As the weather turns to ideal temperatures for exploring our great outdoors—camping, hiking, and discovering the parks—packing an outdoor first aid kit with supplies for simple cuts, scrapes, blisters, bug or animal bites, and splinters is a must.
Begin first by ensuring the kit itself is waterproof. Make use of assorted sizes of resealable plastic bags and bottles while organizing your kit essentials into clearly labeled sections. Although prepackaged kits are widely available, you may need to supplement your kit with additional items such as prescription medications, and/or medications for conditions specific to anyone in your group—an epinephrine pen for severe allergies, or glucose tablets for diabetics, for example.
No matter how careful you are in the wild, you will find some of the items inside the kit will be used regularly and should be replaced often, and some may expire before you have the chance to use them. These items include:
- Assorted gauze pads and bandages
- Tape—typically 1-inch in width with at least 10 yards
- Wound strips such as butterfly closures of assorted sizes
- Alcohol wipes and antibiotic ointment
- Moleskin for blister care
- Medications: ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antihistamine, aspirin, and anti-diarrheal
Other items that may rarely be used but are critical in an emergency:
- ACE wrap/athletic tape: great for stabilizing mild to moderate injuries or sprains
- Trauma pad: used to cover most large wounds to minimize blood loss when applying pressure and keep wounds clean
- Tweezers/nail clippers: essential for accidental encounters with native cacti or removal of insect stingers, ticks, or debris from a wound
- CPR barrier and nitrile gloves
- Duct tape: handy for injuries and repairs of equipment
- Malleable splint: lightweight foam-covered aluminum, such as a SAM splint
- Tourniquet: for hardy hikers who find themselves heading to extremely remote areas
- A multi-use tool
- Trauma shears: ensure they can cut into clothing such as a T-shirt to wrap a wound or tie up a splint
The best first-aid kits have manuals or booklets and patient assessment forms that can be filled out and provided to emergency responders or a doctor once the injured reaches a point of care. Even if you are trained, references such as the American Red Cross First Aid Fast provides emergency action information and basic caregiving steps for a range of situations, including first aid, cardiac emergencies, stroke, burns, choking, allergic reactions, and more.
Aside from the very basic essentials any given first aid kit provides, the appropriate kit scope depends wholly on the trip length, group demographics, and size. When in doubt, a pharmacist at your local pharmacy can help answer questions and provide guidance on what to include to preserve and protect your health in the great outdoors.