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Backcountry medical kits are for outdoor activities, like camping, hunting, fishing, hiking or skiing. These emergency medical kits are primarily used by adventurers that want to be prepared for the worst on long, multi-day excursions. In the backcountry, you might not be able to reach emergency services quickly or at all-and you must be ready to face injury, illness, or accident. As a result, if something happens and you need first aid supplies, you’ll have to treat yourself and your travel companions until help arrives. A backcountry medical kit will provide the tools and resources you need to do this safely and effectively. In this article, I’ll discuss what a backcountry medical kit is and backcountry medical kit list.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Backcountry Medical Kit
- Factors to Consider When Packing Backcountry Medical Kits
- 14 Items You Need To Add To Your Backcountry Medical Kit List
- Pre-Assembled Backcountry Medical Kit
- Final Thoughts On A Backcountry Medical Kit List
- Frequently Asked Questions – Backcountry Medical Kit Lists
What Is a Backcountry Medical Kit
A backcountry medical kit is a premade kit of first aid supplies in a lightweight, portable container. It’s built for quick access and efficient use, so even if you aren’t an expert in first aid, you can treat injuries as they happen without having to search for the items you need in a bunch of different containers.
Factors to Consider When Packing Backcountry Medical Kits
Packing a medical kit for your backcountry trip is an essential part of being ready for any eventuality. You don’t want to get into trouble and find that your medical kit isn’t up to snuff. If you are preparing a medical kit for your next trip, consider the following factors:
- Group size: Larger groups may need more supplies. In this case, it is a common practice to divide the kit and therefore the weight between participants.
- Trip duration: Longer trips will require more supplies and replacement items.
- Terrain: Dense vegetation and high altitudes may cause injuries that could require specific medical care.
- Environment: Cold, wet weather or extreme heat can heighten the risk of illness or injury. Insects and animals are also a factor in some locations.
- Medical history: Chronic conditions may get worse with physical exertion, lack of sleep, or altitude changes. Consider how your health history may affect your ability when preparing your backcountry medical kit list for an emergency.
- Skill level: Beginners or inexperienced hikers may not know how to treat common injuries like blisters and muscle cramps, so it’s helpful to bring along someone knowledgeable about basic first aid treatment. Another option is to take an Online Wilderness First Aid Class. To learn more about wilderness first aid see my article Wilderness First Aid: What It Is & What Class To Take.
14 Items You Need To Add To Your Backcountry Medical Kit List
When in the backcountry, you inevitably trek through an area with few people and little or no cell coverage. It can be scary, but there’s no reason to worry. If you pack the right medical supplies, you’ll be ready for anything that might happen. Here’s my backcountry medical kit list of items I recommend packing:
Injuries are always a possibility when backpacking, so it is vital to secure bandages if they come unraveled. Safety pins can be used to help secure a bandage and keep it from slipping off a wound. If you are out of bandages, you can use a safety pin as an emergency substitute to close a wound. Plus, safety pins are also handy for securing torn clothing or gear while you repair it or make your way back to civilization.
Oral thermometers are an important part of any medical kit, as they can be used to measure a person’s body temperature accurately. This is especially important if someone is injured or has a fever so that you can determine whether they need emergency medical attention.
Make sure to pack an oral thermometer so that you’ll be prepared for any potential medical emergencies while on your trip.
Medical gauze is a sterile, non-adhesive fabric used to clean and dress wounds. The first step in dealing with an open wound is stopping the bleeding and ensuring that the wound is clean. Gauze is a must-have item in any medical kit because it helps with both of those things. It can also be used as padding around breaks and sprains to prevent further injury until a more permanent solution can be found.
Medical Elastic Wrap
Self-adhesive medical elastic wrap and ACE type bandages are useful tools for stabilizing joints and sprains. It keeps swelling down, allowing the injury to heal faster and reducing pain. The elastic wrap can also help stabilize broken bones until you’re able to seek medical attention. In addition, the elastic wrap can hold gauze in place.
12cc Irrigation Syringe
If someone in your party gets a cut, cleanliness becomes even more important because germs spread more easily in the wilderness than in most places. A 12cc irrigation syringe can help flush dirt and debris from the wound to heal properly.
Tourniquets are used to stop bleeding from a wound by applying pressure to the area. They’re typically made of fabric, leather, or rubber and are tightened with a device like a cord lock or windlass. Although tourniquets aren’t an “essential” part of a first aid kit, they’re vital for certain situations where severe bleeding is involved.
A surgical blade is a scalpel that can cut sutures, open wounds, and clean out dirt from cuts. The surgical blade is a single-use instrument, generally only meant for one cut before it’s discarded. To maximize its utility in the backcountry, make sure you pack plenty of spares.
Trauma shears are scissors designed to cut through clothing and bandages without cutting the skin underneath. They’re great for removing clothing from a wound or cutting away a bandage to expose an injury.
The trauma shears will be your go-to tool for many different first aid tasks, so make sure you keep them with you at all times when you’re out in the wilderness.
Forceps are used for removing splinters or similar small objects from the body, especially if they are too small for tweezers. The Forceps can also be used to remove ticks or other insects. Be very careful when using forceps: don’t apply too much pressure on a wound, making it worse by causing more bleeding.
If someone has suffered a fracture or other injury that requires immobilization, an immobilization device can help stabilize the injured body while keeping it immobile. Some examples of these devices are neck rolls, splints, slings, and traction splints. It’s best to get one that’s been preassembled (rather than trying to improvise one yourself). If you need it, these devices should be used right away because they prevent further damage from occurring during transport to medical care facilities nearby.
Antiseptic wipes are great for cleaning wounds before you treat them. They also come in handy if you need to clean your hands, especially if you don’t have access to soap and water. These wipes can also help prevent infection, so they are a great addition to your medical kit.
Keep a pair of gloves in your first aid kit-they can be used to protect you from blood-borne pathogens as well as the weather.
There are a few OTC medications that I would recommend for your backcountry medical kit list. These medications will just cover some of the basics of treatment. You should consult your physician before a trip to see if they reccomend any additional medications.
- Antibiotic Ointment – You will want to bring along some type of antibiotic that can be used on minor cuts or scrapes to help ward off infection.
- Hydrocortisone Cream – Hydrocortisone cream is used for the relief of minor skin irritations and inflammation. This is especially helpful for itchy skin and rashes.
- Tylenol – You should bring this along both for a pain killer and a fever reducer.
- Anti-Diarrheal Loperamide – Coming down with diarrhea in the backcountry can be life threatening. If you end up with diarrhea, you can come dehydrated quickly.
You should have at least one type of bandage in your kit. However, I recommend a bandage kit. Adhesive bandages are great for preventing infection and keeping wounds closed while healing. Still, they aren’t suited for all situations-you may need something more absorbent or waterproof depending on what kind of terrain you’re hiking through. A few different types should cover most eventualities!
Pre-Assembled Backcountry Medical Kit
If you would prefer just buying a premade medical kit, then a great choice for a backcountry backpacking kit is the Adventure Medical Kits AMK Mountain Series Hiker Medical Kit. This kit already contains many of the items I have included in this list in a carrying case.
Final Thoughts On A Backcountry Medical Kit List
When you’re spending time in the backcountry, you’re going to encounter injuries. And while a trip to the emergency room may not be in your plan, you are going to have to deal with the injuries that do happen. So you must plan your medical kit with what you’ll need for a variety of common injuries, including sprained ankles and fractures, burns, and cuts and scrapes.
We’ve put together a backcountry medical kit list of the essential items you need for your next backcountry trip. The supplies needed will vary depending on the type of injuries you’ll likely be contending with on your hike.
Frequently Asked Questions – Backcountry Medical Kit Lists
What should be in a backcountry medical kit?
A backcountry medical kit should include a comprehensive first aid kit and appropriate medications for the distance and duration of travel. Medications should be chosen based on destination, anticipated hazards, physical exertion level, weight restrictions and personal disabilities.
The drugs should provide protection against bacterial infection (e.g., antibiotics), viruses or other opportunistic infection (e.g., antifungals), and parasites (e.g., anti-helminthics). It is also important to include medications for pain relief, fever reduction, and the treatment of common medical problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and dehydration. Insect repellent, sunscreens, and other supplies that will protect against the environment should also be included in the kit.
Is It Cheaper To Make A First-Aid Kit?
No, it generally is not cheaper to make a first-aid kit. However, by building your first aid kit, you can build it to match your personal needs.
CharlesCharles is a man who loves the outdoors. He moved to Wyoming specifically to spend more time in the mountains and wilderness. A hunter and fisherman, Charles knows how to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. He is an outdoorsman through and through, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Charles is the President of Absaroka Enterprises, an company focuse on outdoor entertainment and endeavours. He's also an Editor for Alpha and Omega Outdoors, an online hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, and all around outdoors blog.
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