What to Pack in Your First Aid Kit

What to Pack in Your First Aid Kit

It goes without saying—a First Aid Kit should be at the top of your packing list for any adventure.

Whether it’s a road trip to the cottage, a hike in the mountains, or weeks backpacking in a foreign country, you have to be prepared ... because shit happens.

As an Athletic Therapist and Emergency Medical Responder, I (Jimmy) am the one responsible for the First Aid Kit whenever we are preparing for a trip. In this Travel Guide, I am going to take you through my kit-packing process and share some essential and ‘less thought of’ items that you may want to consider adding to your medical kit for your next trip. Note: This is not a packing list to be followed closely; every kit is different and depends heavily on your trip, as well as your first aid skills and knowledge. 

The Necessities

When packing our First Aid Kit before a trip I always start with the necessities. Although a kit for a hike will look much different than one you’d pack for a week on the beach, there are a handful of items that should be included for every adventure, including: 

  • Antiseptic wipes to clean wounds
  • Band-Aids and gauze for protection and to help avoid infection
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Pair of latex gloves to protect yourself when tending to others’ injuries
  • Tweezers and scissors
  • Variety of medications, including:
    • personal prescriptions or Epi-Pens
    • anti-inflammatories for pain relief (Advil, Tylenol)
    • antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream for reactions to bug bites, food, or plants
    • antidiarrheal pills (like I said, sometimes shit happens)

Ask Yourself Some Questions

Once you have the necessities, it’s time to figure out what trip-specific items you may need. I typically ask myself a few questions when considering what else to pack: 

  • What activities are we planning to do?
  • What’s the weather like and are there any environmental concerns?
  • What could go wrong on this trip?
  • What types of supplies will be readily available for purchase?

    Items for the Active 

    Activities play a huge role in determining what else to pack. Some items to consider for more high-intensity activity: blister pads (2nd Skin squares are my go-to, but Moleskin works well, too) if you are planning on hiking or doing a lot of walking, Tensor bandages and athletic tape in case of sprain from physical activity, and triangular bandages to sling an arm or secure a splint in the case of a more serious injury.

    Items for the Weather

    The weather can be the reason you planned the trip, however, it can also ruin your experience if not properly prepared.

    Hot, humid locations can put you at risk for sunburn or dehydration. I always pack sunscreen and electrolyte packages to help reduce the risk of dehydration. Electrolyte packets have become a staple in my kit (I use Gatorlytes, BioSteel, or Emergen-C) and have even helped us avoid a potentially dangerous situation in Thailand.

    When you become dehydrated due to lack of fluids, hot/humid weather, or even diarrhea, your body loses fluids and electrolytes. Water alone will not reverse this condition; you need to replenish electrolytes to avoid severe symptoms that can put you in danger.

    Travel Tip: if you forgot electrolytes or have run out, coconut water naturally contains electrolytes and is more common than sports drinks like Gatorade in most tropical countries (although cracking a coconut is easier said than done).

    Cold weather can also be a concern, so items like chemically-activated hand warmers and a Mylar emergency blanket can help you avoid conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia. 

    Some Final Thoughts

    Remember—depending on where you are headed, some supplies may not be readily available. When backcountry camping, it’s best to pack just about anything you can think of, including water purification tablets so that you can ensure any water you may drink is safe (i.e. AquaTabs). If you are headed to a foreign country, consider drugstore accessibility, how expensive supplies may be, or any language barriers that may hinder your ability to find what you are looking for (after fighting a nasty case of salmonella one night in Laos, Steph and I spent almost an hour in a convenience store trying to read labels in search for a sports drink that had electrolytes).

    Lastly, when packing a medical kit, make sure everyone in your party is aware of its location because you never know when or who may need access to it. Make sure it is easily accessible for both emergencies and security checkpoints at airports. Size and packing space is always something to consider when deciding what to include in your kit—just always remember: it’s better to have something and not need it, then to need something and not have it. 


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