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A first aid kit is important to have on hand no matter where you go, especially if adventuring anywhere far from civilization. You should keep one in the car at all times, one at home, and definitely keep one in your survival gear bag. For this wilderness first aid kit checklist I’ll break down what you need, why you need it, and provide a PDF download checklist so you don’t leave anything out before you hit the trails.
Build Your Own Personal First Aid Kit
Ideally each person would have their own personal first aid on them, that way everyone has something should they be stranded alone, or one person becomes injured and their supplies are used up. Not to mention the added weight in one persons bag and having to leave behind gear to make room, not good. It goes without saying that if you’re traveling alone you definitely need one!
There are plenty of first aid kits you can buy, so be sure they are well rounded and include the essentials below, if not you can always add them in. You also don’t want to carry too much stuff, it’s added weight, bulk, and time if you’re in an emergency situation.
Always adjust your personal first aid kit to your situation.
Wilderness First Aid Kit Checklist
The first item you’ll need is a storage container. A waterproof container is best and it should be compartmentalized, this will make it easy to organize and allow you to give priority location to the most critical first aid kit items.
Be sure to label everything, organize each section below into compartments, and transfer and liquids and ointments into small wide-mouthed Nalgene bottles. That way you don’t have to worry about tubes busting open or ointments leaking.
- Nitrile Gloves – Nitile is better for gloves since vinyl is too porous and latex is a common allergen. The gloves are disposable so bring more than you think you need. Use with every wound cleaning and keep in an easily accessible area. If you’ve had the gloves awhile make sure they haven’t degraded before use (best to check before heading out on your adventure).
- CPR mask and/or Shield – Used to safely deliver rescue breaths during a cardiac or respiratory arrest.
- Bandages – 3″-4″ Stretchy Roller Gauze (1-2 per person) – Self-adhesive is fine, be sure to not wrap too tightly and check on the injury periodically.
- Dressings (2-4 per person minimum) – You can carry multiple sized sterile gauze or larger ones that can be cut down as needed.
- Non-Stick Gauze Pads (2-4 per person) – To be used directly on the wound, be sure to change periodically since the wounds will “weep” (ooze) as it’s healing.
- General Purpose Gauze Pads (4-6 per person) – As the name suggest use for general purpose wound care, everything from padding to absorbency. These will be used more frequently so stock up.
- Combine/Trauma Dressing (1-2 per person) – When you need high absorbency and/or padding. Larger sizes are recommended.
- Occlusive Dressings (1-2 per person) – Used to seal wounds for protection from air, fluids, and other contaminants. They are non-absorbent so also work great to hold healing ointments to the wound.
- Bandage Strips/Band-Aids (6-8 per person) – The one we all know and love, be sure to have plenty since they fall off easily. You’ll more than likely have to tape these on, especially there is lots of movement happening where the wound is located. Change often!
- 1″ Cloth Tape (1 roll) – Tape is a must and will help you in almost any situation. Use to secure bandages, close wounds, etc.
- Duct Tape (20-30′) – Used when a more heavy duty tape is needed. Securing bandages, splints, clothing, etc. Be careful not to wrap too tight.
- Tincture of Benzoin – Helps to stop bleeding, prevent infection, and allows bandages to stick better to the skin.
- Povidine Iodine – Used with water to clean wounds and the surrounding area. For the proper dilution add tiny bits to water until it looks like “weak coloured ice tea.”
- Irrigation Syringe, 12cc to 60cc – Syringes are great when used to flush out wounds. An alternative is to cut the corner of a Ziploc bag and squeeze it like a cake decorator. Before a wound is closed it must be flushed out completely to prevent infection.
- 36″ Sam Splint – Almost anything can be used as an improvised splint, but having the real deal is much better than using some perhaps much needed equipment. The Sam Splint is a foam covered aluminum that comes highly recommended.
- ACE Wrap – Used to help secure the splint. Duct tape and triangular bandages can also work well.
- Moleskin and/or Molefoam – You want to prevent blisters before they happen. Apply moleskin to blister prone areas or at the very first sign that a blister may be developing. Once a blister forms then it must be treated as an open wound which requires proper cleaning and bandaging.
- Tweezers – For taking out those nasty splinters.
- Pins – Include both safety and blanket pins. They can be used anywhere you need material to be held in place. Arm slings, securing tarp for shelter, even as clothes pins for hang drying your laundry.
- Plastic Bags – Although not completely necessary, Ziploc and plastic bags are very versatile and should be kept in your pack somewhere.
- Thermometer – If you’ll be in a cold environment then be sure to have a hypothermia thermometer in your first aid kit. For other scenarios a regular thermometer will be fine.
- Trauma Shears – Used to cut clothing, splints, tape, you name it.
- Reflective Survival Blanket – Used for vapour barrier, improvised shelter, heat reflector, etc. A must have for your first aid kit and/or bug out bag.
- Antibiotic Cream (Neosporin) – Promotes healing of small wounds and acts as barrier against contagions.
- Tylenol and/or Aspirin – Choose your favourite.
- Antihistamine (Benadryl) – Use to fight against allergies.
- Antacid (Pepto) – I’m sure you know this one. The last thing you want is an upset stomach or diarrhea in the middle of nowhere.
- Antidiarrheal (Imodium) – For when the diarrhea starts.
- Anticonsptipation (Metamucil) – For when you can’t go.
- Antifungal/yeast (Tinactin) – Use on any moist areas of the body prone to fungal infection such as feet and inner thigh.
- Dental pain (Clove Oil) – For temporary toothache relief a dab of Clove Oil will numb the pain until you can visit a dentist.
- Temporary Dental Filling – A temporary cavity filling such as Cavit or dental wax allow you to fill any cavities until you can visit a dentist. Be sure to clean the cavity out before filling. As a side note, bring floss, toothbrush, and toothpaste in your gear bag too!
- Electrolyte Replacement Powder – For those days you need to get replenished fast.
- Sunblock – Dealing with a sunburn while stuck outdoors is not ideal.
- Aloe Vera – For when you forgot to put sunblock on or had an accident playing with fire.
- Poison Ivy and Oak Lotion – Having contact with Poison Ivy or Poison Oak is not a good time. If you’re in an area prone to ivy and oak then prepare yourself by applying an anti-ivy.oak lotion to any exposed skin before getting deep in the bushes.
- Technu Oak or Ivy Cleanser – Used to clean any ivy or oak off the skin after you’ve made contact.
- Lip Balm – My lips are constantly chapped and I know I’m not alone. Lip balm is import in all environments.
- Insect Repellent – Because bugs suck. Another idea is to bring a bug net with you to drape over shelter and keep those bastards out when you’re trying to sleep.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll only need to carry what you need. If travelling in a group it’s best if everyone has their own first aid kit on them. If someone is injured use the injured persons’ supplies first. Last thing you need after they’re taken to the hospital is to be left without a kit of your own.