People often consider skiing, kayaking, and climbing dangerous activities that demand serious physical preparation and a willingness to risk your health. Even though statistics show that the fear of being hurt during such activities is overestimated, it’s still important to pay attention to first aid kit preparations.
And, what’s more important is the fact that not only skiers and alpinists should prepare for possible injuries and diseases. Every responsible hiker or backpacker keeps a thoroughly packed kit bag in their backpack.
With this Hike&Cycle guide, you’ll learn:
- What should be in a first aid kit
- Prevalent diseases and injuries on a trail
- Basic ways to treat common injuries
Use this table of contents to find the necessary chapter:
I. Basic First Aid Kit
Everyone should own a first aid box—in your home, car, office, and travel backpack.
But here you may face a problem:
What contents should you add to your homemade kit?
In this chapter, you’ll learn the basic must-have supplies for any medical kit, find Amazon products to put in your cart, and get a handy bonus (read on to know what it is)!
Wound and trauma care supplies
- Antiseptic towelettes: These individually packed disinfectant wipes can help you clean a wound. They are divided into alcohol and non-alcohol (BZK) products. You shouldn’t treat all kinds of injuries with alcohol-based items, so choose wisely.
- Wound spray: The most significant advantage of this item is universality. You can use an ointment spray for cuts, burns, insect bites, and many more skin injuries. These sprays are usually 100% non-toxic and safe to use even around your eyes (read each product’s instructions to know the details).
- Bandages: You need to have various types in your box: triangular bandages to fix an injured arm; butterfly latex-free bandages to close small cuts; strip bandages to prevent infections and dirt from entering wounds; and elastic bandages to treat sprains and strains.
- Gauze pads, sponges, and rolls: You may need gauze to stop bleeding and prevent infections. When cuts are very wide, sterile gauze pads and sponges help keep out dirt, while rolls are great for procedures.
- Medical tape: Purchase breathable, hypoallergenic type to create a decompressive effect. You can also buy waterproof tape to use during the rain or when kayaking.
- Ointment gel: It’s useful to have a tube among your first aid kit contents. You can find this pain reliever in any drug store.
- SAM Splint: This ultralight and compact item is designed to immobilize limbs. It’s waterproof and has many functions; you can use it as a neck collar or to dress sprains.
- Knife or scissors: These are required to cut bandages, tape, or rolled gauze. You can also buy a multi-tool for these purposes, especially if you’re a hiker.
- Portable CPR: This cheap item can save someone’s life. For example, the Mini CPR Keychain from the American Red Cross allows you to perform CPR without touching the patient’s mouth. It also offers guidelines to help you use the tool correctly even if you’re not a professional.
- Surgical gloves: These let you treat wounds without coming into contact with the patient’s blood.
- Thermometer: Body temperature is one of the most common health indicators that people rely on. It’s critical to have a portable thermometer on your first aid kit list.
- Tweezers: This tool is necessary to extract small objects such as splinters.
- Cotton swabs: Use them to apply ointment gel or cream and clean areas around injuries.
- Waterproof organizer: Your medications and other inventory should be carefully stored in an organizer or metal box. It’s better to use boxes or bags with lots of sections so you’ll be able to find the necessary items immediately.
- Safety pins: Put 2-4 safety pins in your kit to fix dressings and bandages in case of trauma.
Please note that you should discuss all of these medicines with your doctor, carefully read each product’s precautions, check the expiration dates, and be aware of any possible allergies.
With those tips in mind, here’s what to pack in your first aid kit.
- Diphenhydramine: This antihistamine is a must in your medical kit. Diphenhydramine is used to treat allergy symptoms. No one knows where they might encounter pollen, bees, or dust mites, so it’s best to keep a treatment on hand—even if you’ve never experienced any allergic symptoms before.
- Aspirin: Statistics show that aspirin helps prevent blood clots in case of heart attack. Once the patient chews a tablet, it takes just 5 minutes to work. However, it’s important not to use an enteric-coated tablet—even when chewed, they take much longer to have an effect.
- Ibuprofen: This pain reliever also helps reduce fever. You can use it in case of injury, toothache, headache, muscle pain, etc. Be careful not to take ibuprofen and aspirin together.
- Loperamide: This medicine is used to treat diarrhea symptoms. Remember, it’s always important to see a doctor and make sure you don’t have an infection. Also, never give this medicine to children younger than 6 years old.
- Antacid: This is another medicine for a healthy stomach. Antacids neutralize stomach acid and reduce indigestion.
- Calamine: This lotion is used for insect bites and stings, poison ivy, sunburn, eczema, and many other conditions that irritate the skin. Calamine provides a cooling effect, moistures skin, and treats the itching.
- Cold and flu drugs: Don’t let sneezing, coughing, and fever interfere with your plans. Ask your doctor which treatment to use in case of the flu, and have them near.
Now that you know all of the basic first aid supplies, it’s time for the bonus we promised: a handy checklist to make sure all the contents are packed and ready for use:
II. Additional First Aid Contents
Depending on your type of activity, you’ll need to have various types of medicines on hand. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to pack a kit for car travel or hiking.
Car first aid kit
When preparing for a car trip or simply using a vehicle regularly, you may want to add these items to the Chapter I necessities:
- Dimenhydrinate: This medicine is important for car safety. One typical health issue that many people face during road trips is motion sickness. To reduce the symptoms, use this medicine. However, be careful when using it and driving simultaneously.
- Emergency blanket: First aid blankets are the best way to reduce heat loss when you’re not in a hospital. These blankets are ultralight, waterproof, and wind-resistant—in other words, you can use them in various weather conditions.
- Finger splint: For a driver, it’s important to be able to handle the auto well. In case you injure a finger, you can use a finger splint for better healing. It’s also a useful item for people with arthritis.
- Glucose and snacks: During long trips, healthy eating is almost impossible, which can cause hypoglycemia. The most common symptoms are anxiety, headache, irritability, fatigue, and sleepiness. Try to eat regularly to avoid these issues, but in case you do face them, consume 15 grams of glucose (following the instructions!).
- Oral rehydration solutions (ORS): Vomiting from motion sickness and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Use ORS as the treatment.
- Lip balm: In a hot car where people often experience dehydration, you may want to moisturize your lips. This tip is especially easy because lip balm doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Hiking first aid kit
When building your first aid box’s contents, you’ll need several additional items on your camping list:
- Laxative: This is the perfect treatment for constipation. Constipation can occur while hiking due to changes in eating habits and activity level.
- Insect repellent: Unless your trip is taking place in snowy mountains, you’ll need to defend yourself against mosquitos and ticks, especially if you’re going to make camp near water sources.
- Antifungal foot powder: Blisters are the archenemy of every hiker. After spending all day on your feet, remember to wash them and apply some foot powder before going to sleep.
- Water purification tablets: During long trips, you never know if the quality of water you’re drinking is satisfying or healthy. With the help of these tablets, you can filter your water and avoid indigestion and diarrhea.
- Syringes: These items are must-haves for thru-hikers who are visiting other countries. They are necessary to keep a high level of hygiene in countries where less attention is paid to this serious issue.
- Splinter probes: Over a long hike, even a small splinter can cause a lot of trouble. A splinter probe can become an advantage for extracting one whenever you need to.
- Hand sanitizer: This is recommended for hygienic purposes. If necessary, you can find alcohol-free and non-allergenic items (and the cost usually isn’t much higher). They also often come in portable bottles that are easy to carry in a backpack pocket and use in your camp.
- Sunscreen and a nylon cap: It’s always better to have sunscreen with you, even if the weather forecasts say that it will be cold or cloudy. Sunburn can give a lot of discomfort and ruin your vacation, so you’d better be careful.
Outdoor activities first aid kit
This list of things is useful for cyclists, alpinists, kayakers, skiers, and so on. You won’t necessarily need them during a regular hike, but without them, more extreme activities are less comfortable and perhaps even dangerous:
- Vaseline: Use a compact pot or bottle to take a little Vaseline with you. It helps prevent chafing when climbing a mountain or riding a bike.
- Saline solution: If you’re a climber, you should carry eye drops to protect your eyes from wind, dust, and dirt. Saline solution is a great eye wash to use on a trail.
- Emergency fire starter: Even if you’re planning for just a 2-hour adventure, make sure to take one of these with you. You never know when you might be caught in the cold.
- Signal flares: If you happen to get injured during your outdoor activities, you may want to call for help. Signal flares are lightweight and easy to use on a boat or a mountain.
III. First Aid Apps and Manuals
Now you know what a first aid box should include for a variety of activities.
The new question is this:
How do you use all those contents correctly?
In this chapter, you’ll learn which sources to use to find detailed information on first aid, including both apps and manuals. All of them are free to use.
First aid apps
1. First Aid by American Red Cross
This official app of the American Red Cross contains tons of information on emergencies and how to handle them.
In this app you’ll find:
- Instructions with pictures
- Safety tips
- Useful videos
- Quizzes to test your knowledge
2. First Aid for Cyclists
This unique app helps cyclists be ready for any possible trauma. It was developed by St John Ambulance to reduce the number of deaths among cyclists in the UK. However, now this app is popular around the world for city, trail, and mountain biking.
3. Baby and Child First Aid by British Red Cross
If you have a kid, you know that the methods of treating children and adults are not the same. For example, there are lots of drugs that may be helpful for you but dangerous for babies. This app teaches you how to take care of children in case of various emergencies.
4. ICE Medical Standard
With this app, you won’t have to think where to put your medical info. In case of an emergency such as car crashes, anyone who takes your phone can see your name and address, the phone numbers of your relatives, information on allergies and diseases, your blood type, etc. You don’t even have to unlock the phone to see these details (just swipe the notification).
5. Pet First Aid
Though nearly everyone knows the basics of first aid, few people can confidently face emergencies when they happen to pets. With an app like this, you can save the life of your dog or cat.
First aid manuals
1. First Aid / CPR / AED by American Red Cross
This is a handy manual that can help in dozens of emergencies such as asthma attacks, poisoning, lightning strikes, burns, and wounds. An exciting feature of the manual is that it pays a lot of attention to the uses of an automated external defibrillator (AED).
2. First Aid Book by Triple 1 Care
Do you live in New Zealand? If you do, then read these guidelines. You’ll find the contact information for NZ emergency services as well as instructions on how to handle traumas and injuries with minimal equipment.
3. The Everything First Aid Book by Chadi Nassar
This detailed book on at-home and outdoor accidents covers everything from cuts in the kitchen and tooth loss to broken bones and bleeding. Keep this guide near you, and you’ll always know what to do in an emergency situation.
4. First Aid Manual by the American College of Emergency Physicians.
A picture guide, this helpful resource gives exact instructions on every possible accident. It’s divided into 12 chapters for easy navigation and is full of images and simple tips.
IV. The Most Common Hiking Injuries
In this chapter, you’ll learn more about the most common issues that hikers face in the wild. It’s essential to be ready for any emergency, so make sure that you’ve studied all the necessary material.
Here’s a list of these injuries and ways to treat them:
Blisters appear wherever skin is repeatedly rubbed. It’s a frequent problem for those who walk or run a lot.
- Buy comfortable hiking shoes even if it means that you have to spend more money.
- Try to break in your shoes before your trip. Believe us—it’s much worse to have blisters during a hike than when lying on a couch at home.
- While on a trail, use food powder. Apply it to clean feet before going to sleep every night.
- Always keep your feet dry. Use toe warmers at night.
However, even if you take good care of your feet, you can still get blisters.
- Clean the blister with an antiseptic wipe.
- Pierce it with a sterilized needle.
- Apply ointment gel and cover the area with a bandage.
- Check the blister and change the bandage regularly.
2. Poison ivy
In the wild, you may face poisonous plants that are dangerous to touch. They can cause rashes—either those that are easily curable or those that require a trip to the hospital.
- Learn what poison ivy, oak, and sumac look like and avoid walking near these plants.
- Wear long clothes to prevent the contact of poison ivy with your skin.
- If your clothes come into contact with poison ivy, wash them immediately.
- Carefully wash any area that may have touched the poison plants.
- Don’t let the plants’ oil spread on your skin.
- Apply calamine to reduce itching.
3. Insect bites
It’s quite possible that you’ll be sharing your camp with neighbors—such as bees, mosquitoes, ants, or ticks.
- Apply insect repellent.
- Wear long clothes and a hat, and tuck your pants into boots.
- Don’t place your camp near an anthill or bee hive.
- Check your skin for ticks every day.
- Bees: Extract the stinger with tweezers, but to avoid the spread of venom, don’t squeeze too tightly.
- Ticks: Put gloves on, remove the tick with tweezers without twisting it, and put the extracted parasite into a container to allow your doctor to analyze it.
- To reduce itching, use ice packs and calamine lotion.
4. Back pain
Overweight backpacks, extensive walking, and sleeping on the ground can cause aches and pains in your back.
- Learn to spread the weight evenly throughout your backpack.
- Do stretches before going long distances.
- Take rests during the day. Don’t wear yourself out.
- Take a day off and spend it in a camp or a motel.
- Learn to do self-massage.
- If you experience severe pain, take ibuprofen or aspirin.
Alpinists, bicyclists, and hikers often experience chafing. It appears when there’s repetitious rubbing between the skin and other surfaces like clothes.
- Buy clothes of the proper size.
- Wear wool or nylon underwear.
- Use zinc oxide.
- Wash your body as often as possible on the trail.
- Clean the affected area with water and antiseptic wipes.
- Use Vaseline to reduce the pain.
- Try to take a rest for a day or two.
6. Diarrhea and constipation
It’s difficult to eat healthily when you’re on the trail. Try to consume all necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Here you’ll find the ingredients to take with you on a hike.
- Cook your food properly—you can find many DIY recipes online.
- Use water purification tablets.
- Try to avoid stress.
- Diarrhea: Take loperamide.
- Constipation: Take a laxative.
- Eat healthy food regularly.
Sprains and strains are the most common injuries on mountain hikes. We advise backpackers to choose extreme trails only if they’re physically active.
- Choose your hiking shoes wisely.
- Stretch before walking.
- Avoid running on uneven surfaces.
- Take a comfortable position.
- Cool the affected area.
- Use a dressing or SAM Splint to immobilize the leg.
- If you need to relieve pain, take ibuprofen.
8. Bone fractures
When creating a first aid kit, many people consider a bone fracture to be the worst possible trauma. And, honestly, it may be true. Prepare to perform first aid for this type of injury, but do your best to avoid broken bones.
- Stretch before walking.
- Take frequent breaks to avoid exhausting yourself.
- When it’s dark, use a flashlight.
- For open fractures, clean the wound and stop the bleeding.
- Use a dressing or SAM Splint to immobilize the leg.
- Use a GPS locator or signal flares to call for help.
Before you buy your tickets to sunny countries, learn how to cure sunburns.
- Stay in the shade when there’s a risk of high sun exposure.
- Use sunscreen.
- Protect your skin from UV rays by covering up with clothes.
- Hide in the shade.
- Cool the affected area.
- Use calamine lotion to soothe the skin.
When hiking through winter or in the rain, you can get a cold or experience hypothermia. It can be difficult to recognize in time, so be careful and take regular breaks.
- Think about a shelter to use in the wild.
- Read weather forecasts before hitting the trail.
- Don’t forget to drink enough water.
- Find shelter.
- Remove wet clothes if there are any.
- Use an emergency blanket to warm your body.
- Drink warm beverages.
We hope this complete guide will help you hike without fear of trauma or illness. Of course, there are no articles or even books that can prevent an injury 100% of the time. But if you’re ready to perform first aid and carry all the necessary supplies, you’ll be able to help yourself and your family on the trail.
Don’t leave your first aid kit empty!