First aid kit suggestions?

An upcoming trip to Bowron Lakes this July prompted me to pull out the Pocket Medic first aid kit that I carry in my PFD and get all the stuff out to check it. Well, the one-dose of triple antibiotic ointment and the Motrin in one-dose packets were, to say the least, expired: 2004. Old bandaids don’t stick anymore.

So I looked at the contents of kits online and decided I could do better just assembling stuff from the drugstore – though it probably won’t all fit in the original little sealable envelope. I want this kit to be compact and really usable. It could be two kits: an everyday paddling one like I carry now and a slightly augmented one for a longer trip like Bowron Lakes.

So I want to know what you guys think is really essential for either kind of trip. Please suggest additions and deletions to my list below. Here’s what I’m starting with (fresh stuff):

Small plastic bottle of store-brand iodine

Small tube of store-brand triple antibiotic ointment

2 3"x3" gauze pads

1 4"x4" gauze pad


Tiny tweezers

Benadryl tablets (yellowjacket stings)

Alleve (naproxin) tablets

Acetaminophen (dynamite for fever)

Seasick pills (generic, forget what they’re called, for coastal paddling)

Potable aqua tablets (backup to filter)

A tube of Afterbite

Imitrex for migraine – had a migraine on the Yukon River. Rare but tend to happen away from home.

Ace bandage – sprained an ankle at swiftwater rescue training!

Do I need cloth adhesive tape?

Do I need little folding scissors or will my Swiss Army knife do?

Do I need an antifungal for athletes foot?

What else? Gloves?

Please send me your ideas on what has worked well for YOU as opposed to what comes packed in those off-the-shelf kits. Thank you very much!

Ginger in NC

Zip lock bag & Bottled Water

– Last Updated: May-21-13 2:26 PM EST –

Irrigating a wound - washing out dirt - is important.
Clean water in a baggie with very,very small hole,
allows a lot of pressure for strong stream to flush.
Some clean gauze and cloth tape, almost good as new !

Immodium - when you need it, you'll want it.
Generic (loperamide hcl)

reading glasses or magnifying glass
… needle, duct tape, superglue, Ambesol, syringe …

These are good suggestions
Will take them. Thanks!

My suggestion is buy a refill or new kit
I don’t see how it can be cheaper to assemble all the supplies for a first aid kit yourself, simply because you have to buy just about everything in much greater quantities than you need for a small kit.

Just looking at REI, there are various kinds of kit refills available, kits on sale at REI store, and kits from as low as $6 from the REI Outlet:

Check, duct tape, glasses. But . .
Needle is for picking out splinters? Or sewing? Or both.

Anbesol I googled: toothache and other oral pain.

Superfglue – for closing wounds? Or . . .?

Syringe? What is that for?

Right. I looked at those.
For some reason i thought I might not use all their stuff. And I thought some things would be more useful in slightly larger quantities. I could be wrong, though.


a few additions
Definitely add tape. It’s hard to make a bandage without it. And if you’re carrying gauze pads, I’d carry at least a half dozen. One is good for making a bandage, but when I’ve had to clean a messy wound, I’ve needed a bunch of small (2x2) gauze pads.

I don’t carry sterile water, because it’s so heavy. I just irrigate with potable water, and then apply whatever antibacterial ointment or whatever.

I’d bring gloves and a small CPR shield too.

Personally I don’t need this stuff in my vest. Other than a small bleeding control kit (gauze, bandaids, electrical tape) the rest of my First Aid is in the Day hatch. Realistically, how often do you need a full FA kit out when you’re paddling, and is it really worth carrying on your body all the time?

Needle is for splinters
… or sewing …

Ambesol can be used for topical pain relief. The directions don’t tell you that and you probably wouldn’t want to use it that way 6 times a day for 20 years. But it does work. Last time I used it was to dull pain so I could remove a lot of imbedded sand and gravel from a hand following a bike accident. The “patient” was pretty hysterical and would not hold still so I could get it all out. Dulling the pain helped.

And I used a syringe for irrigation.

Superglue can be used to close wounds, cold cracks, or other uses. The little individual one-time-use tubes are good.

I get your point
My original kit was tiny and all fit in a Seal Line waterproof envelope that I carried in a back pocket on my PFD. I think the time has come to divide it, with some stuff on me and some in the day hatch or bailout bag.

Thanks for the suggestions; they’re good ones.


Snake Bite Kit
Not sure what snakes are in your area but I just bought one due to cottonmouths. Only like $16 on Amazon for a good one and is small. If you are a long way from help will be a lifesaver

Multiple kits
Like you I have a pocket medic plus some extras for my PFD. More complete kit for day hatch. I take a bigger kit if I’m going to be out multi-days. For Mexico or the Channel Islands I take the kitchen sink size kit. I prefer to build my own kits to my specs rather than buying the larger kits & contents.

More suggestions for larger kit: Vet wrap, triangular bandage (or bandana), military battle dressing, quick clot, sterile petrolatum burn dressing, irrigating syringe, duct tape rather than medical tape, Definitely gloves, especially if you’re going to touch anyone else!

You might add Wilderness Medicine by William Forgey and/or Medicine for Mountaineering by James Wilkerson to your library.

Triagular Bandages
I like to have two or three in a kit - endlessly useful to hold dressings,splints in place, staunch blood flow, as slings, etc.

Do they have these at the drugstore?
If not, where do you get a triangular bandage? Thanks.


What is vet wrap?
Thanks for these longer-trip suggestions.

A lot of people here get bitten when walking around the driveway or yard in sandals at dusk. I’d be inteested to know what’s in your snakebite kit. I don’t think the cutting over the punctures and suctioning the wound is recommended these days. I’m notm sure what they do for you at the emergency room either.

A good bone saw.

Hey what a great name for a beer!
Bone Saw IPA … Make it part of your kit

I always carry

– Last Updated: May-21-13 6:19 PM EST –

Astma inhaler (salbutamol) and hydrocortison (50 mg tablets) in addition to the regular stuff. If going into the wilderness, adrenaline and lidocaine (injectables) and nitroglycerine (pills that is!). This covers a whole range of serious injuries first aid and requires no paperwork to carry on you. And if you don't know how to use it, it is not a reason not to carry it - a qualified MD does not travel with supplies all the time... Metamizole sodium, immodium, triagular bandages, superglue are excellent suggestions as well.

Oooh Eeeh, Ooh Ah ah. Ting tang,
walla walla bing bang.

I really can’t imagine why one would carry those, if they had not been prescribed for legitimate reasons beforehand. If someone has a heart attack or stroke, aspirin and rest are all that applies. And who develops asthma for the first time on a canoe trip?