How to Build a Backpacking First Aid Kit
We’ve all been there- you’re 50 miles from home, and you forgot to bring your contact lens solution with you. Worse yet, you may have needed something like medication for a heart condition. Wherever you’ve been, and had a medical emergency, you’ve wished that you had the right medical supplies for that emergency. It’s this exact reason that experts recommend packing a first aid kit in your vehicle, when you take long trips. When you hike into a wilderness area, or other remote area, and are miles from civilization, there is even more of a need for basic first aid supplies. Often times, you’re days away from civilization. You don’t have the convenience of being able to walk into a store and buying supplies, when you’re in the wilderness. It’s for this reason that having a backpacking first aid kit is crucial. Once you’ve come to the realization that you need a first aid kit for backpacking, you have to determine what contents that kit will contain. When I build a first aid kit, I like to first examine what unique specialty items to include in the kit.
Unique Special Items
A basic rule that I use is this: If I need something on a daily or weekly basis, it goes in my first aid kit. The same applies for any medications. If you’re a diabetic, extra insulin and emergency sugar gels are a necessity. Likewise, if you are allergic to bee stings, an Epi Pen would be a required item in your backpacking first aid kit. Including these items will help prevent a large percentage of emergencies, since you know that you are more prone to these types of episodes (an allergic reaction for instance, or low blood sugar). The most important part about setting up a backpacking first aid kit is that the kit should match you personally. If you have any unique medical needs, those have to be given first priority in your kit.
Common items in a first aid kit include:
Gauze (2 inch and 4 inch)
Moleskin, or similar padding
6’ of parachute cord, or similar strength rope
Rubbing Alcohol pads
That’s it. I don’t like to carry too much in a first aid kit, that will make me want to leave the kit at home. On the other hand, I want to be a good enough kit, that it will protect me from the common backpacking emergencies that I might run into. I want the kit to be effective enough to prevent or treat major emergencies out in the wilderness, but keeping the weight of the kit low is crucial. On long hikes, no one wants to carry around 5 pounds of first aid gear! Once you have the gear, you now need to keep it separate from your other hiking gear.
Backpacking First Aid Kit Containers/Bags
This final subject is one that I take a unique approach to. Some people like to purchase first aid pouches, that they can attach to their backpacks. They might even purchase pre-made kits online, that come with these bags included. While that’s not a bad idea, I like to take a slightly different (and cheaper) route. I simply put the items in a water proof Ziploc bag. First aid supplies are super cheap to buy online, and you can usually build a better first aid kit (and a more customized kit) by purchasing the items separately. Then, just toss them in a Ziploc bag, and you’re done.
Regardless of what your backpacking first aid kit contains, it’s absolutely important to let everyone in your hiking group know that you pack one. Better yet, make sure to tell them beforehand where your kit is located, in your pack. You never know- they might need to get the kit out of your pack for you, one day.