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A lot of our favorite outdoor activities, whether it's hiking or camping, come with a certain risk of injury. Even in the instances when you are laying low at a campsite for the weekend, you're likely to be quite a few miles away from the nearest hospital. With that in mind, a first aid kit is more than just something to think about — it's something to regard as a necessity. And with so many different styles and capacities of kits on the market, there's a lot to consider when choosing the best first aid kit.
What should be in my first aid kit?
The two most important factors when looking for a first aid kit are how many people it can provide for and the types of injuries it can treat. It can be downright dangerous to carry a pack for an entire group that is only intended for one person's emergency needs. Similarly, if the items included within your first aid are nothing more than Band-Aids and a handful of aspirin, then you're going to be in for more than just some trouble.
A first aid kit should cover the basic necessities, including antiseptics (to fight infections), injury treatments (cold compresses, butterfly strips for shallow wounds), instruments (gloves, tweezers, small scissors), medicine (painkillers, at least), and a wide array of bandages. Once you've covered the basics of making sure a kit meets your needs, you'll want to think of the secondary considerations. Keep in mind, even these are highly valuable aspects. How big is your kit, and is it going to be a cumbersome thing to carry? If you're not first aid certified, does the kit come with additional information guides and advice that make applying treatment simple and effective? Is it organized and will it fit in your car or backpack? While you should always have a way to call for help should you have to, a first aid kit can help with minor injuries when you need them most. Our suggestions for the best first aid kits are below:
1. The Best Travel Kit
- Set up in ring-binder design
- 73-Piece Kit
You can't go wrong with a first aid kit made by the American Red Cross. All the contents are entirely latex-free so as to reduce any allergy risks when giving or receiving aid, and the trapper-keeper design folds from the center with first aid information — and helps keep supplies easy to navigate. Equipped to handle pain, swelling, and basic cuts and scrapes, reviewers say this pack is well equipped, though we want to note that it is missing an antihistamine such as Benadryl for unexpected allergies. Keep that in mind when packing and you'll have an exceptionally well-suited kit for your basic needs.
2. The Best Option for Camping
- 326 pieces
- Meets and exceeds OSHA ANSI/ISEA guidelines
- Wall mountable
Despite being a hard-shell pack, there isn't much else that can be said against this first aid kit. Be Smart Get Prepared states that this kit is a comprehensive pack that can help you clean, treat, and protect wounds in a wide variety of circumstances. This kit handles basic cuts, scrapes, or pain scenarios, and it also includes multiple creams and bandages for lacerations or burns. This kit is supremely organized, with fold-out shelves offering easy organization — and it also has a high-vis, glowing label that stands out in the dark. Rubber sealants on the outside keep out moisture and contamination at all times. Be Smart Get Prepared even offers a refill order form to refresh the kit when necessary, but here's to hoping you never have the need for it.
3. The Best Waterproof Option
- 54-Piece Kit
- High-visibility kit bag
Although we should first acknowledge that this kit is not intended for large groups, it's perfect for anglers, kayakers, and anyone else who spends time out on the water. From sting relief and antihistamines to moleskin for burns and blisters, it's amazing what has been packed inside the double nylon waterproof sack. As Adventure Medical Kits states, this set has been "tested, abused, and approved by adventure racers in the Eco Challenge, Primal Quest, and Raid Gauloises." That said, this is not the easiest case to navigate. True to the pack's name, the watertight cover will keep you at the ready to treat any burns, fractures, sprains, or pains wherever you are.
4. The Best First Aid Kit for Pets
- Includes a pet emergency care handbook
- 60-Piece Kit
Let's face it, our pets love the freedom of the outdoors just as much as we do — and if you take your pet camping or hiking, you should have some supplies to keep your pet safe, too (and you can use this kit on humans as well, although we recommend carrying an additional kit). Whether your dog cuts a nail or you cut yourself, the multi-piece pack will leave you able to bandage up a wounded party in no time. A red flashlight makes it easy to flag down extra help (should you need to), or provide a beacon for a lost animal to return to. In addition to instant ice packs, gauze, and elastic bandages, this kit is stocked with wooden tongue depressors, as well as tick removers and an emergency blanket.
5. The Best Option for Backpacking
- 96-Piece Kit
- 15.2 ounces, 7.5" x 6" x 3.5"
- "Guide to Wilderness Medicine" pamphlet included
Adventure Medical Kits is great for backpackers and comes already organized: Each pocket is labeled with an injury category so that your supplies are easy to navigate. Suited for two people on a trip less than four days, this first aid pack can treat cuts, allergies, burns, blisters, and dehydration. It even offers supplies for mild sprains (but note: not fractures).
An abundance of moleskin will reduce friction in blister-prone areas, while trauma pads and butterfly closures can seal wounds off from infection. A hiking first-aid booklet that has been edited by registered doctors provide all the information you need for treating common backcountry injuries, and this kit has extra room included for anything else you deem a necessity. Overall, the Mountain Series from Adventure Medical Kits lets you take to the backwoods with confidence.
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