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A first aid kit is part of the 10 essentials and carrying one with you at all times while exploring the outdoors is very important. It’s one of those things that you hope to never have to use, but when you do need to use it, it sure comes in handy. What exactly does a first aid kit for hiking or camping consist of? Can you make your own outdoor first aid kit or should you buy one already put together?
Well, there are pros and cons to both. By making your own, you can tailor it to your needs, but you will want to be sure to educate yourself on what you might possibly need. Sometimes, it is not until you are in a sticky situation that you realize you wish you had something. If you buy a first aid kit made specifically for the outdoors, you will have all the necessary supplies.
For example, stepping into a yellow jacket nest by accident eight miles into the trail, that is not the time to realize you probably should have put Benadryl in your kit.
Another pro to buying a premade outdoor first aid kit is that it is cheaper than buying everything you need to put into one kit. A company like MyMedic can buy in bulk and distribute supplies to multiple kits. I made my own kit and spent about $125. But I have enough bandages and stretchy gauze to last a while.
However, if I had bought all the supplies in my outdoor first aid kit prepackaged it probably would have costed me about $50 to $75.
What to look for when buying an outdoor first aid kit
When it comes to buying an outdoor first aid kit, you want to be sure to get one that is geared for the outdoors. They are very similar to other first aid kits. But in the outdoors you are not close to help or medical professionals, so you will need to be more prepared to treat medical emergencies more in the field. For example, you may want to add a bandage with blood clotting agents laced in it. This will help control bleeding better when medical professionals are far away.
You may also want some way to splint bones. This can include actual splints (like SAM Splint) or some way to help you improvise, like extra stretchy gauze or an ace bandage to fasten the limb to a stick or trekking pole. I understand weight can be an issue, and if it is, clothing can also be used to help splint bones.
Another thing that you will want with an outdoor first aid kit is a way to forcibly clean cuts and wounds with water. A fat syringe works nicely for something like this.
Familiarize yourself with what you have
If you do choose to buy an already put together outdoor first aid kit, familiarize yourself with what is in the kit before you need it. That way you know what you have and what you might want to add.
Familiarizing yourself with your kit will also help you know what to use and how to use it in the event something does happen. It will also help you locate what you need quickly so you are not dumping the entire thing on the ground searching for something that might work.
Make your own outdoor first aid kit
Outdoor first aid kits are just a collection of essential medical supplies, so there is no reason you can’t simply make your own. And like I said before, when you make your own you can tailor it to your needs. Like if you have a bee allergy you know you need to include an EpiPen.
When creating your own outdoor first aid kit, you want to be sure to package it in a waterproof casing, like a Ziplock or lightweight, waterproof bag.
So what goes in an outdoor first aid kit:
- Swiss Army knife or the like
- Safety pins
- Antibacterial ointment or honey (raw honey has antibacterial properties and can work better)
- Cleansing pads
- Syringe to irrigate wounds
- Sterile gauze pads
- Stretch gauze or gauze rollers
- Butterfly bandages
- Moleskin and blister bandages (this is one you might want to add in extra because blisters are a leading injury with hiking)
- Duct tape
- Splints (SAM Splints are lightweight and malleable) or a way to improvise
- Aspirin or ibuprofen
- Antihistamine (Benadryl)
- Electrolyte mix
- Hydrocortisone cream (anti itch)
- Lip balm
Consider taking a first aid or first responder course
Having an outdoor first aid kit is essential, but knowing how to use it is also important. Consider taking a wilderness first aid or wilderness first responder course. These classes will teach you basic life support, how and when to call for help, and what to do in an emergency.
They teach you and others what to do when a 911 phone call is not possible and the ambulance isn’t going to roll up in minutes.
Having an outdoor first aid kit and wilderness first aid or responder skills are things we hope we will never have to use, but we will so glad we have them.