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First aid kit contents?
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Yak Attack
(Yak) - M

Locale: IN, USA
First aid kit contents? on 10/09/2013 22:26:45 MDT Print View

Hello everyone. I'm new here. I'm not new to backpacking, but I am new to the lightweight thing.

I've been a bit down-and-out medically speaking for a few years, but I'm making the turn and looking forward to hitting the trail again. I weighed my first aid kit (FAK) tonight on my kitchen scale, and it weighed in at about 12oz. I think I can do better than this.

Just for background, I'm type-1 diabetic and have rheumatoid arthritis, so my immune system is a trainwreck -- any type of infection is a serious concern because of the immunosuppressants I have to take for my RA.

With that in mind, would y'all care to share what's in your FAK and how you pack it? I've learned a ton from this place since I started reading here about a month ago, which is why I joined. Looking forward to your input.

I did read through the entire footcare thread ( Sorry for the mega-link, still learning how to post correctly...


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/09/2013 22:33:49 MDT Print View

First of all, you want to think about what you really need in a first aid kit. For example, do you go solo or with a group? Where do you go? Some woods in Indiana might be quite different from some peak in Washington. Do you normally get out far beyond "walk out" distance? If you never get more than ten miles from the nearest road, then that means something. If you are always within cell phone range, then that means something.

To me, my feet are pretty important, so I carry some good tape and stuff to keep my feet patched up in the event of injury there. Painkillers can help me walk out from most injuries.


Yak Attack
(Yak) - M

Locale: IN, USA
First aid kit contents? on 10/09/2013 23:03:39 MDT Print View

Occasionally I'll go with a group of experienced hikers. More often than not I'll either be by myself, or (hopefully soon) with my kids who are early teens. Most times around here we'd be less than 10mi from a road, though it may involve some bushwhacking to get there.

The likely areas for me to be in most times will be southern IN, KY, or WV. Cell phone coverage is generally spotty at best, though better on hilltops than valleys.

Thanks for your help.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
First aid kit contents? on 10/09/2013 23:05:42 MDT Print View

First, take a wilderness first aid class. The most important component of a first aid kit is what's between your ears (requires an investment for the class, but no extra weight). The class will teach you how to improvise a lot of stuff. Examples: splints from trekking poles, support for injured knee from CCF pad, etc. The difference between WFA and standard/advanced first aid is that WFA teaches you how to stabilize patients when there may be several days before rescue, while the normal first aid class assumes that 911 is just around the corner.

Second, do some risk assessment: Consider the statistical chances of encountering some of those fun mass disaster scenarios. Do you really need to be prepared for an event with a 1% chance of ever happening? If it should happen, can you improvise from your and others' normal gear? The chances of injury also vary with size of party. The larger the group, the greater the chances of something going wrong. However, everyone doesn't need to be prepared for all the people in the group; instead each person should take a few personal items (necessary medications, blister care, a few bandaids) and one person should carry a larger group kit. As mentioned, length of trip and distance from trailheads are also factors.

Third, because of your health issues, you obviously will need a larger kit than many. For instance, I do need quite a few bandaids and some antibiotic ointment because I'm prone to hangnails which invariably get infected. I also need to take hand cream to help prevent those hangnails. For me, that's generally a nuisance. For you, an infected hangnail is serious stuff!

The same technique used to determine whether other gear is essential can be used for your first aid kit. Mark each item with a tiny piece of masking tape and remove the tape when you use the item. After a few trips, you'll have a better handle on what you need to take and what you can leave home, or at least take less of.

It's a good idea to go through the FAK at least once a year--remove expired meds, bandages whose wrappers are turning yellow, etc. I like to take foam veterinary wrap along instead of elastic bandage--with a little duct tape stiffening vet wrap works just as well and is a lot lighter than elastic bandage, and it also can be used for the dog. However, after a while, under heat and pressure the foam sticks together permanently, so I replace it every year. At that time you can also once again re-assess what you really need. If something has been sitting there unused for several years, you probably don't need it!

If your FAK includes the meds for your diabetes and RA, the weight might not be too far off.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
First aid kit contents on 10/09/2013 23:37:47 MDT Print View

Use the SEARCH BPL text box in the upper right corner of your screen. Type in "first aid kit" and get 2000+ responses.

For example:

Lightweight 1st aid kit for hiking

first aid kit input needed

first aid kits

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/09/2013 23:44:37 MDT Print View

+1 to previous comments. But you asked what was in our FAK... yours will likely be different.

Mine started out as Adventure Medicine's Ultralight .3 kit. I think the only thing that is the same is the container :) I also have a few emergency (non first aid items like a Spark-Lite, saftey pins, a few doses of water treatment chemicals). These days the first aid items in it:

4 nexcare waterproof bandaids (medium size)
2 nexcare elbow/knee size
4 triple anti-biotic cream
4 Benzalkonium chloride wipes
small roll of tape (type has varied)
2 piece moleskin
2 adventure medical glaciergel dressings
pro-tick remover
super glue
tincture of benzoin
aleve, Ibuprofen, benadryl,
a couple doses of heavy duty pain killer to enable walking out

weight has varied between 3-4oz including the non first aid items. I could carry even less because I have never run out of anythig I needed, but I have come close... typically treating others, not myself.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/10/2013 00:50:33 MDT Print View

Times may have changed, but once many years ago I received my first ever first aid class taught by a backpacker/EMT. At the time, he said that the worst case injury that normal backpackers should prepare for was a deep puncture to the leg caused by trying to step over a downed tree and getting stabbed by a broken branch. But then you have to think about that. Sure, you ought to be able to stop bleeding and all that. A deep puncture can get badly infected, so you have to think about evacuation. If you can walk, then how long is it going to take to get out to a hospital? If it is only a day or so, then go for it. Suppose it would take you five days to get out. Then what? The bad infection could be seriously bad by then.

So, the instructor tried to teach us to think about each injury or illness scenario, how long to get out, etc. Then think about how much stuff you want to load into your kit to improve your outcome.

Obviously it is possible to have worse injuries, but they are rare unless you are a real idiot or unless you have the worst luck in the universe. So, prepare for the likely stuff that you can manage.

OTOH, I led group backpacking trips for twenty years, and I always took a group first aid kit that weighed about 24 ounces whether we were on foot, on skis, or other, and I never had a single reportable injury for anybody.


(JRinGeorgia) - F
cut down on packaging on 10/10/2013 05:13:25 MDT Print View

Re-package everything to cut down on weight/bulk. For example, all of my pills/meds are in a tiny ziploc, with a single small slip of paper identifying each one, dosage, and expiration date.

A lot of people over-prepare for things that are extremely unlikely to happen and then under-prepare for the most likely events. You are far more likely to get a cut or scrape or broken finger than you are to be bitten by a snake or to break your femur. And if you did break your femur, there's very little you could fit into a baggie that would help anyway.

Not technically part of a FAK but consider carrying a PLB so that, in the event of a catastrophe you can be located and airlifted relatively quickly.

Kudos to you for wanting to get back out with your health issues, that's a lot to overcome and you're doing it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

STOP THE THREAD!!! on 10/10/2013 07:18:30 MDT Print View

Hold the phone!

This question has been discussed in so much detail, it's silly. Here!

Not that I want to silence you- by all means, have a discussion. But there's a treasure trove in that thread.

Richard May
(richardmay) - M

Locale: Swamplands.
My minimal kit on 10/10/2013 07:18:46 MDT Print View

naproxen (aleve, 24hr max dose) anti-inflamatory, pain relief
acetaminophen (tylenol, 24hrs max dose) anti-fever, pain relief
allegra-d (allergies, 24hrs supply)
x2 panty liners (stop bleeding)
hydrocolloid dressing (minor, low exudate, skin injuries that need dressing)
1% hydrocortizone cream (in a contact lens case, in case someone sits, stands or camps on an ant hill)
benedryl (in the other contact lens holder)
moleskin (foot care, one small sheet)
leukotape (foot care, wrapped around piece of old credit card)
kinesio tape (foot care, a few feet)
iodine tincture in a 1oz container w/ open cell foam applicator (still to be added)

If I were more than 24hrs from rescue (self or other) I'd increase the amount of pills accordingly.

After caring for a deep surgical incision that took two months to heal I'd consider honey. It was the only thing we used (as prescribed by our doctor) and it kept the wound from becoming infected. But then we don't have much trouble with bears.

e2a: I have a peanut allergy so this kit does not include what I need for that. Peanuts are everywhere on the trail!

Edited by richardmay on 10/10/2013 07:56:38 MDT.

BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/10/2013 08:42:08 MDT Print View

If you aren't already aware of them you might also want to hook up with Mountains for Active Diabetics on Facebook and pose the question there as well. The group has been very helpful with advice for my son who is a Type 1. Lots of practical experience there with what is essential for FAK.

Yak Attack
(Yak) - M

Locale: IN, USA
My search fu is weak on 10/10/2013 10:28:00 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm sorry I didn't find those other threads before posting, I'll definitely give them a read...

Mark S
(gixer) - F
Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/10/2013 11:03:27 MDT Print View

To reiterate what's already been said take a good first aid class, having the kit is next to useless if you don't know how to use it.

Here's what i carry

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/10/2013 11:06:45 MDT Print View

I have pretty much what others have listed. I would add:
If you are solo, a small piece of plastic mirror can be helpful in the event of a facial injury.. or other injury that is hard to see without a mirror.

And... I've recently added a Quick Clot packet... (advanced clotting sponge)
It weighs about an ounce.
Since I go off trail and climb it seems like a good thing to have along.

Bill D

Richard May
(richardmay) - M

Locale: Swamplands.
Re: Re: Re: First aid kit contents? on 10/10/2013 11:14:53 MDT Print View

> And... I've recently added a Quick Clot packet... (advanced clotting sponge)

Thanks for that. Much better than pads and a little more manly! :D