What’s in My First Aid Kit for Hiking
Accidents happen… be prepared to deal with them by taking a first aid kit with medical supplies for hikers.
On more than one occasion, I needed my first aid kit to deal with accidents on trail. Fortunately, none of them have required an evacuation.
I was happy to have what I needed when a friend fell and suffered a deep cut on her arm. I cleaned it up using an irrigation syringe, then closed the wound with butterfly bandages. A regular band-aid would not have done the job since it was a deep puncture wound, and we would have needed to cut our trip short. I used a large clear bandage with a window so we could keep an eye on the wound, and we ended up able to stay the full five days on this backpacking trip.
Other times, I’ve needed moleskin to prevent blisters when friends had a hot spots. And I’ve used my first aid supplies on myself when I fell and hit my knee and head on rocks. This has happened to me multiple times. : (
I also take various over the counter medications, including ibuprofen, antacids, and antihistamines. The antihistamines can be very useful in allergic reaction situations, or when getting stung by insects.
Wilderness First Aid
While carrying first aid supplies is important when they are needed, it’s even more important to know to do when something happens. I’ve taken the NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification course through REI twice and it helped me discover what I needed for first aid. I highly recommend that every hiker take one of these courses. The basic class is usually held for eight hours over two days, but this can vary based on where the class is held. In the class, they go over basic techniques and then break out for hands on practice on different scenarios.
In addition to taking a class, it’s helpful to read up on first aid administered in the wilderness. Here are a couple of recommended resources:
- NOLS Wilderness First Aid – this book is full-featured guide to wilderness first-aid
- NOLS Wilderness Medicine Field Guide – a lightweight spiral-bound book small enough to take on trips
Basic First Aid Kits
The size of your first aid kit will depend upon the length of your journey and the size of the group that it is meant to treat. Shown above is the first kit I bought, which ended up being overkill for the types of trips that I do. However, a basic kit is a good way to get started, then you can refill with items as needed. These are all lightweight kits meant for hikers and outdoor adventurers. Ideally, each hiker will carry their own first aid kit with items specific to their needs.
- Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .5 Kit
- Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .7 Kit
- NOLS Med Kit 1.0
- NOLS Advanced Wound Care Kit
My First Aid Kit
When I first starting hiking, I bought a full-featured first-aid kit that weighed a pound. Over time, I discovered that I didn’t need everything in the kit so now I carry fewer items while still having everything I need to deal with emergencies on trail. Some of the items I carry came from that original kit, but most have been replaced with items from home.
Make Your Own First Aid Kit
This is my basic first aid kit for backpacking. The total weight of my kit is 4 ounces, including the zippered pouch I carry the supplies in.
- antiseptic towelettes for cleaning wounds
- antibiotic ointment, first aid and burn cream, sting relief in individual packets
- first aid tape – I take a small amount rolled up instead of a full roll
- moleskin for blister prevention
- tweezers (from my original first aid kit)
- irrigation syringe (without a needle) for cleaning wounds
- multi-tool with scissors for cutting moleskin, bandages, etc.
- disposable gloves
- gauze pads
- assorted bandages
- semi-transparent bandages for large wounds
- Wilderness first aid pocket guide
- assorted mix of over the counter medications, including antihistamine, anti-diarrhea tablets, ibuprofen and personal prescriptions
- Ezy Dose Pill Pouches: mini plastic bags for first aid pharmacy
Instead of purchasing various pills in travel packets, I use these tiny plastic bags to customize what I take based on medications from my home supplies.
- Salt Stick electrolytes: I tend to sweat a lot when hiking, and replacing electrolytes is essential. I like these capsules better than adding a powder mix to water. This product contains the same breakdown of minerals as your sweat: sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, plus vitamin D.
- ultralight zipper pouch
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