I am NOT a DIY person, by any means, EXCEPT for when it comes time to assembling first aid kits. For all my girlfriends (and guy friends) who have hiked, backpacked or camped with me, they can attest that I do not mess around when it comes time to first-aid. Most likely due to the combination of my medical background mixed with my Type A personality; first aid in the outdoors is something I take fairly seriously. From blister protection (this will be a whole separate blog post) and ice packs to Band-Aids, tampons, and medications; you should never leave home without a first-aid kit. I have been in many situations where I needed to dress a wound, treat someone with heat exhaustion, secure my dog in my pack with a rope, pull cacti out of someone's feet, and tend to individuals who were suffering from dehydration and altitude sickness. I actually have had two individuals on separate occasions have seizures right in front of me while on vacation overseas (they were happy I was a doctor).
First thing is first when it comes time to a first-aid kit on the trail, KNOW HOW TO USE EVERYTHING IN YOUR KIT. If you do not know how to splint a bone or wrap an ankle, that is totally okay but please do not carry these items. Items that have no use are just extra weight. I store everything in small plastic Ziploc bags and combine 2 of these bags in a larger clear plastic freezer size bag. This keeps things together, allows me to see each item through the bag and keeps everything from getting wet.
What’s in my first-aid kit?
I have learned to acquire certain things in my first-aid kit over the years from my experience in medicine and in the outdoors. My first-aid kit also doubles as an emergency kit and tool kit. Basically, it's one big trail kit. Below is everything that I keep in my first-aid kit and the reasons behind my madness.
- Ibuprofen (brands names are Advil, Midol, Motrin) is an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-inflammatory drug. The proper dose is 800mg (that is FOUR 200 mg tablets). Please take this dose. Note that acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is MUCH different and is used as an antipyretic (fever reducer) and analgesic (pain reliever) but does not have anti-inflammation properties. The proper dosage for acetaminophen is 650mg. I do not carry acetaminophen due to the fact that it lacks anti-inflammatory properties, Ibuprofen has stronger analgesic properties than acetaminophen. Aspirin is a blood thinner; please do not substitute aspirin for ibuprofen.
- Diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl)- used for any type of allergic reaction. I carry both the oral form and the topical form.
- 2nd skin- by far the best blister treatment I have personally used.
- Duct tape- goes over the 2nd skin and can be used to pull out thorns or cacti (can also be used for repairs on pack, tent, sleeping mat and boots). I buy the mini rolls or use a hotel card and cut strips of duct tape and attach them to the hotel card so I have pre-cut pieces.
- Assorted sized bandages for cuts and wounds.
- Small individual packs of gauze
- Alcohol wipes
- Small medical scissors
- Tweezers (for pulling out cacti, ticks or insect stingers)
- Safety pin (for popping blisters when needed)
- Body glide (for blister PREVENTION and chaffing) – this is also made in cheaper brands.
- Iodine wound solution (Pour this in a much smaller container)- iodine has antimicrobial properties and is used to kill bacteria and germs before dressing the wound.
Miscellaneous emergency/medical first-aid equipment
- Hot hands- instant hand warmers AND foot warmers (can also be used as a hot pack on sore muscles)
- Ice packs- Ice packs can be used for an acute muscle or ligament injury such as a sprain or a strain and should immediately be used in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Ice packs should be placed under the arms, between the thighs, and under the neck in case of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. These should be stored in a separate Ziploc bag to prevent the solution from leaking if the ice pack is punctured.
- Chlorine tablets for water purification treatment- chlorine has protection against protozoa, bacteria, and viruses AND protects against Cryptosporidium (where iodine does not).
- Headlamp (see past blog post on illumination)
- Bug spray
- Emergency blanket
- Sunscreen (See past blog post on sun protection)
- Tampons (these can also be used to provide hemostasis aka to stop bleeding for wound care and epistaxis)
- Electrolytes/energy gels
- Meal bars (Cliff bars, Luna bars etc.)
- Lighter (I love the foldable BBQ lighters)
- Portable cell phone charger (Goal Zero with solar panel)
- Paracord –Use this cord to create zipper pulls, handle wraps, lanyards, or bracelets, and you can ignite it by simply exposing the red core and touching any fire starter to it
- PanAway essential oil by Young Living- this is a miracle for any muscle aches and pains.
If you are interested in taking a wilderness first aid course (WFA), REI and NOLS host classes throughout the year. They are 16 hours in duration over a 2 day period and will teach you the ability to make sound decisions on the trail in an emergency situation.
What's in your first-aid kit? We would love to hear!
Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the trails,