Homemade First-Aid Kit
A lot of people contact me asking for recommendations on which first-aid kit they should buy and I always tell them to skip the commercial kits and roll your own because they’re way too heavy. As a case in pint, I thought I’d give you a tour of my own ultralight first-aid kit and the rationale for each of the items.
The photo above shows you the contents of my first-aid kit. In total, the contents weigh 3.8 oz.
- I have a 1 oz tube of zinc oxide that I apply to prevent or treat monkey butt and thigh chafing.
- There’s also a 1/2 oz tube of triple antibiotic ointment. I mainly spread this on blisters if they pop during a trip. I don’t need a full 1/2 oz and I could carry those little packets of the stuff, but I’d forget to resupply and the extra weight penalty is minor.
- I have three small packets of Benadryl, Ibuprofen, and Imodium. The Benedryl is good to control an allergic reaction or to help me fall asleep at night if I’m too wound up. The Ibuprofens are 600 mg each and only available via a prescription in this size. I mainly use them to control knee pain if it flairs up on a trip. I’ve never used the Imodium, but if I ever ingest bad water, I’ll use them to control diarrhea and prevent dehydration until I can get medical attention. All of these pills are packed in EZ Dose Pill Pouches which are very handy mini-ziploc bags for packing very small stuff including pills and screw eyes. I always mark these with the expiration date of the drugs they contain, which you can see have expired, and need to be refreshed. As you can see, I have way more of these drugs than I need for a 3-day trip. I carry extras because I forget to resupply between trips, so I’ll always have enough. Again a minor weight penalty.
- I bring two types of bandages with me. Butterfly band-aids which are good to close cuts and bigger sterile guaze pads which can be used to cover scrapes, heel blisters or larger wounds. I use the tape to hold the guaze on, but it can also be used to fashion a splint. If I have a blister, I sometimes tape it directly or use duct tape to keep it closed until I get home. However, I don’t pop blisters if I can avoid it and just walk on them. In a week or two, the fluid in them reabsorbs into your skin.
- The safety pins are good if you need to create a sling from your clothing.
- I just added the latex gloves this fall after I took a Wilderness First-Aid Certification Class. If you need to examine someone who is hurt, they’re the most effective way that you can prevent their body fluids such as blood, saliva, or shit from coming into contact with your skin.
Multi-purpose Backpacking Gear
If you think that this is an impossibly small first-aid kit, it’s because you don’t understand how it complements all the rest of the gear and supplies I typically carry for everyday use. This includes:
- Purell, which I carry in a hip belt pocket to sterilize my hands after using the outhouse, filtering water, and before eating, that can also be used to sterilize a wound or instrument
- Lip balm and a small tin of Dermatone which I carry, again in my hip belt, for sun protection.
- Paper towels, torn up for toilet paper, that can be used to stop bleeding
- My Swiss army classic knife has a pair of tweezers that I can use to remove ticks
- A long handled spoon, hiking poles or an ice axe, that can be used as splints
- My clothes, that can be used to stop bleeding or provide padding for a splint
- My sleeping bag, which can be used as padding for a splint
- My tent footprint and backpack liners which can be used to warm someone at risk from hypothermia
- and so on…
This is a subtle, but important point. As an lightweight hiker, your first aid kit includes everything you carry and even the plants, trees, sticks, and branches around you.
What do you carry in your backpacking first-aid kit?