Hiking and backpacking are fun ways to explore nature. However, anytime you take part in an outdoor adventure, there is an inherent risk of injuries, irritations, and other inconveniences. Some problems are minor, while others are severe. Regardless of the difficulty of the hiking trail, every hiker should carry a first aid kit in their backpacks!
First aid kits for hiking should include multi-tools, safety pins, and tweezers. Bring painkillers and medication for allergies and stomach issues as well. Take topical medication such as disinfectant, antibiotic cream, and treatment for insect bites. Pack bandages and a thermal blanket too.
You never know when inconveniences or even emergencies can strike on the hiking trail. You’ll need to prepare for every common problem before you head out, so make sure your kit is well-stocked with the proper gear. We’ve provided a list of must-have items below, as well as some tips and specific uses for each one.
Multitool/ Pocket Knife
A multitool is a great addition to any trip, whether you’re on a hike or not. I always keep a multitool in my bag and it’s come in handy time and time again. These are cheap and offer a lot of different functions. Believe it or not, they can also be handy additions to your first aid kit!
You can use a multitool to cut bandages, and most of them come with small scissors or a pair of tweezers. You can bring these items separately too, but a good pocket knife/ multitool is a handy item to have on any outdoor trip. Just make sure you keep it clean so you don’t introduce any bacteria or rust into an open wound.
Tweezers are a lifesaver when it comes to dealing with splinters, thorns, and other painful slivers. Just locate the intruder and carefully pull it out. You can also use tweezers against some parasites such as ticks, but you’ll need to be careful that you don’t remove the body and leave the head embedded. You can use rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant to get the tick’s hold to loosen.
Scissors are definitely a first aid kit necessity. They’ll be a big help when you need to cut bandages, clothing, or stitches. Most pre-made first aid kits will come with a small pair of blunted scissors, but you can also find them for affordable price at a variety of stores.
Painkillers can be a lifesaver when you’re halfway through a hike. If a headache suddenly starts to grow, or you develop an annoying muscle cramp, you can just pop a few pills and resume your journey.
Ibuprofen and Asprin are some of the best and safest painkillers that don’t have many side effects. It’s easy to buy them in local stores and pharmacies and they don’t require a prescription. You can use stronger medication if it’s available, but make sure there are no side effects that will cause you bigger problems on the trail.
Hiking is a sweaty business and it’s easy to become dehydrated. When you’ve been exercising and sweating a lot, you’ll need to replenish some electrolytes. You can do this by ingesting electrolyte tablets or drinking things like Propel Immune Support or eating Nuun Sport Electrolyte Hydration Tablets. You’ll feel better and will have more energy for the rest of the hike.
Antacids and Antidiarrheals
Stomach problems are no fun on the trail, and you don’t really have the option of stopping whenever you feel like it. If you develop a stomachache or diarrhea halfway through a hike, you really need something that will help you in the moment, not when you get home!
That’s where antacids and antidiarrheals come to the rescue. These can help settle your stomach and provide pain relief. Make sure you bring some along on your next trip!
Allergy Medication (Antihistamines)
Allergies can be brutal and you definitely don’t want to deal with itchy eyes, a runny nose, or any other annoying symptoms when you’re trying to enjoy a nice hike. Antihistamines are medications that are designed to calm allergies and make the symptoms disappear (or at least become bearable).
If you have severe allergic reactions to natural things like bee stings, poison ivy, or other plants/animals, make sure you bring EpiPens or other special medication. Everyone in your group should know how to administer these in case of an emergency.
This is a big one, especially if you have to treat open wounds on the trail. Dirt, sweat, bacteria, and other debris can infect wounds and cause problems down the road. Disposable gloves can make a big difference when you need to create a sanitary environment.
Try to avoid packing latex gloves if you can avoid it, since some people have allergic reactions to this material. Even if it’s not a problem for you, you never know when a friend or fellow hiker might need to borrow a pair of gloves.
A thermometer is another item that should be included in your first aid kit. They will help you know if yourself or someone else is running a fever. The first step to treatment is understanding what the problem is, and it’s so important that you know if a fever is developing. It can be hard to gauge someone’s temperature outdoors, especially if it’s already a hot day. Thermometers are a handy solution to this problem.
No first aid kit would be complete without bandages! These are the protective barrier that protect stings, bites, scrapes from dirt and germs. Each first aid kit should have a variety of bandages for different purposes.
First off, you should bring gauze. This is a soft, protective layer that is usually bound to the wound with tape or outer wrappings. You should also bring adhesive bandages with a variety of sizes and shapes. These can adhere directly to wounds and are great for little scrapes or cuts.
Butterfly bandages are also important. These are important for deeper cuts since they can push the skin together and constantly apply pressure. Finally, bring long fabric bandages (like Ace bandages). These are perfect for creating splints, wrapping sprains, and binding wounds. A bit of athletic tape or safety pins will help you secure these bandages in place.
Disinfectant is a cornerstone of any first aid kit. It may come in the form of rubbing alcohol, sanitary wipes, or hydrogen peroxide. This kills germs and bacteria and prevents infections from taking hold.
You may want to bring a plastic syringe as well, which will help you apply liquid disinfectant more cleanly. Just flood the wound or rub it with a sanitary wipe. It’s going to hurt, but that’s an important part of the cleansing process.
Sun exposure is common among hikers, so you need something to deal with the aftermath. Aloe vera is a natural and time-tested substance that can soothe sunburns. It cools the skin and prevents the burn from becoming painful and inflamed.
Small bottles of aloe vera are easy to buy, and you usually won’t need to bring much in your emergency pack. Keep a bigger bottle in your car or home so you can use plenty when you’re done with the hike.
Antibiotic cream is another important part of a first aid kit. Once a wound has been disinfected, treated, and is ready to bandage, you need to apply one more protective layer. Antibiotic creams are topical ointments that keep wounds moisturized, clean, and bacteria-free.
It’s a constant battle to deal with insects on a hiking trail, so your first aid kit needs to have something that can soothe bites and stings. Mosquitos, horseflies, bees, and other insects can leave a painful reminder of their presence. Applying bug spray can definitely help, but some bugs just can’t leave hikers alone!
I’m a big fan of the After Bite Itch Eraser. This is a topical treatment that you can apply to bug bites. It stings a bit at first, but soon you won’t be bothered by a painful itch anymore. If you’re bitten by an unknown insect, you may want to visit a doctor’s office as soon as you can, just to be safe. Some bites may seem harmless, but can quickly get worse.
Blisters are the enemy of hikers everywhere. When every step hurts, it’s hard to enjoy hiking. Blister might appear because of ill-fitting shoes, wearing damp socks, or hiking for too long. Whatever the reason, every hiker needs a way to find relief from these painful swellings.
Moleskin is a tried and true method. You just cut off a small piece, cut a hole that will fit around the blister, and stick the moleskin to your foot. This provides a buffer between your skin and the pressure of the shoe.
Many hikers don’t spend the night on the trail unless they’re backpacking. However, every first aid kit should include a lightweight thermal blanket. This will help warm you up during breaks and can prevent hypothermia if you happen to fall into cold water.
If you do get lost overnight, a thermal blanket can provide lifesaving warmth as well. It’s a piece of emergency equipment you won’t want to leave behind!
Emergency Treatment Guidebook
Finally, bring along a little guidebook or pamphlet that lists information on common health problems and medical treatments. If you’re in an emergency situation, you won’t want to guess what you should do next. A guidebook can be hugely important to properly treating injuries on the trail.
Every hiker needs a good first aid kit. You can always buy one pre-made, and there are plenty of good options on the market. Check out this FDA approved model that comes with all the necessities you’ll need. You can always make your own as well, using the guidelines listed above. As long as you cover your bases, you should be set for a happy, healthy hike!
Hiking is one of my favorite ways to get some fresh air and explore a new area! However, it isn’t always an easy hobby and there are some risks that every hiker has to prepare for. Some dangers are out of our hands, such as bad weather or wild animals blocking the trail. But there are other mistakes that are easy to avoid if you take the right steps!
Exposure is the biggest threat to all backpacking trips. Wind, rain, and snow can quickly sap your body heat, leaving you shivering throughout the whole trip. Losing body heat on a backpacking trip is miserable, not to mention dangerous. So how can you stay warm on the trail?