First Aid Kit

The contents of your first aid kit should be highly personal depending on your level of experience, the injuries you are likely to encounter and how happy you are to improvise. It’s very easy to pop into a shop or go online and find ready-made kits, but it’s always worth questioning how much of the stuff you will actually use or whether there are more generic items available that could reduce the number of things you’re carrying. If there's anything in there that you don't know how to use it is just useless weight.

As an example here are the contents of the first aid kit which I use for multi-day backpacking. I work as a doctor and am pretty happy improvising so everything here is generic and can be used in lots of different ways. If you’re less comfortable making your own it can be reassuring to carry ready-made dressings for different injuries such as an eye dressing or a trauma dressing for a large bleed. You may also want to add a small first aid manual as a useful reference. Cicerone do a detailed and in-depth “Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine” which, though aimed at expedition doctors, will genuinely fit in a pocket and covers everything from building an emergency shelter to penetrating eye injuries and snake bites.

For attracting attention in an emergency, especially if that emergency means you cannot walk

Emergency shelter
E.g. survival bag or tent. Emergencies usually happen in snow, high winds or strong rain and you need to be able to keep yourself alive in adverse conditions until help reaches you

Disposable gloves
Really important with open wounds (especially those belonging to other people) both to protect yourself and to keep the wound clean

Cleaning wipes
Mostly you can get away with a good wash in water but it’s useful to have a couple of these for anything particularly nasty. These are also a light weight alternative to carrying antiseptic creams

Gauze swabs
Variety of sizes, pop it on a wound, apply pressure to stop bleeding and hold in place with your choice of bandage. Ladies sanitary towels also work wonderfully for larger wounds as well as being cheap and easy to get hold of

1x crepe bandage (the stretchy ones)
Useful for sprains and applying light pressure to bleeding wounds

1-3x triangular bandages
These are amazingly versatile for wound care or improvising splints/slings and you can make your own from any non-stretchy cloth. You can also wash and re-use them

K tape
Great for blisters and can be combined with gauze for improvised plasters. Note that I don't carry any ready made plasters because I use this instead

Small scissors
Carried as part of my pen knife for cutting tape/gauze to size

For splinters/removing dirt from wounds - get a metal pair so you can sterilise them first in a lighter/stove flame

Tick removal card
So this breaks my rule that everything needs to be multi-functional but they are much better than mangling ticks with tweezers and consequently may help you avoid lyme disease

If you’re going to carry drugs you need to make sure they stay in date! I typically just carry paracetamol and ibuprofen

Water purification tablets
These are not really first aid related but they are a great back up if you run out of water and the streams look a bit dodgy. If you have time (i.e. it's not a life threatening emergency) it's also a good idea to use clean water for washing wounds

Written October 2019