How To: Prepare a First Aid Kit for Hiking

When it comes to first aid some thoughtful preparation can go a long way to offering peace of mind or saving a life. Most everyone will use their kit at some point during an adventure. Though we hope it’s the clean-and-cover-a-small-cut situation, it’s possible to deal with something more serious—be prepared with a well stocked kit and know how to use it!

What Will You Need?

Much of what you’ll need for survival will be packed with your gear: Water, food, shelter, clothes, etc. See our post “How to Pack a Backpack” for a more comprehensive list. When hiking, it’s best to be prepared for a variety of ailments and emergencies. Some possibilities are:

• Wounds/bleeding—antiseptic pads (cleaning/sterilizing), adhesive band aids and gauze pads (various sizes)
• Blisters—moleskin
• Pain—acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin
• Broken bones—Splint (you can use sturdy sticks/tree limbs from the trail if necessary to avoid packing extra weight), duct tape, sterile gauze, self-adhesive bandages
• Bites (snake/bug)—snake bite kit (know how to use it), bug spray (prevention), essential oil of citronella or lavender (can also treat bites and is analgesic)
• Forms of indigestion—over the counter diarrhea medicine (antacid tablets)

It’s also important to take along any personal medications. And you may want plastic zipper bags to waterproof items in your kit.

Take a First Aid Course

To properly prepare your kit and know how to use it, consider taking a course in first aid. Most communities offer low cost options and present courses during evenings and weekends to accommodate work schedules.

Here’s another consideration for committed adventuring teams—get with your hiking/camping group and review skills within the group. You could even assign certain duties to specific members. Always have a back-up person for each assignment.

What to Do

A first aid class or planning session with your group can help you know what to do in emergency situations. Some specifics will of course be necessary depending on the type of emergency, but in all cases there are a few important reactions:

• Stay calm—with a cool head you’ll be able to assess a situation and be more efficient.
• Breathe—get/keep oxygen flowing to your brain and help keep your heart rate down.
• Know your resources—i.e., who knows CPR? Who would you ask to splint a leg? Where is the space blanket located?
• If the injured person is unconscious—check his airway first, then heart rate, stop bleeding next—know how to test for dehydration and treat for shock.

Don’t go overboard

With all this talk of being prepared, you don’t want your first aid kit matching the weight of your pack. Keep it light by using travel-sized or single use items. Remember that roughing it often calls for ingenuity—certain things will work in a pinch.

Be prepared and have fun!

Peace-of-mind is a symptom of preparedness. Armed with your kit and training you can adventure on!

About the Author

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TETON Sports