March 24, 2022
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It wasn’t exactly a medical emergency, but the piece of bark that had somehow worked its way into my right eye had the potential to make my day a disaster.
I was more than a mile from my vehicle, a turkey was gobbling and the morning had showed great potential until my dominant eye teared up and began to feel scratchy. I blinked and blinked, but the bark or leaf or whatever it was wouldn’t come out.
Luckily, I had a small bottle of saline solution in my first-aid kit, and a few blasts rinsed the debris from my eye. I didn’t kill the gobbler that morning, but at least I was still able to hunt.
Of all the things we carry into the woods or onto the water with us, a small medical kit should not be forgotten. If I plan to be out for more than a few hours, I take one. It’s not that I am accident-prone; I just want to be prepared to keep an injury from ruining the day.
Wilderness first aid is a deep subject, and reading this article isn’t going to prepare you for a major emergency in the backcountry. To respond properly to a situation like that requires knowledge and training (which I encourage you to get). However, having several simple first-aid items at hand can prevent you from having to cut an adventure short—or worse.
Prepackaged first-aid kits are common and inexpensive. However, many times I’ve found the premade kits are missing things that I want to have and are stocked with some stuff that I don’t want to carry.
With a little thought, it can be better to assemble a specific kit to meet your own needs rather than relying on general supplies. Or, start with a premade kit and adapt it to your situation or trip.
My goal for a med kit of this nature is to include the essentials but keep it around a pound. Organize the items in a small zippered pouch or dry bag, something that’s easy to stuff in a pack or even a large pocket. The kit’s items can generally be grouped into four categories: tools, bandages, cleaners and washes, and medications.
First-Aid Kit Items
I offer the list here as a guide based on my kit, but you should adapt it to your own needs. Consult with a medical professional—I am not one—before taking any medications or applying topical treatments.
Hopefully you don’t have to regularly use your med kit. It’s a good idea to check its contents at least once a year to replace expired medications and to make sure all its contents are intact and useable.
Burn-gel packets have a way of becoming punctured by tweezers and tablets get crushed when your kit ends up at the bottom of a heavy pack.
Finally, learn how to make the most of the items in your kit. Anyone who hunts, fishes or spends time outdoors should have basic first-aid training. There are a number of good first-aid manuals and apps to learn from, too, but don’t wait until you have an injury to do it.