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First Aid for Preparedness in the Backcountry.


First Aid While Hiking-

First and foremost, plan and research.  Your greatest asset when talking first aid in the backcountry is prevention and preparedness.  In the immortal words of Mr. Miyagi, “Best way no get hit, no be there.”  Begin with the area you will travel, the timeline, possible scenarios, and a quick refresher on basic first aid before trekking out for your adventure.  As has been said, “an ounce of prevention…”

Crackling gravel shifts beneath my twisting boots, the trail grows wide as the barren wash broadens from the tight slot canyon I traversed moments before.   Cool darkened sandstone tapers and disappears as I venture into the blazing sun.  A flat unforgiving desert opens broad with cactus and fading protection from the elements.  Layers become a liability now I bake in the convection of a dry and burning breeze and I transform much as the action figures my son and I play with Saturday mornings.  Temperatures raise 30˚ in a matter of minutes as the landscape performs a transformation of its own.  Now also, the rules have altered, I am caught in a never-ending cycle of change, it is beautiful and unrelenting.

I have a soft spot for the canyons and deserts of Utah.  Spending much of my time in this environment and alone, I have come to understand the importance of the motto, “Be Prepared.”  If you don’t like the weather in Utah, just wait 10 minutes, another reason to practice preparedness.  First aid must needs be subject to this warning as well.  In my pack, I carry a small kit, homemade.  I also have various items in my bag serving double duty for first aid and preparedness.

filter straw for survival and first aidI have put together an extensive list of “typical” first aid kit items and have expanded the list beyond that for your consideration.  You can purchase or make your bag based on them as you like, for now, I would like to address items usually not on any list.  These are a few items worth mentioning and a must have in every kit in my opinion:  Water Straw Filter, Duct Tape, Trekking Poles, Poncho.

The water filter straw is Ultralight and Compact design for easy storage.  An excellent add-on to any backpacking first aid kit.  Most attach to a standard style 2L or 1L water/soda bottle and many hydration systems as well. Water Filtering is a must have for your bug-out survival, emergency preparedness, traveling, camping, and fishing bags. These units are durable and weigh only 2.8 ounces. 

Duct Tape is a multi-use item.  Blister prevention, wound binding, splints, and stretcher creation are all in the duct tape purview.  Repairs on pack straps and buckles also make the list, bringing the usefulness of this straightforward and overlooked commodity rising to the top.  You don’t need to carry, and I don’t, and entire role.  I wrap a bit around the upper part of my trekking pole just under the handle.  Speaking of trekking poles…

Trekking poles have some serious multi-purpose uses as well.  First of all, their intended use prevents fatigue, twisted ankles, and hyperextended knees.  Get a collapsible pair, lightweight, that are easily stored in your pack if not needed. (I usually put mine away in a tight slot canyon.)  Beyond the obvious, splints can be created, a stretcher, and shelter if needed.

ripstop ponchoThat brings me to my poncho.  With just a few pieces of paracord attached my poncho can transform itself into an emergency shelter.  A place to hide from the sun, wind or rain.  Did you know you can also make a bathtub out of a poncho?  I have on more than one occasion dammed up a small creek for an hour to have a nice cold soak!  Again, the poncho has a place in your pack if only for its intended use, but it does so much more.  Quite often, it is solely used for my picnic blanket.  Now, I could make a very similar argument for my camping hammock.  I do happen to carry one with me, but I will save that conversation for another time.


Continued below is a listing of specific first aid items for your consideration.  Fire up some Dutch oven and sit back for a read.


Prepackaged first-aid kits usually contain many of the following items:

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Assorted adhesive bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Nonstick sterile pads
  • Medical adhesive tape
  • Blister treatment, Moleskin
  • Ibuprofen / pain-relief medication
  • Insect-sting treatment
  • Antihistamine
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • First-aid manual or information cards


The continued list is purposefully broad; it is doubtful a single kit should or would include every item shown here.


Wound Coverings

  • Rolled gauze
  • Stretch-to-conform bandages
  • Elastic wrap
  • Hydrogel-based pads
  • First-aid cleansing pads with topical anesthetic
  • Hemostatic gauze
  • Liquid bandage
  • Oval eye pads



  • Hand sanitizer
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Aspirin
  • Antacid tablets
  • Throat lozenges
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Loperamide tablets
  • Poison ivy/poison oak preventative
  • Poison ivy/poison oak treatment
  • Glucose or other sugar to treat hypoglycemia
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Antifungal foot powder
  • Prescription medications
  • Injectable epinephrine to treat allergic reactions


Tools and Supplies

  • Multi-tool with knife
  • Paramedic shears
  • Safety razor blade or Scalpel
  • Finger splint
  • SAM splint
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Standard oral thermometer
  • Low-reading thermometer
  • Irrigation syringe with 18-gauge catheter
  • Magnifying glass
  • Small mirror
  • Medical/surgical gloves
  • Triangular cravat bandage
  • Steel sewing needle with heavy-duty thread
  • Needle-nose pliers with wire cutter
  • Headlamp
  • Whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Small notepad with waterproof pencil or pen
  • Medical waste bag
  • Waterproof container to hold supplies and meds
  • Emergency heat-reflecting blanket
  • Water Filter Straw


Personal Care, Other Items

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Insect repellent and head-net
  • Biodegradable soap

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