A first aid kit for hiking, hunting, and other outdoor activities should include both important medical supplies and basic survival tools to keep you alive long enough for help to arrive if you are lost or injured. This article lists what you should have in your first aid kit and why.
You may want to make your own first aid kit since many store-bought kits are not comprehensive enough to cover the variety of injuries, illnesses, and survival situations you could encounter while outdoors or in tactical scenarios. The goal should be to have one small kit you can throw in your bag before any activity and know you’ll have everything you need in a pinch. Through years of hunting, hiking, climbing, and camping I’ve refined the contents of my first aid and survival kit. This guide is based on personal experience and a few I-wish-I-had-BLANK moments.
How to pack your first aid kit
You’ll want to keep your kit in a durable and water-resistant container that allows items to be accessed easily. Pack items such as adhesive bandages and medications that you use frequently near the top so they are easy to get to.
Minimize and pack tight. Despite the long content list, my survival kit fits into a container that is only 6 inches x 6 inches x 3 inches and the whole thing weighs less than 1.5 pounds. Molle compatible pouches come in many sizes and are a great option. I have found small lunch containers work really well because they are compact and the whole top opens so you don’t have to dump the contents to get to most items.
To reduce packaging size, separate small numbers of items like Q tips and matches and wrap in plastic wrap rather put an entire package in your kit. I also combine all medications into a single small bottle.
Make sure to include a content list in your kit. Tip – If you have medications that are not in their original package, you’ll want to include a visual description and dosage info on the content list so that you can identify pills.
What medical supplies do you need in a first aid kit?
Any first aid kit will include basic medical supplies such as adhesive bandages of various sizes, sterile prep pads, burn cream, and gauze pads to treat minor wounds. Moleskin makes a great addition for treating blisters. To be prepared for more significant injuries or trauma, include medical tape, a clotting agent, latex or vinyl gloves, a first aid card, and a compression bandage.
Scissors and tweezers are needed, but can be replaced by a miniature multitool. The extra tools can make responding to the unexpected easier. Make sure the multitool has scissors.
Safety pins can be used to lance blisters, secure bandages, as well as repair clothing and gear.
Antibiotic ointment is a good add to most kits. It is better than antiseptic wipes for small cuts and scrapes because it creates a barrier over the wound and is pain-free. It also has the added benefit of being a decent lubricant that can be applied to blisters or hot spots in a pinch.
Can you use super glue on cuts? Yes!
I always have super glue in my first aid kit because it is very effective at closing cuts. It dries fast, stops bleeding, and holds skin in place, which reduces pain and helps healing. Super glue has saved me from stiches and helped me continue to enjoy my outdoor activity on more than one occasion. Of course, you’ll want to disinfect the wound before closing.
What medications should you include in a first aid kit?
There are some over the counter medications that are good to have on-hand when hunting or backpacking.
- Aspirin – Good for pain relief, but more importantly it can save your life and buy you time if you find yourself having a heart attack.
- Anti-inflammatory – Ibuprofen is excellent for pain relief and can also reduce inflammation and fever. Tylenol is also good for pain relief and fever reduction.
- Pepto Bismol Tablets – Little can make an outdoor excursion more miserable than a stomach ailment. This is a go-to for diarrhea, heart burn, and stomach aches. Antacids can also be a good addition.
- Benadryl – Lots of things in the back-country can cause an allergic reaction. Benadryl can dramatically reduce your body’s reaction to everything from bug bites to poison ivy to food allergies.
Depending on where you are going and what you intend to be doing, you may also want to consider additional items such as a snake bite kit, a tourniquet, a splint, and needle and thread.
Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The above is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional and be aware of any interactions or allergies before taking any medications.
What are the most important survival supplies for your first aid kit?
If you are lost, injured, or simply caught unprepared in the wilderness, the inability to control your temperature and exposure to weather poses the biggest immediate threat to your life. Good survival kits will include items to protect against weather and temperature changes.
No survival kit is complete without multiple ways to start a fire. Mine includes a small lighter and waterproof matches along with a small fire starter tablet that can be a life-saver if there is no dry kindling available. A candle can be another useful item. It can help start a fire and provide light. Candles can also be a valuable source of heat in a confined space such as a snow cave or lean-to. I use a tea light and wrap it in plastic wrap to protect it.
A mylar blanket can keep you warm, provide shelter or shade and serve many other purposes in a survival or medical situation. Duct tape and a small amount of para chord are also valuable multi-taskers. Dental floss can be a lightweight way to carry string that has a variety of uses from repairing clothing to stitching wounds.
A disposable poncho is light-weight and you’ll be happy to have one the first time you get caught in an unexpected rain storm.
Getting found is the next biggest concern when you are lost or injured. A small mirror and whistle are excellent signaling tools. A small compass can also be handy to find your way out.
If you are lost for more than 24 hours, water can become a pressing concern. What’s available may not be safe to drink, so a few water purification tablets in your kit can be a very lightweight insurance policy.
A knife is also a critical survival tool. Most of the time I carry one with me, but in a pinch, the multitool mentioned previously will suffice.
Some convenience items that have made their way into my outdoor survival first aid kit based on personal experience include: keychain LED flashlight, insect repellant wipes, and sun block in individual use packets.
First Aid Kit Checklist:
Medical Supplies for First Aid Kits:
- Medical Essentials:
- Adhesive bandages
- Sterile (alcohol or iodine) prep pads
- Medical Tape
- Burn cream
- Gauze pads
- First Aid Card
- Latex gloves
- Safety pins
- Pepto Bismol / Antacid
- Ibuprofen / Tylenol
- Other Medical Supplies
Survival Supplies for First Aid Kits:
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