While most mishaps in the outdoors are not life-threatening, any injury – even one as simple as a blister – can quickly ruin an outing. A properly stocked first-aid kit, coupled with a firm grasp of how to use each item, should be standard equipment for any outdoors enthusiast.
Pre-packaged first-aid kits are available from reputable sources such as REI.com for as little as $20. The least expensive kits are geared towards dayhikes or casual weekend trips and feature small quantities of aspirin, bandages, gauze, moleskin, antiseptic wipes; some basic kits include gloves, scissors and tweezers, as well. Comprehensive kits, available for as much as several hundred dollars, are available for week-long expeditions and mountaineering trips. Both types of kits may include a basic first-aid manual, as well.
Pre-packaged kits are convenient since they often come in a convenient zippered pouch you can use to create your own kit. A good container should be sturdy and reasonably weatherproof. If weight is not a consideration, a small tackle box or resealable plastic storage container may be used. If you are shopping for a pre-packaged first-aid kit, look for one that can adequately accommodate additional items, should you wish to add any.
A basic first-aid kit should contain the following items:
- antiseptic wipes (iodine, alcohol)
- antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
- adhesive bandages (Band-aids) in assorted sizes
- sterile gauze pads
- gauze (roll)
- cloth adhesive tape
- latex gloves
- diphenhydramine (antihistamine)
- safety pins
- a means to make a telephone call
- first aid manual
Hikers and backpackers might also want to consider carrying an antivenom kit and information on handling snake bites. To reduce the risk of snakebite, wear sturdy leather boots and long pants with your pant legs pulled down over your boot tops, when hiking in snake prone areas. This method helps protect you from poison ivy, ticks and chiggers, as well.
Once your first aid kit is fully assembled and in use, make it a habit to replenish any used items immediately. An outdated first aid kit, lacking basic items such as bandages or aspirin, is useless when a nasty tree root jumps out at you and sends you sprawling. I know, I have been there!