Putting together my hiking first aid kit

Whilst there are very few parts of the UK far from civilisation, I still think it is a very good idea to carry a basic first aid kit with you when out hiking. Not only does having a first aid kit mean that you can provide basic aid if a serious accident occurs (like stopping / reducing  bleeding etc) whilst you wait for the emergency services, it also means you can handle more minor injuries like strapping up a twisted ankle, or treating cuts and grazes.

I have recently put together a new first aid kit, and as a few people seemed interested, I thought I would do a brief write up of the process.

My original first aid kit has not received much love and attention since Offa’s Dyke almost a year ago. Since then it has been raided for pills, plasters, and even bandages (after I nearly sliced my finger off in the kitchen). This continual pillaging of supplies had reduced the kit’s effectiveness to the point where I had stopped taking it with me on hikes.

With trips planned to The Peak District and Dartmoor coming up, as well as the Just Walk 40km charity event in May (where it is a requirement to have a first aid kit), I took the opportunity of a rare trip to town to pop into the local outdoor shop and Boots to stock up.

I should point out before I start, that most of the walks I do are single day or short multi days fairly near civilisation.  For long or more adventurous trips, what I carry would change. I am also not medically trained, so I only take what I can use!

Initially, I wanted an off the shelf kit to use as a starting point. This particular outdoor shop only stocked the LiFESYSTEMS range. I opted for the Trek one as the size was about right for my needs.

The kit comes with: crepe & woven bandages, low-adherent dressing, fabric & blister plasters, micropore tape, gauze swabs, scissors & tweezers, safety pins, vinyl gloves, antiseptic wipes, paracetamol tablets and a primary care leaflet.

The next stage was cutting all this down – for short trips I see no need to have two pairs of vinyl gloves! I reduced the number of gauze swabs, gloves, wipes, and paracetamol by at least half (keeping the excess for restocking) and reduced some of the packaging. I also replaced the fabric plasters with a range of Elastoplast plasters (they just stick better) and the blisters plasters with a few Compeed (the larger ones for heels).

I had a little read through the primary care leaflet, but the contents I already knew (I am from a medical family) or was not relevant (travel advice), so I also removed it. I will probably look out for a more useful mini guide to stuff in the bottom of my pack “just in case”!

I am sure there is a great medical reason for micropore tape, but I find it never sticks to my skin and copes badly in the outdoors – instead of this, I have added a roll of zinc oxide tape. I have also added to the kit a tube of Savlon and Deep Heat (not to be confused with any other tub of anything ever!). Deep Heat is my second choice – I would prefer Ibuprofen gel, which I found more useful on Offa’s Dyke (and less prone to placement accidents…). I use Savlon on any cut or scratch – a few years ago I watched a programme about the flesh eating bacteria you can pick up from innocent scratches, and have been paranoid every since!  (I also use it on the dog if she has any cuts).

I suffer from chapped lips a lot when walking, so I have also included some Neutrogena lip salve – unfortunately my numb fingers cannot cope with the fiddly tins of Vasoline, but the lip salve can be applied elsewhere if required. Finally I have included a tick remover – I will never forget the day my previous dog was attacked by a nest and ended up with twenty of the little bloodsuckers around his body!

There are a few bits missing: I need to add some strong antihistamines, some Ibuprofen tablets, and I have no knife. I did have one of those small, effectively useless, Swiss army knives, but I need to find myself something a bit more useful and functional. I also want to get myself one of those mini shelters – this can be used both as a dry and warm place to have lunch, but also during emergencies.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on my first aid kit!

7 Replies to “Putting together my hiking first aid kit”

  1. I saw that you’ve got a fair bit of discussion going on Twitter about this and am surprised that’s not reflected here, but for what it’s worth:
    I used micropore with melolin on my WHW; with a Classic SD Victorinox I could use the scissors to cut the melolin to exact sizes for my blisters (many) and enjoyed the morning ritual. The micropore worked well for me but I know others use zinc oxide, duct and even electrical insulation tape!
    I also carried ibuprofen, anti histamines and a couple of sealed antiseptic wipes, which worked well for me. I kept mine in a sealed poly bag which cut weight down.
    I carry my lipsalve in my pocket which means I can reapply it frequently; do you keep yours in your first aid bag?
    Great post, especially for nosy people like me :o)

  2. Thanks for your comment Helen!

    The Victorinox Classic SD was the swiss army knife I used to have – the few times I have actually tried to use the blade I found it to be pretty useless, so I am looking for something a bit more usable (in the meantime I am keeping the scissors from the off the shelf kit).

    On Offa’s Dyke I only got a couple of blisters, which were dealt with by plasters and Compeed – the zinc oxide tape however got a lot of use strapping padding to my metatarsal bridges which got weakened thanks to the pulling dog!

    The lipsalve gets transferred to my pocket when required, but if I have it in the first aid kit I don’t forget it (or lose it)!

  3. I also think that for hiking, it would be a good idea to include contact details like your next of kin, Dr etc as well as blood group details and/or other medical info.

  4. As I said before on twitter; up until very recently I didn’t carry a first aid kit and also that I would reply. Well here it is.

    It wasn’t till I read a post from Phil T, @PhilOutdoors on his site http://lightweightoutdoors.com/?p=1460 that got me thinking that it was probably a good idea. My base starting point was the Adventure Medical Kit .3, it’s a small and very lightweight kit and for personal and only for a couple of days use a very good starting point. The kit contains the following:-

    Bandage Materials
    2 Bandage, Butterfly Closure
    3 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2″ x 2″, Pkg./2
    4 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1″ x 3″
    2 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    2 Safety Pins

    Blister / Burn
    1 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)

    Medication
    2 After Bite Wipe

    Wound Care
    2 Alcohol Swab
    1 Tape, 1/2″ x 10 Yards
    3 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipe

    I have supplemented this with the following:-

    8 Paracetamol Tablets
    8 Ibuprofen Tablets
    2 Antihistamine Tablets (1 a day)
    8 Imodium Tablets

    Tick removal tool

    Also throughout my kit other pieces that are multi-use that can be brought in to aid and supplement the kit further. Like Vaseline from my fire starting kit, a Swiss Army Knife and Gaffer tape from my repair kit.

    I’m a lapsed first aider as well so I have a good foundation and base knowledge to use what I’ve packed.

    Hope this is of some use to you to see what others carry. I think my list is self explanatory but if you have a question just ask 🙂

  5. Thanks Tookie – great to see what others carry.

    Is 2 bite wipes enough with the infamous Scottish midges?

    My feeling with bandages, dressings etc was that for small non-remote trips you don’t need to carry much surplus – I suppose they are not exactly heavy though!

    Which Swiss Army knife do you have?

  6. Must admit that the midges don’t seem to bother me, not saying that I don’t get bitten. Probably something to do with being an eczema suffer I can ignore the urge to itch more than anything 🙂

    I’m not sure what model my Swiss Army knife, I think it’s the Victornox Explorer but I’ve had it for about 18 years!

  7. One of the most important elements in any first aid kit is…

    primary care leaflet.

    This is especially true when those who may need emergency first aid
    have little or no knowledge of how to provide care.

    This statement,
    “The next stage was cutting all this down – for short trips I see no need to have two pairs of vinyl gloves! I reduced the number of gauze swabs, gloves, wipes, and paracetamol by at least half (keeping the excess for restocking) and reduced some of the packaging.” assumes that serious injury can’t occur on short hikes.

    One snake bite, a slip and 10 foot fall, an accidental cut artery can become an emergeny requiring all available first aid resources.

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