Wilderness First Aid Kit: A Basic Overview
It is essential to have the basic understanding and principles of wilderness first aid, and how to apply them on yourself and others. Even knowing how to identify and treat minor injuries is a plus. If you know basic first aid you can keep serious casualties stable until further help can arrive. This is truly invaluable to you and everyone you are traveling with or happen upon.
When out in the wilderness this is a great tool as it’s hard to estimate when further help will arrive to the scene of an accident or serious injury. In the wilderness where a numerous amount of ailments can occur knowing basic principles of first aid can greatly improve any situation.
If you plan to spend time in the wilderness whether it be the mountains, desert, or anywhere inbetween you should be prepared. Wilderness First Aid (WFA) classes are available and can be a great idea if you plan to be part of a camp staff, trip leader, or you are simply an outdoor enthusiast. Most WFA classes are a mix of hands on learning outside (despite weather conditions) and classroom lecture. At the end of one of these courses you will have the knowledge, skills, and the ability to make sound decisions in emergency situations.
First Aid Priorities:
These priorities are common of any first aid training. Each individual incident will require different priorities however, it’s a good idea to know and understand each of the top four priorities as these should always be checked in any situation.
1. Check the scene: First it is important to make sure the person is okay, and if helping that person will put you in any danger. Once you feel it is safe you can go and check on the person. Do not move a person if you do not know the extent of their injuries, unless the person is in immediate danger or is having difficulty breathing. In instances of scuffed knees or minor abrasions this priority would not be necessary.
2. Check breathing: Insuring that the person is breathing is especially important if the person is unconscious. Someone who is unconscious has no control over their muscles and the tongue is no exception. The tongue is the number one reason most air ways are obstructed. Again this may not be a necessary priority for every incident, but the knowledge of this priority is still important.
3. Bleeding: Stop any bleeding that you may see. All external wounds are treated the same way:
- Apply direct pressure to the wound with gauze, or a clean strip of clothing will work as well. If you have gloves you should put those on.
- Lie the person down if the bleeding is substantial and lift the wound above the heart to slow down the bleeding.
- Finally bandage the wound firmly but take care not to cut off circulation to the area. If you suspect internal bleeding it’s important to make sure the person does not go into shock.
4. Shock: Shock is a condition of general body weakness, and is present in most accident cases to a degree. A person in shock may feel weak, faint, anxious, or restless. It is of great concern to keep the person warm and quiet to reduce shock.
With smaller incidents it may not be necessary to check for breathing or protect a person against shock, however knowing these simply principles is a good way to be prepared if something may happen in the future.
Along with these four principles bringing a travel first aid kit can help mitigate different accidents or run-ins you may experience in the wilderness. Along with your wilderness first aid kit it’s a good idea to create an easy to read basic first aid instruction booklet so others can use your kit if needed. Make sure you know what your kit contains and how to use each item. It is also a good idea to educate those you are traveling with exactly what is in your wilderness first aid kit and how each item should be used properly.
What to Pack in a Wilderness First Aid Kit:
Each first aid kit should be tailored to the needs and climate in which you plan to travel. Although each trip may require different tools of aid, below is a list of basics that should be included in every wilderness first aid kit. Along with the much needed sun block and bug repellent this list provides some must haves in your wilderness first aid kit.
- Aloe Vera (for the unfortunate sunburn that may happen)
- Antiseptics--Moist towelettes, Alcohol prep towels, Antibiotic ointment
- Sterile Gauze Pads
- Adhesive bandage tape
- Bandages (band aids and ace bandages)
- Wound closure strips (for medium wounds)
- Over the counter Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Benadryl
- Poison Ivy Oak Soap (this is necessary as normal soap will not remove the sticky, almost invisible residue of the poison ivy, oak, or sumac plant)
- Tweezers (used to remove ticks, thorns, or burrs)
- Water purification tablets
- Moleskin (blister treatment)
- Bandana (can be used as a sling, splint, etc.)
Whether you are heading out for a multiday hike, working as a camp staff, or simply taking a family hike through the woods having a wilderness first aid kit close at hand is essential. First aid kits can be tailored to each individuals needs and full stocked kits can weigh as little as 4-5 oz. Having a small kit may seem okay when you start, but you won’t realize the importance of what’s missing until you really need it.
Having a fanny pack or small backpack for your first aid kit is an easy and portable way to make sure you have everything you need if you end up needing it.
Guide to Using a Wilderness First Aid Kit:
You may think your wilderness first aid kit is self-explanatory, however some people may not know how to use poison ivy soap, or what exactly moleskin is and how to use it properly. An easy to read pamphlet weighs nothing and can be a life saving addition to your wilderness first aid kit. Having identified plants on the pamphlet can also help those who do not know what poison oak, ivy, and sumac look like. Helping others identify these toxic plants can keep them safe.
Safety is of utmost importance whenever you are planning to spend time in the wilderness. Having a basic knowledge and a wilderness first aid kit tailored to your needs will keep you, your party, and others safe and healthy. If casualties occur it is always best to have the basics on hand to prevent further infection or injury.