Tuesday, 23 November 2010

My First Aid Kit

I've not really seen much in the way of discussion on First Aid, and Survival, kits on the blogs I tend to frequent. We all carry them, I am sure, but I have no real concept of what others carry. Consequently, I thought a quick post, and some commentary from 'the regulars' and we might all learn something we didn't know about our kits. They tend to stay packed away at the bottom of our sacks - never forgotten but rarely used - and we probably don't give them much thought.

I am a registered First Aider (one of the perks of my government employer) so took some time to learn about First Aid. I'd be interested to see what others think of my kit and what they'd add to it. Clearly some items are peculiar to me (contact lenses and earplugs, for example) whilst others would be essential in any kit. Ultralight is a compromise but how far we compromise in this area is debatable. That said, most items in a medical kit are already small and lightweight, so I don't feel the compromise is so very harsh.

My Kit, in a red Alpkit Apollo stuffsack, and always placed within a drybag containing my other 'keep-dry' essentials, weighs 96g and contains the following:

Painkillers - aspirin, paracetomol and ibruprofen
Imodium tablet
Anti-hystamine tablet
Savlon antiseptic alcohol wipes
1 set of thin plastic gloves
Steristrips - various sizes
Robust, waterproof plasters
3 sterile dressings (various sizes)
Safety pin
Insect bite cream
Contact lenses
Spare shoe lace
Micropore tape
Isostar tablets 

Signal whistle
Water purification tablets (for emergencies rather than general use)
Swiss Army Knife - “Ranger”

There are various items I do not carry as, in an emergency, other items will fulfil the role - the prime example is a triangular bandage as I can use my MSR Pack Towel to do that. I do not carry a bothy-bag or a survival bag as I have both a shelter and a sleeping bag and mat. I used to carry antiseptic lotion but found alcohol wipes to do a better job outdoors as the skin dries quickly so a dressing can be applied more easily. I don't carry syringes as I do not have the experience to use them, nor is there anything I can inject. I do not carry a snare wire or fishing line, for example, as I might do in the wilderness as it really does not fit my requirements. Finally, my iPhone has John 'Lofty' Wiseman's SAS Survival Guide and the St Johns Ambulance First Aid applications. They are useful additions if you have an iPhone.

It would be intriguing to see what others carry...


  1. That's virtually identical to my First Aid kit, which is encouraging. I also take a couple of cotton wool pads but don't carry waterpurifying tablets.

  2. You are correct I dont know what's in it. I seem to remember using all the sticky tape up to stem the flow of down from a torn sleeping bag! Must look at it sometime.

  3. This is interesting - I've currently got a stack of really great Adventure Medical Kits...kits to review - totally different to the standard HSE-approved ready-made packs you see in the mainstream outdoors shops. I think you'll be surprised at the contents!

  4. Robin: glad to hear we're both in right area!

    Greg: look at it once everyone has had a comment and perhaps you'll end up putting things in you never knew you needed!

    Phil: not sure what could be in them - I am intrigued - in fact, I am almost afraid to ask now....

  5. Pretty similar to mine, I have got the addition of a pair of tweezers ever since I got a really bad splinter from a fence post one hike. Good for tick removal too.

  6. James: the "Ranger" has tweezers and scissors which is why they are missing from the list.

  7. Mine first aid/repair kit is in a constant state of flux but here it is laid out last summer:


    I remember reading about an Iditarod competitor who carries nothing but ibuprofen, a knife and duct tape. Hardcore.

  8. hi Maz,
    First Aid Kits are strange beasts. For years i have swapped and changed items without using most of what i’ve carried. The odd plaster here and there, a bit of savlon occasionally. Paracetamol on many occasions but that was my fault for staying in the pub too long.
    I’m just sorting my gear out for a trip to the Lakes tomorrow so if i get chance i will photo my F.A kit and post it. If not i will do it after the weekend...Alan

  9. you read my mind, I was considering a post on this. Have just done a Red Cross 'first aid at work' course. 2m Gaffer tape, Ibru, safety pins and an opinel knife are always there, gloves, rehydration powders and assorted sticky strips for longer trips.

    Whats more important is packing the know-how to use the kit, which I was sorely lacking, until last week at least. The Red Cross course was great and I'd recommend it to everyone - why oh why is it not on the national curriculum?!

  10. Joe: Harcore would be if he tore the duct tape with his teeth.

    Alan: I'm interested to see what you take. First Aid Kits are like lawyers - we rarely need to use them but when we do...

    David: I was discussing First Aid and the National Curriculum with my partner recently (one of the side-effects of a newborn) and I completely agree. The NC needs updating with a concentration on life-skills as well as academic education.

  11. I started off with a store bought "lightweight" first aid kit, and the more I hiked and learned about backpacking the more I took out. Right now I just consider my first aid kit a roll of tape. If I'm out for a week or more I'll bring some ibuprofen. I always carry a small swiss army knife and some extra aqua-mira tabs for emergency use so I guess you could count those too.

    My logic is I don't have first aid training and if I need more than some tape, a pack towel or bandanna then I'm screwed anyway. I also always carry my cell phone, but service is a rarity.

  12. Patrick - are you the 'hardcore' chap Joe was talking about... I'd say there's some logic to the proposition that the more you can minimise damage to yourself getting worse, the better the chances of getting out in one piece. I doff my cap to you, though, sir!

  13. Maz, you also need to take location into account. I live in the south east United States and my hiking is generally in the Appalachian Mountains and I'm very rarely more than a days walk from a road. Granted you can get into a lot of trouble no matter how close you are to help, but I'm comfortable with what I carry.

    I carry the tape which not only can be used instead of bandages but also to repair gear. I keep some alcohol based sanitizer with my toilet paper so I don't need to carry the antiseptic.
    I just sort of "tough it out" when it comes to biting insects so I don't need the bite cream.
    I started off my AT thru hike with Imodium, but gave it all to my buddy who refused to think the 10 Cliff bars he was eating a day were the culprit for his upset gut.
    I do carry allergy medicine in the spring so I guess I left that out.

    I say it all the time, but the best thing about this thing we do outside is that you do what works for you and thats all that matters. Its great to talk about and learn from each other on blogs like this, but when it comes down to it you do what you feel comfortable with.

  14. Patrick - you're absolutely right when you say you do what works for you and thats all that matters. Your dual use philosophy is clearly the right one, however (cannot argue with that) and perhaps I will re-think some items in my FAK as a consequence. That was the point of my post. As I said to Phil Werner recently, I wish I could spend some time on the trails in the US at some point. Chris Townsend did the PCT - not sure I'd have the time to do that but a good 2-3 weeks would be something special.

    10 Cliff Bars - my God.

  15. Two to three Compeed, about five plasters, two antiseptic alcohol wipes, four safety pins, four Ibuprofen, four Aspirin two Panadol (all are painkillers). 26 g. On longer trips comes also along a bandage (41 g) and in the winter a rescue blanket (58 g). I have done a FA2 course, too ;)

    I always carry my knife and firesteel, both essential pieces if getting into a dangerous situation in the outdoors. Firesteel allows you to make a fire, knife, well, mandatory.

    Good post!

  16. Maz, I have a small off the shelf kit and I supplement it with Compeed, duct tape and I have a very small lightweight Swiss army knife.

  17. Hendrik: thanks for the comment - not so very far apart but that seems the case with the large majority of the people commenting. It's interesting. I don't often carry a firesteel but would if I were trail hiking far away from help. As Patrick rightly observes - where you are has a major impact on your First Aid/Survival Kit.

    Mark: Similar to mine, I suspect. I don't see me using duct tape but many people do seem to carry it.

    Thomas: Big fan of your blog so thank you.

  18. Very interesting post and great stuff!
    See my first aid kit (a bit smaller than yours):

  19. That's a good thought-provoking post, Maz.

    Just blogged my F.A.K. @ http://beardedgit.com/?p=5536

    Lightweighters probably shouldn't follow that link :-)

  20. It is good to take your first aid kit always updated
    thanks for the list of useful products.

  21. Reconsidering duct tape....

    Thought I'd add that I use duct tape in winter on my heels (before) I go hiking in mountaineering boots to prevent blistering due to heel lift. I don't always need it, but it's far better to put it on anyway.

    I'm with Patrick on minimal first aid/gear repair kits. I basically carry duct tape, immodium, a few extra chlorine dioxide tablets, benedryl and ibuprofen and 2 sterile gauze bandages, spare shoe lace, thin plastic gloves and that's about it. But I do have much of the same stuff you have distributed in other places in my pack, for faster access.

    DEET in my hip belt pocket
    Plastic knife attached to the front of my pack (just use the scissors)
    Plastic whistle attached to my shoulder pad
    Earplugs in my personnel nighttime gear bag
    Matches and fire steel in my food sack

  22. It is good to take your first aid kit always updated
    thanks for the list of useful products.

  23. For my travelling kit, I share a lot of similarities with yours but on top is my gerber knives. I do that when camping.