PCT Wilderness First Aid Kit

— April 12, 2012

As a Wilderness First Responder (National Outdoor Leadership School-Wilderness Medicine Institute) about to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions about what should be in a lightweight wilderness first aid kit. Like, should my kit be primarily for self care? What should I carry so I am able to provide care to the level of my training if needed? How many days would I have to provide care for myself or others before help would arrive? And so on.

My kit will be primarily for self care. There are three in our group, so between us we can carry a pretty comprehensive kit. Each of us will carry our own supplies for foot care, pain management, and general “owies.” We don’t all have to carry a roll of tape and ace bandage. Those can be shared. And if I come across someone who needs assistance, then I’ll use their first aid kit and gear first before supplementing from mine.

Injury Tx Weight (oz) Cost ($)
Gloves, Non-latex, 1 Pair 0.5 0.26
Gauze, 2 in x 2.5 yds, 1 Roll 0.2 2.99
Triple Antibiotic Ointment, 2 Packets 0.1 0.80
Transparent Semi-Permeable Dressing, 2-3/8 in x 2-3/4 in, 2 Each 0.1 1.54
Tincture of Benzoin Compound, 2 Vials 0.1 0.97
Wound Closure Strips, 1/8 in x 3 in, Packet of 5 0.1 0.86
Elastic Bandage, 1 Roll 2.0 5.99
Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape, 1 Roll (Precut 2 in x 10 in, 20 Strips) 3.0 12.95
Athletic Tape, 1 Roll 2.4 5.00
8.9 $31.78
Blister Tx Weight (Oz) Cost ($)
Moleskin, Thick, 3-3/8 in x 4-5/8 in, 1 Pad 0.1 1.33
Blister Bandage, 0.82 in x 1.6 in, 2 Each 0.1 1.50
0.2 $2.83
Chaffing Tx Weight (Oz) Cost ($)
Gold Bond, 1-Ounce Travel Size 1.5 1.39
Desitin, 2-Ounce Tube 2.5 4.39
Body Glide, 0.45 oz Applicator 1.1 6.00
5.1 $5.96
Medications Weight (Oz) Cost ($)
Ibuprofen, 200 mg, 100 Caplets 2.0 6.00
Aspirin, 325 mg, 100 Tablets 1.5 5.49
Imodium, 2 mg Loperamide + 125 mg Simethicone, 4 Caplets 0.1 2.60
Benadryl, 25 mg Diphenylhydramine HCl, 4 Gel Caplets 0.1 1.84
Hydrocortisone 1%, 2 Packets 0.1 0.60
Tecnu, 2 oz (in 2 Fluid Ounce Nalgene Mini Bottle) 2.5 4.00
6.5 $22.53
Reference Weight (Oz) Cost ($)
NOLS-WMI Wilderness Medicine Field Guide 2.8 18.00
Total Weight and Cost 23.5 oz $87.10

Note that the weight and costs if you add them up in the tables don’t always match the subtotals and overall total. That’s because I’ve added in the weight and cost of zip lock bags and mini containers. I use quart ziplock freezer bag at $0.18 each (one for the elastic bandage and kinesio tape, and one for the Chaffing Tx items and Technu). I use a 4mm, 5 in x 8 in zip lock bag at $0.25 each for the Blister and Injury Tx items. And I use a 4mm, 3 in x 8 in zip lock bag at $0.15 each for the Medications (three total – one for the ibuprofen, one for the aspirin, and one for the remaining meds.

What about all the other first aid items one needs in the backcountry? Disinfectants, splints, etc.? Wilderness first aid is a creative activity. I’ve got a scissors on my pocket knife, and a tweezer for pulling ticks. Alcohol stove fuel can serve as a disinfectant. I’ve also got some soap in my personal hygiene kit. The back flush syringe with my Sawyer water filter can also be used to irrigate wounds. Bandanas serve as cravats. My blue foam sit pad doubles as splint material. A sleeping pad, trekking pole, and bear bag rope can make up a traction splint if it comes to that. KT Tape can tape ankles, and requires a lot less material compared to using athletic tape.

At over a pound, this is still a pretty heavy first aid kit. I’m expecting the kit to change as I hike. Maybe I won’t need so many ibuprofen and aspirin. Maybe I’ll ditch the Blister Tx items and just use the kinesio tape. Maybe I’ll carry less kinesio tape or break it down by the precut strips and share them in my group. I’m taking three Chaffing Tx items to start with. I already know I chafe when I hike. But I’m going to see which one of these works best for me through a little trial and error and then only carry one of them.

Click here to buy NOLS Wilderness Medicine!

What would you add to or take away from my wilderness first aid kit?

If your’e interested in wilderness first aid, you might like NOLS Wilderness First Aid. To buy this book, click on the book cover to the left. Thanks much if you do!

One Comment on "PCT Wilderness First Aid Kit"

  • Just a quick update on my first aid kit (a full After the Trail – First Aid Kit article is coming soon).

    Injury Tx: The first roll of KT tape came in pre-cut strips. The next one ordered online from a trail town stop was not a pre-cut roll. I preferred the latter.

    Blister Tx: I ditched the blister bandages. When the moleskin was used up, I got more and I got some small second skin type pads to go over the blisters before taping them.

    Chaffing Tx: I never used the desitin and put it in a hiker box. I used the body glide for awhile. I found the Gold Bond to work for all my chaffing problems. And it’s easy to get in a travel size in trail towns. The Gold Bond powder would tend to escape it’s container and scent up my pack and gear. I would transfer it to a small, 2 oz nalgene container.

    Medications: Carried a lot of aspirin but never used it. Would still carry five or 10 tablets but not 100. Found sodium naproxene was better for joint pain management than ibuprofen. Carried both.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *