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What is your two item first aid kit?
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Nick Smolinske
(Smo) - F

Locale: Rogue Panda Designs
What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/26/2014 21:42:16 MST Print View

I'm sure there are a bunch of first aid kit posts out there, but this one is a bit different. For a long time my single item of first aid has been duct tape wrapped around a trekking pole or bottle. So useful for so many things, from blister prevention to wrapping an ankle. Right now it still is all I bring.

A lot of my friends carry the same, and I had a recent discussion about what our two-item first aid kits should look like. What would you add to duct tape? Answers varied quite a bit.

I still don't know what my second item would be.

Not painkillers - pain is there for a reason, and if it's mild enough that non-prescription painkillers are do much, then I don't need them. I'd rather know when I'm hurting my body and move in a way to minimize the pain, but deal with it. An ankle sprain is gonna hurt like hell, ibuprofin or no. Vicodin I would carry if I were in a leadership position and it was available. Same with epinephrine.
Maybe a pair of latex gloves, but those can be replicated with ziplock bags, an already plentiful resource on my backcountry trips.
Cloth first aid tape? Better on the skin than duct tape. But then I'm taking two kinds of tape.
Triple antibiotic ointment is another possibility, but cleaning the wound well is more important than slathering antibiotic on it, IMO.

So with that said, what's your one item first aid kit? And what would be your second item?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/26/2014 21:59:30 MST Print View

"what's your one item first aid kit?"

Cloth athletic-type tape.

Second would be aspirin.

Third is one of those tiny packs of antibiotic ointment.


Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 00:08:08 MST Print View

"I'd rather know when I'm hurting my body"

You must be young, and I mean that in an envious way! :)

I don't have to do anything to hurt my body, it's deteriorated all on its own just fine. While simply masking pain can actually increase damage, reducing inflammation can help prevent it. So for me, meds are pretty much standard fare.

I'd guess there's a lot of people with asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc., that consider meds more important than duct tape. Not to mention a simple aspirin could save your life in the event of a heartattack.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 00:47:59 MST Print View

HAS to be a roll of sterile gauze if you insist on only two.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 03:38:13 MST Print View

First item: Duct tape
Second item: Bandana
Third item: Ibuprofin (pain and swelling)

Antibiotic ointement: olive oil and fuel mix
Epinephrine: three-four scoops of coffee in a half cup of water. (vasoconstrictor)
Most stuff can be improvised from what you already carry.

Clayton Black
(Jivaro) - MLife
Re: Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 05:40:50 MST Print View

Your question is thought provoking for sure.

I'd go with the duct tape and pain relief since I'm one of the older guys that gets pains 'just because'.

I'm in a place where there aren't many things to be allergic to but if I was roaming the back country in my natal state of Texas I'd have duct tape and allergy control. Poison Oak/Ivy/chiggers etc are for more uncomfortable than aches and pains of old age.

If I had to chose between no first aid kit or no coffee I'd go without a fist aid kit.....just kidding.....maybe not.......ok just kidding.......well not really.......ok I'm going to get a refill and think about this some more.

Sala Nimi
Re: Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 06:19:30 MST Print View

Mark Millonas >> "HAS to be a roll of sterile gauze if you insist on only two."

Is it just me being too careful or do you guys think it's enough to just have some duct tape and painkillers when you're hiking in a place that you know rescue will take some time.

In my opinion you should really consider the injuries that can become fatal if help is not there on time.

I always carry a roll of sterile gauze and a dressing for a possible big wound that will bleed alot, to make a pressure bandage. This could save your life. I also carry a space blanket for a situation where I'm immobilised and I don't have enough insulation to keep me warm, i.e. on a dayhike, if I have to wait for a long time.

I also carry some imodium and electrolyte replacements (hope that's the correct term) if diarrhea would strike, as a severe case of that can become very dangerous if you're in the middle of the woods.

I'd like to hear your opinions on treating the possible fatal injuries. Of course I also carry stuff for blisters etc. but I think that not considering the more extreme situations is a bit irresponsible.

PS. I think that sterile gloves are good if you're afraid to touch other peoples blood, but you shouldn't ever not help a person if you don't have latex gloves with you.

Edited by miikkapakarinen on 02/27/2014 06:28:18 MST.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Fatal... on 02/27/2014 06:52:25 MST Print View

In Australia I always carry an elasticised bandage for snake bite. The chances are extremely low, but without such a thing you are pretty done for if you get bitten and venom is injected. Most hikers don't need it, but its a hangover of mine from my heavyweight days (as a young Scout) and also working as an ecologist in situations where I sometimes have to deal with elapids (and a penchance for getting much closer than others would when I come across one out hiking, just out of professional interest). Plus, it doubles as helping brace up an injured knee or ankle so that you can limp to transport. On Rogaines in Australia its compulsory equipment. On long/remote trips or trips with a group I agree that a sterile pad dressing or two is a good idea. They don't weigh much. Duct tape/other blister/strapping tape, blister patches, paracetomol and/or ibuprofen. Apart from antibiotics or stoppers, rehydration stuff for Diarrhea that is marketed as such, is just the same as gatorade or powerade powder. A small sewing needle or picker for splinters can save a lot of heartache (and also helps with draining blisters safely).

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 07:07:27 MST Print View

1) Brain

2) Luck

Haven't used so much as a Band-Aid in decades hiking. Pulled some ticks and gave some Benadryl

Never used duct tape for any impromptu repairs either.

Be mindful out there.

Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Fatal... on 02/27/2014 07:23:35 MST Print View

Part of my "med" kit I mentioned does indeed include anti-diarrhea meds, as well as Benadryl and aspirin. I guess boiling a bandana would sterilize it.

If you want a bombproof blood loss kit, spend the 5oz and carry a 50g Quick-clot and an Israeli bandage. Personally, I try and be careful. Most important thing to learn in a survival situation IMO, is do NOT get hurt. Hiking in an area days from rescue, is nothing more than a controlled survival situation. Sounds like a no brainer, but people start having fun, then screwing around, or go too fast, and forget what kind of situation they're really in.

Andrew Urlacher
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
Re: Re: Fatal... on 02/27/2014 07:40:50 MST Print View

I've had to patch 3 people with semi-serious injuries because all they had was duck tape and maybe some gauze. For only a few ounces you can carry a few simple things that can potentially save someone's life.

I'm always careful on trail and usually never hurt my self, but I also have advanced medical training and feel obligated to carry at least a few items because I know how to use them. I'm not declaring myself the official field medic of my area, but If I ever come across someone in need of help and I can't provide it effectively just because I wanted to save 5 ounces, I'd hate myself.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Fatal...or trip ending on 02/27/2014 07:41:52 MST Print View

For a VERY long time I've been in the camp of if-it's-minor-throw-a-bandaid-on-it, or if it's major you evac. So no need to carry a big first aid kit.


About with about 5 of the coolest days to go on the JMT I kicked a piece of sharp granite on a midnight bathroom run (barefoot) and literally de-gloved the tip of my pinky toe. I mean ripped all the skin off the tip, all the way to the fascia underneath. It took all the sterile gauze I had to clean all the dust off my toe and get the grit out of the wound at midnight...then I bandaged it up as best I could with bandaids and my absolute favorite backpacking first aid item: hydrocolloid bandages!!!!

By morning it was all soaked through and I had to change it. By the time I made it to the top of the pass at 10am, it was soaking through my shoe and I had to borrow items from the first aid kid of a guy named Goat (I had cleaned out my minimal first aid kit and that of my friend).

Now, a de-gloving injury can be limb-threatening. Talk about infection!!! So here was this rather tiny but VERY serious wound that could have ended my JMT. Had I not had sterile gauze to clean it, or sterile bandages (bandaids or my hydrocolloids to keep out all that Sierra dirt) my trip would have been over. But I DID have them, and other than a bit of discomfort I was totally fine and I was able to finish 5 days later. Sure would have been a bummer to evacuate from my JMT just cause all I brought was a bandana and some duct tape.....

Nicholas Viglione
( - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Fatal...or trip ending on 02/27/2014 08:00:15 MST Print View

Jennifer that sounds terribly painful - as a constant toe-stubber I am always worried about smacking my toes, but luckily I have never done any serious damage.

That being said, I also never take my shoes off while moving around on a trip. Even if I sit for a snack break and take them off, if I have to get up to get something from my pack I will slip them back on loosely before starting to walk around.

Bare feet = recipe for disaster in my thinking process (but then again, I do have that obnoxious habit of smacking my toes in the first place - door sills and I do NOT get along!).

I bring 2 small vials of super glue, a couple feet of duct tape and simply use my hand sanitizer if I need anti-bacterial... never had any major issues, but like a lot people have said, being smart and cautious is the #1 medicine!

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Fatal...or trip ending on 02/27/2014 08:14:41 MST Print View

"I bring 2 small vials of super glue"

I always had a tube of super glue in my FAK until I opened it one day to find a gigantic glob of FAK goodness thanks to a ruptured tube. Not sure if it was due to atmospheric pressure changes or what but I couldn't salvage anything from the kit.

I'll probably replace it with Tincture of Benzoin but no more super glue for me. Besides, I'm getting soft in my old age and don't think I'm man enough to hot-shot a blister any more.


I respect the spirit of what you're trying to do here but I think this is approaching Stupid Light. By no means am I saying my FAK is the model for others to follow but it can address a wide range of issues and weighs 3 oz or so.

HYOH I suppose.

Nick Smolinske
(Smo) - F

Locale: Rogue Panda Designs
Thought provoking on 02/27/2014 08:15:38 MST Print View

Well, this thread turned out to be super interesting!

Yes, I'm young and don't need painkillers much. If I had frequent pain, where knowing the extent of it wasn't important to me, I'd bring painkillers.

The diarrhea threat is a good point to make, especially on a longer trip. I've considered carrying a small vial of salt on longer trips in case someone loses the ability to hold down solid food. I've also decided to take a decent amount of liquid food on longer trips - sometimes I mix Nido and Swiss Miss cold as chocolate milk, so I just bring a fair amount of that. It's good to have liquid calories as an option. I used to always just pre-package any not-so-salty food with extra salt, but I'm thinking of changing my tune on this, at least on trips longer than a weekend.

As for life-threatening bleeding, my thoughts would be direct pressure and if you need a bandage, improvise from clothing. Of course, if everyone's a lightweight backpacker you probably don't have much spare clothing. I do carry a bandana, which could be a tourniquet, allowing time to apply an improvised pressure bandage if the wound is too bad to be stopped by direct pressure. You can't keep it on for days, but for a few hours it's fine. For those who haven't taken a recent WFR or WFA, the wilderness medical schools have changed their opinion from a few years back on tourniquets based on knowledge from the military. I would have no hesitation using one in a situation of bad bleeding.

The closest I've come to serious injury on the trail was a rock that could've broken one or both of my legs. In the worst case it could have killed me instantly. I dodged it barely and it hit my arm, leaving me with just a small bruise. That's one of the incidents that's made me wonder about first aid. But again, improvised tourniquets could save a life here, and in that case we had cell reception (on Powell Plateau in the Grand Canyon, at over 7000 feet). We also were a 4-person backpacking group, all wilderness first responders. Breaking a leg in a truly remote location is such a rare occurrence that I wouldn't plan my first aid kit around it, but it is a good thought exercise.

Jennifer: all I can say is OUCH!

Edited by Smo on 02/27/2014 08:16:17 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Fatal...or trip ending on 02/27/2014 09:14:11 MST Print View

for climbing there is a not exceptionally rare chance that you may get injured somehow ...

a fall, rock fall, ice fall, scraping the rock the wrong way, sharp objects on winter gear, etc ...

first aid is something you probably wont need very often, but when you do need it, you REALLY need it ...

heres an story from seattle backpacking mag ...

more at link ...

Sometime it takes an accident to shake the sense of complacency that befalls hikers who have never been injured in the mountains. That was me – I’d been lucky. Between my first hike in 1980 and September 2013 I’d never been injured other than a sprained ankle on my first-ever scramble with The Seattle Mountaineers.


Yet complacency set in; as years pass without injury some of us tend to lighten the load in the pack, especially on a hot summer day on trails close to home and most of the time we get away with it. Hence, my friend Lola and I set out for an easy hike heading south from Snoqualmie Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. The weather was perfect with partial sun and a breeze.


This time it was different. My finger felt like it had been diced by a knife and was dripping blood as I clawed at my face, feeling my mouth, trying to figure out whether or not my teeth were OK, unaware I was smearing blood all over my face and that blood was even dripping into my boots.

The rest is a blur; Lola bending over me, getting out her first aid kit, my mind a swirl. Mixed in with fear and shock was the realization that my first aid kit was pretty minimal, some supplies at home. As I sat there stunned Lola wrapped my finger in gauze; who knew one finger could bleed that much? I bled through the gauze as we started down the trail, still about ½ miles from the turnoff to Lodge Lake. More gauze was applied and I took an Advil from my pack (it is now standard practice that should you come across an injured hiker that you treat the injury from the victim’s first aid kit, not yours – each hiker should carry their own medications including pain pills, OTC or otherwise).

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Anti inflammatory on 02/27/2014 09:53:42 MST Print View

An early post talked about no need for ibuprofen or pain killers in general. I would disagree with this. An anti inflammatory could be the difference between being able to hike out quickly vs. taking a very long time. It has nothing to do with pain. Sometimes the inflammation is the problem not the base injury, if that makes sense.

I did a very long 49 mile hike in the Smokies on Saturday. My ankle started hurting a bit at mile eight. Two ibuprofen later and I was back to 100% and ended up finishing the hike and recovery has been great. In contrast, I had this section to do because my first attempt ended early due to a similiar issue. That time I forgot to pack out ibuprofen and it was all I could do to hobble back the 15 miles from my turnaround point. That 15 miles of hobble resulted in a cortisone shot which was needed to allow me to do my PCT thru.

Just a caveat. I actually don't believe in medicating on the outbound of an out and back. Don't mind on the return because I have to do the distance one way or another regardless of pain, medications etc. Saturday was an exception to this rule and it surprised me greatly that I am in one piece afterward.

So, I ask, is reducing the weight of 12 Advil really worth it.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
First Aid Kit on 02/27/2014 09:53:59 MST Print View

By far the most important item is training and knowledge - weighs nothing. A lot of what you need can be improvised, but I like to carry an Ace bandage and a couple of sterile gauze pads. In specific situations, I will carry more.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
two things on 02/27/2014 10:42:56 MST Print View

I actually use the most on trail are leukotape and bacitracin ointment. These also can be used for gear repair (tape) and fire starter (ointment).

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What is your two item first aid kit? on 02/27/2014 11:44:54 MST Print View

Don't go too skimpy on your first aid kit. It's annoying to haul weight you won't absolutely use, but that's not the place to get SUL crazy. Essentials are one area I divert from the UL catechism. That doesn't mean taking the kitchen sink either.

For a two piece first aid kit I would take duct tape and a mini version of the Book of Common Prayer :)