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3/03/2016 12:39 pm  #1

First Aid Kits

What do you folks carry?  Do you address it with a store-bought kit?  Do you assemble your own?  I look at some kits online and seeing what some kayakers are carrying (everything you need to perform delicate surgery just short of an operating table), versus what some hikers are carrying (crazy glue, ibuprofen and a box of hope because of "weight penalties") - ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly for both of those....

I realize this is a personal preference thing, probably colored by what you've experienced while camping.  I've always used a purchased kit and supplemented it, but I'm thinking of "rolling my own".  Most kits don't seem to have moleskin, so I add that in, and I add in things like Tylenol, Benadryl, neosporin, and my trusted friend in time of great need, immodium, so why not just do the whole thing myself.  

What I don't like is redundancy.  There are two types of redundancy.  First, where I'm carrying two things that can substitute for one another, and second, where I'm giving myself "size and type" options.  If I have a ready substitute, I don't want to carry extra.  Scissors - because I have a knife.  Syringes to clean wounds - because I have a water bottle.  For size and type redundancy, as an example, I'll carry multiple bandage rolls, but they will all be of the same size.  I might carry two sizes of gauze pad, but not three or four.  How many bandaid types do I really need?  That kind of redundancy (giving me a choice) doesn't weigh anything particularly, but in a true emergency it can cost speed, which is worse.  I do not want to be sorting through an enormous amount of "stuff" to find what I need, or internally debating the best option when either option will work.  That debate happens best in the drugstore.

The most difficult part, to me anyway, is ensuring that you restock as necessary.  You get home, you throw gear into storage, and that's that - but you need to have that discipline that tells you "only three bandaids left!!!!" or that more subtle one, "replace that tube of or bottle of _____, because it is probably close to expiration."


3/03/2016 2:19 pm  #2

Re: First Aid Kits

I don't carry a dedicated first aid kit. I have looked at them at times, but the good ones are pretty expensive and most of what I need can be handled with other gear that I'm already carrying. 

Things like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and Benadryl are already in my shaving kit (although I could really leave the razor at home). At times I've had an epipen, but not currently and if someone is really at risk they should have their own. Immodium may or may not be in there because it has a relatively short shelf life relative to how often it gets used. 

When I remember we will pack a few bandages and some polysporin. Those are useful for everyday nicks that come with being outdoors. Moleskin is a nice to have, but I may have used it once ever. 

For cleaning a wound, we already have the tools to prepare clean water and soap for washing. 

If it was a larger wound, then duct tape and a clean(ish) shirt will apply pressure long enough to get out to an access point. The duct tape is carried for emergency repairs to canoes. If you want to minimize weight, you can wrap a bunch around a water bottle. 

If I need a splint then the duct tape or rope and a Thermarest will work. I may need a new Thermarest afterwards.

Algonquin does count as "wilderness first aid" because you're more than 10-15 minutes from medical care, but it really isn't remote. Generally speaking if the victim is mobile you will be within about 24 hours max of an access point. From an access point you are within about an hour of at least an emergency care clinic whether it be Huntsville, North Bay, Mattawa, Deep River, Petawawa, Barry's Bay, etc. (If you can make it an hour, then you can get the Immodium for the longer drive home)

The new addition last year was an InReach device which means we now have a way to call for help if we ever have a serious incident where the victim isn't mobile or has an immediate life threatening injury and we need help extracting the victim. 

So while I don't carry a dedicated first aid kit, I'm fairly confident that we have the priorities covered.



3/03/2016 2:49 pm  #3

Re: First Aid Kits

I added one of these to my kit last year. Blood clotting sponge. 

I figure the one thing that could quite easily happen is a cut that wont stop bleeding.. ie  one of my kids slipping on a rock going for a swim, hits their head.  Or I cut myself with a saw etc..Just read Kevin Callan's axe in the groin story..

Or even just run into another group that needs it. 

A bad cut strikes me as high on the probability list.


Last edited by ShawnD (3/03/2016 3:00 pm)

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

3/03/2016 3:45 pm  #4

Re: First Aid Kits

The more severe injury likelihoods would be having to immobilize an arm or a leg due to a fall, or a severe cut, and you both had great suggestions for that.  

The one thing that stood out to me is being 10-15 minutes from help.  How?  I thought there wasn't cell coverage accessible in the park.   

     Thread Starter

3/03/2016 4:39 pm  #5

Re: First Aid Kits

My reference to 10-15 minutes comes from a wilderness first aid course. The context was that "standard" first aid courses today are targeted to urban first aid situations where a 911 call is possible and ambulance/paramedics can respond in a very short time. In that context "wilderness" was defined as any time you were more than about 10-15 minutes from medical help. It may not have been exactly that time window, but it was a remarkably short time. 

Depending on where you are in the park, you may have cell coverage, particularly near the Hwy 60 corridor. For example we have had cell coverage at the south end of Pen Lake. 

There are now several options for communication when outside of cell range. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) and Satellite phones are still options, but I wouldn't say they were ever common and are less common now.

The 2 most popular newer options are either an InReach ( ) or a SPOT ( ) device. Both use satellite communications, are effectively global (although InReach does have the edge here) and support SOS calls.Where they are more powerful than a PLB is in the ability to send richer messages.

SPOT supports additional pre-defined messages which could be anything from a daily "OK" to "running late, don't worry" to "need evac when possible" which could apply to a range of injuries or equipment failure as opposed to a PLB which basically just screams "Help NOW".

The InReach goes further and provides 2 way text messaging so you can both communicate out details of your situation and get back detailed info on a response. InReach also lets you turn your plan on and off on demand in contrast to SPOT which only offers annual plans. 

The SPOT is cheaper to buy than the InReach but the flexibility of the InReach plans tends to make it less expensive in the long run. Personally I went with the InReach and even then I got it when it was on sale and I knew it would get used regularly over the summer. 


3/03/2016 4:53 pm  #6

Re: First Aid Kits

To me, first aid breaks down into three categories

1. Life-saving:
a) Epi pen - one of the more common causes of death is anaphylaxis. If travelling with kids, I would recommend strongly (bee stings)
b) ASA - four tabs of 81mg. If travelling with anyone 40+, early ASA (2 tabs chewed) in case of stroke of heart attack saves lives. 
c) Nitrile gloves, one pair. Where there's a lot of blood, this will help the responder provide care. 

RE: Blood clotting sponge: only if travelling with someone on blood thinners (warfarin/coumadin, or one of the newer ones). If not on blood thinners, pressure is the most important thing and will stop most bleeding. If you cut an artery, sponge won't help, you'll need a tourniquet. Using a sponge may cause harm if you forget applying good pressure (for 15 minutes at least). 

2) Inconvenience:
a) Suturing things: Single suture, steri-strips (large), superglue (single use, for scalp wounds). As an aside, for scalp wounds, criss-crossing the hair and the applying superglue will hold the wound together.
b) Syringe with 18Ga catheter: washing out wounds and eyes. 
c) Band-aids and polysporin
d) Duct tape
e) Immodium
f) 4x4 sterile gauze.

3) Comfort:
a) tylenol, advil, allergy meds

This kit can be very compact. Ultimately, duct tape would be the most versatile, but EpiPen, ASA and gloves would accompany it in the top 4. 

For longer trips: narcotics and antibiotics can go a long way. 

Last edited by Marko_Mrko (3/03/2016 5:49 pm)


3/04/2016 6:38 am  #7

Re: First Aid Kits

On a 8-day trip my son fell while doing some nighttime exploring around camp the 1st night.  He must have hit a stick when he fell which poked a hole near his knee cap.  It was not a big cut but in a bad place so it kept opening up.  We finally got it to seal up after a couple days. We finished our trip and stopped at Niagra falls on our way home.  His knee swelled up and he had red lines coming from his knee.  Once we got home he went to the doctor then spent two weeks in the hospital with a severe infection in his leg.

My other son afterwards became a certified wilderness 1st responder since he has been working with the park service.  He has since made me a list of needed items.  One item is a syringe and iodine to flush these types of wounds out to hopefully stop infections.  There are many other items on his list.  But even with his list the 1st aid kit is pretty small.

I like your ideas of the items for older adults like the ASA tablets never heard of that. Since I'm in my mid 50s might be a good idea.


3/04/2016 8:39 am  #8

Re: First Aid Kits

dontgroandaddy wrote:

The one thing that stood out to me is being 10-15 minutes from help.  How?  I thought there wasn't cell coverage accessible in the park.   

RobW was saying you're MORE than 10-15 minutes away from help, since there isn't cell coverage in most of the park, therefore it counts as wilderness first aid.


3/04/2016 2:36 pm  #9

Re: First Aid Kits

I have a bulky FAK partly because I do some trips where I'm responsible for other people's kids.  I do pare it down some for solo trips and it is my car kit inbetween.

Besides the usual of bandaids and NSAIDs

Double use stuff
Syringe (also doubles to clean my Sawyer Squeeze filter)
Mirror from compass
Whistle on pack
Nuun tablets
Emergency blanket (doubles as ground sheet/tarp)
Dithylene glycol gel and flint striker (emergency firestarter)
Shemagh (doubles as sling)

Celox infused gauze (less side issues than quick clot)
Sam splint
watergel (for burns)
tegaderm (wound covering)
vet wrap (self clinging)

I won't take youth with severe analphylaxis issues into the back country because the chance of getting required medical aid is next to zero (though there supposedly is enough epinephrine in an auto-injector for several doses if you take it apart).  Even if you're just on a day hike trail in Algonquin (or even a campground) it could be over an hour before you have contact with an EMT.

And I'd recommend a Wilderness First Aid Course for anyone spending time in the woods.

p.s. I see the value of a clotting agent is a situation wher ethere are multiple wounds.  It allows you to stop the bleeding on one while dealing with the others.

Last edited by keg (3/04/2016 2:43 pm)


3/04/2016 6:57 pm  #10

Re: First Aid Kits

I took the opportunity with this thread to review and replenish my First-Aid kit and was a little surprised how much I actually carry

1 Small St. Johns Ambulance Pocket Guide to First Aid
5 packages of 4x4 gauze sponges (2 sponges/pack)
5 packages of 2x2 gauze sponges (2 sponges/pack)
An assortment of regular band-aids of various sizes
2 small rolls (finger size) of gauze bandage
1 New Skin burn dressing
1 2-foot length of 10cm width Mefix® Self-Adhesive Fabric Tape
2 Mepitel 2x3 wound dressings
1 4x4 patch of moleskin
Superglue (single use)
1 pair surgical gloves
Finger cotts
Antibiotic ointment
Hydrocortisone cream
Alcohol Prep Pads
Hand sanitizer
1 small roll of surgical tape
Duct tape
Safety Pins 
Sewing needle and thread
Dental floss
Razor blade
Tensor bandage
6 Extra-Strength Advil Liqui-gels
6 Extra-strength Tylenols
6 Aspirin
6 T3s
4 OxyContin
Antihistamine tablets

For the most part, it all fits into a medium size Ziploc. Carried separately is the tensor bandage, a pill container, and those item that do double duty and are included in my personal hygiene kit, etc.

Last edited by Algonquintripper (3/04/2016 6:59 pm)


3/04/2016 7:24 pm  #11

Re: First Aid Kits

dontgroandaddy wrote:

The most difficult part, to me anyway, is ensuring that you restock as necessary.  You get home, you throw gear into storage, and that's that - but you need to have that discipline that tells you "only three bandaids left!!!!" or that more subtle one, "replace that tube of or bottle of _____, because it is probably close to expiration."

I don't worry too much about expiry dates. With the exception of nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, it doesn't really seem to mean much.​   

From the link above:

It turns out that the expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug. Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date. So the expiration date doesn’t really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago. A rare exception to this may be tetracycline, but the report on this is controversial among researchers. It’s true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date. Excluding nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, most medications are as long-lasting as the ones tested by the military. Placing a medication in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, will help a drug remain potent for many years.


3/05/2016 8:34 am  #12

Re: First Aid Kits

As a backpacking geek, I try to keep a minimalist first aid supply while doing my best to not sacrifice safety and comfort. Here's what I carry:
small gauze roll
miniature tweezers
small tube of polysporin
section of duct tape (wrapped around a piece of drinking straw)
several tylenol, benadryl, Immodium, cough lozenges
several bandages 
small container of foot/anti-chafe cream
2 small safety pins
I also plan to add some crazy glue going forward


3/05/2016 9:27 am  #13

Re: First Aid Kits

hiker72 wrote:

As a backpacking geek, I try to keep a minimalist first aid supply while doing my best to not sacrifice safety and comfort.

I would suggest you add a tensor bandage. I used to sometimes exclude it on my backpacking trips just to lessen the bulk but it is a "must have" for me now. One October trip a number of years ago I suffered a bad ankle sprain about an hour up the trail from Harness Lake. I was solo and it took me two long days to hobble out. I was glad I had the bandage that trip as it made all the difference.



3/05/2016 11:12 am  #14

Re: First Aid Kits

Thanks for sharing Dave, that's quite a distance to walk on a bad sprain. I'll take your suggestion and make sure I add this to my kit before the next hike. 


3/05/2016 12:11 pm  #15

Re: First Aid Kits

Wow you guys carry a lot! My medical for a week is:

4 extra strength Advil (headaches regular pain relief)
4 Tylenol 3's (More serious pain relief, can be combined with Advil)
4 Aspirin (heart attack)
4 Benadryl (Be stings, allergic reactions)
4 Pepto (stomach relief)
1 melatonin for every night out (helps me settle)

4 large, 4 medium, 4 small Band-Aids (cover cuts)
4 Butterfly strips (Pull wound together)
1 Sterilized compression bandage
4 Polysporin individual packets (topical antibiotic)
1 Moleskin (Blisters prevention)
1 tube Afterbite or Hydrocortisone Cream
2 safety pins
1 tweezers

It fits in my PFD pocket.

Other stuff I carry that can serve double duty

Duct Tape
Gorilla Glue


3/05/2016 12:20 pm  #16

Re: First Aid Kits

Hi all,

Couple of thoughts on the above: 

1. Tensor bandage: I find it's not very useful for treating an ankle sprain - it's flexible so it only gives mild support and if you do it too tight, it cuts off circulation. Duct tape works well for support, along with a thick sock and laced-up shoe. 

@keg: Vet wrap - great idea! Lighter than tensor bandage, and would keep a dressing or splint in place. I'm totally asking the vet for one, and keeping it in the kit. 

2. Syringe: A good size syringe would be 20mL or 60 mL. The 10mL and smaller are too small to wash out anything. In addition, you would need a 18Ga needle or IV catheter - this allows you to generate sufficient water stream pressure. The benefit of the needle is that it can be used for other things (I used it once to pick/dig out sea urchin spines from my foot. The IV catheter is blunt, so can be used to get deep in a puncture wound to really wash out well. I carry the needle. 

3. Leatherman Style PS is a nice tool - it has pliers, scissors and tweezers. Great for first aid,and the pliers are good enough to fix things. I carry just the Style PS and a fixed blade knife.Much lighter compared to a Leatherman.

4. Alcohol prep pads are really too small to be useful for most things. If you have a cut, the key is to wash it out well with clean water. If you have polysporin, apply after washing out. Alcohol is not used as an antiseptic. It's only for cleaning of skin prior to blood draws or procedures - you won't be doing that. 

5. Emergency blanket, sewing kit and safety pins have so many uses. They are great. 

6. The issue with anaphylaxis is that it can happen to anyone without previous history, and in people who previously didn't react (eg. bee stings). Generally much more common in kids/teens, so if camping with anyone under 18, I'd think about carrying it. 




3/05/2016 2:02 pm  #17

Re: First Aid Kits

Hey Marko, are you a medical professional? You seem very knowledgeable.


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