First Aid Kits are essential whenever you plan on camping or being outside for any prolonged period of time. They can come in handy in a variety of situations and if you’re a believer in Murphy’s law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Hopefully, you will never have to use a First Aid Kit for anything serious, but it’s best to be prepared. Maintaining current First Aid & CPR certification is also crucial.
It’s important to go through your First Aid Kit at least once a year. Replace anything that has been used, throw out anything that is expired or damaged and make sure the kit suits the needs of your group and your planned activities.
Pre-packaged kits are available at most outdoor stores for anywhere from $25-$100+, however, they can be over-priced and/or lacking in practical material. If you do buy a pre-packaged kit, you may want to go through and add to it. The advantage to a pre-packaged kit is that everything is disposable and individually packaged. However, once you’ve used bits and pieces out of the kit, it may be difficult to find only the replacement pieces you need. You may end up having to buy a brand new kit every time you use something.
Making your own kit by buying whole bottles and tubes of anti-septic wash, antibiotic cream, etc. will be cheaper in the long run (especially if you’re as accident-prone as we are), but you have to be very careful not to contaminate the whole bottle/tube when using them. Never touch the opening of a tube/bottle directly to your skin (the wound OR your finger), as this can result in bacteria entering the container which can actually make an infection worse the next time you use it. Always use Q-tips or sterilized cotton pads to apply anything topical.
Even though it is heavier and takes up more space, I prefer to build my own basic kit, which includes the following:
- Hand sanitizer ($1.26) — You can’t dress a wound with grimy hands and the alcohol content can come in handy if you’re having trouble starting a fire. Go for a non-scented version to avoid skin reactions and attracting unwanted animals.
- Band-Aids ($3.77) — Get a package with large and small bandages. These work for most small cuts, scrapes, burns and blisters. Check these once in a while to make sure that they are still individually sealed. If the packaging is damaged or has gotten wet, throw them away and buy new ones — using un-sterile bandages on open wounds can cause infection.
- Large sterilized bandages ($3.47) — Each box comes with 12 individually packaged non-woven pads that are folded into 7.5 x 7.5cm. They can be unfolded up to 14 x 14cm. These would be used for larger gashes and burns. Again, make sure the packaging is still intact.
- Waterproof adhesive tape ($2.83 for 9.14m) — This is used to hold the larger pad bandages in place or for a makeshift splint. It is very strong and can also come in handy for other non-medical emergencies.
- Non-alcohol based anti-septic wash or swabs ($5.97/177mL bottle) — Used to clean open wounds or burns before bandaging them. It was difficult to find swabs which are normally included in pre-packaged First Aid kits, but the bottles are found in most pharmacies. No expiry date, however do not touch the tip of the bottle directly to skin.
- Polysporin ($6.97/15g tube) — Used to treat and help prevent infections on cuts and burns. Again, do not apply the tube directly to your skin, you will contaminate the whole tube. Watch the expiry date.
- Q-tips ($2/travel-sized box of 30) — Used for application of Polysporin, etc. Do not apply anything topical directly to the wound or your finger. You can buy small, sealed packages of Q-Tips from your pharmacy’s travel section. Keep them closed until you actually need to use them to keep them clean.
- Liquid spray-on bandage ($7.49) — Used for gashes in places that are difficult to heal — Achilles tendon, finger knuckle, knee, elbow, etc. Make sure the cut has been cleaned with an anti-septic before using liquid bandage, otherwise you will just be sealing the infection in, possibly making it worse.
- Solarcaine gel with aloe ($7.23/110mL bottle) — Used to cool, and relieve pain and irritation from sunburns, minor burns, cuts and bug bites. Apply with a Q-tip or a sterilized non-woven pad. Watch the expiry.
- Eye wash ($5.77/110mL bottle with eye wash cup) — Used to flush out eyes (sand, black flies, bug spray), also good for flushing debris out of cuts. These are usually a one time use item; if you’ve used it and there is still some left, I would throw it away and buy another. Also, watch the expiry.
- Tweezers ($0.98) — Good for removing ticks and slivers. They should be sterilized with alcohol between uses.
- Acetaminophen (extra-strength 500mg tablets, 50 tablets per bottle $3.97) — Relieves fevers/headaches.
- Ibuprofen (200mg tablets, 24 tablets per bottle $1.97) — Good for muscle aches and pains.
- Anti-Diarrhea medication ($9.94/box of 10 pills) — It sounds funny, but if you’re back-country camping and accidentally ingest un-purified water, you could be in serious trouble. Diarrhea can cause you to become dehydrated, which can then cause fatigue and weakness and if left untreated can actually cause kidney problems.
- Antihistamine (essential for me, optional for most – $10/bottle) — If you are like me and have outdoor allergies, bring an over the counter antihistamine like chlorpheniramine maleate. There’s nothing worse than a drippy nose when you’re hiking. If you have ever suffered anaphylactic shock, obviously bring any necessary medication as a precaution.
- A bag to hold it all ($8-$17) — Any waterproof bag will do.
- Pill containers ($5.75) — To hold medications so that you don’t have to bring big bottles — make sure these are clearly labelled.
These are the basic things that I bring on most camping trips for 2 adults. If there are children in your group, you will want to get the children’s version of the medications listed above since most medicines are not for anyone under 12 years old. Try to keep your kit in a cool, dry, shady place whenever possible. Different situations, activities and climates require different First Aid kits. Make sure yours suits what you’re doing, where you’re doing it.
Have I missed anything? What do you bring?