Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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Outdoor First Aid Kit, including scissors, dressing and a vinyl glove in a red bag

What’s In Your Outdoor First Aid Kit?

An outdoor first aid kit is essential for hikers, whether you’re out on a regular short route or backpacking a national trail.

This guide will help you think about possible outdoor first aid scenarios and what you might need to hand to attend to them.

Disclaimer: I’ve based this guide on my training as an outdoor first aider, but I’m NOT a medical expert and this is not a ‘definitive’ guide or a substitute for attending a first aid course yourself. Any items in the photographs are from my personal outdoor first aid kit and not intended to promote or endorse any particular brand or product (there are no affiliate links in this article). Finally, please ensure anything you decide to take is suitable for your personal use.

 

Pinterest collage - What to pack in your outdoor first aid kit: a guide for hikers

 

What Your Outdoor First Aid Kit Might Include

From Blisters to Broken Bones

Check out these ideas of what you might need in your outdoor first aid kit for typical scenarios:

Bites and Stings

  • tick tweezers
  • tweezers
  • antihistamine
  • antiseptic wipes
  • small tube of antiseptic
  • insect repellent

You might also find this article interesting if you’re worried about being bitten by a UK snake.

Aches and Pains

  • Compression bandages
  • Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
  • Tube of Deep Heat
Forefinger cut on barbed wire (shown after cleaning).

Do you have everything you need to care for minor cuts? (This accident happened when my finger caught on barbed wire -easily done!)

Cuts and Bruises

  • antiseptic wipes
  • small tube of antiseptic
  • plasters in a range of sizes
  • skin closures
  • sterile dressing
  • dressing tape
  • bandage

Sunburn

  • sun cream
  • after-sun cream

Breaks and Strains

  • triangular bandage
  • elasticated bandage
  • pain killers
  • splint

Blisters

  • antiseptic wipes
  • small tube of antiseptic
  • blister plasters
Bare feet with toes wrapped in Compeed blister plasters.

The ugly reality of hiker’s feet! Forget your blister plasters at you peril!

What To Pack For A Multi Day Hike

This section offers some ideas for what you can carry on a day or multi-day hike and most of them are things I pack in my own personal first aid kid.

Outdoor First Aid Kit: Prevention

It’s so simple to prevent things like bites and sunburn, but they always seem to be the things we forget! Or is that just me?! I wrote a check list that I find useful and I thought you might find it helpful too:

For Prevention of insect bites, sunburn, aches and niggles

  • I use a Deet based insect repellent and a mosquito head-net, but other walkers swear by Avon Skin So Soft Moisturiser to prevent mosquito bites
  • A hat and sun cream are essential for preventing sunburn, and a shirt with a collar is a good way to protect your neck too
  • You can prevent painful niggles in knees and calves with an elasticated tubular bandage, but don’t forget walking poles will make a huge difference to knee strain too
  • and you might find a tube of Deep Heat Muscle Pain Relief (or something similar) is helpful if you suffer from general muscle ache
  • lastly, always pack Vaseline for chafing! I use it between my toes and on pressure points on the hip belt of my rucksack, but I hear others use it for their rucksack straps – and even their nipples!

 

Take a break on a South West Coast Path hike - legs up on a rucksack and suncream on!

Sun cream and feet up for a rest on long distance hike – the best preventative medicine!

 

Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevate.

R.I.C.E. isn’t always practical on the trail, but if you feel that niggle coming on take regular breaks (Rest), stand in a cold stream, tarn or the sea (if it’s safe) for 10 minutes or so (Ice), wear your elasticated support bandage (Compression), and put your feet up at your lunch stops and breaks (Elevate), which might stop the niggle from becoming worse en route.

Remove any compression bandages before you go to sleep.

Outdoor First Aid Kit: Cure

What to pack for minor injuries:

  • 3 antiseptic wipes for cleaning grazes and open wounds
  • 1 small tube of antiseptic for applying to open wounds to inhibit infection
  • 3 plasters of various sizes for small cuts and grazes
  • 1 strip of skin closures for deeper incisions (eg a cut from a rock)
  • 2 blister plasters (eg Compeed)
  • 1 large sterile dressing for large cuts and grazes (it can also be cut into several smaller dressings)
  • 1 small roll of dressing tape
  • 1 bandage roll (useful for covering dressings, securing a splint etc)
  • 1 triangular bandage for sprains and breaks to the arm
  • Pair of tick tweezers for ticks, bee stings and thorns
  • Small pair of scissors for cutting bandages and clothing
  • Blister pack of antihistamine* for allergic reactions
  • Blister pack of pain killers* paracetamol or Ibuprofen, which is also useful for swelling

*See if there’s an alternative if you’re allergic and also ensure there are no contraindications if you take other medication – check with your pharmacist.

Don’t Forget To Include These Items In Your Outdoor First Aid Kit Too!

These aren’t medical items, but don’t venture out without them:

  1. A foil blanket to keep yourself warm if you have to wait for help, for eg
  2. A whistle to attract attention if you’re hurt and out alone
  3. Accident contact numbers – who are you going to call if you’re injured? EG 999/112
  4. Personal medication including inhalers, Epi-pens, etc
  5. Personal details phone numbers of next of kin, medication, etc – find out how to add emergency details to your phone which can be read even when it’s locked

Be Creative And Double Up To Save Weight

Think about what else you usually carry that could double up for first aid if you needed it.

Consider:

  • Something else you could use for a splint – how about a walking pole?
  • Dressing tape and repair patches can be replaced with some multi-purpose Gaffa tape rolled around the top of your walking pole
  • What else could you use as a sling? A Buff perhaps, or an item of clothing?
  • Is there something on your multi-tool that means you can ditch separate items?

Lightening Your Load

  • How long you’ll be walking for? Can you carry less than if you’re out for a week?
  • Where will be passing through – how close are supermarkets and pharmacies along your route; can you carry less and re-stock if you need to?
  • What’s the terrain like? Is it rocky, with more potential for cuts and bruises, or muddy and boggy with more possibility of slips and strains?
  • Can you share your first aid kit between a group? This might be a good option on a multi-day trip with friends, but there are always items each of you should carry and you should be aware of each other’s allergies and emergency contact details too.

PS  lightening your first aid kit doesn’t mean skimping!

Red Lifesystems Outdoor First Aid bag with white writing and black zip.

How To Look After Your Outdoor First Aid Kit

Keep It Dry

Your personal outdoor first aid kit is vital so it’s important to keep it clean and dry!

Store your first aid in a lightweight waterproof bag that can’t be punctured: a thick plastic pencil case or a roll-top dry-bag are good options. Dry bags are strong, they’re completely waterproof and the roll top means you can make the bag fit the contents perfectly (which makes it easier to pack in your rucksack).

Keep It Stocked Up

Replace used items after every hike and regularly check the use-by dates and replace if necessary.

Keep It Light

The easiest way to lighten your first aid kit is to get rid of any superfluous packaging: remove any cardboard boxes that dressings and tapes come in and transfer them to small zip-lock bags to keep them clean. Write use by dates in felt-tip if they were removed with the packaging.

Your Free Download

Next time you pack your rucksack don’t forget your first aid kit and download the checklist below as a reminder of what to take – I hope it’s useful!

 

 

Happy hiking!

Stephie x

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