REI, Adventure Medical, and other companies have build quite a market around complex pre-built first aid kits. These kits can come very organized with quite a few components to them. They are often tailored to general circumstances, and contain a lot of potential yet unneeded trash.
I believe that first aid kits are very personal and should be customized individually based on your training, your trip, and your expectation of care. I am of the minimalist philosophy. I bring the very basics and accept a slightly lower expectation of care.
Of course, any first aid kit must also be accompanied by training. I highly recommend at least taking a Wilderness First Aid course if you are often in the wilderness. Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC), based out of Winthhrop, WA, offers both a blended learning model (with online learning components) and a full in-person model for their first aid courses. They offer trainings around the country, so check out their training schedule for the next one near you. I give them my highest recommendation. All their instructors do a wonderful job.
I carry a modified version of the WMTC suggested basic kit with some modifications to include some of the items in their small group kit. I have been receiving my Wilderness First Responder training from WMTC, and in general, I tend to agree with their philosophy. Is my first aid kit heavier than others? Yes. But I have what I need, and I know how to use every piece of equipment in there.
So, enough talk, let’s dig deeper into my first aid kit. I’m going to talk you through the general setup first, then give you a detailed list of everything I carry. Let’s start with the bag. I use WMTC’s Minimalist First Aid Pack. Their theory behind bags is one that is durable and flexible. As such, the interior is taken up by a slash, a zippered bellows pocket, three long spine pockets, and an array of elastic loops. The loops can be moved around and customized to your personal fit. One longer elastic loop is designed specifically for a wound irrigation syringe. Supplies, tapes, and more are stored in the pockets, and the elastic loops are designed specifically for small Nalgenes to store pills, ointments, Q-Tips, and Roller Gauze. Finally, WMTC’s first aid manual just fits inside the bag, between the Nalgenes and the bellows pocket.
The entire kit weighs 1 pound, 6.5 ounces And is quite compact. I do wish that the first aid bag was about an inch or two longer. That would give me enough space to more comfortably fit the extra medications I’ve added and have a little extra room for specialty items for different trips. But, it fits everything I really need.
So, now you have the lay of the land, here’s my complete list.In the image above, left to right and then top to bottom.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)During an anaphylactic reaction, it is critical to administer diphenhydramine as soon as possible and to continue administering until the antigens are fully flushed out of the patient’s system..25 ounce Nalgene in small elastic loop
|2 Epi-Pens (not pictured above)||For preventing suffocation due to anaphylaxis (systemic allergic reaction). Epi-Pens require a prescription and training to know how to use them.||Zippered Bellows Pocket|
|Dissolving Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)||In the event of an anaphylaxis (a systemic allergic reaction), two things are necessary to save your life: epinephrine to open your airway and an antihistamine to stop the allergic reaction. One along cannot save your life. However, quick application of an antihistamine could potentially stop a systemic allergic reaction from occurring. These strips dissolve on the tongue for the quickest possible entry into your system. They can easily still be followed by pills, but this quick reaction may prevent or reduce the need for Epinephrine.||Slash Pocket|
|Loperamide HCI||For relieving symptoms from diarrhea (loperamide). This is also very helpful in differentiating between gas and something more serious, like appendicitis.||Zippered Bellows Pocket|
|Sennosides||Packed in with the Loperamide HCI. For relieving constipation and irregularity. This can be uncomfortable on smaller trips and a big problem on longer trips.||Zippered Bellows Pocket|
|Chewable Low Dose Aspirin||For treating suspected heart attack symptoms. Give these immediately in an effort to relieve the symptoms, but an immediate EVAC is in needed.||Zippered Bellows Pocket|
|WMTC Field Guide||Being a believer in the WTMC’s training, I also carry along their field guide. It’s the best light, portable, durable field guide I’ve used, and it packs a ton of useful information into it. Even more so if you’ve been through their training and understand how it’s organized. This is my go to place for troubleshooting tricky outdoor conditions. Because the majority of the time, that’s what you have. Some vague symptoms, and someone that is not in obvious distress, but just uncomfortable. Sorting out gas from appendicitis in the field is the difference between Tums and an immediate EVAC.||Main Body of Pack|
|Ibuprofen (Advil®)||My pain killer of choice. I generally do not take medications very often, however, sometimes a pain killer and inflammation reducer can help with self rescue.||.5 ounce Nalgene in small elastic loop|
|Tincture of Benzoin||This helps tape and bandages stick while protecting the skin. Apply it to the outside of the wound (it contains alcohol, so don’t let it get into the wound).||.5 ounce Nalgene in small elastic loop|
|White Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline)||Vaseline or Neosporin can be used on gauze to help encourage healing in wounds.||.25 ounce Nalgene in small elastic loop|
|Q-Tips||Used to apply Tincture of Benzoin and Vaseline. Pro Tip: Always get name brand Q-Tips. I have tried generic brands, and the cotton wad pulls apart too easily, leaving the potential to leave cotton strands in a wound.||28 mL Nalgene Snap Top in two small elastic loops|
|10% Provodine Iodine||This purifier serves two purposes. When mixed to a 1% solution, this can be used to clean wounds. It doubles as a water purification method as well. Add 5 drops to a liter of water, wait 30 minutes, and presto: drinkable water. If the water is particularly cloudy, add 10 drops per liter.||1 ounce dropper bottle in large elastic loop|
|Roller Gauze||Instead of carrying individually packaged, simply cut whatever gauze you need from the roll. Combined with flexible medical tape, this works to create any size bandage you need.||Snap Top Nalgene in large elastic loop|
|Sterile Roller Gauze||For wounds that need wrapping or if extra gauze is needed.||Zippered Bellows Pocket|
|Oral Rehydration Salts||For dealing with electrolyte sickness during moderate dehydration.||Slash pocket|
|WTMC Minimalist First Aid Pack||Customizable and rugged, this first aid pack allows me to keep supplies organized on the trail.||Backpack|
|SOAP Note||Printed on waterproof, tear-resistant, write-in-rain paper. These notes help both recording what you’ve done with a patient and help remember the parts of the assessment process.||Slash pocket|
|12cc Irrigation Syringe||For cleaning wounds with the Providing Iodine solution.||The wide elastic strap|
|Extended Range Digital Thermometer||Used to determine if someone has a fever or identifying where they are on the hypothermia scale.||Small vertical storage pocket|
|2 Scalpel Blades||Sterile scalpel blades are useful for lancing small abscesses and blisters.||Slash Pocket|
|Scalpel Handle (not pictured above)||For making wielding the scalpel blades easier.||Vertical spine pocket|
|Space Pen||For writing on SOAP notes, etc.||Slash pocket|
|Uncle Bill’s Silver Gripper Tweezers||Used to remove splinters from the skin or foreign objects from a wound.||Zippered bellows pocket|
|Foreceps (not pictured above)||Like the tweezers, this is good for removing splinters. It’s also good for probing a wound or packing gauze into an abscess. If you know what you’re doing (which I do not), it also can lock down to clamp a bleeding artery.||Slash Pocket|
|Surgical Scissors||Used to cut gauzes, Engo Patches, moleskin, tape, etc.||Slash Pocket|
|2 Bandaids||One small, one large, both Winnie the Pooh. They can be used for small cuts and abrasions, though they are even more effective as a placebo for younger hikers.||Slash pocket|
|Flexible Medical Tape||Two feet of two-inch tape, folded.||Slash pocket|
|Micro-thin Film Dressings||Two of each two- and four-inch for protecting burns, abrasions, and clean wounds. They hold up much longer in rough and sometimes wet outdoor conditions than other bandages.||Slash pocket|
|List of Contents||Includes a list of all the contents, their uses, and their location in the pack (an abbreviated version of this list). For drugs, it includes key warnings and instructions for use. Printed on water and tear resistant paper. Since there was extra room, I also included emergency contact numbers.||Slash pocket|
|Second Skin||Two small and two large patches for dealing with blisters on the trail.||Slash pocket|
|Engo Blister Patch||Much better than moleskin, Engo patches get put in the shoe rather than on the skin (removing the need for constant reapplying).||Slash pocket|
|Steri-strips||Three packets each of 1.5″ strips and 4″ strips for closing facial wounds or other clean wounds.||Slash pocket|
|Quick Clot||For stopping a major bleed. Although rare, a major bleed in the backcountry can be quickly life threatening.||10+ Essentials Organizer|
|Face Shield||For performing CPR on unknown patients.||Slash pocket|
|Nitrile Gloves||For protection when dealing with significant wounds. Stored in a biohazard bag.||Slash pocket|
|Blanket Pins||For making a quick arm brace out of someone’s sleeve.||10+ Essentials Organizer|
|WMTC’s Digital Handbook (not pictured above)||I keep a digital version of the handbook on my phone. I still carry the physical because in an emergency, who wants to be handling a phone? And who wants to rely on a battery when it comes to important first aid information.||iPhone|
|WMTC’s Interactive SOAP Notes (not pictured above)||I also have the digital version of the SOAP notes that can be filled out on my phone. Although harder to manage than pen and paper, it is a good backup.||iPhone|