A long time ago I picked up this ditty bag from Outdoor Research, to use for my First Aid kit. While I was thinking 10 years ago, it’s probably more like 15. For a few years I quit carrying it and went to a quart freezer bags (during the minimalist UL years). But in the end, the few ounces won out. For one thing, the bag still looks new, even after thousands of miles and many backpacking trips. The freezer bags would last a few trips at most. Everything has a pocket or area to be in, letting me find what I need quickly. It has a small grab handle as well, on the bottom, and features a number of zippered pockets.
My thoughts on First Aid Kit packing: Only take what you know how to use, and are willing to use. Some people only carry a few bandaids, others carry a few pounds of gear. The best thing you can do is learn how to use the items you carry. Hopefully not in the field, but at home. I carry a lot, and it was having more kids that changed me. Children love to fall it seems, and get ripped up. So if you hike without children, your kit might be a lot lighter. And the truth is, a First Aid Kit is often just for those emergencies we can take of. Not everything can we protect from (such as bad falls, lightning strikes, falling rocks).
My current kit, along with the “why” it is carried:
- Epi Pen Jr (2 pack) – Our youngest has life threatening allergies. I carry a pack as a backup in my first aid kit, along with a second set that is the “everyday carry” from my purse. This is a prescription only device, but I don’t care what it weighs – it is weightless in my eyes. I replace it every year.
- Liquid Benadryl – This product was made by Walgreen’s and isn’t made anymore. So we will go to another type soon. It was a single adult dose. (However, for the child, EpiPen’s are used first before antihistamines if it is related to any of his known allergens.) I feel EVERY person should carry enough Benadryl that is fast reacting that can be shared. It can buy time.
- Quick Clot – Deep injuries are hard to treat overall. However, if you can stop the bleeding, the injured person has a better chance. These packs are small and light.
- Wound Seal – Easy to use, no bandages needed.
- Disposable gloves – It’s not just about avoiding others body fluids – it’s also about keeping the victim clean! Your hands are probably not very clean overall when hiking. (See unscented baby wipes at the bottom)
- Gauze roll – Good for covering minor wounds and minor burns.
- Tape for gauze – For sealing many wraps.
- Gauze pads – For absorbing and wrapping minor wounds.
- Ace Bandage – For wrapping up sprains.
- Alcohol prep pads – For cleaning minor wounds.
- Various OTC meds in single use packets (ointment, athletes foots, burn ointment, itch ointment) – I have used all of it.
- Aspirin packs – I have my reasons to carry it. I carry it for me and for strangers. It weighs nearly nothing.
- Tylenol or Advil painkillers – Just to have on hand. I don’t take pain killers unless I have a severe headache (from the elevation or being dehydrated) but you never know.
- Bee and stinging insect kit – I had a hiking partner who would get stung all the time by yellow jackets. These really work and remove the pain.
- Crown kit – If you have dental work, and that involve crowns, this is insurance for if it pops out. You can still eat and not have an exposed hole. Also good if you break a molar and need to pack it till you get out.
- Eye Pads – Because there is a time in life when you meet someone who has been poked in the eye, or got it inflamed. Being able to cover an eye and tape it in place really helps.
- Various bandaids, in many sizes – Think from small to big, 2 of each. They don’t weigh much.
- Blister bandaids, in 3 sizes – These are made by BandAid, but Walgreen’s makes generics as well. Well worth the cost, one of them will stay on for days, and fills in the blister. Zero pain. Don’t waste your time on moleskin and other treatments. You will find at the end of summer you have given half your blister care away to strangers.
- Water purification tablets (MicroPur) – Backup to any water filter I carry.
- Fire Starter – If you hike in off-season, or where it is wet, this is worth the weight. It doesn’t matter what type or even a brand – just that it helps you quickly get a fire going. I once had a hiking partner come down with the start of a flu-like sickness, and he couldn’t stay warm. I made a fire and it helped not only him stay warm, but something about an emergency fire just makes you feel better inside.
- Waterproof storm matches – Just carry them. They weigh almost nothing. Lighters and piezo’s on stoves fail.
- Hand sanitizer – I don’t use it on hands, I use it to start fires.
- Sewing kit – Next time you get a freebie at a hotel, take it. Add in a few safety pins as well. From whip stitching tent walls to socks….if you can’t hand sew, go learn it now. Life skills here!
- Duct tape – Because it can fix so much.
- Mirror – Tiny and small, and weighs as much as a feather. Good for many things.
- Mini toothbrush – While touted as disposables, if you bring toothpaste they work an entire trip.
- 3 days worth of prescription medications –
- Hair ties – Silly? Not if you have long hair. Get it out-of-the-way. Also good backup if you wear a pony tail while hiking, and your band breaks.
- Travel pack unscented baby wipes – for hand cleaning. Use them to get under your finger nails especially.
Is it a lot? To some it might be, but overall, I have used most of what I carry at some point (thankfully not the crown kit, but if I need it, it’ll be priceless).