffing my hammock while I was in it. The bruin retreated and huffed at me for a while, and I huffed back. Since then I've always wondered, does huffing at a bear encourage it to act aggressively?
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I want to wear deodorant, but I don't want to attract attention from bears. Is baking soda a good solution?

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Will drinking urine when no water is available allow you to survive longer? I have heard conflicting information.
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I'm curious about insect repellents for kids. Is DEET okay to use on a six-year-old? Thanks!

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I recently did a tough 14-mile hike and woke up with a huge headache and nausea. I thought it was dehydration, but ended up in an emergency room being treated for an exercise-induced migraine. Anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?
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Does bear spray really work? I have heard mixed things. If it does work, how?
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What is best diet at high altitude--fish, carbohydrate etc?

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I have been an avid backpacker for most of my life, and now that I'm getting up there in age I'm noticing my posture getting poorer. Does backpacking contribute to this? And do products like the posture girdle straps I've seen online help—or do the muscles and bones require more support than that? Is this a job for the chiropractor?

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How toxic is methanol? Is it safe to get on my body?
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Cold weather sleeping--is it correct to don the clothes you intend to wear the next day, so you're not sleeping in sweat-dampened attire and then becoming chilled overnight?

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During my hikes in the fall, between the summer and winter layers, moisture builds up and my chest tends to rub raw. What is the best way to stop this, besides changing shirts more often? Could I use something like Vaseline?
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Just had a wonderful time hiking the Grand Canyon. But after 28 miles, I have swollen, painful legs from the knee through the ankle. Any tips for recovery?

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If I take my dog on a high-altitude excursion with me, should I acclimatize Fido as well as myself before we go?


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When carrying a pack of pretty much any size and weight and using the hip belt, my left leg will go numb sometimes. The problem goes away if I loosen the belt, but this defeats carrying the weight on my waist. (I've been fitted by knowledgeable people.)
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What are the pros and cons of using UV light pens for water treatment? How effective are they against parasites, bacteria, and viruses?
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I'm going fishing in the Trinity Forest rivers, and there are a lot of bears there at this time of year. I can't afford an expensive bear deterrent: What can I use to assist me? I was told to use regular pepper spray or bleach.
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We're rafters. In a thunderstorm, should we stay in the boat (the absolute lowest point around) or pull ashore and get out of the water?
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On an episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud cooked grasshoppers, stating if you didn't, you might get a tapeworm. But he ate a raw scorpion–couldn't one just as easily get a tapeworm from a scorpion?
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I am trying to lose weight and boost my stamina for a hike to Colorado next year. Should I eat a big breakfast for a three-day hike to the Porcupine Mountains, or a smaller breakfast and rely on my fat reserves to help burn off the weight?
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Is it better to drive a long distance to a much higher elevation (like from the Northeast to the Rockies) to get used to the elevation gradually?
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On a recent backpacking trip, I underestimated the amount of mosquito repellent we'd need. Clothing did not deter the little buggers, and fires were not allowed. Is there a North American plant that can be used, or something one can do to avoid being eaten alive?
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I know that all snakes are edible...what about snails? Is all escargot created equal?
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I've been told for years that the proper way to wait out a lightning storm is to crouch down. But I always wondered why this was better than just lying down on the ground. You would seem to be less of a target if you are lying down flat.
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I have a friend who is a city arborist. He knows a bit about plants as well as trees. He told me that it was possible to build up a relative immunity to poison ivy by ingesting the leaves of the plant in small doses over time. Is this true?
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Does soaking your feet in black tea before a hike reduce sweat and prevent blisters?
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I was just wondering, since I hear about people eating rattlesnake all the time: Are all snakes edible? And what about eels?
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On a consistently wet, rainy 3-day trip, I experienced softened skin that cracked. I never was able to get dry shoes or socks. Each day my feet would be soaked within minutes. What can I do in the future to help stop this?
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Does the human body absorb cold water or body-temperature water faster?
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I'm a side sleeper who can't get through a night on a sleeping pad without pain in my hips and knees that causes me to toss and turn from about 1 a.m. on. Any suggestions for remedying that? I sleep well on a regular mattress.
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What's the best spray to keep mosquitoes off of me?
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My son came back from an outdoor camp and proclaimed that rubbing the liquid from the broken stalk of a fern on a sting from nettles, poison ivy, or poison oak will stop the stinging. Is it true?
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I live at sea level, and am backpacking in Yosemite for 10 days. I've heard there are supplements that boost your oxygen intake, if you take them a week or so in advance. Is the hype true, and is it worth the money? The ones I have seen are not cheap!
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What do you think about giving Benadryl as a sedative for a snakebite victim? Or just having it handy for panic situations?
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I recently went hiking in the Phoenix area. I feel like I ate about a ton of dust–a fine particle, like talc. (Silly me, I didn't think to pack a mask.) Is that "trail dust" bad for my lungs?
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Is it safe to hike if you have high blood pressure?
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I've tried different boots, inserts, socks, and lightening my load, but I still seem to get overuse pain in my knees very early in my hikes. What else can I do to minimize knee pain?
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My middle two and sometimes three toes go numb when I hike. It is usually about 4-5 miles in, and not always on the same foot at the same time. I have very good boots that fit well. I've also noticed this with athletic shoes when working out. Any ideas?
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A lot of freeze-dried foods contain an extremely large amount of sodium. Not to name any brands, but the average serving contains 1,500 mg of sodium! That times 3 meals is nuts. You need more sodium when you're sweaty and backpacking, but how much is safe?
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Now that summer is here, what are the best methods for preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
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On a recent backpacking trip, I mixed Aquamira water purification drops in my Nalgene before we reached a water source. I noticed a mist coming out of the empty bottle just prior to filling with water. What was that, and is it safe to drink?
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I have heard reports of bears and panthers (yes, panthers in upstate New York) in areas around where I want to solo hike this summer. Should I be concerned? Is it okay to go solo?
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What is the approved procedure for removing a tick? They used to be an uncommon varmint in Western Washington, but this year, I've already picked up three. Fortunately, I observed them before they attached. Ick! Ick! Ick!
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How much does an altitude of 10,000 feet affect a backpacker? I have hiked more than 5,000 miles on the AT, but the highest you get is a little over 6,000 feet. I am in my early 50s and still in decent shape, but I don't know what to expect at a higher elevation.
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I have always used chemical treatments to purify my drinking water. I was thinking about getting a water filter, but I understand that it will not filter out viruses. Is this something I should worry about if I'm backpacking in the U.S.?
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Do you think our bodies "remember" acclimating? I have been to Everest and many fourteeners, and seem to fare better at altitude than first-timers.
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How can I prevent shin splints when I'm hiking downhill?
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Are survival blankets dangerous to use during electrical storms?
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Will opening and closing an umbrella scare a bear away?
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Why don't people get sick from swimming in lakes and rivers when they probably ingest plenty of contaminated water?
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I'm a Type 1 diabetic and I'm looking for a lightweight cold pack to carry on backpacking trips that will keep my insulin cold. What do you recommend?
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We're going to Peru. What multivitamin/herbal remedy you suggest for overcoming altitude sickness?
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How long should you boil water before drinking it?
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If you were to wear an altimeter watch on an airplane, what would the elevation reading be?
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I will be backpacking in southern Arizona's deserts and drinking from cattle tanks. How should I treat or filter the water inside these tanks?
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Is a can of personal defense pepper spray an effective bear deterrent?
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After a day of hiking, I get severe leg cramps in my calves. Can you explain why these are happening and what I can do to prevent them?


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Do chiggers bite dogs, and if so, how do you combat that on the trail?
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Are bears, mountain lions, and other predators attracted to, or repelled by human urine? I often 'set up a perimeter' when camping in bear country by peeing in different locations outside of camp. Is this effective or am I just watering a lot of different rocks?
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I have three kids younger than five years old, and want to know what I need to bring and do in case they have an anaphylactic reaction to something like a bee sting on the trail. I'd hate to find out the hard way what I should have done.
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I'm interested in purchasing cold weather sleeping bags for my wife and myself. We'll be using them for backcountry snowshoe and cross-country ski camping excursions. What is your advice regarding proper winter bag sizing?
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Will vinegar repel bears or harm the environment?
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Where can I get emergency medical coverage for international travel?
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Is there anything that can be added to water (that is safe) that will lower its freezing temperature? This would be useful on a winter, overnight camping trip.
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Sometimes I smell ammonia in my sweat. What is my body telling me?
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How long can waterborne parasites survive on the outside of a Lexan bottle?
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Will eating match heads containing sulfur keep mosquitoes away?
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My wife's hands swell when she hikes. Is she in danger?
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Is it possible to have an allergic reaction to zinc oxide? My friend lathered up with it after getting a severe sunburn, and she experienced swelling and considerable pain
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I always get a rash on my shoulders where the pack harness rests. Is there anything to prevent that?
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Is wearing two pairs of socks better for cold-weather backpacking?
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A friend told me vitamin C can eliminate the taste of iodine in water. How much is necessary and does it affect the purification process?
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Can I safely purify water inside my CamelBak hydration reservoir?
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Do high-blood pressure medications increase my risk of hypothermia while hiking in negative-40°F weather?
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How can I prevent shin splints when I hike downhill?
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Are survival blankets dangerous to use during electrical storms?
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What should you do if you're in a tent, and you hear a bear outside?
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Knee Relief: After injuring my knee last year, I've noticed that the joint tends to swell after a long day of hiking. In addition to taking Advil and icing for relief, what exercises can I do to help my knee recover?
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What should I eat during hikes on hot days?
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Besides acclimatizing and drinking plenty of fluids, can I use herbs to prevent altitude sickness? Which herbs are best?
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Are children more susceptible to altitude sickness? How high can kids safely go?
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