The American Backpacker

Wilderness First Aid Kit

The American Backpacker

Being in the wilderness carries inherent risks.  You may become sick or injured during your journey.  It is important that you have with you a first aid kit that is well stocked to treat various illnesses and injuries that may occur during your wilderness adventure.  In my previous article on Wilderness Go-Bags I briefly discussed having a first aid kit.  This article will go in depth on what I recommend having in your first aid kit.

All first aid kits should have basic medical items that have universal applications which can be used worldwide and in various environments.  These items should consist of band aids, antiseptic, gauze pads, aspirin, etc.  Your first aid kit should also have medical items specific to your medical needs.  

I have broken down my discussion on the items you should have in a Wilderness kit by topics:

  • First Aid Kit Case (Carrier Type):
  • Wound Care:
  • Medications:
  • Miscellaneous:

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First Aid Kit (Carrier)

First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit (MOLLE Carrier Case)

There are a variety of carriers (cases) you can choose for a first aid kit.  There are your standard hard cases which consist of plastic or metal and there are the soft sided cases made of cloth, canvas, or nylon.  I prefer using a durable soft sided case with a waterproof material.  A soft sided case packs easier and is more pliable than a hard sided case in your backpack.  There are many types of soft sided carriers in the various sizes you can choose from.  I recommend that you use one that has M.O.L.L.E. (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment), capability.  Molle carriers are very durable and versatile.  They can be easily placed in your backpack or lashed on the outside of it for quick access.

Wound Care

First Aid Kit
Wound Care Items

Wound care items are those medical items that deal with cuts, abrasions, gashes, and bleeding.  Items that you should have in your kit should include the following:

  • Band Aids: (Various types) knuckle, finger, large, small, etc.
  • Gauze Pads: (Large square sizes) they can be cut down into smaller pieces with a knife or scissor if needed.
  • Tape: Good quality tape that can be applied to the skin if wet. Tape can also be used for other survival purposes.  (2) rolls at a minimum. 
  • Liquid Bandage with Antiseptic: This item can be used on small cuts instead of cloth band aid.  Liquid bandage is a very quick and effective way to seal a small wound in various environments where a band aid and tape may fail.
  • Iodine (Tincture): To prevent cuts from becoming infected.  Apply it to your small cuts as you are on the move.  
  • Bacititracin or Neosporin: Apply it to cuts to help healing and prevent infection.
  • Tourniquet:  Used to stop bleeding if you sustain a deep cut to an artery.
  • Quik Clot: This is a specially treated gauze that put into deep cuts to stop bleeding.  It serves a similar purpose as a tourniquet.  This can be used if a tourniquet cannot be properly applied to the bleeding.
  • Hand Wipes and Alcohol Prep Pads: Used to disinfect your hands so you can work on your injuries in efforts to prevent further contamination.  You can also used to disinfect medical equipment and to clean your hands for sanitary purposes.

Medications

First Aid Kit
Medications (Over the counter and prescribed) 

I categories medications as both over the counter and if needed prescription medications that have been prescribed to you by a physician.  Medications can treat a variety of needs involving illnesses or physical injuries.  These items consist of :

  • Ibuprofen (Alieve):  To treat inflammation and pain
  • Baby Aspirin:  Baby aspirin gets into your system quicker to treat pain.
  • Powdered Aspirin (BC powder or Goody): Used to treat pain.  It will enter your system quicker for pain relief.  Apply it to your tongue. 
  • Antihistamine (Claritin or Loratadine):  For watery eyes, itching, insects bites etc.
  • Eye Drops:  A sterile solution to clean out your eyes in case dirt gets into them.  They also keep dry eyes lubricated and moist in various environments. 
  • Throat Lozenges (Chloraseptic):  Used to treat sore throats.
  • Hydrocortizone:  Used for insect bites.
  • Dental Medic kit:   Used for emergencies that may occur with your teeth, (e.g. lost filing, damaged crown, et.)

Miscellaneous

My miscellaneous items consists primarily of medical tools.  These tools will help you treat your injury.  I also added into this category needle, thread, safety pins, and fish hooks.  The fish hooks are more for survival purposes.

Forceps:  Used in treating wounds and more severe injuries such as deep bleeds involving the femoral artery.  Make sure that they are lockable in case you need to attach it to something.

Toe Nail Clippers (Large heavy duty):  Used not only for cutting your nail but to treat and debride wounds.  They are very durable and they can cut dense materials for first aid care.

Scissors:  I have a multi tool that has a scissor attachment built in it along with other mechanical attachments, (Plyer, knife, etc.)  I use a small Gerber multi-tool (DIME).

Thread, Needle, Safety Pins: Used for wound management and other non medical applications such as repairs to your tent or clothing.

Conclusion

Having a well stocked first aid kit can make the difference in having either an enjoyable or unenjoyable trip it can also mean life or death.  A good first aid kit will allow you to continue your adventure if your illness or injury is not severe.  For more severe illnesses or injuries a well stocked first aid kit will sustain you until you get the necessary medical treatment.   

A properly stocked first aid kit is a necessity but your knowledge on how to apply those items in your kit are important as well.  You should educate yourself on various first aid applications and practice them.  Having a tourniquet and not knowing how to apply it does you no good.  I have years of training in medical applications from the military and other sources.  There are many organizations, such as the Red Cross, that put-on classes you can attend personally or online to learn basic first aid skills and applications.

Take it upon yourself to further your basic fist aid knowledge by taking these courses.  The life you save may be someone who is with you in the wilderness.

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