It’s important that whenever you go into the outdoors, you bring a first aid kit with you. You can buy ready made kits, but they tend to be expensive and you won’t be as familiar its contents as you will be if you build your own. Plus, I have never found a first aid kit I was completely happy with – I always have to add other items. That’s why I’d recommend just making your own from the start.
Here is a quick (not exhaustive) list of the most common injuries and issues I’ve experienced on a hiking or paddling trip.
- Someone falls and cuts themselves –> bleeding
- Someone rolls their ankle –> sprains and strains
- Bug bites and bee strings –> allergic reactions
- Someone spills hot water or touches a hot frying pan –> burns
Below is a list of what to include in a basic first aid kit (good for day or weekend trips).
What does all the first aid stuff go into?
You can buy a bag specifically for first aid, or you can keep everything in a big toiletries bag (I’d recommend buying some red duct tape to label it as a first aid kit though). If you’re paddling, I’d suggest putting it your first aid kit bag inside a dry sac or pelican case to keep it all safe from water.
At the top and the most accessible
- CPR mask –> you don’t want to waste anytime looking for this
- Medical gloves (preferably nitrile) –> never do any first aid treatment without wearing gloves
Bleeding and Burns Kit – I keep all of this together in a big ziploc bag
- Antiseptic wipes (BZK or alcohol wipes) –> to disinfect the cut/scrape
- Band-aids and bandages of various sizes –> prevents further bleeding
- Gauze –> if the cut is big, this goes underneath the bandage to absorb blood
- Polysporin (or another anti-bacterial) –> goes on a clean would, good for cuts, scrapes and burns
- Medical tape –> for large cuts or burns, you can cover the entire area with gauze and then secure with medical tape
- Scissors –> good for cutting gauze or bandages, I keep paper towel wrapped around the blades and secured with an elastic band to prevent the scissors from ripping the bag
- Tweezers –> needed for removing splinters
Allergies and Medicine Kit – I keep all of this in another ziploc bag
- Anti-itch cream –> good for mosquito bites and skin irritation
- Benadryl (or another anti-histamine) –> allergic reactions
- Advil (or another ibuprofen) –> pain relief, good for muscle pain or injury
- Tylenol (or another acetaminophen) –> another drug for pain relief, good for headaches
- Gravol –> good for stomach aches, nausea
- Chew able baby aspirin –> if you suspect someone is having a heart attack, get emergency help ASAP and give them chew-able aspirin (I’ve never had to do this, but I still keep it with me just in case)
Health, Wellness and other items – this can go lose in the first aid kit
- Biodegradable camp soap –> just handy to have
- Sunscreen –> leave some in here in case you forget to bring a big bottle
- Aquatabs –> in case you run out of clean water
- Energy bars, snacks high in glucose –> if someone is low energy or feeling faint, they may have low blood sugar
- Extra plastic bags –> use one for garbage
- Pen or sharpie marker & small pad of paper or notebook –> may be helpful to write down details
- Get a pocket sized first aid manual
This is a lot of stuff, and you may be thinking “how will all of this fit in my day pack?” One tip I have that cuts down space is to avoid having several pill bottles in the kit:
Pro Tip: Get a pill dispenser (you know the kind with little boxes labeled Sun through Sat) and use a Sharpie to label the underside of the boxes with names like “Tylenol” and “Advil”. Cover the labels with some clear tape so they don’t get washed away. Then keep your different pills in there. Write the name of the drug on a little note with the amount (i.e. Tylenol 200 mg) and keep it in the box with the medicines. Pro tip: keep the whole pill box in a ziploc bag and secured with an elastic. This way it won’t open up by mistake or let water in.
This isn’t everything you could ever possibly need, but it covers a lot of the basics and should be sufficient for a day hike/paddle or weekend camping trip.
I’d also recommend taking a wilderness first aid course. You can never be over prepared in the wilderness! There are a lot of courses, so check out my post about finding what course is best for you.