What you should put in your wilderness first-aid kit

If you’re heading out into the wilderness without a first-aid kit, you’re setting yourself up for a potential disaster.

Accidents can happen anywhere, but when you’re in remote areas, untreated minor injuries can quickly become major.

Shaun Raskin
With more than a decade’s worth of backcountry guiding experience in a variety of disciplines, Shaun Raskin shares her go-to list of first-aid items below. Photo: Courtesy of Shaun Raskin
In extreme cases, first aid could be the difference between life and death.

At the very least, a well-stocked kit will help you deal with irritants like blisters or bee stings without discomfort.

For those looking to buy a kit outright, there are plenty of available products on the market. We suggest checking out REI, Lifeline First Aid or Adventure Medical Kits for some of the best and most complete options.

Prices range from $15 to $400 depending on the kit size and the number of people it will support.

first-aid kit
Pre-assembled first-aid kits like this one from Adventure Medical Kits are a great place to start, but they can be expensive and limited in terms of your sport-specific needs. Photo: Courtesy of Adventure Medical Kits
For those looking to build a kit from the ground up, however, we turned to professional outdoor guide Shaun Raskin for some tips.

Based in Park City, Utah, Raskin has been making her living as a ski, rock climbing and mountain bike guide and professional big-mountain skier for more than a decade.

She is a certified Wilderness First Responder and AIARE Level 1 avalanche instructor who guides in the backcountry year-round with both White Pine Touring and through her own wellness guiding company, Inspired Summit Adventures.

Needless to say, Raskin is well versed in what makes a good wilderness first-aid kit.

“I always start out with my baseline kit, which is the minimum and most broad-reaching,” she says. “I keep that first-aid kit pretty similar whether on snow, rock or dirt, but I do some minor tweaks to make it more sport-specific.”

Don’t be at the mercy of your group: Pack your own first-aid kit and be prepared for any emergency on the trail. Photo: Courtesy of Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock
In addition to carrying a full “fix-it” kit for the sport that she is guiding, Raskin makes sure to stock up on specific extras depending the day’s sport.

A biking group means she’ll throw in more abrasion-related items, like Band-Aids and gauze, while a climbing group means more medical tape for blisters and raw fingers.

Hiking groups require an extra bit of everything, plus, depending on the location of the trip, an emergency blanket and bivy sack.

Skiing and snowboarding groups need more ACE bandages and medications, but also temperature-stability-related items such as hand warmers and an emergency blanket. She even will carry a packable sled for non-snowcat-assisted groups.

That’s an eye-opening amount of gear for a single person, but it’s all in a day’s work for Raskin. “My husband usually makes fun of me [for carrying so much], but all of it has come into play at least once over the past 10 years of guiding,” she says.

Below, Raskin outlines her three favorite safety items along with the first-aid products that should make it into your baseline kit before you head out into the wilderness.

First Aid 101: the top three essentials

first-aid kit
Professional guide Shaun Raskin never leaves home without these three items in her first-aid pack. Photo: Courtesy of Shaun Raskin
1. CPR pocket mask: When things get real and you’re about to do mouth-to-mouth on a friend or stranger, you can’t hesitate. A CPR pocket mask will help you work quickly and safely to attempt to resuscitate another person without worrying about their germs.

2. SAM splint: Made out of a thin core of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of closed-cell foam, the SAM splint comes rolled like an ACE bandage and is exactly what you need to stabilize breaks or immobilize a neck in case of spinal injury.

3. Voile straps: These mini-belts made of tough stretch polyurethane and a hardened aluminum buckle are an all-purpose workhorse that can be used in a first-aid emergency to make a rescue sled, traction splint or to help immobilize limbs.

First Aid 101: the basics

  • Self-adherent wrap
  • Latex-free gloves
  • Triangular bandage to be used as a sling
  • Medical tape
  • ACE bandage
  • Mole skin for blister prevention and treatment
  • Gauze
  • Abdominal pads
  • Tampons (for women, as well as in cases of severe puncture wounds)
  • Antibacterial cream
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Iodine wipes
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for combating allergic reactions
  • Imodium or other anti-diarrhea medication
  • Band-Aids (a sampling of various sizes)
  • Butterfly closures
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Pocketknife
  • Hard candy for sucking on in cases of low blood sugar
  • Electrolyte supplements
  • Flint
  • Multi-tool
  • Lighter
  • Duct tape

While these are Raskin’s guide-tested and go-to items for a baseline wilderness first-aid kit, there may be other items necessary depending on the location of your journey as well as your own personal or group medical needs.

Additionally, because of the variances in differing terrain, sports and weather conditions, this is intended as a baseline guide only and not a complete list for every backcountry adventure.

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