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What Should be in a Wilderness First Aid Kit

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wilderness first aid kit

Maybe you think of first aid kits as the little plastic box that lives under your bathroom sink. Or the zippered pouch in the trunk of your car that hasn’t been restocked in ages. But did you know that a first aid kit is one of the 10 essentials you should always keep in your backpack whether you’re headed out on a short day hike or week-long excursion? Well, it is. Cause you never know when you’re gonna need to treat a blister or bee sting, or worse, a sprained ankle or nasty gash. But what should be in a wilderness first aid kit? We got you. Here’s a list (and a few solid pre-packed kits) based on your adventure.

wilderness first aid kit for day hikes

What Should be in a Wilderness First Aid Kit: Day Hikes

Day hikes (trips ranging from 30 minutes to 13 hours where you don’t spend the night outdoors) require a different set of first aid provisions than many longer overnight backpacking trips. The biggest difference in the kit list being that you don’t usually need to account for eventualities where you’ll likely be stuck in the wilderness for days longer than you planned to. That said, even if you’re going on an easy, short hike on a well-marked trail, you should always come prepared with a wilderness first aid kit. Here’s what to stuff inside for day hikes:

  • Adhesive bandages in multiple shapes and sizes
  • Elastic bandage
  • Gauze
  • Bite and sting relief ointment
  • Moleskin or other blister treatment
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen
  • Antihistamines
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Duct Tape (fixes everything!)

wilderness first aid kit backpacking

What Should be in a Wilderness First Aid Kit: Backpacking & Trekking

Overnight trips, on the other hand, whether they last one night or a dozen, require that you pack a few more items in your wilderness first aid kit. Mostly because you’ll likely be farther from medical help and care, so you’ll need to be self-sufficient and tackle more injuries on your own if they arise. That said, here’s what to bring on longer excursions:

  • Adhesive bandages in multiple shapes and sizes
  • Elastic bandage
  • Gauze
  • Bite and sting relief ointment
  • Moleskin or other blister treatment
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen
  • Antihistamines
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Cotton swabs
  • Duct Tape (fixes everything!)
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Wound irrigation syringe
  • Medical tape
  • Medical scissors
  • Povidone-iodine (for preventing wound infection)
  • Diamode (for treating diarrhea)
  • Safety pins
  • Quick clot agent
bite and sting extractor

Don’t bother packing a bite and sting extractor; they’re not any more useful than tweezers for removing insect stingers and they certainly won’t help in a snakebite situation.

What Not to put in a Wilderness First Aid Kit: Unnecessary Items

As many things as you should pack in your wilderness first aid kit, there are certainly a few you can leave at home. Manufacturers sell you on ease and preparedness, but even outdoor professionals admit these items are rarely necessary. Here are the things that you can leave at home (or on outdoor store shelves) to save on pack space and weight:

  • Snakebite kit/Venom extractor (research shows these are essentially useless)
  • Backcountry splint or tourniquet (these can be easily improvised with found materials)
  • Sling/V-shaped bandage (a T-shirt or bandana will work just fine)

What Else to Carry with a Wilderness First Aid Kit: Additional Items

There are plenty of additional items that aren’t directly related to first aid but definitely still have to do with your health (many are in the widely-respected list of 10 hiking essentials). Like clean drinking water and survival tools. So in addition to your wilderness first aid kit, bring this stuff along, too:

wilderness first aid kit

Where to Find Wilderness First Aid Kits

Time to quit risking it and buy a first aid kit? Or maybe restock an old kit (medications and such do expire, ya know)? There are plenty of options out there. For day hikes and shorter backpacking trips, we like the Adventure Medical .3 First Aid Kit because it’s small and light and has everything we need, but the MyMedic MedPacks Hiker Medic is a well-rounded kit, too (and comes with colorful bandages for the child in all of us). For longer or wilderness treks, check out the MyMedic Solo First Aid Kit. It may weigh a little more, but you’re practically guaranteed to have everything you need at your fingertips should, as they say, the excrement hit the fan. So gear up and get out there. And don’t be afraid of blisters, lacerations and broken bones; you probably won’t suffer from any of them (but if you do, you’ll know you’re prepared).

Wander on!

 

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