Although I’ve been asked several times, I’ve always shied away from a ‘What to Put in a First Aid Kit’ kind of article. That’s mostly because I don’t want to make a definitive list. It depends so much on the activity and how far you’re going from civilisation.
Closest I’ve got, is this piece about why first aid kits are so useful for Advnture.com. But, after doing a first aid kit round up for Advnture.com I really realised that my first aid kit is actually very non-standard. It started out pretty normal I guess (mostly plasters and bandages) but has adapted and changed over the years. Particularly as I started leading groups and being in mountain rescue. I’m a far cry from a medical professional. I have Outdoor First Aid and that’s it. But here’s a look inside the first aid kit I actually carry on adventures.
Standard First Aid Kit Items
Let me be completely clear. The basis of my first aid kit is, and always has been, a Lifesystems first aid kit. They stock a huge range of first aid kits for all situations. I have had a small Trek one that I use most of the time. If I’m leading a group then I would take the Camping first aid kit, or something of similar size. The main difference is that you just get more stuff in the bigger ones. It’s roughly the same individual items but you have more of them. For example, the bigger the group the more likely you’ll need more plasters.
The key first aid items that are in either kit are:
- Plasters, dressings and bandages – nice variety of sizing
- Tape – micropore for sticking anything down
- Wipes – for cleaning up dirty wounds, like grazes etc.
- Disposable medical gloves – seems like an overkill until you’re faced with touching actual blood everywhere
- Tweezers – SO USEFUL, not least for ticks
- Scissors – I actually take mine out if I’m carrying a pen knife anyway
- Safety Pins – useful not just for bandages
- Burn gel – or add in something like clingfilm
Many first aid kits that you buy off the shelf don’t come with any form of medication. Obviously there are some rules to be aware of, not least when it comes to administering medication to others. But here are the things I make sure to carry, when I feel it’s appropriate. The hard thing is making sure that it’s always in date without simply wasting lots of tablets.
- Ibuprophen – for pain relief and swelling relief
- Paracetamol – for pain relief
- Antihistamine – as an intervention for allergic reactions (think unexpected ones, you can’t beat an epipen with a tablet)
- Steri tabs – wait what? Yeah, I like to keep a spare set of water purification tablets in my first aid kit, just in case.
Now then, here comes the Emily. Let’s start with the more practical first aid items I like to add. First up is a Sam splint. I only added this since I joined Mountain Rescue, because actually they are so small and light but really make stabilising breaks so much easier. Yeah sure, you can still tuck your broken arm into your jacket, but for the sake of a small roll of foam, I think it’s worth it. This is more of a group leading bit of kit for me.
Next is a Pulse Oximeter. Again, this is something I would bring if I was leading in any capacity. It’s not really essential at all and, honestly, I’m not sure it’s always accurate with cold hands. But I impulse bought one from the middle aisle of Lidl, so I carry it! For those who aren’t first aid nerds, it’s a neat little gadget that you put on a finger. It reads the pulse rate and oxygen saturation. So it can help you take quick observations and decisions about someone’s state, obviously with a pinch of salt in my case.
Another absolute must, actually, is a notebook and pencil. I think it’s worth having a dedicated small notepad and pencil actually inside your first aid kit. A folded up sheet of A4 paper is fine, with one of those pencils you pick up from Screwfix or Ikea. Otherwise, a waterproof notebook is a great step up.
The more unusual stuff
Now it starts to get a bit weird…
- Duck tape. Get the end of a roll, use it to first aid your tent.
- A sewing kit – no, not for sewing up limbs. Take one of those mini sewing kits you get in hotels and keep it in your first aid kit. The number of times I’ve managed to sew ripped clothes back together, mid-trip, is unbelievable.
- One enormous safety pin – possibly a nappy pin, it’s helpful to have one enormous one
- Emergency jelly babies – other brands are available, but these come out when times get dire or when someone’s having an actual sugar low. The good thing about jelly babies is that, as long as you keep them dry, they’re so full of sugar that they last well past the sell by date.
- Sports tape – I have the end of a roll in my first aid kit. Never used it, but feel like it would be useful for places that duck tape won’t stick. Or maybe even for its intended use…
- A small flat sponge – added at the same time as the sewing kit. Not sure why, never used it, but perhaps one day I will!
- Compede blister plasters – occasionally I’ll throw these in for leading. Honestly, I don’t rate them but other people do, so if it helps them that’s a good thing!
- Ice cream spoon – you know those tiny flat ones you get if you choose a tub not a cone at the beach. Kept for emergency ice cream situations.
- House keys – if I’m going on a long overseas expedition, not in a leading capacity, I’ll put my house keys in my first aid kit so I don’t lose them!
Aaand that’s the contents of my first aid kit(s). Anything I’ve missed off that you carry?