Monday Tip - First Aid Kits
This week, what should you be carrying in your hill first aid kit?
Posted: 18 June 2012
This week's Monday Tip is about first aid kits and what you should be carrying on the hill to cope with the sort of medical issues you're likely to encounter. Bear in mind though, that the most important aspect of first aid in the hills is knowledge - the most comprehensive selection of medical supplies is near useless if you don't know what to do with it.
Ideally everyone would do a specialist mountain first aid course, but learning from a good outdoor first aid manual is a start and carrying a small, lightweight one isn't a bad move.
Bought Or Made-Up?
You can, of course, buy off the shelf kits, and some are very good. Bear in mind that you can always 'edit' them by adding your own extras and taking out bits you don't feel you need. One thing to bear in mind is that irritatingly, few first aid kits sold as outdoor-specific are supplied in a proper waterproof pouch. Buy your own, preferably clearly marked as 'first aid' so anyone rifling through your pack in an emergency can find it easily.
Obviously you can also make your own kit by buying the contents off the shelf then storing in a waterproof bag or pouch. That also means you can reduce duplication, for example, why carry scissors if you already have a perfectly good multi-bladed knife or multi-tool? In addition, it'll probably work out cheaper too.
For general hill use, we'd consider carrying the following basics for a lightweight kit:
- antiseptic wipes
- non-adherent dressings
- tape - duct tape and Transpore medical tape
- butterfly closures (Steristrips)
- ibuprofen or aspirin tablets
- elastic or crepe bandage for sprains
- blister pads or similar
- safety pins
- tweezers (if not on your knife)
On top of that, for a more extensive kit - maybe for a multi-day trip - you might consider adding the following
- triangular bandage (you can improvise with clothing if you don't have one)
- anti-histamine cream
- larger dressings
- clingfilm - for burns and grazes
- more of the basics above like butterfly closures, wipes and so on
If you're off somewhere genuinely remote on a multi-day trek or expedition, you might want to add a few more extras like...
- wide-spectrum antibiotics (prescription)
- anti-giardia drugs
- emergency dental kit if you're concerned on that front
Finally, just to emphasis our initial observation: a first aid kit is useless without relevant medical skills, so make the effort to lean the basics of first aid, which will in turn, help you make informed decisions about what to carry in your first aid kit.
Discuss this story
Steristrips are better than butterfly sutures, 'cause they work on scalp better (so I'm told, not been in a position to compare). So better to go for them than the butterflies.
Posted: 18/06/2012 at 12:22
> Steristrips are better than butterfly sutures
I'd go with Leukostrips; they're not paper, and thus more durable in an outdoor setting. And I can get them...
My thoughts on outdoor FAK (and those of other UKC readers, especially vark's). I assumed help available within a few hours.
The topic also came up recently on backpackinglight, and has had a recent post that's very similar in theme to vark's on UKC.
Posted: 18/06/2012 at 18:16
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As the article points out, basic first aid knowledge - including CPR - is more importantant than the FAK itself.
The suggested list includes ibuprofen or aspirin tablets (presumably as a general analgesic?) but given its anti-inflammatory properties I prefer to pack a tube of ibuprofen gel because I find it more swift and effective in relieving localised pain (in knees or ankles, for example). I also carry a small plastic bottle of antiseptic hand gel instead of the impregnated wipes.
A few Compeeds in a pocket are a must, FAK or no FAK.
Posted: 18/06/2012 at 19:03