Frank had a bit of a spill off a bicycle last night and caused some damage to a few spots on his aging body. It was nothing too serious , just hit the front brakes too hard and did a cartwheel on a gravel road at low speed.
It reminded him of the time, several years ago, when he slipped off the side of another gravelly track up in the Australian Alps (near the Cross Cut Saw) The damage was a bit more severe that time but we were in the middle of the trip, two days from “civilisation”, so just kept “walking” (let’s say hobbling)
It got us thinking about what is the best first aid kit for hiking and what you, our learned readers, carry as a first aid kit?
As background, Frank has a bit of professional experience in health care BUT NOT as a first aid or communicable diseases expert so his opinions are personal only and not from a strong emergency medicine background….
We reckon the key to providing first aid in the outdoors is thinking laterally and using what you have available i.e. improvise. If the injury is minor you will walk out and survive, if it is major like a fracture, bad wound, snakebite etc you will be staying put until rescued.
So what we do carry as our first aid kit?
Pressure bandages x 2 – 6” or 15cm wide – Uses: snake bite/sprains/ a sling if necessary/immobilising a fracture i.e. multipurpose
Bandaids – 6 – 8 – the good wide ones that stick well
Leucoplast or other heavy tape – used for blisters, larger dressing, hotspots, repairs – We always heat the adhesive side with the flame to make it stickier before applying it.
Non stick dressing – large – 1-2 (can be cut up for into smaller bits or used once – if you need the large one you should just bandage it on and not open the wound till you get to hospital!)
Panadol – one strip (mainly used for hangover after cut out drinks at end of walk)
Swiss Army Knife – or any multi tool with scissors etc
- We don’t get too stressed about using sterile gear – it becomes un-sterile the minute you use it. In addition, the probability of the dressing contaminated (because of holes and damage to the packaging and therefore rendering it un-sterile) is so high it is not worth worrying about. Just compromise and think clean rather than sterile.
- Rescus Aid – if someone stops breathing and you have to do CPR go for it without one of these. The probability of getting disease is minimal, besides, the patient will either be resuscitated in a couple of minutes or they are stuffed i.e. dead. You won’t be able to keep up CPR for long before becoming exhausted (and ineffective) You will then just be trying to resuscitate a cadaver.
- Saline Solution – OK for a quick rinse, but the 30ml sachels are not enough if you want to clean a contaminated wound really well. It might be better carrying 30gms of salt and making your own. Saline solution is 0.9% salt in water, so roughly 1gm of salt makes up 100mls of “Normal Saline” – (it’s a lot cheaper too and works the same unless you plan on putting in an IV)
- Eye pad – cut up the non stick dressing and use it instead
- Skin closure strips – maybe – they have to be applied under really optimum conditions to stick properly. On the lacerations in the pictures above, we tried them and they fell off within 10 minutes. You can just cut up leucoplast into strips, re approximate the wound and then apply the dressing and bandage, it will do the same job.
- Suture material (needle and monofilament threat) – maybe but do you know how to use it? Once home the wound will still have to be opened, cleaned and re-stitched. The thought of a mate sewing me up without anaesthetic is not pleasant!
- Scissors, forceps, splinter needle – use the Swiss Army knife
For most injuries that happen when you are in the bush, you will have two options:
- Walk out – if the injury is minor you can walk out slowly and get treated properly in “civilisation”
- Stay put – (fractures, large cuts or lacerations) – the best thing is to stay put, use what you have as a temporary solution e.g. toilet paper as a wound reinforcement over your non stick dressing, clothing as a sling or to immobilise a fracture in a temporary splint. In these cases a PLB may be the answer rather than a heavy first aid kit.
What we take as a kit is very minimal. There is are many different opinions and Bushwalk Tasmania have a great thread on the topic. There are several excellent lists for those of you who are a bit more cautious.
Over to you now!
What do you take in your first aid kit?
Have you ever had a bad accident or had to use your kit for a serious injury?
What is the worst injury you have treated on the track?
What do you think of our first aid kit? Too little, too much?