Basic Hiking First Aid Kits

Millions of hikers travel along wilderness paths every year, enjoying the experience without injury. But, unfortunately, accidents do happen. A little knowledge can help quell the panic and reduce the seriousness of most of them.

First, a little preparation

For anything longer than about a two-hour hike, you should do some planning. Have a good idea of where you are going. Pack a first aid kit. Your first aid kit should contain at least the following useful items:

– Gauze and elastic roll bandages
– Adhesive bandages of various sizes
– Anti-bacterial cream or spray
– Aspirin or Ibuprofen (depending on stomach sensitivity)
– Moleskin (for treating blisters)
– Swiss Army knife or similar
– Tweezers

There are other items that can be very appreciated at certain times

– Burn cream
– Anti-itch cream
– Hydrocortisone cream
– Sunscreen

There are other possibilities, but you have to draw the line somewhere. You generally want to pack as light as possible. Take along those things you either are very likely to use, or would need very badly in an emergency. Some things that would otherwise be minor, like certain scrapes or scratches, can become serious if left untreated.

Take enough water for drinking, and a little extra for washing scrapes or wounds. Avoid using water from streams, except when you have no alternative. Despite TV ads, natural water sources often are crawling with bacteria. Remember, animals live or eliminate in streams.

A snake bite kit can come in very handy if you are going to an area where the odds of finding poisonous snakes is high. Actually, that’s many fewer places than you would think. Even in areas known to contain them, most snakes are only dangerous if (nearly) stepped on. In any case, play it safe.

A spider bite is even more rare. Very few poisonous spiders live in areas where they are easily seen or contacted. So, just avoid crawling around wet or dark areas. There are no guarantees, but the odds are on your side in most places.

Apart from stomach upset, headache or similar problem on the trail – from too much sun, bad food or water – the most common problem is cuts. An untreated cut can fairly easily become infected, especially if it was produced by a plant rather than a rock. That’s why bandages and anti-bacterial cream or spray are listed near the top.

Treatment is simple. Clean the cut, apply disinfectant and close with a band-aid. For larger cuts, requiring gauze and roll bandage, you could have a more serious problem. You’ll have to estimate how deep is the cut and whether the bleeding is venous or arterial.

Venous bleeding is more even flowing, and often bluer. Arterial bleeding comes in spurts (as the heart pumps blood) and is usually redder. Venous bleeding can usually be clamped and the wound will self-close. Arterial spurts require special clamp-and-release techniques.

The best first aid is caution and common sense. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid foolish risks. You and your hiking partner will be glad you did.

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