One item people tend to either pack too much of, or not enough, is the first aid kit. You tend to pack your fears, so if you are afraid of getting injured, you will have a bigger first aid kit. Other people have no worries at all and just want to be lightweight so they cut out the kit completely. Having some sort of first aid in your pack is a must. Not only for you, but to help others in need as well. This post will go over some items you most definitely want, some you might want, and the others that you should probably take out. Of course, these are just our recommendations but if you have more specific medical needs then by all means pack what you must!
These are the most common items you will find in a first aid kit. Most people will get some sort of a blister at some point during their hike. There are many different bandages made specifically for blisters that usually have some type of gel that prevents further rubbing and helps treat the blister. Most claim to be waterproof but when they are in a shoe or boot all day, they tend to come off. Moleskin is the more popular solution. You can cut it to whatever size you need and stick it right on the blister. These can also come off while hiking all day. The simple solution for both of these bandages is duct tape! Duct tape has many uses on the trail and is a necessity. Whenever I stick moleskin on a blister, I put duct tape around my whole foot and it keeps the moleskin in place and prevents further rubbing. Duct tape is also great for repairing gear and ripped clothing.
Here is my method for treating blisters and it hasn’t failed me yet.
-Try to tape up a hot spot once you feel it rubbing. If it is too late and a blister has already formed, go ahead and put moleskin and duct tape on it.
-After arriving at camp, take off the bandage. Use whatever you can to pop the blister and drain the fluid (safety pin, needle, pocket knife, fingernails).
-Once the fluid is drained, use some sort of disinfectant to clean the open sore (neosporin, alcohol wipe, Iodine).
-Keep the wound open and let it dry out and possibly scab overnight.
-The next morning, you will want to bandage up the wound again for the day. Instead of using moleskin because it sticks right to your skin and could cause another wound when ripped off, try using a small piece of gauze or a bandaid if you carry them. Continue to use duct tape around the entire foot to keep the bandage in place.
-Take off bandages and repeat. Usually a new blister could have formed so cleaning the scab should suffice.
You should really only carry one type of disinfectant. I had a small tube of Neosporin that lasted me a long time and I used on all of my wounds. You also only need a few moleskin pads and gauze. Keep in mind you can stop in town every 4-5 days so if you need more supplies, you can get them. Duct tape can be wrapped around trekking poles, trowel, pencil, whatever you have! You definitely don’t need the big cardboard tube or that much duct tape.
There are only two medications I brought on the trail but again, if you have specific prescriptions, or use other medication regularly then by all means bring it! I would recommend just one kind of Antihistamine, and one pain reliever. You may not know your own, or others allergies. I got stung by a wasp on the trail and my hand swelled up to twice its size! Luckily, my friend had a Benadryl that helped with the swelling. Now I always carry at least two small Benadryl tablets just in case. Pain relievers can help with aches and pains and can also be good for your body. Taking some at night before bed will help with swelling and other pains overnight. Be careful to listen to your body and do not try to mask serious pain with pills.
Other medicines that people take on the trail are Antacid tablets, sting and burn relief, eye drops, prescribed Antibiotics, etc. I personally wouldn’t carry any of these as they add weight. If any sickness were bad enough I would just take care of it in town.
Bandages, wraps, wound treatment
A few band aids can be ok for minor cuts, or for open blisters on your feet as long as they are duct taped. Other bandages you should carry are things like gauze for bloody wounds, athletic tape to wrap a sprained ankle or wound, and an elastic wrap. The elastic wrap helped me when I was having shin splints. Wrapping my shins every night helped with some of the swelling. You can use them on feet, legs, knees, etc. Of course you will need alcohol wipes, maybe just a couple, and a pair of rubber gloves is not a bad idea either just in case you need to help a friend with a bloody wound.
If you are afraid of larger cuts, the butterfly closures can be a good thing to carry.They go across a cut so that it forces the skin to come together. Another item people sometimes carry is an irrigation syringe. If you fall and get a big cut with small debris and dirt stuck in it, using the syringe filled with water can help clean out the wound. If you are carrying a Sawyer water filter then you should already be carrying one of the syringes for back flushing your filter. Dual purpose!
Of course there are many items you can bring in your first aid kit. Other items include; tweezers, splints, more assorted bandages, liquid bandage, blood-stopping gauze, glucose tabs, q-tips, thermometer, and CPR mask. I will say the tweezers are necessary for the Appalachian Trail because they will help you remove ticks. Everything else is up to you. Hopefully, you won’t ever have to use anything in your first aid kit, I know I rarely did. It is important though because even though it’s not something you will need everyday, it can make a difference in a dangerous situation.
Here is my total final list for my first aid kit.
- Duct Tape
- Small gauze roll
- A few alcohol pads
- Elastic wrap
- A few butterfly closures
- Iodine (I use this as a water treatment backup as well)
Hope this post has helped! Remember, it is easy to get to town so don’t get freaked out if you get an injury while on the trail.