Whether you're going on a short afternoon hike or a four-day backcountry camping trip, it's essential to be prepared for an emergency. We've put together a list of items necessary for your wilderness first-aid kit below. You'll find most of them at your drugstore, or you can buy a pre-assembled kit and add anything it doesn't include. Customize according to your party's needs -- for example, remember the allergy medicine if you or a companion is prone to asthma. Before you venture out, be sure you know how to use every item, and don't forget to restock your kit when you return from the wild.
Just print out this list and check items off as you pack them. If you want a more specialized list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your own computer and add your personal essentials.
- Waterproof case
- Waterproof bandages (various sizes)
- Triangular bandage (40-inch, for making a sling)
- Isopropyl alcohol wipes
- Butterfly bandages (to hold cuts closed for more comfortable healing)
- Ace bandages (for wrapping sprains)
- Gauze pads (various sizes)
- Gauze wrap (15 feet, easily cut)
- Wire splint
- Chemical heat and cold packs
- White medical tape
- Basic first-aid guide (one good choice is the First-Aid Pocket Guide)
- Small surgical scissors
- Safety pins (for slings or wraps)
- Tweezers (with a narrow point and a solid grip, for removing splinters)
- Antibiotic ointment (such as Neosporin or Bactracin)
- Cortisone cream for bug bites
- Biodegradable soap
- Aloe gel (for burns)
- Moleskin (for blisters)
- Epipen (injectable epinephrine for allergic reactions -- you'll need a prescription)
- Pain reliever (ibuprofen)
- Fever reducer (acetaminophen)
- Antihistamine (such as Claritin or Benadryl)
- Diarrhea medicine (Immodium AD, Kaopectate, or Pepto-Bismol -- for adults only; if you get diarrhea, be sure to consult a doctor if it lasts more than 3 days, you have severe pain in your abdomen, a fever of 102 degrees or higher, or blood in your stool)
- Glucose and salt tablets (mix with water to restore electrolytes if you get dehydrated)
- Waterproof matches
Outside Magazine: Family Vacations. "Essential Gear: First-Aid Kits," Summer 1996.
Mayo Clinic, "First Aid Basics for Campers and Hikers," May 24, 1999.
Hodgson, Michael. "First Aid Kit Contents: What Should Be in a Kit -- or Not." Adventure Network, 1999.
Outdoor Action, Princeton University. "Outdoor Action First Aid Kit."
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Diarrhea. March 2007.