It’s not as easy as you would think to make a wilderness first aid kit. Usually, you don’t know everything you’ll need until you don’t have it unless you use some valuable resources like this article to help you build your wilderness first aid kit. As you go through this article, keep in mind that you should have personal protection, protection against possible muscle or skeletal injuries, and something convenient to carry it all in.
Before starting, think about your hike. How many people are going to be using your kit? How long is your trip? What will you be doing on your hike? Do you have the training necessary to handle certain situations? If you’re going with a group of people, consider packing a lot of supplies. The same thing goes for if you’re going on a long trip to a national park. Plan according to days. If you’re going for a day or two, don’t pack more than you need to. In the event that you’re going to do something that involves water, bring waterproof supplies. If you’re going to partake in a strenuous hike, for example, bring supplies for any possible musculoskeletal injuries. Basically, pack according to your activities. Training is also a huge consideration. Don’t bring things you don’t know how to use. Or, at least make sure you know how to use everything you plan on bringing. Now, let’s get packing!
Injuries can and will happen may they be small cuts, bruises, or broken bones. There a few items that are a must for your wilderness first aid kit.
- Nitrile Gloves – Vinyl gloves are porous and some people can be allergic to latex, so always get nitrile gloves. Also, bring as many as you can because you’ll need a fresh pair for every wound you tend to. Don’t bring old gloves. Buy new ones. Your old gloves can be contaminated, have degraded in the heat or cold, or have worn some damage, leading to tears where bacteria and other microorganisms could climb in.
- CPR Masks – CPR masks are cheap, and you can even find some for your keychain. They typically have a short life span, but it’s great in a pinch. Just make sure you know how to use one before you try using it.
- The Basics – The basics are your gauze, dressings, and adhesive bandages. Gauze and dressings come in many different sizes and forms. Some adhere and others don’ These are good for burns or scrapes. Adhesive bandages are your typical bandaids. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Buy a few of each to be truly prepared.
- Equipment – Your fingers cannot do everything when it comes to cleaning and dressing wounds. This is why we have tools like tweezers, magnifiers, syringes and trauma shears. Tweezers are cheap, take up little room, and are fantastic if you get a splinter. The same thing goes for a magnifier. Splinters can be quite small. A magnifier goes a long way. Then there are syringes. Syringes are great for irrigation. For those cases where you receive a large wound, a syringe is helpful in irrigating it, basically, cleaning out your wounds. Finally, trauma shears come in a variety of sizes and are pretty low cost. You’ll appreciate it when you need it and have one.
- OTC Medications – Injuries are typically painful and are breeding grounds for pathogens. Keep a bottle of ibuprofen or acetaminophen with you. They’ll reduce your pain and make your hike more manageable. To keep pathogens away, a topical antibiotic cream is useful. It kills all the bacteria and nasty microorganisms that would otherwise cause infections. Other good OTC meds to keep on you are gastrointestinal meds and antihistamines. If you accidentally consume something you shouldn’t or drink contaminated water, you’ll likely come down with a nasty case of diarrhea. Rid yourself of that problem with gastrointestinal meds like calcium carbonate or loperamide. Antihistamines are essential for allergic reactions. They can save your life if you have a deadly allergy. For example, if you are allergic to bees and are stung during a hike, you’d benefit from an epinephrine injector.
- Other – Some other things you should bring include aloe, throat lozenges, lip balm, sunscreen, insect repellant, and your personal medications. Aloe is really good for burns and any potential bug bites. It soothes any burning or itching sensations. Throat lozenges are good for your throat to soothe any soreness. Lip balm is helpful if you’re hiking somewhere cold or really hot where chapped lips are common. Sunscreen is helpful in those sunny areas. No hike is worth the threat of skin cancer. Wear your sunscreen! While you’re protecting your skin, get some insect repellant. Not only are insect bites uncomfortable, but depending on where you hike, they can be lethal. Finally, personal medications include anything you need to function, daily. For example, if you have asthma, bring your inhaler.
Muscle and Skeletal Injuries
If you’re hiking and trip over something, you may sprain an ankle or break a bone. If this happens, you’ll need a cast, buddy split, SAM splint, compression wraps, or triangular bandages. These items will provide you with support if you should get some sort of musculoskeletal injury. They will typically last you long enough to get to help or your destination. However, if you receive one of these injuries, you should make getting help your top priority. If it’s a break or fracture, infections may occur. If it’s a bad strain, they have a habit of getting progressively worse.
Carry It All
Now that you have all your supplies for your wilderness first aid kit gathered, you’ll need a bag of some sort. This doesn’t need to be fancy. Think compact, waterproof, and durable. You can choose something made of nylon that has organizer pouches or see-through dividers. See-through dividers are nice when you’re trying to dress a wound and don’t want to go digging around to find what you need. Or, you can buy dry bags or dry cases if you intend to be doing something in the water. If you’re worried about water getting in there, you can even vacuum seal your kit. It’ll keep the contents dry. Or, there are simple waterproof zip top bags for those who like to hike ultralight. Regardless, choose things with compartments that make sense to you.
First thing’s first: get your medical bag or duffel bag and make your list of supplies. Let this guide help you start your wilderness first aid kit. If you have any other suggestions on things to add to this list, please let us know!