It is perfectly possible to go on a walk carrying no first aid capability at all. However knowing how to cope with issues and carrying something to deal with blisters, cuts, strains, allergic reaction, chafing or even diarrhoea can make completing a hike both possible and more enjoyable.
Three Points of the Compass tends to compartmentalise gear while on trail. It makes it easier to find items quickly when required, protects them from getting wet and ensures that nothing is lost. Previously I have looked at my hydration, hygiene and ditty bag preferences. My First Aid Kit is just one of the various pouches carried. Currently this is a small DCF zippable pouch made by Tread Lite Gear. The kit weighs 161g, a great deal more than most would carry, but means that I can deal with injuries or ailments that I am most likely to suffer from while on trail. First Aid Kits are deeply personal and contents can, and should, vary for everyone. Note that Three Points of the Compass is not a medical practitioner and this is by no means a recommendation on what you should take. I have had some first aid training, I am a seasoned hiker and am familiar with how to deal with most problems my body will suffer from while on trail. That said, for the great majority of my hikes, this kit never gets opened unless I need the mirror, nail clippers or file.
Contents of my multi-day backpacking First Aid Kit:
- 15cm x 10cm rectangle of Opsite Flexifix. Thin, vapour permeable, waterproof and bacteria proof transparent adhesive film. Cut to size, applied over dressing covering cleaned scrapes and skin trauma.
- 1 x 10cm x 10cm Melolin dressing- flexible film. Non-woven breathable dressing for cuts and grazes. Conforms to body contours, good for awkward injuries on elbows and knees
- 1 x 5cm x 5cm Aquacel hydrofiber dressings. Non-woven fibres form a gel on contact with cavity wound fluid. Antimicrobial properties
- 5 x 7.5cm x 7.5cm sterile gauze swabs
- 5 x 3mm steri-strip skin closures
- 2 x fabric plasters- not many carried, two for being immediately to hand, otherwise fashion from gauze and tape as required
- 1 x 2g sachet Celox haemostatic agent- good for stopping oozing or bad bleeds
- Flexible 80mm x 40mm Victorinox mirror- with central sighting hole. Kept in small dedicated baggie to stop the mirror face scratching- Useful for facial injuries and tick checks, also when shaving
- 1m of 50mm Hypafix tape- cut to fit plaster, fixing gauze etc.
- 1m of 50mm KT tape- latex free kinesiology tape. Muscle strains, tendonitis. Also acts as cut to fit plaster and potentially splinting
- Cohesive bandage- a lighter and smaller option than the more effective Ace bandage
- 4 x clean, sealed compressed towlettes- Cleaning wounds etc.
- Single nappy pin
- Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers- not the best but small and convenient
- Victorinox nail clippers- model 8.2050 B1- hand and foot care, probably not required on every trail but light enough to always include
- Glass crystal nail file- hand and foot care. long lasting and better than a metal or emery file
- No. 10 Scalpel blade- clean, a better option than a mucky knife blade for wounds and cutting flaps of loose skin etc.
- O’Tom Tick Twisters- good tick tweezers are an essential item on trail
- Westcott titanium embroidery scissors- small, light and well made, for cutting gauze and tape
- Betadine- antiseptic (10% povidine iodine). In 2ml glass bottle with orifice reducer. Cuts, scrapes and burns
- Small sealed straw tube of Dermovate ointment- steroid ointment for inflamed skin conditions
- 28g tube Lanacane. Anti-chafe gel
- 8 x Ibuprofen- pain killer, treats fever and anti-inflammation. Note these are 400mg, not the more commonly seen 200mg
- 6 x Aspirin 300mg- pain killer, no anti-inflammatory properties. Heart attack!
- 7 x Loratadine- anti-allergy
- 5 x Piriton- Chlorphenamine maleate- anti-allergy. (also helps you sleep if absolutely necessary)
- 3 x Imodium plus comfort- Loperamide hydrochloride with simethicone- in the event of stomach upset, life could potentially be pretty miserable if these are not to hand
As you can see, there is quite a bit to the contents of my First Aid Kit. This has been refined over many years and modern products have occasionally taken the place of items that I used to include. Two simple and efficient tapes have replaced my micropore, leucotape, transpore or leucosilk tapes formerly carried. I carried an Ace bandage for many years, great that they are, they are also very bulky and not an insignificant weight penalty. The cohesive bandage has replaced that though it is still a weighty inclusion. Much of the rest of the weight of this kit comes from a full tube of anti-chafe gel, a decent set of nail clippers and good scissors. There are some items that I used to carry that I struggled to now exclude- nitrile gloves, resuscitation face shield, silicone toe cots and yet more tape amongst them.
Note that the above is my First Aid Kit for longer, multi-day, backpacking trips. With these contents I expect to be able to complete a hike with no need to seek out a pharmacy or similar. Contents will last me many weeks and I take considerably less with me on a single day hike. Medicants and other expiry dates are checked regularly and replaced as required.
The contents of my First Aid kit, and the bag or pouch it is all gathered together in, have varied considerably over my hiking years. No doubt it will continue to evolve. When accompanied by Mrs Three Points of the Compass, or when our young daughter used to accompany us, this will influence the contents to a degree, despite both of them also carrying a kit refined to their own particular needs. Hiking overseas has also altered the inclusion of medications.
Finally, two further comments on my First Aid kit. It is ideally easily accessed from my pack with just one hand. I keep my First Aid Kit in an outer pocket of my smaller Osprey pack on day hikes, and within the top of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa on multi-day hikes. While the DCF pouch containing my First Aid Kit is highly water resistant, it is not completely waterproof, so is also double protected, being kept within the pack liner, possibly also within an additional zip-lock if the weather is especially harsh.
My next glance at the small bags and pouches of ‘stuff’ carried on trail shall be my 2020 electronics pouch. The contents of which have probably changed most amongst all of my back-packing gear over the years as advances in technology have progressed.