As a trail runner, mountain biker, hiker or fisherman, it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security (and to leave the first aid kit at home), assuming that our experience and access to technology will get us out of a pickle. But as the saying goes, ‘better safe than sorry.’ Recently, a friend and I were reminded of this lesson when a severe case of dehydration struck our party, leaving us stranded without cell phone coverage or emergency supplies. It was a wake-up call that drove home the importance of being prepared.
One of the most crucial steps you can take to safeguard yourself and your companions is to pack a well-stocked mini first aid kit. In this installment of our Adventure Safety Series, we’ll explore some essential items that should be included in your kit to help you handle any injuries or emergencies that arise while exploring the great outdoors.
Most good chemists and outdoor shops stock basic first aid kits, which are a great foundation but supplement it with a few additions. Read on:
Plasters, gauze pads and bandages
Cuts and scrapes are among the most common injuries you may experience on an outdoor adventure. To be prepared, you should pack a variety of ‘plasters’ (Band-Aids) in different sizes, as well as several gauze pads in your first aid kit. In addition, make sure your kit includes at least a range of dressings, closure strips and bandages. These items can help you quickly treat any wounds and prevent further injury or infection.
Antiseptic wipes or solution
To prevent infections from cuts and scrapes, it’s important to clean the wound thoroughly. Antiseptic wipes or disinfectant solution can help you do this quickly and effectively, even if you don’t have access to clean water. Make sure your first aid kit has enough wipes or solution to clean all of your wounds and, if your store-bought kit comes with one pre-packed make sure it has not expired.
Aside from plasters, the medical tape can be used to hold bandages and gauze pads in place. It can also be used to secure splints or to immobilise joints that may have been injured. Fly-fishermen swear by veterinary tape for its stretch and water-resistant capabilities, while many hardcore mountain bikers go nowhere without a solid stash of good old ‘duct tape’ (often wrapped around Co2 canisters, serving the double purpose of keeping the canisters from rattling around and then the tape can still be ‘reused’ as needed.
Regardless of your choice of outdoor adventure activity, if you’re spending time on the trails you’re bound to encounter splinters, ticks, or other small objects that can become embedded in your skin. Tweezers can help you safely remove these objects and prevent further injury or infection, but an even better thing to pack (depending on the size of your first aid kit) is a multi-tool that features a range of useful emergency items (such as a flint) as well as tweezers.
Various emergency meds
Pain relief medication can be a lifesaver if you experience any injuries or illnesses while on an outdoor adventure. Pack a few doses of over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin in your first aid kit. Also, don’t leave home without antihistamine (for insect bites and hay fever), Buscopan (for stomach cramps), as well as motion sickness medication (such as Valoid) as well as Immodium and Smecta and you should be covered. In addition, we recommend having two sachets of electrolyte powder to treat dehydration.
Insects are not only a nuisance but as South Africans we know all-too-well that mosquitoes (in certain areas) and ticks can carry diseases. Pack insect repellent to help prevent bites and reduce the risk of insect-borne illnesses. A compact roll-on style stick is ideal for a mini first aid kit.
Personal medications and medical information
If you take any prescription medications, be sure to pack enough for the duration of your outdoor adventure. You should also bring a list of your medications and any allergies or medical conditions you have. This information can be critical in the event of an emergency.
Learn more about what to do in various other outdoor emergency situations, here.