A first aid kit is essential for every home, but it’s also important for hikers. Keeping a first aid kit in your backpack will ensure you have something to grab in the event of a bite, burn, graze, cut or break.
What Should Be In A Hiking First Aid Kit?
What should a hiking first aid kit contain? Well, it largely depends on where you’re hiking, if you’re hiking alone or in a group, and if you have any specific needs. Generally speaking, though, you should include all of the following items in your homemade first aid kit:
Basic First Aid Supplies
Some of the basic first aid supplies include antibacterial ointment, gauzes, blister treatments, safety pins, and insect repellent/relief.
Bandages and Wound Dressings
Include splints, assorted bandages (including an arm sling and butterfly bandages) in your first aid kit. These are the most important supplies as grazes and abrasions are very common and proper wound dressing will help to clean them, stop the bleeding, and support injured appendages.
Medications and Treatments
If you have any prescription medications that you use regularly and may need in an emergency, include them in your first aid kit. This includes heart medications, blood pressure medications, and anything that you may need in the event of a medical emergency, including allergic reactions.
Topical anesthetic can come in handy and your first aid kit should also include OTC pain relief, lubricating eye drops, antacids, throat lozenges, and antidiarrheal pills. Oral rehydration salts and treatments for foot fungus, poison oak/ivy, and sunburn should also be included.
First Aid Tools and Supplies
A waterproof container should be included in your first aid kit to give you somewhere to put medications and other essential supplies. A medical waste bag (or a plastic bag) must be included to store used supplies.
Other essential tools include duct tape (very useful in an emergency), hand warmers, a suture kit, a CPR mask, scalpel, scissors, thermometer, and a small mirror to help you treat facial injuries.
Wound irrigation is also required as it will help you to clean wounds before dressing them.
Why Do You Need A First Aid Kit For Hiking?
Unless you have experience with hiking, climbing, or general outdoor adventuring, you might question the need for a first aid kit.
After all, how bad could an injury possibly be, and can’t you just walk/hobble back home and deal with it then?
That’s the same attitude that many hikers have when they break their ankles or legs at the end of an empty trail and then need to wait for someone to come and save them. It’s the same attitude that people have before they are bitten by a snake or suffer a deep cut that starts bleeding out.
A first aid kit might not save your life in the event of a serious fall, and you’ll still need medical attention if you’re bitten by a snake, but it can buy you more time following serious injuries and help you to heal quickly from minor ones.
Proper preparation is essential if you want to stay safe on the trail, and a first aid kit plays a big part in that preparation.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Among Hikers?
Hikers can suffer from a slew of different injuries, many of which are treatable using a well-packed first aid kit. They include:
Abrasions occur as a result of everything from thorns and fence posts to sharp rocks and improper use of knives.
Chafing is not serious, but it is very uncomfortable. It occurs when your clothing rubs against your skin and is worsened by the presence of sweat, dirt, and sand. Adding a little lubricant will help, as will wearing moisture-wicking underwear.
Although painful, cramps are fairly easy to fix. They occur as a result of sustained exertion and a loss of fluids and salts. You can fix a cramp by stretching and taking some salts/electrolytes on board.
Fatal snake bites are rare in the United States but they do occur and if you’re not prepared, you could become part of that statistic. Tick bites are also common and could lead to Lyme disease, a life-changing condition.
Blisters are common in inexperienced hikers and are caused by friction. They can make your walk very uncomfortable and leave you hobbling for a couple of days afterward, but they are not serious.
Sunburn is a very serious and common complaint among hikers. If you’re not careful, you could seriously damage your skin and increase the risk of cancerous growth. You may also suffer from heatstroke. At the very least, it’s going to make you very red and sore for a few days.
Use sunscreen or sunblock and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself when walking in the spring and summer heat. If you do suffer from a burn, use aloe vera gel to moisturize and protect your skin.
Rugged terrain is tailormade for sprained ankles and you may also sprain your wrist if you trip, fall, and thrust out your hands to protect yourself. It can be painful, but it shouldn’t be serious, assuming you can still walk unaided.
A broken bone is one of the worst injuries that you can suffer out on the trail. It usually occurs as a result of a slip or fall or by accidentally kicking a rock or tree stump.
A good first aid kit can help you following a minor fracture.
If you slip and fall on the trail or tumble over a rocky ledge, you could hit your head and suffer a serious head injury. You may be incapacitated, in which case there’s not much you can do except to call for help and pray that it arrives.
This is why you should always tell someone where you’re going and take a hiking buddy with you.
Can You Buy Hiking First Aid Kits Online?
You can buy prepackaged kits from Amazon, and these should contain most of what you need. But they don’t use the highest-quality materials or tools and they might be missing a few essentials.
For instance, you’re probably not going to find any medications (OTC or otherwise) in a cheap Amazon first aid kit. These kits are often produced in bulk in China and as medication laws can vary and medications can expire, they are rarely included. The supplies you get will also be more specific to general wound care in the home or on the road, as opposed to hiking.
You can buy high-quality first aid kits online, but the best ones aren’t cheap and you might need to add and remove a few items to make it hiking-ready.
Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own First Aid Kit?
DIY first aid kits are nearly always cheaper. The manufacturers can buy the tools in bulk and this helps to drive down the cost of the kit. However, you’re usually getting cheaper supplies and it’s not tailored to meet your needs or the needs of your group.
It will save you time and money, there’s no doubt about that, but you might find yourself with a lot of supplies that you don’t need and low-quality versions of the ones that you do need.
What Should You Not Put In A First Aid Kit?
Your first aid kit should not include anything that could cause allergic reactions in you or anyone in your group. If these supplies are essential, make sure they are clearly marked so that they won’t be grabbed and used in an emergency.
You should also refrain from including any tools that have not been properly cleaned and sanitized. If you have used a knife or pair of scissors, then don’t put it straight back in the box. Sanitize it first to prevent infection when it’s used again.
When adding prescription medications and OTC meds, check that they have not passed their expiration dates. At best, expired meds are ineffective and won’t provide the relief that you need. At worst, they could cause harm.
Summary: First Aid Kit Checklist
To summarize, when compiling your own personal first aid kit, remember to include (or at least consider) all of the following items:
- A Small Mirror
- Aloe Vera Gel
- Antibacterial Ointment
- Antidiarrheal Pills
- Antifungal Foot Powder
- Antiseptic Wipes
- Assorted Bandages (including adhesive bandages)
- Blister Treatments
- Cleansing Pads
- CPR Mask
- Cotton Swabs
- Duct Tape
- Elastic Wrap
- Epi Pen
- Essential Prescription Medications
- Eye Pads
- Finger Splints
- Gauzes Of Various Sizes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Hand Warmers
- Insect Repellent
- Insect Sting Relief
- Irrigation Syringe
- Lubricating Eye Drops
- Medical Gloves
- Medical Tape
- Medical Waste Bag
- Oral Rehydration Salts
- Painkillers (Including Aspirin and Ibuprofen)
- Poison Ivy Treatments
- Poison Oak Treatments
- Safety Pins
- SAM Splint
- Sterile Pads
- Sugar Solution
- Suture Kit
- Throat Lozenges
- Topical Anesthetic
- Waterproof Container
And remember, a first aid kit can only go so far. You need to know how to use it.
If you’re hiking a lot, consider taking a wilderness first aid course. You’ll get some basic medical training and it could be enough to save the life of a friend or yourself. If nothing else, it will teach you how to quickly dress wounds and deal with emergencies to improve their prognosis and make life easier for the medical professional that eventually treats them.