Whatâ€™s the best first aid kit for backpacking and ultralight wilderness trips? Whatâ€™s the best first aid kit for remote overland expeditions? This article shares my explorations with those questions. My goal is to have the right tools to manage a low probability, high consequence event.
|Basecamp for a rescue operation that lifted me and two others off the East Ridge of Mt. Logan (distant) in 2017.|
I had an opportunity to take a Wilderness First Responder course with Deb Ajango, who has guided Alaskan mountaineering and wilderness trips for decades and has worked as a nurse in trauma units. I value her opinion more than other wilderness medicine experts and doctors because she has legitimate experience in the field that informs â€œwhat works?â€� and â€œwhat do you really need in the worst-case scenario?â€� For example, she and her husband were attacked by a brown bear, which clawed half of her husband’s face offâ€”his eyeball was hanging out of its socket. Deb now runs a risk management consulting firm that analyzes situations (e.g. someone dies), company operations, and she teaches wilderness medicine. During my course with her, we talked about what went wrong on my Mt. Logan trip and I asked her advice on a first aid kit for wilderness travel in Alaska. Over the last year, I developed the following two first aid kits. One works well for fast and light trips where I choose to bring less because there is less risk or less consequence. The other kit is for remote expeditions where, if something goes wrong and you can’t address it, your only option is to be rescued. And sometimes a rescue is not possible.
1. Take a Wilderness First Responder course, have an emergency communication plan, be physically fit enough for your objective, and become proficient at route planning. These things matter more than gear.
2. Four 4â€�x4â€� gauze pads – for band-aids and addressing substantial wounds.
3. Four feet of Leukotape, the best tape to prevent and address blisters. Make a traditional band-aid by sticking a small piece of tape to the inside of a larger strip of tape. To add absorbent properties to your band-aid, replace the inside tape with a section of gauze. Rather than carrying separate butterfly band-aids, you can make your own with Leokotapeâ€”and they stick better! This video shows how to cut the tape into a butterfly bandage.
4. Ibuprofen – painkiller.
5. Optional, depending on who youâ€™re traveling with: Benedryl. For allergic reactions.
6. Optional: An energy bar, gel, or candy bar. For low blood sugar or to combat bonking.
7. Store everything above in a durable, waterproof Locksack Aloksak bag.
8. Garmin InReach Explorer+ Satellite Messenger This is a 100% reliable communication device that works in the harshest conditions. It is more reliable than a satellite phone. I used it to successfully coordinate a high-altitude rescue that saved my friendâ€™s life. Also, it has a large battery and comes preloaded with topo maps you can navigate if you lose everything else. 7.5 oz and $450 See it here.
9. Swiss Army Classic knife.
Add the following to the ultralight kit:
1. 10 feet of Leukotape.
2. 10% Povodone Iodine in one mini dropper bottle. For cleaning wounds so they don’t become infected. You can dilute it to 1% with clean water.
3. Eight 4â€�x4â€� gauze pads.
4. 30 ft. of 2mm utility cord – to create splints, braces, and rig up a litter to carry someone.
5. Tylenol – for blunt trauma to the torso where hemorrhage is possible.
6. Serious pain killer. For example, 6-10 percocet. Alternatively, 600mg ibuprofen and 1000mg of tylenol can create a makeshift solution for moderate to severe pain.
7. Immodium – take after 24 hours of diarrhea and/or vomiting.
8. Cipro – antibiotic to address an infection.