Your Guide to the Ultimate First Aid Kit
Cuts, scrapes, burns and blisters can happen on a day hike or short backpacking trip. A good first aid kit can help ease the discomfort or prevent minor injuries becoming worse.
Injuries (and parasites) can happen anytime in the wild but the best way to stop a mishap from becoming a catastrophe is to make sure you’re prepared for the worst. That means you should never go on a hike without a well-stocked first aid kit.
This is what we would recommend to bring with you on any trek.
Day Hike First Aid Kit Essentials
No matter where or how long you’re hiking, you won’t regret packing these must-haves.
- Adhesive bandages (or blister kit and hiker’s wool),
- Compression bandage
- 3 x butterfly bandages
- Irrigation syringe
- Gauze, non-stick pads and tape
- Antibacterial ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- Ibuprofen and Tylenol
- Antidiarrheal pills
- Eye drops
- Latex gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Water treatment tablets
- Lip balm
- Bug repellent
Snake Bites: If you’re in snake territory, don’t forget to throw in three elasticated compression bandages.
Backpacking First Aid Kit Essentials
For overnight trips and extended expeditions, you’ll need more supplies. The longer you hike, the more risk you have of hurting yourself. And that risk doubles when the sun goes down. Don’t be like my friend who slid down a ravine at 4am on the way to nature’s bathroom. Luckily, we had lots of bandages and ibuprofen!
For any hike that’s longer than a day, you’ll need everything listed above plus:
- Rolled gauze
- Additonal roller bandages
- Cleansing pods
- Blood stopping gauze
- Liquid bandages
- Triangular bandage (for slings)
- Splints(or a rigid object and some stretch-loc straps can work)
- Water purification tablets
- Broad-spectrum antibiotics
- Multitool/Swiss Army Knife
- Blunt tipped scissors
- Sewing needle for splinters
- CPR mask
- Duct tape
- Pen and notebook (to write notes about vitals or progress
- Emergency beacon
The most common injuries on a trek are things like blisters, deep cuts, dehydration, heat stroke, broken bones, sprained ankles, rashes and allergic reactions. If you’ve packed everything above, you’ll be able to handle most of these until you can get medical attention if necessary.
The Environmental First Aid Extras
There are also a few extra things you’ll need to consider, depending on the type of environment you’ll be hiking in.
For a jungle trek in a place with malaria or other mosquito-borne diseases, make sure you have antimalaria pills and tropical-strength, DEET-based repellent. The DEET repellent should be stored separately—if the bottle leaks, it will destroy the coating used on the inside of our First Aid Dry Bags (and most technical fabrics). Also, consider bringing a powdered antiseptic and antibiotic for treating wounds in tropical environments.
Don’t forget a heat-reflecting emergency blanket. One of my mates runs alpine treks. Once on a cold night in late autumn, he came across a guy who’d set out overnight without a proper sleeping bag. He was already showing signs of hypothermia. Luckily, my friend had a foil blanket for him—or he probably wouldn’t have survived the night.
Are you going 9000ft (or more) above sea level? Make sure you’ve got some medicine to get you through any altitude sickness. Ibuprofen and Tylenol will help with the headaches. You might also want to think about bringing acetazolamide and anti-nausea pills.
How To Pack and Carry Your First Aid Gear
This might seem like a lot of stuff to carry on top of your tent, sleeping bag, and everything else. But keeping healthy and alive should obviously be your number one priority—so never skimp on first aid supplies. It’s better safe than sorry (or dead), don’t you think?
Of course, a big part of being prepared for anything is keeping your vital supplies safe and accessible, which is why First Aid Dry Bags are the smart option. The best ones are:
- Brightly colored and clearly labelled: You never know who might need to find your first aid kit in an emergency. Choose a red dry sack with a white cross on the side. Everyone will know that they’ll be able to find medical supplies inside it.
- Accessible: Get a first aid dry sack with a clear window on the side so you can see and access whatever supplies you need at a moment’s notice.
- Waterproof: Your first-aid supplies are useless if they get soggy. Make sure your first aid dry sack is durable and 100% waterproof, with taped seams.
- Abrasion-resistant: Get a first aid dry sack made from durable nylon so your supplies don’t get damaged along the way.
What Size First Aid Dry Bag to Bring
For all your day-hiking essentials, a 1L First Aid Dry Bag should be perfect for one or two people. The squishable 70D fabric means that it will fit nicely into your daypack along with your snacks and extra water.
If you’re preparing for an overnight trek or an expedition you’ll need a few extra supplies. A 3L First Aid Dry Bag is best for you.
Just think of the above as a repair kit for humans.