My travel-friendly first aid kit recently came in handy. Rosie, my energetic German Shepherd mix, was racing around a meadow when she suddenly ran back to me, lay on the ground, and licked her feet. I examined her and immediately noticed blood coming from both front paws. I'm still unsure what happened, but Rosie lacerated the bottoms of both front feet. While my partner called the emergency veterinarian, I could easily access my sizeable first aid kit, grab gauze and Ace wrap, and bandage her feet. This put pressure on her wounds and kept additional dirt out of her cuts. We safely transported her to the vet, where she promptly got stitches.
Not only can yourafirst aid kit come in handy for you, but it can help treat others, including pets. Whether you hit the trails with your loved ones, friends, your pup, or alone, it's worth keeping medical supplies on you in case of an injury.
Your first aid kit should be a comprehensive, well-stocked medical resource. It's not just a bag of Band-Aids and Neosporin that you keep in your backpack; that's what I like to call a boo-boo kit. While still valid, if things go south, you may wish you had a tourniquet and medical shears instead of a Ziploc of old Band-Aids.
I keep a smaller bag alongside my large first aid kit. I mentioned this earlier, but before I head out into the woods or far away from my car, I stick a bunch of my first aid kit's supplies into my go-bag. I use a gray fanny pack with a red medical cross as my to-go medical kit. Things I stick into my go-bag include aspirin, a roll of gauze, one Ace bandage, a few Band-Aids, Neosporin, a small container of QuikClot, an emergency blanket, medical shears, and a tourniquet. I also bring my Garmin InReach. This way, I cut down on weight in my pack while having at least one of everything.
For all outdoorswomen, r anyone spending time outside, these are the items you should be sure to include in your first aid kit.
Wilderness First Aid Kit Checklist
Gauze, Ace Wrap, Medical Tape, and Bandages
These items are arguably the most common products found in first aid kits. Bandages-ranging from a variety pack of Band-Aids, squares of nonstick gauze, rolls of gauze, medical tape, waterproof bandages, and self-adhering Ace bandage wrap-are essentials. When you keep these items on you, you're prepared to slow bleeding and protect cuts, scrapes, and gashes until you can get to a safe place.
Pain Relievers, Allergy Meds, and Medications
Pills and ointments are other everyday first aid items that you'll want to include. Pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are all great things to keep on hand. If you have allergies like me, keep some allergy meds with antihistamines in your first aid kit. Pack an EpiPen or inhaler if you need one or if you want to have one in case someone else does. Extra medications are also good to include in your kit; if you get stuck out in the woods, you'll be thankful you brought them along.
Antibiotic Ointments and Disinfectants
Antibiotic ointments like Neosporin are wise to carry. Whether your blister pops, you experience a burn, or you get a small cut, ointment helps expedite the healing process. It also kills any harmful bacteria that may have gotten into your wound. Disinfectants serve a similar purpose. This includes things like Bactine, hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol. These products kill germs, have antiseptic properties, and help clean your wound. Bactine includes Lidocaine, so you'll experience pain relief in addition to the cleaning benefits.
Cleaning supplies help clean your wound and medical gear. I keep cotton balls, alcohol swabs, and sterile gloves in my first aid kit to clean my shears, scissors, thermometer, and other supplies as well as cleaning skin. Cotton balls can help clean cuts and scrapes as well as dab wounds. Gloves help keep my germs out of injuries and help protect myself against others' bodily fluids.
Scissors and Medical Shears
A small pair of scissors is a helpful addition to any kit. My scissors help me quickly cut gauze rolls, Ace wrap, medical tape, and more. If I get blood or other fluids on these scissors, I clean them with alcohol wipes. Medical shears are a little different than scissors. They are much sharper and meant to cut through clothing or other thick layers. For example, if you get a large gash on your thigh while wearing jeans, it may be too painful for you to remove your pants. Having medical shears handy allows you to cut through the fabric to get to your wound. This saves time when seconds count.
QuikClot is a handy tool to have on hand. QuikClot is a hemostatic agent that promotes blood clotting, so you lose less blood and protect your wound faster. You can get it as a powder or as a bandage wrap with QuikClot.
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This small item is lightweight and great for stabilizing your body temperature. Emergency or space blankets reduce your body's heat loss. They help retain up to 90 percent of your body heat. They can also help keep you dry. If you're prone to getting cold, in addition to a space blanket, you might consider keeping extra hand warmers in your first aid kit. They can make you more comfortable if you're freezing, experiencing a lack of sensitivity in your extremities, or fighting hypothermia.
Tourniquets are a must-have for any first aid kit owner. It's also essential to be trained on how to use one before needing one. The Red Cross offers training on its website. Tourniquets halt blood flow, and they cut off circulation to an injury by being tightly placed above an area experiencing blood loss. Say you get a large cut on your upper calf bleeding profusely, and you're genuinely concerned about losing too much blood. By placing a tourniquet on your thigh, you can cut off circulation to your wound, decreasing the amount of blood loss. This device can and has saved lives. It's worth it to keep two of these in your kit. On the off chance that one device fails, you can always use the other. In extreme cases, you may need two tourniquets to sufficiently cut off circulation.
Although radios aren't medical devices, they can come in handy in an emergency. For example, if you're out hiking with three people and you experience a life-threatening wound, one person can take a radio and head for help. The other radio can stay with you and the person watching over you, enabling communication with the third person who sought help. Having radios is especially important in areas with weak or no phone signal. My go-to backcountry radio brand is Rocky Talkie.
Things to Have Beyond a First Aid Kit
When taking your life into your own hands, it's important to have skills and resources available to you beyond a first aid kit.
Not only should you have a first aid kit, but you should know how to use everything inside it safely. Online training offered by organizations like the Red Cross teaches you how to use tourniquets, apply CPR, get a first aid certification, and more. Having a knowledge-based toolkit, in addition to access to medical supplies, can save lives.
Other things you may consider regarding personal safety include owning a pistol and knowing how to use it safely. Places with aggressive wildlife like grizzly bears or that may have sketchy people doing illegal activities nearby are spots where it's good to know how to defend yourself. The US Concealed Carry Association offers basic pistol, women's defense, home defense, and more training opportunities.
Things like thermometers, ear and eye protection, Garmin InReach products, and satellite phones are also valuable items you may want to include in your kit or as part of your overall outdoor gear.
All these items need a place to be stored, and several inexpensive fanny packs or other simple-to-carry bags. If you don't want to build your own first aid kit, there are many options online for purchasing a pre-built kit.
Being responsible for your and others' health and wellness in the backcountry is empowering. Taking ownership of your medical resources and outdoor skillset could mean the difference between life and death.
READ MORE: HOW TO MAKE TENT CAMPING MORE COMFORTABLE
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