We share first aid kit ideas on all our first aid courses although this covers general principles rather than offering set guidance. A ‘one type fits all’ kit doesn’t exist.
The Context Equals The Content
Who? How Many? Where? What Conditions? Your kit should be tailored to the environment and activities it will be used for. You should also consider who the first aid kit may be used for? Are you just treating yourself or are you caring for others? This will significantly impact the contents and whether it is advisable to carry medications.
The More You Know The Less You Need
Our courses focus heavily on developing improvisational skills as much as relying on specific equipment. An arm fracture can be immobilised by using a jacket or climbing rope just as well as a triangular bandage.
So, the best we can do is to offer ideas on what items we have found to be useful in a general purpose outdoor kit. The following First Aid Kit Ideas list are suggestions only. We are specifically not dictating what must be included.
Follow a System
When choosing items for any kit it helps to apply the principles embedded in the ITC accident procedure. So, here goes….
- Assess the environment (a torch may be useful in some circumstances) and consider personal protection (gloves and, in times of COVID-19, consider a face mask and possibly eyewear)
- Carry enough clothes to protect yourself while with a casualty
- A whistle may be a good way to draw attention quickly
- Gloves if you need to clear the airway of a superficial blockage
- You may need to breath for your casualty. Consider carrying a face shield
- You may need to record breathing rate. A casualty monitoring card (printed on waterproof paper which we discuss here) and pencil for recording breathing rate. It’s worth carrying two copies for versatility. This allows for one to keep at the incident site and one to send away (depending on how help is being sought).
- A watch or phone stopwatch to time breaths per minute
- You may need to cut clothing to access a wound. My preferred tool is Tuff Cut Shears and I explain why here
- Something to clean a wound such as swabs or saline solution. I also talk here about why mountain bikers might consider carrying water here.
- A substantial pad to apply immediate pressure to a catastrophic bleed such as a triangular bandage
- A dressing for a larger wound such as an Israeli dressing (sometimes called The Emergency Bandage). An example of this type of dressing is here
- A dressing for a smaller wound. Low Adherent dressings such as 10cmx10cm Melolin work well
- Dressings for small cuts and grazes such as plasters
- Tape to fasten a wound dressing. My preferred tapes are Duct Tape and Zinc Oxide tape and I explain why here
- You may need to deal with a circulation problem such as a heart attack. 300mg Aspirin tablets will help
- You may need to immobile a potential fracture so carrying a triangular bandage is worth considering
- You may need to support a soft tissue ankle or knee injury. Consider medical grade conforming bandage. Avoid vet wrap style dressings which contain latex. Latex can cause an allergic reaction in some people
- I don’t typically carry one as I usually have things like handlebars, an ice axe or trekking poles. If not, a 36 inch Sam Splint may be well worth considering in some contexts
- Dressings for blisters. Lots of options including Hydrocolloid plasters, moleskin or Compeed are available. Experiment and find the choices that work best for your needs.
- You may need to keep your casualty, yourself and other members of your party warm. A group shelter is a good option (sized to fit all members of the party) along with something like closed cell matting to protect a casualty from the ground. Additional items such as spare clothing, a Blizzard blanket or something like a SOL Emergency Bivvy such as this may also be worth considering
- Kilt pins are a strong alternative to safety pins and can be used for lots of jobs
- Cable ties. Useful to securing a splint but also great for repairs. If you do carry them, I discussed the benefits of releasable cable ties here
- Tick remover
- Tweezers. I really like this type
- Spare food. Keeping energy levels might make a big difference in many contexts. Jelly babies are a quick and efficient option that will also quickly raise the blood sugar. Glucogel is another option specifically to manage hypoglycaemia
- Carrying medications in a first aid kit requires careful consideration. If you do decide it is a reasonable option then painkillers such as Paracetamol may be useful. Ibuprofen and antihistamines may also be worthy of consideration. If you do carry medications, carry the accompanying information
You’ll need something to carry everything in. There are various options on the market. My favourite is these dry bags logoed with first aid and marketed by Lowe Alpine. They are simple, durable, great value and weatherproof.
We hope you find this list of First Aid Kit Ideas useful and it essential to plan for the unexpected. As mentioned, having the knowledge to know how to handle a first aid emergency is also key. There is no point in having the best first aid kit in the world if you don’t know how to use it. Please consider one of our ITC outdoor first aid courses to expand your knowledge and hone your skills