Building A First Aid Kit Perfect for Camping and Travel
Recently we were on a hike and came across a 5 ft copperhead sunbathing on our path. Now obviously this wasn’t the first poisonous snake we’ve crossed on our treks nor will it be our last, but at the time of this particular incident, we didn’t have our camping first aid kit.
After safely getting around the snake, we started to reflect on what would have happened had one of us gotten bit considering we were quite a few miles away from our vehicle and had limited cell service.
We also realized that others, like us, may go hiking or camping unprepared or underprepared for medical emergencies. So, we made a list of everything you need (plus a few extras) to help DIY your hiking, traveling, and camping first aid kit.
Items to Add to Your Travel & Camping First Aid Kit for Treating & Cleaning Wounds
Sterile dressing pads: Helpful for larger cuts or scrapes that can’t be covered by the typical bandage. ($4)
Gauze: To keep the sterile dressing pad in place. ($5)
Adhesive first aid tape: To keep the gauze wrapped up tightly. ($5)
Adhesive bandages: Obviously this one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to carry an assortment of various sizes for blisters, small scrapes, and cuts. ($5)
Scissors: For cutting and resizing any bandages, but these could also be helpful in cutting clothes in emergency situations. ($5)
Antiseptic Towelettes: These are essential when needing to clean a wound before dressing. ($1.50)
Antibiotic Ointment: In order to help a wound heal and provide minor pain relief. ($5)
Irrigation Syringe: To help clean out wounds. ($3)
Quikclot Sponge: An antihemorrhagic/hemostatic agent that helps promote clotting and prevent bleeding. A little more effective for more profound bleeds than basic gauze. ($16)
SAM Splint: Should someone, unfortunately, sprain, break, or fracture a bone this will do the trick in order to help that person seek proper medical attention. It can easily be cut or molded to fit any bone on the human body. ($10)
Over-the-Counter Medications to Add to Your Travel & Camping First Aid Kit
Ibuprofen* (Advil): Fast-acting relief of minor pain, inflammation, and fever.
Aspirin: Blood thinner and NSAID – helps reduce pain, inflammation, and fever.
Loratadine* (Claritin): A non-drowsy option for seasonal allergies.
Diphenhydramine* (Benadryl): For acute allergic reactions.
Loperamide* (Imodium): anti-diarrheal (who wants to deal with that on a trip? Yeah.. not us either!)
Tums: Antacids for heartburn relief and soothing stomach aches.
Dramamine: An antiemetic (aids against vomiting and nausea) or used commonly for motion-sickness.
Hydrocortisone Cream: A steroid cream that helps alleviate inflammation and itchy rashes.
Biofreeze: Helps alleviate muscle soreness after a day of hiking.
Eye Essentials to Add to Your First Aid Kit
Of course, being an Optometrist I had to write a section about your ocular health on an adventure. It’s hard to enjoy the views without healthy eyes!
Glasses: While this may seem like a no-brainer to those who wear glasses all the time, there is a good majority of people who only wear contact lenses. Having a backup pair of glasses in a sturdy case can be a lifesaver if you lose your contact lenses, break your full-time spectacles, or heaven forbid get lost for an extended amount of time.
Extra Contact Lenses: Along the side of having a backup pair of glasses, it is always a good idea to bring extra contact lenses while you are traveling. They do occasionally get lost, torn, or need to be replaced on your trip. Always replace your contacts on their proper schedule, because complications can occur like bacterial keratitis, which can cause permanent vision loss. Plus, no one enjoys an interrupted trip by having to make an emergency visit to the optometrist!
Eye Drops: Eye drops are great for travel, especially for those who are hiking and outdoors. Dryness and redness can occur due to coming in contact with wind, dirt, or other allergens in the air. Systane is a great choice and can provide comfort throughout your day. ($10-18)
Travel Tip: Avoid taking too much (or really any) Visine to cure any redness on your trip. Overuse of Visine can cause rebound redness which may make you more uncomfortable than when you started!
Contact Solution: For anyone wearing contact lenses, don’t forget to bring contact solution and a case!
Travel Tip: Next time you visit your optometrist, ask for a new contact lens solution sample! These smaller bottles are great to keep in your kit and don’t take up much space.
Sunglasses: I always take sunglasses with me when we travel. Not only is it more comfortable on sunny days, but polarized lenses are also awesome for fishing and kayaking! Always check and make sure your lenses have UVA and UVB protection, which can be found even on reasonably priced frames.
Tools to Add to Your Camping First Aid Kit
Tweezers: Remove splinters and debris from cuts/scrapes. ($5)
Tick Twister: This is pretty self-explanatory but this is a handy way to easily remove ticks of all sizes ($6)
Fixed blade knife: A fixed blade, better known as full tang, is vital for any emergency kit of any kind. A strong full tang knife won’t collapse like a folding knife, which can result in further harm. Full tang knives are great for survival needs such as digging or cutting small branches and are great for your first aid kit to cut bandages, or trim a splint. We prefer the SOG Seal Pup ($50) due to its lifetime warranty, GRN diamond pattern handle, and durability.
Zip Ties: Good multiple uses in an emergency, keep a few of these in your travel and camping first aid kit
Headlamp: Whether it be camping, hiking, spelunking, or finding your way around in the dark, whatever the reason a headlamp is a must.
We prefer the Black Diamond Storm because it has many great capabilities:
Black Diamond Storm ($49.95)
-Light Output: high: 250 lumens, low: 60 lumens
-Bulbs: 2 white LED, 1 red LED, 1 green LED
-Beam Type: Flood/Spot
-Max Beam Distance: 80 meters
-Batteries: 4 AAA
-Average Run Time: high: 60, low: 150 hours
-Red light mode
Fire Starting Items to Add to Your Camping First Aid Kit
BIC Lighter: BIC has always made a cost-friendly, reliable lighter that is easy to pack and carry. ($3/2pk)
Flint (Fire Starter): While it is easier to just pack and use a lighter or matches, a flint is handy in case a lighter is faulty. ($7.50)
Waterproof matches: These matches will light even in some of the harshest windy and rainy conditions not to mention they can be stored in a watertight tube. ($8)
Waterproof Quick Tinder: To help your fire start more quickly. ($5/10pk)
Essential Communication Items for Your Camping First Aid Kit
Cell phone: While you may not always have service, it’s always a good idea to carry a cell phone for emergencies.
Whistle: No cell signal? A whistle can be handy for a distress call or to find others when lost ($4)
Extra batteries: If any of your equipment that requires batteries (i.e. headlamps) it is best to carry a few extra sets. (around $4)
Portable power bank: We love our portable power banks for charging our electronics on the go but this portable power bank can also a lifeline when needing to charge your cell phone or other accessories. ($25-40)
Compass: The original navigation tool, always great to have in an emergency. Familiarize yourself with how to use it, and grab a map before you hit the road as well.
Weather Radio: A portable weather radio is good for keeping updated on potential storms and flash flooding.
GoTenna: This device pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to communicate by text message and GPS location to others without a cell signal. It also allows you to download maps to any country and use GPS without service. This is a must-have for going off the grid and especially important for your camping first aid kit. ($149/set of 2)
Other Essentials for Your First Aid Kit
Hand sanitizer: for obvious cleaning reasons of your hands or elsewhere, but also for the use of fire starting and cleaning material.
Storage bag: Of course you’ll need something to store all of these items in we utilize Ziplock bags to easily access each item and put them inside a packing cube (size small: 10.5 x 8.5 x 2.5). Storage zip bags are also great for keeping things dry if an unexpected rainstorm pops up.
Items to Consider for Your First Aid Kit
Emergency Blanket: This helps retain body heat in emergency cold conditions and can also help prevent post-accident shock. ($5)
Zippo Hand Warmer: If you’re going to be somewhere cold it wouldn’t hurt to purchase one of these flameless hand warmers, available in a 6 hr or 12 hr option. ($13)
Questions & Answers
Does all of this extra gear in your travel and camping first aid kit weigh a lot?
This was one of our main questions so we decided to weigh it all together. We came up with a total weight of 2.5lbs without the glasses, sunglasses, and cell phone. We guess it would be anywhere from 2.5-3lbs with these items.
Does this travel and camping first aid kit take up a lot of space?
We don’t think so! But we are willing to save space for this kit in order to ensure our safety. We are able to fit all of our first aid kit items in a small TravelOn packing cube (dimensions: 10.5 x 8.5 x 2.5)
Where do you find these products for your travel and camping first aid kit?
We purchased the majority of these items at Amazon.com, REI, and BackCountry. We also tried to link as many of these items as we could above (including the best prices we found) for your convenience.
Are there any other items you feel we missed? How important is having a suitable travel, hiking, and camping first aid kit for you?
NOTICE: We are not physicians and do not recommend self-diagnosis or treatment. We are not liable for any morbidity or mortality that results due to declining professional care and attempting treatment as denoted in this blog. Always call 911 in case of any emergency, and discuss any and all new medications (even over the counter) with your physician before taking. For more information read our disclaimer here.
Comments & Reviews
Such a comprehensive post. It’s one of those lists that you know you should put together but somehow never do. I just add things to my pack after I needed something and didn’t have it with me. Nice job putting this together – a helpful resource for travelers.
It’s a very comprehensive list. Though I normally take only basic medicine and stuff with me, I will save this list as a detailed guidance for future. Thank you for sharing!
Good list and great ideas. Jenn was a WFR for ski patrol so she probably can answer this better than I can. I have done a lot of hard core caving where weight, durability and self rescue were of high importance. Here are a couple of items I would add to your list depending on how light and far you need to go till rescue.
(1) booty wipes – Not just for booties but great to have for many occasions.
(2) emergency blanket – could be a regulation one, could be a 30 gallon trash bag but a little bit of plastic in a time of need can go a long way to fight hypothermia or what ever
(3) duct tape – splints and bandages are all fancy and nice but you can fix it almost all of that stuff with do it all duct tape. You can also fix shoes, packs, clothes and even broken heating ducts you come across in the wilderness
(4) super glue – You might think this is for glueing broken gear together but that is what the duct tape is for. Super glue is an army invention to glue skin back together. If you need to self rescue and can’t suture it will to in a stitch.
(5) Iodine – It can clean that deep cut before you glue it back together and cover it with duct tape. It can also be used to purify water
(6) heavy duty pain killers – Like above the NASID level stuff. Sometimes you have to fight through the pain to get home. These help.
(7) Heavy duty caffeine – Sometimes you just need to get a little more gittyup
(8) Tube of frosting – Good for hypoglycemia even if the person is in a diabetic coma. Good for moral too.
(9) Epi pen (if possible) or oral antihistamine because allergic reactions can be really bad
Megan Claire says
Fantastic list, a first aid kit is always such an important thing to have with you when you’re traveling or hiking, especially if hiking remotely. If you’re hiking remotely in another country I would also recommend keeping a copy of your health / travel insurance policy in the first aid kit too. Only for a worst case scenario, but if you do have to be air lifted or rushed to the hospital you have it with you 🙂
A fantastic resource post. For someone is chronically unprepared for hikes, I should keep this post bookmarked. You never know what can happen, and especially when you are far from other hikers or campers, but safe than sorry, that’s for sure!
Thank you! Haha I know the feeling! Its always the last thing on your mind when packing until you need it.
These are great tips and suggestions for what to include in a first aid kit. Agree, no one should ever go hiking unprepared!! Fantastic and comprehensive list. Nicely done!
Thank you! 🙂
Wow, you are so well organized. I only have band aids (and sometimes a scissor) but it seems I can learn a lot from you. Great and comprehensive list.
Thank you! It’s taken us quite a bit of time to “master” a comprehensive list but there is still more to add I’m sure. You definitely can’t go wrong with some band-aids and scissors. Those two items are essential!
Mar Pages says
Wow, this is extensive but great! I admit that I don’t always bring around first aid with me although I know I should. Its time to go shopping, I never knew something like the quick clotting sponge existed!
It is definitely extensive but of course, you can take out what you don’t think you’d use! Even a small first aid kit with antiseptic wash, band-aids, and gauze can be a huge help. We usually only take our larger first aid kit when hiking, camping, or backpacking! 🙂
This is an awesome list of essentials! As a trained first aider, it’s so nice to see more people taking care of themselves while traveling. So many people I meet don’t even have plasters (band-aids) in their bags! Let alone a proper first aid kit!
Glad to see that this post is approved by someone who has been trained in first aid! I once had a buddy that used duct tape as a band-aid when he didn’t have one. Why he had duct tape but no band-aids is a mystery to me, but I guess it served it’s purpose until it ripped the skin that had clotted… Some people don’t learn! 😉
Renne Simpson says
I like that you included the prices for all this stuff. Very helpful 🙂 My friend got some weird rash when we were in Bali, and for the life of us, we don’t know why we didn’t come prepared with a first aid kit. Benadryl (or Diphenhydramine as you listed) should be in every first aid kit. Nice list!
One of the biggest questions we receive is “how much does this cost?” So we thought we’d make it a little easier to figure out and budget for. There have been SO many times that we completely forgot to bring a first aid kit and have had some interesting experiences without it. Glad you found it helpful! 🙂
Natasa, took a gander and very much agree with everything you included as travel essentials, especially appropriate and quality footwear. Thanks for the tips too!
That’s good news Lauren! We haven’t been severely injured either except the time I twisted my knee while hiking in Colorado. Fortunately I will still able to descend and after some ice, a sports tape wrap, and a stiff drink I was back in business! 🙂 You’re right, definitely doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
We are forgetful at times too. I now keep it in my day pack so I will hopefully always remember. Glad to see that it was helpful to you! 🙂
What is the backpack’s type and name?