No matter where you go in the backcountry and whether you are backpacking, hiking, skiing or kayaking, you must have a first aid kit and know how to use it. First aid kits should not have any missing or expired items. There are many specialized first aid kits and you will most likely personalize your own, but everyone should start with a standard kit.
Bandages and Dressings
Every first aid kit should contain six 1-inch adhesive bandages for minor wounds, three butterfly bandages (or Steristrips) of various sizes to close minor lacerations, four 4 by 4 inch sterile gauze pads to cover larger wounds, one 4 by 4 inch Carlisle dressing to absorb severe bleeding, two 4 by 4 inch non-adherent dressings for abrasions or burns, two rolls (2 inches by 5 yards) of self-adhering bandages for holding dressings in place and one 2-inch-wide elastic bandage for wrapping sprains or compressing an injured area. In this section of your first aid kit should also be a roll of 2-inch-wide athletic tape that can be used to hold dressings and two triangular bandages of 36 inches by 36 inches by 52 inches for making slings or cravats.
Every kit should have a thermometer with a range of 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, two pairs of latex gloves to use as a barrier when providing treatment for another person, two safety pins that can be used for closing bandages or wraps, one pair of tweezers for removing small debris, splinters or ticks, one disposable breathing barrier for administering CPR and one 12-inch by 18-inch plastic bag to carry out contaminated materials.
Drugs and Surface Wound Treatments
Your first aid kit will most likely hold a few prescribed drugs that are specific to people on your outing, but all should have at least six tablets of Aspirin to treat headaches and minor aches. Acetaminophen should be used for children. The kit should also contain an Anaphylaxis kit, also known as epinephrine (EpiPen) for treating severe allergic reactions if anyone on your trip is known to have a severe allergy (to bees, for example). If there is anyone on your trip that may have diabetes, bring a tube of glucose gel (InstaGlucose) or four sugar packets in case a hypoglycemic intervention is needed. A sheet of moleskin or molefoam to cushion blisters, tincture of benzoin to aid in adhering adhesive tape, iodine swabs for an surface antiseptic, alcohol pads for cleaning surface wounds and a SAM splint for splinting a broken bone should also be in your kit.