Personalizing your first-aid kit

How to make the perfect first-aid kit for going out canoeing, camping or backpacking. Adventure Medical Kits are a good deal—just add extra contents.

Don’t forget extra bandages

I hit the jack pot the other day while shopping for my annual gigantic jar of peanut butter at my local Costco store. A mere $29.95 for Adventure Medical Kit’s grand size Easy Care First-Aid Kit with a bonus trauma pack (kangaroo pouch style) and an mini emergency kit added in for good measure.

What a steal. It was a bit much size wise for canoe tripping but was perfect for campground camping (and around the house). What I ended up doing is taking a good majority of the contents and adding to a smaller waterproof first-aid kit I use for paddling trips (Ultralight Medical Kit.9). Besides, I always end up adding and subtracting the contents of purchased first-aid kits. Along with the essentials I personalize the kit with items for each of the group member’s personal needs; items such as ear drops for sensitive ears, cream for athlete’s feet, an epinephrine shot kit, and personal medications.

First-Aid kits are one of those necessary evils. Rarely do you ever take it out of your pack to use (at least I hope that’s the case). But the moment you need it, the kit quickly becomes one of the most important items to have brought along. What’s even more crucial is that it contains the proper items to do the job.

On a group canoe trip down Ontario’s White River our designated member, assigned to pack the first-aid kit for all of us, never bothered to check the contents inside prior to our departure. On day three of a five day trip each member was suffering various ailments. Four of us had poisoned ourselves by eating a bad can of oysters (I was the one who served the oysters and took the blame). Another member sliced his arm wide open on a sharp rock. And one more partner had a severe reaction to a wasp sting. Not one item in the first-aid kit proved useful for any of the illnesses. The kit was armed with splints, safety pins, tick tweezers, a stethoscope, and, oddly enough, a large quantity of anti-fungal cream. But not one descent sized bandage could be found. No bee-sting kit was packed. We didn’t even have a supply of laxative or nausea pills to help the effects of the food poisoning.
We all managed to survive the ordeal. But it was one hellish trip; one that could of easily be avoided if our canoe mate had only brought a proper first-aid kit.

Since then I’ve always packed along my own personal first-aid kit. I also sign up for a wilderness first-aid course at least every two years. That way I know exactly what’s in the kit and have a good idea of how to use what’s inside.

First-Aid Kit

•Band-aids (various shapes and sizes)
•Ace bandages (for sprained ankles or swollen knees)
•Butterfly bandages
•Gauze pads (various sizes)
•Feminine napkins (for soaking up blood from cuts and scrapes)
•Moleskin (for blisters)
•Alcohol Swabs
•Sterile suture kit
•Safety Pins
•Scissors (small)
•Eye Patch
•Antiseptic cream
•Sun Screen
•Hand lotion (your dry hands will thank me)
•Lip balm
•Water-purification tablets
•Throat lozenges
•Antacid tablets
•Extra-strength Tylenol or its equivalent
•Small pack of Ibuprofen (for stopping inflammation)
•Caladryl (for bee stings and bug bites)
•Small mirror (for inspecting eye injuries…or giving yourself a clean shave)
•Adhesive tape
•First-aid manual (explaining everything from splints, treatment of shock, and CPR)