Are you ready boots? Start hiking!
Spring has sprung, and it is officially time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors and all that nature has to offer—the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, the air smells crisp and clean and little critters are having cute little babies. There is plenty to enjoy and take in during spring in the wilderness. You don’t want to miss it. The days are finally longer and warmer, extending your time to be comfortable and safe outside, and mornings and nights are still pleasantly cool so a good night’s sleep in your sleeping bag or tent is assured.
But spring also means unpredictable weather, variable and unstable trail conditions, and after months’ break from hiking, which may mean you are out of shape and more likely to have an accident.
Preparing for your trip is key. No matter the season. No matter your experience. Every hike and outdoor adventure is going to be different and accidents happen. One of the most important steps in preparing for your hike, backpacking or camping trip in the backcountry is making sure you have the 10 Essentials with you. in sound and reliable condition.
The 10 Essentials of Hiking:
- Protection from the sun
- Extra clothing
- First aid
- Fire starter
- Repair kit
- Extra food
- Emergency shelter
High on this list is water, food, shelter and fire, but first aid is also a necessity. It could save a life.
A hiker’s or backpacker’s first aid kit is different than the one you keep in your vehicle or at home. These kits must be super lightweight and include items used to treat typical trail accidents and injuries.
Typical hiking injuries:
- Cuts and scrapes
- Bug bites and stings
- Head and tummy aches
Ultralight first aid kits need to easily fit into or clip on to a backpack with a carabiner or MOLLE-straps, supplies need to be well-organized, and easily identifiable and accessible and it especially needs to be lightweight.
Pre-packaged first aid kits are a great start and strangely enough, save you time and money. They are affordable, and you don’t have to buy bulk items to fill a kit with just a few. Of course, a store-bought first aid needs to have extra room so you can individualize it according to your unique needs—especially if you have a severe allergy or take essential prescription medicine. When going lightweight and minimal, you can improvise a lot—bandanas become slings, tent poles become splints. If you can creatively use your other equipment, there is no need to add bulk and weight to your pack. However, you don’t want to forego important items like an ace bandage. You do not want to be miles off a trailhead with a severely sprained ankle without an ice pack, compression bandage and pain reliever.
The best wilderness first aid kit is one that is compact, easily transportable and lightweight, but also very useful for your situation.
You may even change your first aid kit before each trip. Depending on where you are going, how long you are going, trail conditions and weather, you will need to reassess your situation and plans with the supplies in your kit. Start out by identifying your needs, then eliminate any unnecessary or over excessive items and then refill with additional supplies.
The American Red Cross—the go-to expert in first aid—recommends keeping these first aid supplies in your kit:
- Personal medications
- Emergency phone numbers
- absorbent compress dressings
- Adhesive cloth tape
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- Emergency blanket
- Breathing barrier
- Instant cold compress
- Nonlatex gloves
- Hydrocortisone ointment
- Roller bandages
- Sterile gauze pads
- Triangular bandages
- First aid instruction booklet
Most first aid kits, even the most basic, will have most of these items in them—even a lightweight first aid kit for hiking, backpacking and day trips.
When evaluating ultralight weight first aid kits, it is most important to remember you need to pack to treat and prevent the most common hiking injuries—blisters, small wound care, injuries to feet and ankles, minor aches and pains, and damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons. All the following first aid kits were designed for the hiker, backpacker and primitive camper in mind.
For the price, this kit is tops! However, disappointingly, organization is poor. With the supplies packed in three different Ziploc bags, it’s hard to locate what you are looking for. The Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker surprised us with the number of useful items included—sting relief, hydrocortisone, pre-cut moleskin, band-aids, antihistamine, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, antiseptic, alcohol and iodine pads, gauze, tape, basic first aid instruction sheet, and gloves. It has 57-pieces total. The ripstop nylon bag is water-resistant with basic, working zippers. There isn’t much we had to add to this kit and we upgraded the tweezers. It weighs only 3.7 ounces and measures 6 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches. ISO 9001-certified Lifeline says the Trail Lightweight kit has enough supplies to treat three people on a day hike; however, we prefer using it as an individual kit and therefore has enough to cover one person for a few days depending on the severity of injuries. The Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker lightweight first aid kit is hands down the best value for the money, especially after weighing how much we saved by not having to add many extra supplies to it.
Favorite things: price, loop to attach to a backpack, amount of included supplies
The 12 Survivors Ultralite Mini first aid kit is a 90-piece, hiker-centric and Scouting roll-up first aid kit. It is constructed of red breathable and lightweight ripstop nylon. Inside the contents are highly organized into six different zippered mesh pockets. Locating exactly what you need is quick and easy. It includes an ace compression bandage with metal clips, plenty of moleskin, scissors, band-aids of all sizes—including butterfly bandages—gauze, tweezers and alcohol pads. We really appreciate the ace bandages, metal tweezers, surgeon’s scissors and butterfly bandages and how well this kit is organized. The first aid supplies that come with the Ultralite mini kit are good quality and don’t need replacing like some of the other kits’ supplies. 12 Survivors left plenty of room to add your own items. We fit a lot of extras in there—medicine, bug repellant, sunscreen, Vaseline, hand sanitizer, bite and sting wipes and Neosporin. Its weight filled with the original contents is 11.3 ounces and it measures 13.5 x 9.75 inches.
Favorite things: highly organized, roll-up design, room to add individualized items
Adventure Medical is known for its quality and thorough first aid kits. Made for Adventure Racing, the Ultralight/Watertight kits in varying sizes have a water-resistant nylon bag with a resealable waterproof DryFlex plastic bag inside. The first aid supplies are inside the DryFlex bag, so the Adventure Medical Ultralight/Watertight .7 kit is perfect in rainy and wet conditions. It weighs 8 ounces and measures 2 x 6.5 x 8.5 inches. Designed to treat 1 to 2 people for 4 days, there are plenty of supplies in this kit. It includes band-aids, butterfly bandages, pre-cut moleskin, medicines for aches and pains, metal tweezers, duct tape, safety pins and a wound irrigator. The products are of good quality and we like the waterproof factor. However, the contents are all shoved into the one pouch. To access anything, you must go through it or dumb them all out. There is room to add a few extra supplies.
Favorite things: waterproof, quality of first aid supplies, duct tape
The Always Prepared ultralight first aid kit has the typical hiking/camping first aid supplies packed in it, including moleskin, compression bandage, multiple band-aids and creams and metal tweezers. The one thing we really like about this kit is the additional survival items—razor blade, emergency blanket, poncho, compass, glow stick and whistle. Having said that, this kit weighs the most out of all of them on the list. It weighs one pound, so you will need to decide if the extra weight is worth the bonus survival gear. If they aren’t, you can remove them and have plenty of room left to add whatever first aid supplies you require or need. The kit has two handles, but no way to attach it to your backpack. It measures 8 x 3 x 6 inches. Overall, this is the most comprehensive kit on the list and would be great for car camping or a day hike with multiple people.
Favorite things: bonus items, nicely organized, good value
Though not necessarily designed specifically for hiking and outdoors, this kit is still lightweight, includes all the basic wound treatment supplies and has an integrated large belt loop to clip the kit to your backpack or bike. The Surviveware first aid kit is very well designed. All the supplies are organized by category and labeled, so access is quick and easy—there is no scrambling in an emergency to find what you need. We love this! It is packed in a very durable 600D polyester bag. This well-equipped kit may have more than what you might need, but the design allows for plenty of your own stuff, so you can customize it to suit your needs. It is compact and weighs only 13.6 ounces. It measures 3.1 x 6.2 x 6.7 inches. The Surviveware first aid kit won the Outdoor Gear Lab’s Editor’s Award and we can see why.
Favorite things: organizing and labeling, easy to transport, high quality
Best In Bunch highly recommends taking a wilderness first aid course, or at the very least, a basic first aid course. Sometimes bad first aid can be worse than no first aid. If you don’t know how to use something in your first aid kit, remove it or learn how to use it. Hiking and backpacking is a fun, safe and healthy pastime when you are cautious. Be prepared, be safe and happy trails!
What do you put in your first aid kit? Tell us in the comment section.
Prices here reflect what was listed at the time of original publication and are subject to change.