A Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit: What to Include?

by Paul Kirtley

Share it!
Contents of Paul Kirtley's Wilderness First Aid Kit

Contents of the author's Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Why Assemble Your Own First Aid Kit?

While there are some good outdoor first aid kits on the market, there is great value in putting together your own outdoor first aid kit. In the process of assembling your first aid kit, you will have to think carefully about what to include and how you might use the included items. You should also consider how to pack your kit so you can access the items you need, in the order you might need them. By the time you have completed your outdoor first aid kit, you will know the kit intimately. You will know exactly what is in the kit and be able to find any of its contents quickly.

A personal first aid kit is just that – personal. The choice of equipment to include in your kit is a personal one, based on your training, experience, where you are going and the specific risks you might face. You can always use a good off-the-shelf camping or hiking first aid kit as a base on which to build. Bear in mind that the best part of many so-called outdoor first aid kits is the case or pouch containing the kit. The contents of many travel first-aid kits are limited in scope, containing not much more than some cheap plasters and bandages, making the kit as a whole overpriced. So, do read the contents list and spend your money wisely.

Typically, a good personal kit has items to deal with likely minor personal injuries (such as cuts, bites and blisters), as well as less likely but more serious injuries. The kit should also contain items you could not use on yourself (e.g. CPR mask) but are there to deal with very serious incidents involving other people. The best wilderness first aid kits are ones where the contents, your experience and the likely risks are in sync. This is why assembling your own kit is the best option.

Of course, having a well-equipped emergency first aid kit isn’t enough. You should also seek out high quality first aid training. There are some general skills that everyone should learn such as basic life support (even if you are travelling no further than the office) but you shouldn’t neglect to undertake a risk-assessment for where you are going and use this information to improve your preparation. You should make sure you have training in skills appropriate for where you are heading. This way, in acquiring specific knowledge, skills and equipment, you will have provided yourself and your companions with the best chance of dealing with any incidents that might occur. In considering how well you could cope with a particular remote emergency scenario, you may even change your planned activities or route choice to help diminish the risk. This whole process – of optimising your first aid training and assessing the risks you face – improves your wilderness survival skills and maximises your outdoor preparedness.

Paul Kirtley's Wilderness First Aid Kit being carried on his belt.

The author's personal wilderness first aid kit being carried on a belt, in Africa. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

Usually, in putting together a wilderness first aid kit of any size, whether it is for personal or group use, you will be forced to compromise: There is only so much equipment you can carry. You can’t take a complete emergency room with you. I favour items that are suited to outdoor use and can endure the wear and tear that comes with wilderness travel. In particular, it is worth considering the robustness and waterproofing of the packaging of your first aid kit items. For example, the packaging of bandages is often flimsy plastic or paper. I try to find the highest quality kit contents. Then the contents of the kit will not only stay in one piece until I need to use it but also the various contents will perform well once they are in use. Some contents can be re-packaged to make them more durable, waterproof or both. For items of your first aid kit that must remain dry, I recommend packing them in Aloksak waterproof storage bags. If you choose your kit contents wisely, for a given level of functionality you can pack fewer of a particular item in favour of making space for other items or saving weight. This practice helps limit the compromise.

I take a modular approach to my basic wilderness equipment. I have discussed this approach in other articles covering essential wilderness equipment and bushcraft survival kit. In the outdoors I always take at least a cuts kit with me – normally in my trouser pocket. In addition, I often carry a military dressing in an easily accessible place – jacket pocket or top pocket of daypack. The next building block up as far as emergency first aid equipment is concerned is my personal wilderness first aid kit. This kit fits into a pouch that can be carried on a belt. It takes up little room if carried in a backpack and easily fits into the side pocket of my 35-litre daysac. The aim of my kit is to be able to do as much as possible with what I have, taking into consideration other gear I carry and what might be improvised. So, my personal first aid kit is considered as part of a modular system.

Bushcraft and Survival Equipment - a modular approach

The building blocks of my bushcraft and survival equipment. From left to right: Compass; folding saw; bushcraft knife; bushcraft survival kit (top pouch); wilderness first aid kit (bottom pouch); waterbottle and metal mug in pouch. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

I’m not recommending that everyone needs or should assemble the same personal wilderness first aid kit I have. Some of the items require specific training in their use before you can apply them. I’m highlighting what is in my kit because I’m often asked and therefore I know people are interested. I’m always fascinated by what others have in their first aid kits too. There’s often a little tip or trick you hadn’t previously thought of. I hope this article will give you the basis to think about what’s already in your personal first aid kit as well as what else you might like to include. More important, I hope reading this might motivate some people to think about areas of first aid in which they might like to have more training. My view is that you can never have too much first aid training, particularly if you are headed for wild and remote areas.

Personal First Aid Kit Contents

For some of the items below I give some rationale for why I carry them. Please don’t take this rationale as a complete explanation of how each item should be used or assume, because you’ve read and understood my rationale, that it is then OK to use these items without appropriate training. Also, I haven’t included every single use to which these items could be applied.

Contents of Paul Kirtley's Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit

Contents of the author's Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit. See below for numbered list. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

1. Gloves: Powder-free nitrile (not latex as some people are allergic) gloves. I fold them in pairs and store them in a plastic bag for protection from getting snagged in the zip of my kit. I pack this at the top of my kit as I’ll need gloves first if I’m tending to someone else.

2. Drugs and medication: I pack the blister packs in an Aloksak waterproof storage bag to keep them together and protected. I also include a sheet of waterproof paper on which I have written dosages, side-effects and contra-indications. The baseline for my kit is the inclusion of an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory, an antihistamine, Imodium (Loperamide), and Diarolyte.

Warning: You should always make sure that you are not allergic or prone to any other adverse reaction to any medicines you choose to include in your first aid kit. If in doubt, speak to a pharmacist or your doctor. Also, unless you are permitted by the remit of your training and relevant laws to administer or offer the medication in question, any medicines you include in your first aid kit should be for your personal use only and not given to anyone else.

3. Antiseptic wipes: I find having a few of these in my kit handy for cleaning up, wiping blood off cutting tools, camping equipment etc. For antiseptic use on cuts and grazes, I use Betadine – see #13.

4. Minor Wound and Blister kit: This is similar to my stand-alone cuts kit so I’m effectively doubling up on many of the items I use most when in the outdoors. Again this is packed in an Aloksak waterproof storage bag. Below is an expanded view of the kit:

Section of the medical kit for dealing with cuts, burns and blisters.

Expanded view of the items for dealing with cuts, burns and blisters. This is all packed into an Aloksak. The Temp-dots are also here for safe-keeping. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

From top left to bottom right, this sub-kit consists of the following:

- Sterile gauze swabs: These have various uses and I find them particularly good for padding or protecting more serious cuts on my hands.

- Steri-strips: Steri-strips are wound closure strips for lacerations, etc. I find these very useful for more serious cuts but care is needed not to seal-in dirt, etc. and cause infection. I recommend getting proper training in how to use them (including wound irrigation, etc).

- Suture kit: I was trained to suture by a doctor and I include sutures in my kit for the rare occasion, far from help, where suturing may make sense. The vast majority of wounds can be dealt with in other ways.

- Melolin wound dressing pads: These pads are cushioned, non-stick and absorbent, and I find them useful for minor burns and grazes, particularly ones that ooze a bit. I don’t use them very often so include only a few.

- Plasters: Nexcare plasters by 3M are the best I’ve used. They are made of quality materials, hypoallergenic and have a healthcare-industry grade adhesive. They stay on for longer (particularly when used in combination with Friar’s Balsam – see 14), and I achieve better protection of cuts, grazes and minor burns than with cheap plasters. I also use far fewer of them than cheap plasters. This frees up space in my first aid kit.

- Compeed: I find these padded gel plasters extremely good for dealing with hot-spots and blisters. Applied properly, they stay on for days even when hiking hard. Therefore, I carry only a few of assorted sizes in my kit.

- Moleskin plaster: I find these good for hot spots and areas that need protection from rubbing but where the padding of a Compeed plaster is either unnecessary or impractical. These are from a Spenco blister kit.

- Tempa-Dot thermometers: Tempa-Dots are single-use thermometers have nothing much to do with cuts or blisters but I keep them here as they fit well and stay protected.

5. Crepe bandage: A Crepe bandage has various uses, including strapping for strains and sprains. I keep mine in a small Aloksak to keep it dry but it’s not essential.

6. Military dressing: A 10x19cm first field dressing for serious wounds and bleeding. These military dressings are very absorbent and much better than cheap pharmacy-bought dressings. The packaging has an internal plastic coating and is waterproof; this not only keeps the dressing dry but the packaging can be employed to create a non-stick covering for a burn or used to create a valve for a sucking chest wound. These military dressings are being replaced by the Israeli trauma dressings and so will mine eventually.

7. Nasopharyngeal airway: A nasopharyngeal airway can be employed in some circumstances to help maintain an airway. I take the view that while it would be great to have a full range sizes of NP and OP airways, I don’t have space in this kit and one NP airway is better than nothing. It can also be used for other things. If you haven’t been trained to use one of these, then it shouldn’t be in your kit.

8. Syringe: This is for wound irrigation. While a volume of 20cc would be more efficient, I carry a 10cc syringe as it saves space. For irrigating my own wounds I use water from my own drinking water bottle. For other people I use their drinking water.

9. Blunt needle: For use with the syringe (see #8). While you can use the syringe on its own and generate a good amount of pressure, the narrower gauge of the needle generates greater pressure for wound irrigation. I carry a blunt mixing needle as it is not sharp and therefore poses little threat when stored or in use.

10. CPR Mask: While not as good as a pocket mask (which won’t fit in a kit this small), this is a robust mask. The strong packaging can be employed for other jobs too.

11. Small bandage: I find these cheap, small bandages useful for cutting to size to dress a cut or burn, particularly on fingers. I typically use this material over a piece of gauze or a steri-strip.

12. Transpore Tape: Like the Nexcare plasters, Transpore tape is made by 3M. It is durable yet easy to tear when you are applying it. Much better for outdoor use than micropore tape and it doesn’t soak up water like zinc oxide tape does.

13. Betadine: Betadine is an antiseptic liquid which contains povidone-iodine. It acts against a broad spectrum of pathogenic organisms that might cause skin infections and is ideal for applying to cuts and abrasions in the outdoors. I carry a 15ml bottle. While in Queensland, Australia I found it was useful for removing leeches as well as disinfecting the bite afterwards! Unfortunately due to the European Biocides Directive 98/8/EC, this type of iodine product has been unavailable for sale within the EU since October 2009. Iodine is still available outside of the EU.

14. Friar’s Balsam: Also known as compound tincture of benzoin or compound benzoin tincture, this is different to pure tincture of benzoin. All can be used as a styptic and/or antiseptic (it stings like hell so better to use the Betadine for antiseptic purposes). The main additional benefit of Friar’s Balsam is its stickiness; it can be applied around a wound before applying a plaster or tape and it will help either adhere for much longer. I have decanted a small amount of Friar’s Balsam into a very small dropper bottle which can be used to paint the liquid onto the skin with reasonable precision.

15. Temporary tooth filling: This is a temporary cavity filling material for emergency use only.

16. Superglue: This is for personal use only. Standard superglue is different to medical superglue. Don’t mess around with it unless you understand the differences.

17. Tweezers: Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers are tweezers with a sharp point. They are good for splinter and thorn removal. They also lend themselves well to tick removal.

18. Safety pins: These are not for making a really tidy sling but for helping remove splinters, thorns etc. I find it a good way to safely have a sharp point in my first aid kit without risking damage to any contents or myself. If the point isn’t sharp enough, it can be sharpened with a sharpening stone.

19. Whistle: Using a whistle is a lot less effort and more effective than shouting – either in calling for help or responding to someone who needs your assistance. While I normally have a whistle around my neck, I find having everything I need in my first aid kit reassuring – in an emergency I can just grab my kit and go. The whistle I have here is a Fox 40 Micro, the same model as mentioned in this article.

20. Shears: Tough cut or EMT shears are highly effective at cutting through clothing, straps, webbing, rope, etc, and much safer to use than a knife. Mine are a small model made by Merlin Medical. I attach small, otherwise loose items such as my tweezers (#17), safety pins (#18) and whistle (#19) to my shears via a quick-release clip. This way I can easily find the small items by grabbing the shears. This also helps me keep everything organised and prevents losing the small items.

21. Cigarette lighter: I often use a lighter to disinfect my tweezers or a pin before removing a thorn or splinter. Also, if I need to light a fire, I have a lighter to hand, immediately. You don’t want to be bow-drilling if someone has immersion hypothermia

22. Head-torch: I once had to provide first aid to someone who was seriously injured in a remote area of forest and it was already late afternoon. By the time the paramedics arrived (by helicopter), it was getting dark. None of them had a torch with them. I had my usual head torch with me but ever since then I’ve always carried a dedicated emergency lamp in my first aid kit. The Petzl e+LITE Headlamp is perfect for the job. It is small, lightweight, has lithium batteries (which work better in cold conditions than alkaline batteries), a 10-year shelf-life and is waterproof (up to 1 metre under). It has various modes, including strobe which can be particularly useful in emergency situations.

All of the above items fit into a pouch measuring 15cm x 12cm x 7cm. Unfortunately the canvas pouch I have been using has started to disintegrate and I will probably trial something of a similar size from Maxpedition’s range as a replacement.

Additional Equipment

While I’ve organised everything in my kit to be easily accessible in the order I need, I generally have some other items I can also use. I usually carry the following in a daysac or backpack and I consider it part of an extended first aid kit that can be used in conjunction with my personal wilderness first aid kit:

A Malleable splint: Sam Splint or similar; this is a malleable foam-covered aluminium splint that can be formed into a multitude of shapes and used to help splint or immobilise part of a casualty’s body.

Bandana: I carry at least one large bandana as they have several uses, one of which is to create a sling. There is as much material in one of these bandanas as in two standard triangular bandages.

Water bottle: I carry at least one litre of water in a water bottle. This water can be used for the irrigation of a wound (see #8 and #9 above), for example.

Wilderness First Aid Kit packed in pouch, alongside other useful outdoor first aid items.

The author's personal wilderness first aid kit packed in a pouch. Alongside are other items - large bandanna, water bottle, and malleable splint - useful for outdoor first aid. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

I hope you find this article useful or at least food for thought. Please do let me, and other readers, know about any first aid kit advice, tips or tricks that you’d like to share by leaving a comment in the comments section.

 

Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Essential Wilderness Equipment – 7 Items I Never Leave Home Without.

How to Build a Bushcraft Survival Kit.

STOP What you are Doing!

PLAN Your Skills for Survival

The Importance of Leaving Word Before Heading Into the Wild

The following two tabs change content below.
Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

Here's the permalink for this article: A Personal Wilderness First Aid Kit: What to Include?

Print/Email This Article:

Print it! Print it!

Email to a Friend Email to a Friend

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Steffan Stringer

Hi Paul – oh goody – another kit related article! I am such an armchair bushcraft kit geek.

And comment subscribing! Is it my birthday?

S

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steffan

I thought you’d like this one :)

I numbered the first aid kit photo with you firmly in mind, after you sent me the numbered version of my bushcraft survival kit….

Hope the comment subscription works fine.

All the best

Paul

Reply

Mark Hotson

Thanks Paul,

As you say, doing some sort of risk assessment is vital when deciding the contents of your first aid kit. I have to admit that I carried an ‘off the shelf’ kit for many years, without knowing much about it’s contents or how to use it !! My first , First Aid course about four years ago changed my whole perception of their importance. I wanted to understand how to use them and how to make them relevant. I would occasionally carry one , now I carry it everywhere ! A few injuries/illnesses here and there have been remied in seconds….
My personal kit isn’t quite as indepth as yours, but I always include a Jelonet burns dressing or two and an O’Tom Tick twister device. Burns , Cuts and Tick Bites are my three biggest risks. The O’tom twister device is second to none for removing the little blighters !
The Israeli Trauma Dressing looks excellent ( just looked at one on you tube), I must get one for myself and our larger group first Aid ‘pack’. Any ideas of a good source for them ?

Great article.

Best
Mark

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for your comment Mark. Interesting and insightful as ever!

I’ve been informed you can buy the Israeli dressings from http://www.fentonpharmaceuticals.com

All the best

Paul

Reply

Austin Lill

I’ve been very slack and not really made a ‘proper’ one. I’m off on a Woodland Ways bushie weekend in July so I’m starting to pull one together so you’ve done one at the right and and blow me, Emma Hampton has done a first Aid Kit article in the current Bushcraft & Survival Skills magazine.

My tip would be a restaurant sachet of vinegar which helps with wasp stings. Also, if folk can recognise Plantain it is good at treating them too (I’ve used it on my youngest). Also Yarrow for cuts (er, ditto).

Reply

Bertutus

Another great article :)
I got a standard one myself but I’m going to personalize it with the article in mind before I trod off again.

Reply

Marcus Hackney

HI Paul

Fantastic Information, as you say its really personal what you put in your kit and obviously depends on what you are actually capable of treating… as in what youve been trained in/on.

Keep up the good writing Paul K

Thanks

Marcus

Reply

Johan

I would recommend the “Snogg soft 1″ plasters, works like a tape but without the sticky stuff and easy to use and great for the small cuts on fingers, you can easy put more presssure on since its elastic. These dont fall off if getting in touck with water or when wearing gloves or similar.

I have been using them for some time now and avoid plaster nowadays.

Reply

Le Loup

Thanks for the medical list. Tell me, where can one get military dressings from?
A Woodsrunner’s Diary.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi there

Quite a few people have contacted me to ask where the military dressings I have in my kit can be purchased. SP Services is a good supplier of medical kit and the link to the page featuring the military dressings is

http://www.spservices.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=2564&osCsid=fscodct75i9u0vfd0thl4s3cv0

Thanks for your interest

Paul

Reply

Mark

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the supplier details fro the Israeli Trauma Dressing..very good.

We are doing a couple of two sessions on First Aid this week with school children. We let them identify ‘risks’ that they will come across whilst outdoors.Then we let them ‘role play’ how to treat the various injuries from Bites,Burns, Breaks, Sprains to Hypothermia – putting them ‘right’ along the way.

Your articles are always a very useful influence.

I like ‘Le Loup’s’ website, great picture on the home page and some interesting content.Thanks Le Loup….The Wolf of the woods !

Ta
Mark

Reply

Rui Guerreiro

Hello Paul.
Just chiming in to let you know that i am thankful for your unsuspected help. Have put my fellow team partners thinking on their own first aid kit and another one for the whole team which will be more complete.
Two items that i had not seen on your kit are small enough to fit in and the pros are way more than the cons.
A whistle can be way helpfull in a situation that you can only reach for your FAK pack and then blow that MORSE code for help.
The other item that is missing is a light torch. You are assuming that in any of the situations where you may be needing your FAK there is plenty light for you to be able to see whatever you need to do. In the other hand, me as a milsim airsofter, am on the field for some night games and found that even the smallest light is very rewarding and conforting. Knowing that actually are some flashlights that are no bigger than a standard pen, wouldn’t it be advisable to have one in the FAK?

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Rui

Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the wilderness first aid kit article useful. I completely agree – a first aid kit should contain a whistle and a lightweight torch.

Item 19 in my first aid kit is a whistle – FOX micro

Item 22 in my firt aid kit is a torch – Petzl e+LITE

All the best

Paul

Reply

Rui Guerreiro

Oooooopsie!
I must had been dozing off while reading your article, Paul.
Thank you for pointing me out the refered items.

Reply

Steffan Stringer

Hi Paul, I already had some Friar’s Balsam as per the link you provided, but I don’t think it’s the right stuff. Looking up compound tincture of balsam (CTB) on wikipedia it states that it is not the same as the Care+ style you link to which is used for relief of colds. I will pop into town and see what I can dig up from the pharmacy.

I am going to work through the list and make it up from scavenged parts from 2 old Lifesystems kits and some extra bits and bobs. I’ve never used an airway so I will hold off from buying one of those until someone shows me how. I did WMT’s four-day Advanced Medicine course in November, but they don’t teach it.

Cheers

Steffan

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steffan
Yes, it’s compound tincture of benzoin that you need, which to my knowledge gets called Friar’s Balsam. It seems that tincture (without the sticky additivies – aloe, storax, and Tolu Balsam), is also sold as Friar’s Balsam. This contradicts what it says on Wikipedia. Or is Wikipedia just wrong? Anyway, you are right, the Amazon link was displaying incorrect product and I’ve removed it.

Here’s a couple of links that may be of use, although I see backpackinglight are out of stock at the moment:

http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/3MSWC/Skin-Wound-Care/ProductDirectory/AdhesiveSkinClosures/?PC_7_RJH9U5230GG2E0IM3L89RI14C3_nid=GS3LN8MPKNbe29FKGVD9QMgl

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/tincture_benzoin_ampules.html

All the best

Paul

Reply

Steffan Stringer

Back on the Friar’s Balsam trail….

Just couldn’t find any of the sticky stuff online but have been communicating with Bristol Botanicals and they have been good enough to make up a batch – http://www.bristolbotanicals.co.uk/pr-7004.

Just ordered the smallest size and will report back. To be honest, whilst I have known about it for donkey’s years I have never used it and would appreciate any suggestions/instructions.

Cheers

Steffan

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steffan

Thanks for reporting back on Friar’s Balsam. Thanks also for the contact details for Bristol Botanicals.

To use Friar’s Balsam to help plasters adhere: First make sure the area of skin is dry. Then paint the shape of the outline of the plaster onto your skin, about 3-4mm wide and with the outside of this line just larger than the plaster itself. Wait a minute or two until the Friar’s Balsam on our skin has become tacky (like a fly paper) rather than wet. Now apply the plaster, making sure you smooth all the edges.

A general tip you can use here as well is to get extra adhesion from the plaster’s own glue, hold your hand on it for 30-60 seconds to warm it up.

All the best

Paul

Reply

Matt Fletcher

Gaffer tape old chap, many, many uses, i can see at least two things in your kit that could be replaced by a small roll of gaffer tape

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Yes, indeed, gaffer tape has a multitude of uses. You don’t need much else in your kit really…..

Reply

Matt Fletcher

On the last 1st aid course i did, the instructor showed us how to make splints and supports for sprains, etc out of it, amazing stuff and if you take a big roll you can use it for all those other things, for about 6 weeks i was able to use a dry suit with no left sock by make one out of gaffer tape.

I was able to get rid of loads of other stuff from my fist aid kit as well and it was actually lighter.

Still, personal preference i suppose

Reply

Paul Kirtley

It is really good stuff and as a canoeist you’ll know you can make all sorts of amazing kit fixes out of it. I have to admit I’ve never made a sock out of the stuff before though! :)

In terms of splints – you can make the tape go even further if you also use bark such as from willow or sweet chestnut to form a support then tape it on….

Reply

Ian Shankland

Hi Paul,
I must thank you for putting up this article which I’ve found very helpful in upgrading my personal first aid kit. My own variations include the two sizes of tick remover, already mentioned, as they add nothing to the weight or bulk of the kit; likewise a small plastic eyebath since one of the bottles will sit inside it. I was also fooled by the Frairs Balsam varieties and will need to get hold of the correct one. I still recall the plaster stuck to your hand all week on the first Woodlore first aid course so I reckon it’s well worth the trouble of getting some. In the matter of an antiseptic I’ve found that Betadine Solution is no longer easily available in the UK and wonder if the Chlorhexadine-alchohol based Savlon Liquid would be a suitable replacement, although it requires considerable dilution. There seems anyway to be some debate about whether Chlorhexadine-alchohol might be more effective than povidone iodine. Maybe I’ll use TCP for now as you can use it without diluting in an emergency. Another thing in my kit is a small keyring attachment that glows in the dark (probably due to it containing radioactive gas or something) that I’ve attached to a ring also containing a V9 Micro-lenser micro torch, a whistle and a very small compass. The glow stick is the first thing I see when I open the first aid bag so I can find the torch with ease even in complete darkness. I don’t know if you can still get them, but glow in the dark line-loks from Backpackinglight might do the same thing. The e-light is a better option than my small torch but it will get me by for now, especially if I include a Nite Ize headband.
Best wishes, Ian.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Ian

Good to hear from you and thanks for commenting. I like your modifications and personalisation. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into it.

Betadine isn’t so easy to get hold of now, no. I buy mine when I’m travelling outsite of the EU. As a result I haven’t looked into alternatives so I’m not up to speed with the relative pros and cons of Chlorhexadine-alchohol. If you discover more, please let me (and other readers) know.

It’s definitely worth getting hold of the sticky Friar’s Balsam….

Thanks and all the best

Paul

Reply

Richard

Thanks for another great article. One extra thing I like to carry in my first aid kit, is a mini signal mirror incase I get anything stuck in one of my eyes. I like the TOPS dogtag mirror as it is particularly small, but still big enough for the job.

Reply

Steve

Hi Paul, just wondering if the Sam splint fits in the canvas pouch with everything else? Also, do you carry 1ltr of water extra? I personally try to carry at least 2 when out, but I’m normally working up a sweat!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Steve,

No, the Sam Splint doesn’t fit in the canvas pouch. It has to be carried separately. A good way to do this is slide it down the inside of your rucksack nearest your back. If you have a pack that already has a foam insert here, you can often replace it with two Sam Splints. Also many packs have an insert for a water bladder down the inside of the back. This can also be a good place to stow a splint.

As for the water, I understand your point that you may have drunk it all before you need it :o) But as an alternative to carrying a few steri-pods in your pouch (40ml of water), you don’t need much water in a water bottle to replace this.

Generally if I’m hiking I do have two litres capacity and I’m on the look-out to refill after I’ve finished the first one.

Thanks for the question and I hope this helps.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Darren Male

{aul – great work, keep it up. As a long time scouting canoe coach my primary first aid kit has always been a roll of electricians black tape! This fits nicely in any pocket and will deal with the majority of cuts / lacerations in wet and dirty environments whilst you access your main kit in it’s bdh. Has the advantage of being waterproof and immesiately accessible.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for your comment Darren; good tip. It seems as though tape (duck tape and now electricians tape) is a popular choice to have to hand.

Reply

Debs

I always have a small bottle of a 50/50 mix of Hypericum( St Johns Wort) and Calendula tinctures. it can be bought from herbalists or Homeopathic dispensaries or you can make your own with the home grown herbs. Diluted in clean water it makes a good wash for cuts, grazes and deeper wounds, preventing infection and improving wound healing. It’s also useful for bites and stings and I never leave home without it.

Reply

fredric march

Hi paul very informative article have now upgraded my gregson first aid kit with some of your suggestions thanks for the tips.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Fredric

Thanks for you comment. Good to hear that you found my article useful.

Which items did you add to your existing kit?

Thanks and all the best,

Paul

Reply

Howard

Hello Paul,

it’s a verry nice kit. I’m nurse first aid and always take my own kit with me. This kit is almost simular at this one you have over here. One conclusion: this kit is absolute good!
This kit is good for bushcraft BUT don’t forget this kit when you going to travel! I’m a globetrotter and my kit have help me two times on my journys! Whit this basics you can help your self or your partner when you are in a strange city where everybody talk ‘chinees’ and a hospital is miles away.

But most important: don’t forget your first aid and BLS course and nowless about medication!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Howard

Welcome and thanks for your comments.

I completely agree about taking a first aid kit while travelling. Personally I don’t make a distinction between the kit described in my article being used a wilderness kit and it being used as a travel kit. It’s ideal.

I also completely agree that equipment is no substitute for training. Get good first aid training and refresh regularly.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Richard

Hi Paul,
I was wondering, do you change the contents of your first aid kit when traveling in the north during winter? For example, would you change the butane lighter for matches, and would the iodine or benzoin be at risk of freezing?

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Richard

Good to hear from you. That’s a really good question. In short, yes I do alter the contents of the kit for different environments. Specifically for the north country in winter, I remove the betadine and lighter. The benzoin doesn’t tend to suffer in the cold and it can easily be warmed up in the palm of your hand anyway. I don’t put matches directly in the kit but I always have a box on me in the north. As you know, lighters are not particularly safe in significantly sub-zero temperatures.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Simon Davies

Hi Paul,
I am curious which dental repair cement you use as there are quite a few out there with various good and bad reviews. I usually carry a small bottle of Ambesol about which just numbs the gum/tooth nerve for a while.
I have a gob full of fillings and one of them is bound to fall out at some point when I’m miles from a dentist!!
Looks like a great kit and I am getting a few kits together for me and the missus.
Cheers
Simon

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Simon,

Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll see if I can find out for you. It came in a larger kit and is unbranded.

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Moonwaves

Hi Paul,
Thanks for this. I only signed up to your website recently and am now starting to read through some of the articles. Although I’ve never been camping and what hiking (if I can even call it that) I’ve done has always been on well-maintained paths and of short duration, I do hope to do some serious camping and hiking trips in the future. I’ve bought bits and pieces of kit over the last year or so and just started with buying a pre-made 1st aid kit (Tatonka medium) from a website when I was getting new boots. Well, it’s as good a place to start as any and I figured at least then I’d have a decent pouch to put stuff in. Your very good point that it’s important to really know the contents of your kit and to personalise it for what you need reminded me, however, that for years I’ve carried what is a sort of 1st aid kit in my handbag/backpack. I use a medium size Tupperware Oyster container and it has an ankle support bandage (had an injury a few years ago that meant I sometimes needed extra support), various plasters, Compeed, a small container of Sudocreme, a lighter and matches, glasses repair kit, coldsore cream and cotton buds. All the things that I might need during my normal day-to-day commute/work in office life. So I suppose at least I’m halfway there, at least when it comes to the thinking and logic that’s needed when putting something together. Although I did add a tick remover yoke when I moved to Germany, even though I’ve still never even seen a tick.
Thanks for the recommendations on the plasters, by the way, I just recently used up almost an entire box of cheap plasters (from Aldi) last week during an eight-hour train trip. It seemed like all I had to do was move before they fell off.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi and welcome!

I’m glad you’ve discovered my blog and working your way through my articles.

It’s good to hear you’ve found this article on putting together a first-aid kit useful byt it’s also good to hear you are already in the habit of putting together a kit based on an assessment of what you are likely to need. That’s the essential ingreadient in putting together a practical and effective kit.

I hope to hear from you in other article comments as you continue to work through them!

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Martin

Hi Paul,
I’m very favourably impressed with your blog, there are some real information gems in there. Just thought I’d amplify a point you make regarding personalising the FAKit. When putting it together, remeber that it might be used ON you as well as BY you. Therefore putting back up “daily meds” in there in case you become separated from your own might be worth considering. For example, I’m diabetic, and I put a small phial of insulin and a small hypodermic in my kit in case something goes wrong with my pump. This could be more generally applicable to other conditions too, with heart tablets for example. I don’t propose that we should be walking pharmacies and we can’t anticipate others’ conditions to that degree. However, if we pack our kit with stuff that will help others, plus a bit of extra to look after opurselves, we might prevent a problem becoming a casevac situation.

All the best,

Martin

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Martin, thanks for your kind words about my blog.

Thanks also for making a very good point about personal medication.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Nick

Hi Paul,

have you used Clorox or Burnshield? I carry these for more serious cuts and burns respectively and they dont take up much room.

Cheers,

Nick

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Nick,

I haven’t used Clorox. Isn’t that a cleaning product? I tend to use a povidone-iodine based fluid in my kit. In larger, group kits I also have Inadine dressings.

I haven’t used Burnshield either but I do have some Jelonet paraffin impregnated dressings, following them being recommended to me by a healthcare professional.

Have you found Burnshield useful?

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Nick

Hi Paul

Sorry I actually meant celox haemostatic agent. Quickclot is similar but celox doesn’t heat up the wound. Both this and burnshield were recommended by a nurse on a first aid training.

Cheers

Nick

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Nick,

Ah-ha, yes maybe I should have realised you were referring to Celox ;)

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Oc

Hi Paul,

I just wanted to add my two cents worth as well, you probably know the score but some of your readers here might find it useful.

I liked your first aid kit a lot but one thing I would add to it would be a couple of condoms, they weight nothing and among other practical uses they make great second skins(flexible and sterile) to go over burns, cuts and what not. They can also be brought into service as a water holder being able to comfortably carry about one and a half to two litres of water.

I think they are a good piece of kit and having seen them used in the field (easy now, for a nasty burn from an XGK stove) thought that it was an invaluable piece of kit to pack.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Oc,

Yes, those XGKs can be vicious ;)

It’s a good tip. Regarding using them as a water carrier, I included them here but agree they could equally well be kept in your FAK.

Thanks for adding your two penneth – it’s what makes the comments below these articles a valuable source of information and opinion too.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Midge_fodder

Very good article there. The only thing I’d add is that I found a great idea for glove storage, those wee pots inside a kinder egg are ideal. I can’t take any credit for it as I got the idea from a hair dye box that my better half left in the bathroom.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Midge Fodder,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, that’s a good tip – and one that I received independently from Adam Gent at Real First Aid.

There’s a little article on his site here: http://www.realfirstaid.co.uk/gloves/

I think it’s a great tip and one that we should all keep in spreading! :)

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Chris Murnin

Paul,

A very good article with great reasoning’s why you carry what you do. I especially like the reiteration of if your not trained to use it you shouldn’t have it!!! I have seen clients on exped that have whole transfusion kits in their packs!!!

I also carry what I call an Ouch Pouch, grab bag type kit as I work a lot with young children. Gloves, wipes and an assortment of plasters tend to cover it, again this could be personalised. I have one that lives in the back of my kayak, and only comes out to be checked, used or re stocked as Sods law the time you need it most it isn’t there.

Cheers for the advice

Chris

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your feedback – it’s much appreciated.

I agree – an ouch pouch or cuts kit is a very useful thing to have in your pocket. I find that it is to this that I always go first; ususally that’s my only port of call too as the odd nick or small cut is par for the course. The larger kit is for the more serious, yet less common occurrences.

Thanks for your comment and please do keep in touch.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

diego

Hi Paul,
Very interesting article.
Some ideas about the container:
We can carry the kit container in our body(belt) or inside our rucksack, but in your body will have to be smaller tan the one carried in your rucksack.
You have written the words”first aid”in your kit container, I would try to put some kind of eye-catching badge….a red cross patch is useful
If we were a group, everybody should know the place in our rucksack where the container is brought.
Sorry for my english.
Regards.
Everybody

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Diego,

Thanks for your comments. I think you can find a happy medium of something that you can carry on your belt if you need to but also put in your pack (for personal use). A group kit for anything other than a day out is not really going to fit on your belt, I agree.

It’s always good to have at least a cuts/burns kit in your pocket then you always have at least something to deal with common issues.

I also agree if the kit is going to be used by other people, then label it as clearly as possible.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Ridgerunner

Hi Paul,
As always a good article. One thing I never see mentioned in the “Kits” is insect repellent; life saver in some environments and needed in much of the US now for ticks.
Thanks,
Ridgerunner

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Ridgerunner,

Yes, very good point. I normally have at least a tin or Nordic Summer insect repellent on my in Spring/Summer/Autumn but ever since some Deet leaked, I don’t keep repellent in my FAK.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Cees Schoutsen

Nice article Paul,

well thought and written, thanks

gr
Cees

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Cees :)

Reply

John Post

Hi Paul, good article as always. Just wanted to mention that people should also include any prescription medicines they are taking in their first aid kits.

Reply

David

Very good article Paul,

These days my personal kit is very similar and has been getting smaller and smaller over the years as I have decided what my core essentials are and my core skills have improved.
Originally I tended to carry a kit that could only be described as a group trauma kit, it had so much stuff in it. This is now in my car, as the road is likely to be the one place where I may encounter multiple serious injuries.

The key differences are the suture kit and the superglue as I have yet to get trained in these areas.

I do add a medium burn dressing and a vile of sterilized water.

Cheers
David

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi David,

Thanks for your comment.

I think you make a good point regarding multiple casualties/group trauma. Road traffic accidents are the most likely scenario that we will come across such an event.

I used to carry a steripod or two in my kit but found they always leaked before I needed them. What’s the container you use for the water?

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Nobby Hall

Hi Paul, I noticed that Betadine is now on the EU’s nasty list (What more?) I saw it for sale on e-bay from Boots of all places. Are we exempt from this rather silly rule or is it old stock. The same item is available from abroad tho……………….Regards Nobby

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: