Wil Dubois

PWDs: You. Are. Here.

Welcome to another edition of our "curiously strong" diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and community educator Wil Dubois.

This week, Wil answers a question about something that many of us in the D-Community face: the hunt for that "perfect" diabetes BG... er, bag. You know, that necessary possession that helps us lug around all the other equipment we need.

{Need help navigating life with diabetes? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}


Sheila, type 1 from Texas, writes: Hi, Wil! I am searching for a cross-body bag or anything that I can use to carry insulin pump supplies, diabetic supplies, snacks, hearing aid batteries (I'm deaf, too), my iPad, etc. I'm looking for one bag that can fit in everything all together, as hate to carry 2 or 3 bags with me everywhere I go. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: I feel your pain. The perfect bag for our gear-heavy diabetes lifestyle is elusive indeed. As always, I have some thoughts, but first, some background. You may or may not know this, but in my youth I was a globetrotting photojournalist. This was in the very late 70s and early 80s. In those days photography was very different from today, as digital imaging wasn't even on the horizon yet. Back in those days, film was king. (Cue the theme music from Conan the Barbarian.)

Just like the diabetes supplies we have to haul around these days, there was a LOT of film gear I had to cart around with me out in the field.

Diabetes Kit

A typical news kit included least two "heavy metal" camera bodies, motor drives, a bevy of lenses of assorted sizes and focal lengths, glass filters for various effects, a strobe light, and a tripod. Then the little stuff: Dozens of batteries for the drives and the strobe; bitty screwdrivers for camera repair; and lens cleaning brushes, tissue, and fluid. And of course the rest of the tools of the trade, such as pens, notebooks, a first-aid kit, American Express traveler's checks, your passport, a sandwich, and the mandatory flask of whiskey. You know, because the water isn't always safe to drink.

Oh, right, plus the film itself. Today, the little digital camera I use to take pictures of my kiddo can hold a thousand images on a single memory card that doesn't even weigh an ounce. But back in the day, you only got 36 "frames" on a roll of film, then you'd have to change rolls to shoot more. And you had to watch your frame-counter to make sure you didn't get caught with your pants down at the end of a roll when the shit hit the fan or you'd miss some good action. On assignment, you might have 20 rolls with you (around 7% of what a single 64 gig card holds nowadays), and all those canisters of film not only weighed quite a bit, but took up a lot of space, too.

What on earth to do with all this stuff? It needed to be organized so you could find what you needed when you needed it, and keep it all out of the way when you didn't need it. And of course quick access was mandatory: When news breaks, it happens fast!

My point behind all of this? I think, hands down, camera bags beat the pants off of every other type of carry-lots-of-crap containers-- including those made specifically for diabetes.

So camera bags are what I turn to first when looking for the ideal carry-all.

There are dozens of brands, and quite literally thousands of bag designs to choose from. I think highly of those made by Domke, Lowepro, OP/TECH, and Tamrac. A company called Jill-E Designs even makes camera bags for lady photographers that are designed to look like purses. Most camera bags are user-configurable, if that's a word. Just as no two PWDs' needs are the same, no two shooters carry the exact same gear so most bags have an assortment of Velcro-edged dividers that let you customize the interior storage of the bag. Camera bags also tend to sport a large number of external pockets to let you get to something you need quickly...like glucose... without opening the main bag. Some camera bags even have a special piggy-back sleeve that lets you slip the bag over the handle of your rolling travel luggage to simplify navigating long airport concourses.

Back in the day, most photography bags were black or khaki, but nowadays they are made in every color of the rainbow. (Camouflage is a color of the rainbow, right?) Of course, many of the newer designs are "iPad compatible," meaning they've included a smooth-walled pocket just the right size for the Apple of Steve Job's eye.

A good place to see the wide range of these bags is B&H Photo and Video, which lists 819 shoulder bags, 542 backpacks and sling bags, and 368 compact/belt bags. The site is image-rich and lists the dimensions of every bag they sell. And speaking of selling, a quality camera bag isn't cheap; expect to pay more than $100 for a good one, but at least B&H seems to undersell everyone else on the planet. By a lot. It may take awhile, but you're sure to find something there to fit your needs!

Right now, my diabetes go-bag is a Domke satchel, but I think I've probably used more Tamrac bags over my lifetime than any other Wil's Diabetes Bagbrand, and was greatly saddened to hear they recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Not only is film dying, cameras are dying. Most people shoot pictures on phones nowadays.

So buy a camera bag while you still can. They're becoming an endangered species.

Beyond photographers, another group of people who traditionally needed to carry a lot of crap to do their work is pilots. And yes, I trained as a pilot and have a now worthless (thanks to diabetes) Commercial Pilot's license. (I have always considered myself a Renaissance Man, but now I know it's called Attention Deficit Disorder.) So flight bags also deserve consideration as diabetes go-bags. I'm still on the mailing list for the famous Sporty's Pilot Shop and daydream my way though their catalog about once a month or so. They've just introduced a pretty spiffy-looking line of bags that might have utility for our kind.

Now, of course, any number of folks have tried to design the perfect diabetes go-bag and where I personally feel they go wrong is in wasting time and space on cooler packs, which we rarely need with us on a daily basis. If you need to carry your lunch, you'll have it in a separate lunch bag, and if you are somewhere too blazingly hot for your insulin, you'll be better served by using a Frio Pouch, IMO.

Another solution to the go-bag dilemma is to chuck the bag altogether. You could look to an innovative company called Scottevest, makers of "technology enabled clothing." They make a range of travel jackets and vests with a plethora of pockets—commonly 24 pockets in their vests and 35 in their coats! This includes custom-designed pockets for batteries, various iDevices, and more. Most even feature special channels for securing and directing the ear-bud wiring from music players.

A couple of years ago I stuffed everything from my heavy go-bag into a Scottevest jacket and was surprised by how comfortable it was on my body. When I wasn't wearing it, it felt like a military flack jacket -- crazy! But on the bod, with the load distributed evenly, it was actually very comfortable. It was also designed well enough to maintain the sleek look, despite the ridiculous amount of gear in the assorted pockets. I didn't keep with it because I live in New Mexico and our jacket-wearing season is short. Even though the jacket was more comfortable than a heavy bag over one shoulder, I went back to the bag. That works better for my body temp thermostat and keeps me from roasting, and I'm used to it.

No matter who you choose to join—the shooters, the pilots, or the travelers—I'm sure you'll find the perfect solution that works for you.

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.