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Backpacking First Aid Kit - What's in a good one?

I'm always looking to take things out of my pack and resist buying the latest shining thing to add to the pack.

I've seen folks with giant 3lb first-responder type first aid kits, and too many folks with NO kit at all.

I've settled on a very small dedicated stuff sack to carry my kit.

Bandaids, paper tape, 1 and 2" adhesive pads, mole skin and mole foam, lots of blister stuff. A fair amount of acetaminophen for aches and pains, amount dependent upon the type of trip.

A tiny bottle of betadine.

A small zip lock of wet wipes.

Dental floss

a very small roll of that stretchy tape stuff to wrap an ankle

some KT or leukotape for hot spots when walking for miles in wet shoes.

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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we probably are beating this far too much, but hanta virus is a virus, and as such, can pass through most filters.  This may be irrelevant because the disease is acquired from contact with rodent feces (perWikipedia).

Anyway, part of my essentials gear are a small Esbit holder (1 oz),  about four esbit tabs, and a 12 oz capacity metal cup.  I can heat up water just about anyplace.  For that matter,James Wilkerson in Medicine for Mountaineering, advocates heating to around 170 F, and letting it cool, pointing out that milk is pasteurized at 165F.  in a first aid situation, who cares about how long it takes the water to boil?  Start early and you will be fine.  Or use the water in your canteen, replacing it with the boiled water.

This really picking at nits, however.  What counts is that you have first aid training and some equipment, certainly enough to stop the bleeding.  Unless you are far away from definitive care, everything is good.

FWIW, I would be happy to be under your care in a FA situation, whatever water might be available.

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One other item I forgot was hand sanitizer. I generally put that in with the trowel but a sealed sachet in the First Aid kit makes good sense.  Alchohol wipes are a bit too small for that purpose. 

Since backcountry hands are dirty hands even with hand sanitizer, two nitrile gloves at ~0.2oz each are probably worth including in case of a larger wound.

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I was going to do a post on this topic (and I still will!) but some quick observations: First, to minimize the bulk (and weight) in your kit, you obviously want to cut-out redundancy, for example, if you have Leukotape, you DON'T need Mole Skin (Leukotape is far superior anyway). So READ and/or do your research on the med's you think you need/want.

Second, only bring items that CAN'T be improvised, for example, I never bring Band-Aids or gauze pads. Instead, if I need a Band-Aid, I cut a short length from a roll of sterilized gauze, fold it, and apply with some Leukotape. Other items to include are items made of metal or plastic such as tweezers, safety pins, etc.

Third, LOOK at each individual item and figure a way to improvise it, for example, it's possible you may need to "irrigate" a wound (with some force to get the dirt out). So, cut the plastic tip from your irrigation syringe then poke it through the bottom corner of a plastic zip-lock bag. You won't save much weight, but you now don't have to stress over how to pack that syringe.

As far as med's are concerned, this should be based on the probable injuries you are likely to incur based on your expected activities (here again, READ the labels and DO your research!) However, I normally have both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) in my survival kit and first aid kit. This may seem redundant, and although they both address pain, they do it in different ways.

For example, consider why your dentist may use BOTH in toothache cases; They use Tylenol to address the immediate the pain you feel, they use Advil to address the swelling in the tooth (which causes the pain you feel), from the bacteria driving the infection, and they use a prescription antibiotic to address the bacteria/infection (which causes the pain and swelling).

More later....

While I agree with the overall points you make,  I don't agree that the examples you use. 

I want convenience.  If I scrape my finger and it bleeds annoyingly I want to slap a bandaid on it and move on.  I don't want to futz around with gauze, tape and scissor unless it's a larger wound that requires it.  They just don't weigh enough that the redundancy is worth considering.  You just don't need to bring a year's supply in every shape that's made.

Mole skin is thick so you can pad around a blister after it happens so it doesn't tear out.  You only want to use Leukotape directly on a hot spot.  They are not redundant.  You just don't need a square meter of it.

Personal sensitivity aside, while acetaminophen and ibuprofen work differently they both will reduce a fever and address pain but, Ibupofen also addresses inflammation and is a better match for typical trail problems.  Particularly for longer trips since acetaminophen should not be taken for more than 11 consecutive days. Again a few don't weigh much so if you want to bring some acetaminophen because it works for you then you should.  Just don't bring a year's supply.  Acetaminophen may be helpful as an immediate pain killer if you have a bleeding injury because ibuprofen may inhibit coagulation but that is the only reasons I see to prefer it.  Bleeding injuries that require immediate pain meds are not that common outside of surgery so personally I don't bother to bring it on domestic backpacking trips.

 

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Good points... however... if you find it necessary to take ANY med's for "11 days", chances are you don't need med's, you need a DOCTOR! As to the quantity, I carry a 3-day supply in my survival kit (which should be assembled with a 3-day ordeal in mind, anyway) and a travel-size container of each. Also, if free-bleeding were really a major concern with ibuprofen, dentists would be more hesitant to using it (similarly to aspirin). "Scrapes"? I'm a big girl now, I don't even waste my time on anything that needs a Band-Aid!

Band-Aids (a trademark/brand name, making capitalization proper) are great for speed and convenience, and of course, weigh nothing don't take any room. My point being they are unnecessary. But if you NEED to stop bleeding, you don't want a Band-Aid anyway, you probably need a product like Quick Clot, which is ALSO fast, convenient and don't weigh much, but is more appropriate for more serious wounds (and BTW, can't be improvised (yes, I carry this product too)).

Meh... Mole Skin - Leukotape... it's up to you, but Mole Skin WILL come loose, Duct tape WILL come loose, Leukotape will absolutely, positively will not!!! And if you wrap some around your trekking pole (along with a little duct tape, toe tape, etc.) it doesn't weigh anything and takes NO room. In any case, the best way to address blisters is to NOT get them, you do this by having PROPERLY fitted footwear.

Moreover, you should NOT stock your TRAIL first-aid kit to treat little "ouchies" (the kind mommy fixed with a little kiss), you want a kit that will help if you NEED it (the operative word here being, "Need"). As I always say, "if it's hot out, you're going to be hot. If it's cold out, you're going to be cold. If it's wet out, you're going to be wet. The trick is in not minding so much." So too goes minor injuries (the operative word here being, "Minor").

So forget Band-Aids, just rub some dirt on it (yes, kidding) and move on. Forget the sunburn ointment, you could probably use some color anyway (UNLESS you'll be at sea or in a desert/arid environment). And forget the prepacked, off-the-shelf kits, experience (or those with experience) and a little logic will tell you what you need and don't need!

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I guess we have different takes on this.  For me back country backpacking is a recreation and a vacation.  I'm not deliberately "roughing it"  and I see no reason to be any more uncomfortable than is necessary to enjoy being in the back country.  Part of that is not carrying unnecessary things and I do agree that most commercial offerings are not really appropriate.  Although some give you a good start it is better to create your own...at least for personal use.

Backpacking is not a "survival" situation unless you push the limits or are extremely unlucky...but that can happen in any context.  I don't know the statistics but the accepted wisdom is that injuries beyond things like minor cuts, scraps, blisters, bug bites, sunburn, windburn and chafe are very rare.  None of these are immediately life threatening for most people.  The object is to relieve the issue so you can get on with enjoying yourself. 

Anything beyond that you will need to improvise as you would in any situation where other help is not immediately available...except that you have the benefit of a lot technical backpacking gear that can be re-purposed.  That is where getting some backcounty first aid training or researching how to respond to the next level of injuries can help.

My point about acetaminophen is that occasional backpackers will generally experience aches and pains due to the sudden transition to continuous exercise and will take pain meds to get some relief.  It is a very bad idea to use acetaminophen in that way.

There are other common conditions it is good to bring some common drugs for but I listed them back that the beginning.

Since it wasn't obvious...I use leuko tape to secure the moleskin which pads around the blister.  I don't put leuko tape directly on a formed or popped blister and I don't recommend it.

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> ... For me back country backpacking is a recreation and a vacation.

To this I often say "Have fun in the wilderness, but don't PLAY in the wilderness." One of the reasons why people get into trouble is precisely because they have a "vacation mentality" in wilderness areas. Take sailing, even if you're on a simple day-sail, there's just enough to do to keep your mind occupied and STILL just relax and "have fun." But land or sea, there are unwritten RULES of conduct to abide by (like it or not) that keep you out of trouble.

> I'm not deliberately "roughing it"  and I see no reason to be any more uncomfortable than is necessary to enjoy being in the back country.

Literally EVERYTHING in your pack is all about creature comforts. It's all there to make your stay in the wild more comfortable, efficient and even safer. What you have, or don't have (or improvise), will reflect/dictate what level of comfort you are willing to accept. It's a given that some prefer "glamping" to "roughing it", that's all fine as long as it doesn't compromise safety or compound risk.

> Backpacking is not a "survival" situation unless you push the limits or are extremely unlucky...but that can happen in any context. 
As I've said before, "Wilderness survival is ACTUALLY just an extension of wilderness safety, and wilderness safety is all about risk management", and "The first rule of wilderness survival is to AVOID wilderness survival." Also, while a survival ordeal may start without your knowledge, it begins when you first become aware of a survival situation formation and doesn't end until you regain control (typically by rescue). It has very little to do with "luck" (the better you are, the "luckier" you get!). Everything that happens is foreseeable.
> I don't know the statistics but the accepted wisdom is that injuries beyond things like minor cuts, scraps, blisters, bug bites, sunburn, windburn and chafe are very rare.  None of these are immediately life threatening for most people.  The object is to relieve the issue so you can get on with enjoying yourself.
If you're more into "glamping" than camping, sure, why not bring hairspray and curlers... for those catastrophic 'bad hair days' on the trail. But if we're talking about not bringing unnecessary clutter/weight (particularly in your first-aid kit), then that may depend on how tough you are. Otherwise, we're talking about what is "necessary" (again, the operative word).
> My point about acetaminophen is that occasional backpackers will generally experience aches and pains due to the sudden transition to continuous exercise and will take pain meds to get some relief.  It is a very bad idea to use acetaminophen in that way.

(This is really just a continuation of the previous paragraph) Whether your idea of "laps" is running to-and-from the refrigerator during commercials and you're just not used to exerting yourself, or you're doing a particularly strenuous activity and you have minor aches the next day depite extensive physical training, the "... tough get going..." without popping pills or applying Band-Aids upon every/any little discomfort.

> Since it wasn't obvious...I use leuko tape to secure the moleskin which pads around the blister.  I don't put leuko tape directly on a formed or popped blister and I don't recommend it.

I understand what you're saying, however, I reiterate: PROPERLY fitted footwear don't cause blisters. I have had blisters in the past, so what I have done in those cases is when a blister forms, I puncture it at the bottom edge with a safety pin, then drain, clean and dry it (if it's in camp, I drain and dry the blister overnight) and maybe apply some Neosporin, then I apply the Leukotape. Once that's done, I don't plan on removing it until after I get home. If the blister is sufficiently drained, the lifted skin will loosely adhere itself back onto the tender tissue beneath while the Leukotape, because it adheres so securely, deals with any rubbing that caused the blister in the first place. This means means any Mole Skin is purely superfluous and therefore unnecessary. But... to each his own.

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I receive periodic emails from Andrew Skurka, who many of you probably know as a world-renowned hiker and adventurer. Interestingly, the most recent one was about his first aid kit strategy.  Of course it may not be appropriate for everyone, or for every situation, but I thougt it worth sharing.

https://andrewskurka.com/backpacking-first-aid-kit-gear-list-downloadable-checklist/?mc_cid=c41f382b...

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.