First aid kits come with a fixed list of content as well as a carrying container. The key to having a first aid kit you will both use and appreciate is to make sure it fits your needs. Just as your needs will vary from situation to situation, what you expect and want out of a first aid kit will vary too. Let's address some “types” of kits to meet your needs!
What kind of first aid kit do I need?
Asking and answering “who? what? when? where? and how?” questions can help you figure out which type of first aid kit you need and what needs to go in it for your next adventure!
- Who refers to the number of people going with you and if there are any people in your group with needs or conditions that will need to be addressed in your first aid kit.
- What are you planning on doing and likely to encounter? The activity you will be participating in will shape what items you decide to include in your kit. For example, an inconvenience that hikers frequently run into is blisters. Blisters may not be a life-threatening issue on your hike, but blisters can make a great day into a bad day very quickly.
- When can be related to season or time of year. Making sure your pack is seasonally appropriate can save your life or help lighten the load by taking out items that may not be necessary. When also refers to when to use one “type” of first aid kit verse another.
- Where is this type of first aid kit best suited for? Going on land? Water?
- How long are you going outside? How should the first aid kit be packed?
The BooBoo Kit
This kit is small, has minimal supplies, and can easily fit in a pocket, purse, or backpack. The goal of this kit is not to treat major health issues but minor ones that you are likely to encounter. Therefore, the supplies are minimal. Sometimes this can be as little as a few band-aids. The goal is to have what you need and nothing more. If it’s too big, you don't want to carry it. If you won’t carry it, you won’t have what you need when you need it. Any parent knows the power to of a band-aid is most often the tool you need to get kids back to the right frame of mind to salvage the rest of your day or trip.
Who: Kids, yourself, and or your accident-prone family member
What: For the treatment of small scrapes, cuts, and minor issues
When: For daily use
Where: Goes wherever you do
How: Small enough to fit in a pocket, purse, or backpack
The Day Trip Kit
A good first aid kit for the outdoors should address bleeding, splinting, and pain management. A quality first aid kit should provide you with the tools you need but can’t improvise (tweezer, etc.). This day-trip kit is a step up for the Booboo kit in materials, tools, and issues you can treat. As you venture further away from trailheads, park offices, and other means of emergency or medical support you will want to be able to treat issues effectively in order to get you and your group back to advanced care.
Who: You and whoever is in your group
What: Treat bleeding, splinting, and pain management. Supports basic tools: Writing, Splinters, PPE/Gloves, Duct Tape
When: For daily use both in front and backcountry settings
Where: Should be portable, able to be added to a day pack or other equipment
How: May need a flexible, waterproof case
The Fixed Location Kit
The goal of this kit is to always be present and accessible to the designated location. Example fixed locations could include in your vehicle or in your home. Because the location is fixed, this kit can have a hard case or even be secured in place. A fixed location kit prevents the common problem of having one first aid kit that you use for all situations. Inevitably, when you go to look for the first aid kit in the glove box only to find it is not there because it is still with your outdoor gear from the last trip. Avoid the disappearing first aid kit and purchase multiple, with one or more being fixed location kits.
Who: You and whoever is around your location
What: Be prepared whenever you are near the fixed location
When: Year-round use
Where: Put it in one place and keep it there and tell others where the fixed location kit is in case you are the injured one
How: Because you are not physically carrying this kit around, weight is not an issue, so you can have the greatest quantity and diversity of supplies as well as tools
The Multi-Day Kit
This kit’s purpose is to provide you with needed supplies for extended trips. Therefore, the supplies should match or exceed the number of people in your group for the number of days of your trip. This kit is bigger and will have more specialized tools to help you until you can reach definitive medical care. A multi-day kit will have more medications to help you treat illness and discomfort. The reason being if you go further into the wilderness, offshore or other locations where EMS is not readily accessible, you will have to manage patients for longer periods of time during evacuations.
Who: You and whoever is in your group. You should be able to offer aid to others in need too.
What: Treat bleeding, splinting, illness issues, and pain management. More tools: Writing, Splinters, Gloves, Shears, CPR Mask. Treatment methods/prevention for sunburn, dehydration, upset stomach, and more.
When: For trips with extended exposure.
Where: Should include the number of supplies per person times the number of days on the trip.
How: Small enough to carry without sacrificing content.
There is no perfect first aid kit! However, there are effective and ineffective first aid kits. Ineffective first aid kits are ones that are not there when you need them, being either misplaced or left behind. Ineffective kits have outdated supplies. Effective kits are available and up to date. They have what you need without unnecessary supplies or tools.
Buy and carry the right size or “type” of first aid kit. Inspect the contents at a minimum twice a year. An easy way to remember this is to inspect at daylight savings times. This way you will be set for the spring season and heading into the fall.
The most important first aid tool is your mind. our mind provides you with the ability to know what to do with what you have at the right time. If you haven’t taken a basic first aid course, start there.