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First Aid Kit Buying Guide


By Ian Perkins

First Aid Kit


Accidents happen. Be prepared. Having a comprehensive first aid kit is an absolute must for any group of outdoor enthusiasts. When choosing the necessary supplies for a first aid kit, it can be easy to forget the small things. Hiking and camping can expose you to all sorts of hazards which have potential to result in injuries including fractures and sprains. While sticks can be used as splints and an unused jacket could be used to create a makeshift sling; having appropriate first aid supplies makes everything easier. Use your best judgment and recommended first aid training when cleaning and dressing trauma injuries. Below is a list of items that we recommend all groups have on hand.


The following list of items is meant to provide a working base for a common first aid kit. This list by no means replaces the knowledge, training or experience that a formal, professional first aid class would. formally recommends that all outdoor enthusiasts take part in certifiable wilderness first aid and CPR. For more information you can visit NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute, Wilderness Medical Associates, or SOLO Wilderness Medicine.



Personal Protection


Gloves: Rubber or Latex gloves in a few sizes can be very crucial in protecting the rescuer from infected bodily substances such as vomit or blood while treating the patient. You will need a new pair for every new patient, so we recommend multiple pairs depending upon the duration and number of people in your group.


Glasses: Eye protection is helpful incase victim is in a dangerous situation or accident debris could cause damage to the rescuers eyes.


Pocket (CPR) Mask or Face Shields: These are used to protect the rescuer from the patient’s potentially infectious bodily substances such as vomit or blood while administering CPR or mouth to mouth resuscitation. CPR masks may also give you a better seal around the patient mouth making it easier to administer rescue breaths.


Hand Sanitizer: This is a must have. 80% of wilderness illness is caused by improper germ control. Hand sanitizer should be used before cooking all meals and after using the bathroom.



Trauma Injuries


Adhesive Bandages: A collection of adhesive bandages such as Band-Aids, second skin, or mole skin can be used for any number of small injuries. These help to contain any minor bleeding and to prevent open wounds from exposure to the elements.


Sterile Dressings: Sterile Dressings include sterile gauze pads, sterile eye patches, and non-stick sterile pads and can be used to treat larger injuries such as burns, lacerations, or punctures. If carrying larger sterile dressings be sure to carry medical grade tape for adhere to the skin.


Wound Cleaning Products: Irrigation and cleaning of dirty wounds can be uncomfortable and messy, thus, it can help to carry small items to help. Irrigation syringes, small scrub brushes and disinfectants are necessary to prevent open wounds from becoming infected. Disinfectants such as iodine or alcohol swabs should be used as well.





A small collection of basic, over the counter medications can be very useful while on the trail. Always consult a doctor before using medications, as well as be mindful of any and all allergies that may exist in the group.


Aspirin: Aspirin is primarily used for chest pain and preventing or reducing the effects of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Aspirin also helps relieve minor aches and pains, reduce fever and is an anti-inflammatory medication.


Antihistamine: Antihistamines are useful for campers experiencing both mild and extreme allergic reactions. Be aware of any and all allergies within your group.


Anti-Diarrhea: In addition to diarrhea being an unpleasant situation, especially while camping. It can lead to dehydration and malnourishment.


Antiseptic Ointment: Antiseptic Ointments such as Neosporin kill bacteria in wounds. It is important to get the wound cleaned properly before applying antiseptic ointment.


Anti-Itch Ointment: There are several types of anti-itch ointment which can be applied topically to reduce itching from bug bites or poison ivy.


Burn Gel: Burn gel can be applied to burns to cool the burning sensation.


Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera gel can be used to treat a variety of skin issues including burns, sunburns, itching and dry skin. Aloe Vera can also be used as a substitute for antibiotic gel and prevents bandages from sticking.



Instruments and Equipment


Trauma Shears: While in many instances a pocket knife will get the job done trauma shears can be kept cleaner for medical uses only.


Tweezers / Tic Tube: In most cases tweezers will be used for removing splinters or stingers. Tweezers should be kept in a small, sealable plastic tube for the removal and collection of tics. If bitten by a tic, follow proper procedure for removal, and store the removed tic in your “tic tube” so that a doctor can inspect it upon returning home.


Lighter: A small lighter can be used to sanitize tweezers and other medical supplies.


Alcohol Pads / Iodine: Used for sanitizing equipment or unbroken skin.


Irrigation Syringe: Irrigation syringes can be used to clean wounds with saline solution, the stream of liquid flushes out dirt and debris.


SAM Splint: SAM splints are small, foldable splints used by many first aid professionals. They are malleable, protective and effective for all types of injuries.


Honey: Yes, actual edible honey. Honey is the fastest naturally digestible form of sugar. It can be used in any number of situations where a patient is being affected by low blood sugar.


Super Glue: Superglue is good for everything. Carry it.


Duct Tape: That’s right folks; Duct Tape can even fix humans. It is essential in treating blisters, repairing gear and securing splints. While you don’t need a whole roll, every member should have their own small stash of Duct Tape.


Pencil and Paper: Medical emergencies require paperwork. Paper and pencil are useful in all situations.


Phone Card / Spare Change: Cell phones are NOT always in service. Be sure to carry some form of money to help pay for phone calls if necessary.


Quick Reference First Aid Booklet: When dealing with injuries, make sure you do it right. There’s no shame in referring to a book when treating wounds.



When building a first aid kit, be mindful of the activities you’re participating in, the destination you’re traveling too, and the size and specific medical issues within the group you’re traveling with. The more extreme the adventure, the more prepared you should be. Consult experts such as park rangers, trip guides, or local emergency personnel before embarking on your next big adventure. formally recommends that all outdoor enthusiasts take part in certifiable wilderness first aid and CPR. For more information you can visit NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute, Wilderness Medical Associates, or SOLO Wilderness Medicine.