Are you prepared when an emergency strikes? Reference our Hiking First Aid Checklist to make sure.
Millions of hikers travel along wilderness trails every year, enjoying the experience without injury. But, unfortunately, accidents do happen. A little knowledge can help quell the panic and reduce the seriousness of most of them by packing or buying one of the First Aid kits available on the market today.
First, a little preparation. For anything longer than a two-hour hike, you should do some planning. Have a good idea of where you are going. Pack a first aid kit.
Hiking First Aid Checklist
Your hiking first aid kit should contain at least the following essential items:
- Gauze and elastic roll bandages
- Adhesive bandages of various sizes
- Anti-bacterial cream or spray
- Aspirin or Ibuprofen (depending on stomach sensitivity)
- Moleskin (for treating blisters)
- Swiss Army knife or similar
There are other items that can be very appreciated at certain times.
- Burn cream
- Anti-itch cream
- Hydrocortisone cream
There are other possibilities, but you have to draw the line somewhere. You generally want to pack as light as possible. Take along those things you either are very likely to use, or would need very badly in an emergency.
Some injuries that would otherwise be minor, like certain scrapes or scratches, can become serious if left untreated.
Take enough water for drinking, and a little extra for washing scrapes or wounds. Avoid using water from streams, except when you have no alternative. Despite TV ads, natural water sources often are crawling with bacteria. Remember, animals live or eliminate in streams.
A snake bite kit can come in very handy if you are going to an area where the odds of finding poisonous snakes is high. Actually, that’s many fewer places than you would think. Even in areas known to contain them, most snakes are only dangerous if (nearly) stepped on. In any case, play it safe.
Research what snakes live in the area you’re hiking so you can quickly identify poisonous snakes.
A spider bite is even more rare. Very few poisonous spiders live in areas where they are easily seen or contacted. So, just avoid crawling around wet or dark areas. There are no guarantees, but the odds are on your side in most places.
Apart from stomach upset, headache, or similar problems on the trail – from too much sun, bad food or water – the most common problem is cuts. An untreated cut can quickly become infected, especially if produced by a plant rather than a rock. That’s why bandages and anti-bacterial cream or spray are listed near the top.
Treatment is simple. Clean the cut, apply disinfectant and close with a band-aid. For larger cuts, requiring gauze and roll bandage, you could have a more serious problem. You’ll have to estimate how deep is the cut and whether the bleeding is venous or arterial.
Venous bleeding is more even flowing, and often bluer. Arterial bleeding comes in spurts (as the heart pumps blood) and is usually redder. Venous bleeding can usually be clamped and the wound will self-close. Arterial spurts require special clamp-and-release techniques.
When choosing a first aid kit, look for a compact kit that easily fits in your hiking backpack.
The best first aid is caution and common sense. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid foolish risks. You and your hiking partner will be glad you did.