“Who has a first aid kit?”

We have all heard this question asked when packing for an outdoor adventure. Often times, everyone brought something that resembles a first aid kit, but what is actually in there? Can they save your life with some band aids and moleskin? It is extremely important to know exactly what is in your first aid kit and also how to use it. It’s also a great idea to know what is in your partner’s kit as well. Let’s cover some mandatory items for a proper first aid kit.

When in the backcountry, there are limited emergencies we can actually treat as caregivers. We have limited supplies, medical equipment and manpower. Sometimes, the patient just needs a hospital. When I am piecing together my first aid kit, I think about the main ailments I would run into in the backcountry and what I can realistically treat. These are the big four that we may run into out there and the things I carry to treat each one.

SAM Splints are fast, easy to use, and effective for fracture stabilization.

Trauma is probably our most common issue in the backcountry. Often times, it is a lower leg fracture or a sprained ankle. We are able to treat wounds, bleeding, and fractures.

  • Medical Examination Gloves
  • Gallon Ziploc bag for Hazardous waste.
  • SAM Splint
  • Ace Bandage(s)
  • Knife or Scissors
  • Cravats
  • 4″x4″ Gauze pads and rolled gauze
  • Quikclot
  • Betadine solution for extended trips.
  • Irrigation Syringe
  • Tweezers

Allergic Reactions
From peanuts to bees to medications, there are more allergic reactions to these things than ever before. Of course, we are happy to treat minor reactions but we are mainly concerned about Anaphylaxis. In the backcountry there is not a lot we can do for the latter, however carrying these items could be life-saving. We can treat minor reactions and provide temporary relief from Anaphylaxis.

  • Benadryl
  • Epi-Pen*
    *Epi-Pen’s are often carried by the person who has the known allergy. Be sure you know where they carry it and how to use it. These folks need immediate evacuation. Children who may not have been exposed to their allergen yet are at higher risk.

Evacuating a patient from the backcountry.

As allergies are on the rise, so are cardiac incidents. There are several every year in the White Mountains. We can treat chest pain, however it may not be effective. Chest pain should be treated as a cardiac event.

  • Aspirin (make them chew it)
  • Compact CPR mask
    *Patients with known cardiac history may carry Nitroglycerin. You can help them with this medication in the event of an emergency. Cardiac patients should not walk out as this puts increased strain on the heart.

In it’s early stages, this may actually be the most common ailment. Fatigue, muscle cramps, lack of urination. Occasionally this progresses to a full medical emergency. Regardless these patients need FLUIDS and electrolytes. We can treat and cure minor dehydration in the field. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization.

  • Salt packets (to be mixed into water)
  • Jello Packet (to be mixed into water)*
  • Routine water breaks every 1-2 hours.
    * Jello packets are excellent for Diabetics who are Hypoglycemic (low blood sugar).

The Sawyer Water Filter and the LifeStraw are options for potable water in the outdoors.

Other items to consider especially for extended backcountry trips

  • BP Cuff and Stethoscope
  • Orajel
  • Satellite Phone
  • Foam Pad (splinting and patient comfort)
  • Trekking Poles (splinting long bones and traction splints for femurs)
  • Moleskin
  • Athletic Tape
  • Water Filter
  • Writing utensil and Paper for SOAP note
  • Extra gauze and dressings
  • Rain fly + Sleeping bag for hypothermic patients.

If any of these items are unfamiliar to you, or how you might use them, we HIGHLY recommend a Wilderness First Aid Course or a Wilderness First Responder Course