Packing for Emergencies: Backcountry First Aid Kit

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You are all pumped for that epic backpacking trip. You’ve packed the gear, grub, and your backcountry permits. The camera is packed and even spare batteries are charged. But there’s one critical item that you might be forgetting; the first aid kit. It is something you should never be without, but hope that you never have to use.

When preparing your first aid kit, you’ll have a couple of options:

  • Ready to use first aid kits - You could purchase a pre-assembled kit. Just make sure there are enough materials in the kit for all the members of your group. If possible, each person should have their own kit. It would also best to check the contents of the kit and familiarize yourself with how to use them. The downside of this is that you may still need to add some items that you specifically would need like medicine.  Pre-made kits may also cost more.
  • Assemble your own first aid kit  - You can pick out what you want in your first aid kit. This way you will be able to decide what you should bring based on your needs. For instance, if someone is allergic to a particular type of medication, you could substitute whatever would work for the same job. This would also be practical if planning for a large group because you could buy in bulk and just repack the items. Just make sure to put them in waterproof zip lock bags or containers. Here are some of our suggestions for what you should include in your kit:
    • Bandages and Band-Aids: It is advisable to have both the self-adhesive bandages Band-Aid) and several meters of bandages in your kit. These could be used for anything from small cuts to broken bones.
    • Cotton balls and gauze pads: Used to clean and dress wounds.
    • Alcohol and/or Iodine solution: Used for disinfecting wounds and tools.
    • Medicine: Some pain relievers, Loperamide (or diarrhea), and even vitamin pills could be added to the kit. Just make sure to replace them occasionally.
    • Special medication: Pack medication that you personally need.
    • Smelling salts or mentholated oils or ointments: These could be used in case someone faints or relieve minor headaches.
    • Threaded needle: Having it ready for use will save you time and will make it easier for you in the dark instead of just bringing needles and thread. You could use these to close up ripped bags or tents as well as stitching up big wounds in extreme cases. Just make sure to disinfect them before using.
    • Surgical gloves: In case you need to handle blood or other bodily fluids, wearing surgical gloves will keep from contamination and infection. You could also use these inside your hiking gloves during rains and river crossing to keep your hands dry and warm.
    • Waterproof or cardboard matches: It wouldn’t hurt to have extra of these in your bag. We suggest putting them in their own ziplock bag before adding to the kit.

Here are a few optional items to add to your first aid kit:

    • Space blanket or large garbage bag: These will really come in handy in extreme weather conditions both to keep you warm and even to provide shade. You could also use the garbage bag to keep you or your gear dry.
    • A few feet of rope: It is always good to have some extra rope handy. Paracord is perfect for this because it can be tied in very small bundles to fit into your kit. Some rope could even be fashioned into bracelets.
    • Duct tape: A very versatile tool, enough said.
    • Whistle: The smaller but louder the better. This will come handy if you need to call for help but cannot move.

Make sure to pack the first aid kit towards the top of your bag where it can be easily accessed during emergencies. Make sure to check the kit before packing and replenish or replace items that have passed their shelf-life. You could label the kits with the date when they were assembled so to easily know when to replace them.

When traveling with kids, it would be advisable to discuss the contents of the kits with them and instruct them on how to use it. You could even print out some simple instructions that can be folded and added to the kit. If possible, take a First Aid course/training or read as much as you can before the trip. Knowledge will always be your best tool during emergencies.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below and check out our blog for other tips and resources.

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  • I keep single use super glue in my kit. dollar tree grab…

    John Walker on

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