This Is What Your First Aid Kit Is Missing


Whether you’re a week­end war­rior, an off-piste ski­er, or a ded­i­cat­ed thru-hik­er, you’re (hope­ful­ly!) car­ry­ing a first-aid kit. But when was the last time you real­ly looked inside?

Most kits come stocked with the basic sup­plies: ath­let­ic tape, gauze, a vari­ety of band-aids, and a pair of shears. That’s a good start—but it’s worth con­sid­er­ing these must-have items, too.

Our eyes are del­i­cate machin­ery. When we’re out­side, we expose them to all kinds of haz­ards: dirt, dust, grav­el, pollen, germs, etc. First-aid pros look for small, indi­vid­u­al­ly por­tioned vials of eye drops and/or saline to lubri­cate dry eyes. This helps to flush out any dirt, soothe irri­ta­tions, and more.

When the shit hits the fan, most of us want to rush in and help, but it’s smart to pro­tect our­selves first. Stash­ing two or three pairs of med­ical-grade latex gloves in your first-aid kit ensures you’ll be able to assist with­out wor­ries about con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. This pro­tects both you and the per­son you’re try­ing to help. Just do it.

Over-The-Counter Meds
While most of us are orga­nized enough to pack Band-Aids for a day on the trail, it can be more dif­fi­cult to deter­mine what kinds of over-the-counter med­ica­tions you’ll need to car­ry. By mak­ing sure that your kit always stays well-stocked with over-the-counter med­ica­tions, you can take the guess­work out of packing.

When you’re on short day trips, experts rec­om­mend pack­ing a small­er kit. This could include ibupro­fen for sore mus­cles, acetaminophen/aspirin for fevers, chew­able Pep­to-Bis­mol for upset stom­achs, and even Dra­mamine for motion sick­ness. Anoth­er pro-tip is pack­ing anti­his­t­a­mine (like Benadryl) for aller­gic reac­tions. For longer mul­ti-day trips, con­sid­er adding antibi­otics (at your doctor’s rec­om­men­da­tion) for res­pi­ra­to­ry and gas­troin­testi­nal infec­tions, an anti-itch cream in case of bug bites, and, if your trip takes you across time zones, a mild sleep aid. To avoid car­ry­ing bulky pack­ag­ing on the trail, buy sin­gle-dose pack­ages or repack­age pills into small, well-labeled plas­tic bags.

Den­tal Supplies
Noth­ing brings a per­son to their knees like a den­tal emer­gency. Whether it’s an infec­tion, a cracked tooth, or a lost fill­ing, den­tal issues are painful, dis­tract­ing, and dan­ger­ous. For any trip longer than a sin­gle day, con­sid­er invest­ing in a few sup­plies to treat den­tal pain in remote set­tings. This includes floss, den­tal wax, cotton/gauze, and oral anes­thet­ic. If you’re plan­ning an extend­ed trip, look for a tem­po­rary cav­i­ty fill­ing mix­ture, called “Cav­it.”

Remem­ber: the best thing you can buy is an edu­ca­tion. Con­sid­er CPR cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and a Wilder­ness First Aid course, and for more reach­ing check out Wilder­ness Med­i­cine: Beyond First Aid by William Forgey, M.D.