Personal First Aid Kits

Nobody plans to have an accident, but everyone should plan to carry a personal first aid kit when hiking, backpacking or backcountry skiing– because you just never know what might happen.

Personal first aid kits should be small enough to carry everywhere; but well-stocked enough to be of use. Photo: M.Kopp

We were hiking in a remote canyon in Utah one spring and decided to explore a ruin set up on a narrow, 5-6 foot wide ledge, about 25 feet or so above the canyon floor.

My guy decided to go beyond the ruin to see what was around the corner. He bent down to get around a rock outcrop – and then stood up – too soon.

All we heard was the sound of falling rock and then silence.

He didn’t fall off the cliff – thank goodness – but he did end up with a nasty gash in his forehead. My daughter grabbed the first aid kit from one of the backpacks and rushed to clean him up – “before mom sees this.”  She knows I get a little woozy at the site of blood and we were still up on the ledge.

Beyond band-aids, what should a personal first aid contain?

  • antiseptic wipes
  • antibacterial ointment
  • adhesive bandages (assorted)
  • gauze pads (various sizes)
  • non-stick sterile pads
  • medical adhesive tape
  • blister treatment (e.g. moleskin)
  • antihistamine (for allergic reactions)
  • tweezers
  • scissors or knife

Other valuable add-ons:

  • rolled gauze
  • elastic wrap
  • disposable medical gloves
  • pain medication (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol)
  • emergency heat-reflecting blanket

There are dozens of checklists – some quite comprehensive – for personal first aid kits available online. The American Hiking Society has an excellent checklist, as well as additional online resources and several suggestions for first aid books.

What’s in your personal first aid kit?

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