Backpacking is one of the coolest sports out there, in our opinion. It’s an accessible way to get outdoors, get moving, and have some fun, and best of all, just about anyone who loves nature can do it! A lot of our Earth’s Edge customers are about backpacking too, which is why we’ve decided to start this Backpacking Basics Series. Backpacking is a ton of fun, and we know there are a lot of you out there who’d like to get into backpacking but aren’t sure how. That’s why this series of blogs will be focused around basic backpacking topics that are helpful to new enthusiasts just getting into the sport. First up, first aid kits:
We’re going to kick off this backpacking basics series with a guide to an essential backpacking first aid kit because when you’re out on the trail, there’s nothing more important than safety. At any given time, you might be miles from your vehicle and out of cell service, which makes taking care of yourself a major priority. So what do you bring on your backpacking trips to ensure you’re not caught with your pants down? Well, here’s a few basics to start with:
A Dry Bag, Large Ziploc Bag, or Standard First Aid Bag
This seems secondary, but when you’re packing your own first aid kit, it’s really important to keep everything together. Little travel sized tubes and packets of ibuprofen have a funny way of slipping to the very bottom of your pack, where you can’t find them until you take everything out. It’s important to pack everything together into one bag and to make sure your first aid kit is always in an immediately accessible location. If you have an exterior pocket that’s waterproof, then that might be a great spot. Otherwise, just make sure to pack the first aid kit last, so that it’s right on top of your pack and easy to reach in case of emergency.
Sunscreen – It doesn’t matter where you go or what time of the year, if you’re backpacking, you’ll want to bring sunscreen. When you’re outside 24 hours a day, there’s no way of avoiding the sun, and sunburn can be a serious issue if it gets too bad on the trail. Prevent that from happening by packing plenty of sunscreen and applying it regularly.
Triple Antibiotic Ointment
You can pick this up in travel sizes, and it’s really great to have on hand. Blisters are practically unavoidable on the trail, and when one pops, you want to make sure it doesn’t get infected. This is also good for minor cuts and scrapes.
If you’re hiking any other time than in the winter, you’ll want to pack bug spray. This is your first defense against bug bites, and the better you avoid them, the more pleasant your trip.
And in case you do have a run in with the mosquitoes, it’s good to have this stuff on hand. It’ll take out some of the itch from those bites, and it’s also really important to have in case you come in contact with poison ivy, a very real possibility on the trail.
Band-Aids and Bandages
Cuts and scrapes are some of the most common trail injuries. To be prepared, it’s good to bring a variety of type of bandages, including butterfly band-aids to close smaller open wounds, larger gauze strips for dressings, tape to secure gauze, and a variety of other sized band-aids. It’s important to close or cover even small wounds as soon as possible because there’s nothing sterile about the trail. An open cut can lead to infection, which will make the rest of your trip a lot worse than if you simply had band-aids in the first place.
This is a handy type of bandage made specifically for blisters. If you have the room, you should definitely bring it. Moleskin works to prevent hot areas from turning into blisters, and it can ease some of the rubbing on a blister once it forms.
Ibuprofen and Benadryl
It’s good to bring a supply of necessary over-the-counter medications, just in case. Ibuprofen is great for those end-of-the-day aches and pains, and Benadryl can save you if you have allergies or if you ended up with a lot of bug bites. You can pick these up in travel sizes, but it’s usually cheaper to just take a few from your bottles at home and put them into labeled containers before you drop them into your kit.
You never know when these might come in handy! These are just an all-around must-have. They’re good for opening packages of food if necessary, and they’re essential to cutting gauze. Always have a pair in your pack somewhere.
This is another essential backpacking tool. Not only are tweezers great for pulling out splinters, they even come in handy when you can’t get a knot untied from time to time. Best of all, they’re small, and won’t add much weight to your pack, so it’s good to always keep them on hand.
Another catch-all tool, safety pins can do just about anything. From fixing a rip in equipment to fashioning a sling for a pulled or broken arm, you never know when you’ll need them next. Keep at least 5 in your backpacking first aid kit.
Just in case something happens to your lighter or fire starter, you don’t want to be without fire on the trail. These safety matches can realy come in handy, so long as you keep them safe and dry in your first aid kit.
Emergency Heat-Reflecting Blanket
If someone gets hurt, or you get caught in some nasty weather, these blankets are a true lifesaver. They can save someone from hypothermia, and the reflective ones double as a signal for your location.
In the event that you become lost, it’s really important you have a way to signal help. Whether this is a mirror or a whistle is up to you, but carry at least one, if not both, in your first aid kit. Remember, they don’t have to be big, you are trying to conserve weight and space after all, so even one of those tiny mirror/whistle combo tools will get the job done.
Finally, you simply cannot go backpacking without duct tape. It’s a catch-all, do-everything tool that you are definitely going to need. Whether you’re sealing up food containers, or patching a minor hole in your tent, duct tape will always be useful. Don’t leave home without it!
This list should help you get started putting together your backpacking first aid kit. As you do more trips and hikes, you’ll get a better idea of what exactly you need, and what you don’t, but they are all great items to start with. So get your first aid kit together, and get out there! We hope you have a great trip.