It is perfectly possible to go on a multi-day walk carrying no first aid capability at all beyond what is between the ears. However knowing how to cope with issues and carrying something to deal with blisters, cuts, strains, allergic reaction, chafing, diarrhoea or even worse, can make completing a trail both possible and more enjoyable.
Three Points of the Compass tends to compartmentalise gear while on trail. It makes it easier for me to find items quickly when required, protects them from getting wet and ensures that nothing is mislaid. My First Aid Kit is just one of the various pouches carried and I last showed the contents here back in 2020. It has been tweaked just a little in the intervening months and now weighs 150g, a little less than my kit from three years ago but no doubt a great deal more than most would carry. Some are content to carry a couple of plasters and a bit of duct tape and trust these are sufficient.
Note that this is my First Aid Kit for 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.
- First Aid Kit is held in a small DCF pouch with water resistant zip. Made by Tread Lite Gear.
- 100mm x 100mm Melolin dressing– Sterile, flexible film. Cut-to-fit. Non-woven vapour permeable dressing for cuts and grazes. Flexible and conforms to body contours, good for awkward injuries on elbows and knees.
- 200mm x 100mm Opsite Flexifix dressing– Flexible film. Cut-to-fit. Highly permeable dressing used to either protect skin from abrasion (not over open wounds), or as a covering to primary dressings such as Melonin. Highly flexible and conformable to awkward areas of the body.
- Two 75mm x 75mm hydrocolloid dressing. Sterile, waterproof, vapour permeable, self-adhering dressing binds with wound exudate to form a gel underneath. Can be cut down in size if required. These are impervious island dressings for use on open clean wounds and provide a barrier to bacteria. Can be used on blisters, but only once deroofed. Flexible and left in place for days at a time.
- 50mm wide cohesive bandage– flexible reusable tape that sticks to itself but not the skin. Easy to apply. Joint support, finger taping, compression. Lighter and smaller option than the more effective Ace bandage.
- Five 75mm x 75mm sterile gauze swabs
- 1.2m of 50mm wide Hypafix tape. Cut-to-fit plasters, fixing gauze etc
- 1m of 50mm wide latex free kinesiology tape (KT tape). Muscle strains, tendonitis. Also acts as cut-to-fit plaster and potentially splinting.
- Six 6mm x 38mm sterile steri-strip skin closures.
- 100mm x 70mm of 2mm Evazote foam. Cut-to-size. Potential uses for this are numerous. From creating ‘doughnuts’ for placing around wounds, to cushioned protection from worn trail shoe heel cups, to between-toe protection. Anywhere a bit of fairly robust padding is required. While I could cut a piece from my 3mm thinpad also carried, that sits on the ground and can be grubby. Weighing just half a gram, this dedicated piece of foam is a handy addition.
- 2g sachet Celox haemostatic agent– good for stopping oozing or bad bleeds.
- Single 18G/1.2mm sterile intravenous catheter piercing needle. While this can be used for blister lancing, it is primarily here to drill nails to relieve blood blisters under the nail (subungual hematoma) as there is not a lot else that will do this job effectively. Easy to use and just about painless to do this. Though on the look out for a shorter smaller needle.
- 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.
- Betadine (10% povidine iodine) antiseptic. In 2ml glass bottle (almost unbreakable) with orifice reducer. Cuts, scrapes and burns.
- 18 x 200mg Ibuprofen– pain killer, anti-inflammatory. Treats muscular and rheumatic pain, backache, migraine, neuralgia, dental pain, fever (high temperature), also cold and flu symptoms.
- 10 x 500mg Naproxen (Aleve)- pain killer, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS). Reduces inflammation and pain in joints and muscles, arthritis and fever.
- 6 x 300mg Aspirin– pain killer, general aches, headaches, toothache, flu and will reduce a fever. No anti-inflammatory properties. Take in case of heart attack! NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen, can block effectiveness.
- 10 x 10mg Cetirizine dihydrochloride– second-generation anti-histamine. Hay fever and other allergies.
- 7 x 10mg Loratadine– second-generation anti-histamine, anti-allergy.
- 3 x Imodium Plus Comfort- contains 2mg Loperamide hydrochloride and Simeticone equivalent to 125mg dimeticone, which can also be taken to calm additional abdominal discomfort such as cramps, wind and bloating in the event of stomach upset. Life can get pretty miserable if these are not to hand!
- Westcott titanium embroidery scissors– 7g, small, exceptionally well made, for cutting gauze and tape. Points protected with piece of shrink tubing.
- Titanium tweezers– small, 1.5g, for flaps of skin, thorns, splinters, bee stings, picking gravel from wounds…
- Nitecore NTK05. This tiny folding 4.4g ‘knife‘ has a non-sterile, but clean, single No.10 carbon steel blade installed. It is non-locking and within UK knife law. This isn’t used for food prep or anything like that, but solely for trimming tape, slicing flaps of skin etc. No.10 is one of the larger scalpel blades available.
- Two No.15 carbon steel scalpel blades. These are kept sealed and sterile until used. They are mostly for when a sterile blade is wanted for trimming skin, and if required, in place of 18G piercing needle, to make a larger hole in a blister, which is then slower to seal up so allows for better drainage. These small scalpel blades are used simply gripped between finger and thumb, but could be installed in the little NTK05.
- Victorinox nail clippers– model 8.2050 B1– hand and foot care, 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. The 3.5g glass nailfile shown here is a far better option than just about any metal nailfile anywhere. Issues with nails can ruin or end a hike. They can abrade or cut adjoining toes, put holes in socks or the inner lining of shoes or boots. Too long nails can bruise toes on descents. They can get split, ragged, bloody, painful and infected. Easily avoided by keeping them trimmed and smoothed.
- O’Tom Tick Twisters- good tick removers are often an essential item on trail. These two are so light (2g) I simply leave them in the kit all year round.
… and that is about it. Not included here but sometimes kept in the First Aid Kit, more usually with my hygiene kit, is a 28g tube Lanacane anti-chafe gel. I have half a dozen Chlorine dioxide tablets in my ditty bag, for sterilising up to six litres of water should my water filter get lost or damaged. There is also a needle and thread there for pulling through blisters should the need arise.
First Aid Kits are deeply personal and contents can, and should, vary for everyone. With mine, I am confident in dealing with the most likely of injuries or ailments that I am likely to suffer from while on trail. 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 seldom gets opened unless I need the occasional ibuprofen, mirror or nail file.
This is exceptional, I’m very new to hiking and not knowing what I would or wouldn’t need in my med kit, packed everything bar the kitchen sink, which was clearly unnecessary!
Thank you for sharing your experiences, it’s fascinating to read how that has shaped and honed your kit over time. Great site 👍
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Thanks Aide, do please tweak a First Aid Kit to your own degree of confidence. I am sure there are many who will regard my FAK as total overkill, I care not. Regardless of anything carried, what is most definitely the most important, is what is ‘between the ears’
Sound advice, thanks Jools!
What would you typically carry as your remedy (multi use) for a sore head/dicky stomach the morning after one too many beers at the hostel?
Water and regrets…
👍 haha…we had a good night in the inveroran hotel bar with some lively Canadian and Dutch folk we met…with it being so close to the end..everyone in high spirits….it was worth it..well mostly..😆
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This is interesting, thank you for making this list. It is too easy to forget something essential when it comes health. And maybe not so grave, but I am still figuring out how to cut my beard on the go 🙂 One question, the bag looks handy, but I have hard time finding it, the offer is too big now. Do you have a link to the bag maybe? Or was it custom made?
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Thanks for commenting macias. A small pair of scissors can trim a beard but a mirror is essential. I bought my Tread Lite gear DCF zippered pouch a couple of years ago. Looking at Paul’s website today, I see he sells three sizes. I would guess mine is comparable to the middling size he sells now. Other people do sell equivalents however.. https://www.treadlitegear.co.uk/first-aid-cases-35-c.asp
Those are top end dressings, all the same stuff I’ve used in various nursing roles.
Thanks for commenting Sam, do you, in your expert capacity, have any opinion on my selection of dressings?
They seem chosen for logical reasons and to cover a few bases. I’d probably go for more, smaller, dressings as if you have a cut on one hand it’s hard to cut dressings one-handed.
Also worth remembering that the gauze is only sterile until you open it, so it’s basically 1 sterile gauze and 4 which are “clean”.
I’d also suggest adding hand gel.
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All fair comment Sam. While it is possible to make small dressings out of large, the reverse is not so easy!
Gauze is probably a one injury, first application usage. After that it is the usual manky bandana…
In contrast to most backpackers, I don’t carry any hand gel, preferring soap and water. I use liquid Dr Bronners, a couple of drops added to water, in a small GoToob with squirty orifice cap, each morning.
Basically, I have a reasoned answer to most criticism 😀… and as usual, everyone should make their FAK their own. I can guess how many people out there are aghast at a 150g kit