Wilderness Medicine Training Center
First Aid Packs
Introduction to First Aid Kits
Whether you are traveling alone, taking part in an expedition, or responding as a member of a search and rescue (SAR) team, you will need a first
aid kit. What you should take and how you should package it depends on many things. There is no generic first aid kit. Never buy a first aid pack that comes complete with supplies; build your own. Below are a few basic concepts that you will need to know in order to begin building a first aid kit that will meet your needs.
Expedition versus Search & Rescue
- First aid kits used by expeditions are conceptually very different from those used by SAR teams. Expeditions hope that they will NOT use their first aid kits and adhere to the principles of improvisation: they limit specialized items, focus on multipurpose equipment, and adapt expedition gear for medical uses (splints or litters). As your ability to improvise increases, the size of your expedition first aid kit decreases. Rescue teams know they WILL use their equipment and often carry specialized gear with them rather than scavenging their personal gear for improvisation.
Size & Weight
- The type of activity or expedition defines the amount of weight and space available for your kit; for example, a sailboat can carry more than a raft and a raft can carry more than a canoe, and a canoe can carry more than a climber etc. The longer you are from “help” generally the bigger your first aid kit will be; consider resupply(s). The level of training of the medical “officer” will limit how much invasive equipment or Rx drugs you can carry. Have each expedition or team member complete a thorough medical form; you may need to add special equipment or drugs to your kit. Pay attention to any allergies. If your experience in wilderness medicine is limited, consider carrying our Wilderness Medicine
Handbook. Also consider carrying our Weatherproof Patient SOAP Notes to thoroughly document your assessment and treatment.
Packaging is extremely important. Well thought out organized packaging protects valuable and irreplaceable equipment. It permits fast and easy access to emergency gear without “vomiting” kit contents everywhere. Critical concepts to organization and packaging are:
- Use different compartments or packs. DO NOT use plastic bags as pack or compartment substitutes.
- In many expeditions each expedition member carries their own personal care kit (blisters, sunscreen, OTC meds, personal Rx meds, minor cuts & scrapes, etc.) leaving the expedition first aid kit for emergencies and minor trauma (more serious wounds and unstable injuries). This helps ensure that the expedition first aid kit is complete when it is needed.
- Laminate a contents list for each pack and indicate the intended use for each item.
- Seal soft goods in plastic to protect them fro moisture. Use individual mini zip-locks or “Seal-a-Meal” freezer type packages.
- Tubes break. Repackage ointments into wide mouth Nalgene bottles.
- Liquids leak. Package liquids in narrow mouth Nalgene bottles.
- Use a weatherproof drug log for ALL medications so that you know who is using them and why. The log should include space for the patient’s name, drug name, administration route, dose, time, and reason/diagnosis.
- Train your expedition or team members to use your kit. Until they are trained only you know why you assembled the kit as you did. Without specific training most people will not know how to use the equipment you have so thoughtfully assembled. Restrict access to compartments or packs that members are not trained to use.
WMTC First Aid Packs
All our packs are made from Cordura and other top quality materials; contents are sold separately. Our packs have undergone over fifteen years of design, rigorous testing, and redesign for function and durability. They are made exclusively for us in the USA. These are the BEST first aid packs on the market. You will be pleased with their look, construction, and durability; with basic care, they will last a lifetime.
Our use of velcro tech-fabric let's you to decide how you want to organize your first aid kit. Our system permits rapid access to what you need when you need it and protects first aid supplies that are not currently in use from damage while other parts of the kit are being used.
A few IMPORTANT things about how our packs are designed.
For a minimal fee Wilderness Medicine Training Center senior instructor in conjunction with one of our physician advisers will assist you in designing a first aid kit for your organization or expedition. A description of each individual pack follows. Many of the pack photos are shown with first aid supplies in them to illustrate the concepts described above; the contents are sold separately.
Click to read a detailed article on:
- Basic Wilderness First Aid Kits
- Wilderness First Aid Kits for Small Groups or Shorter Trips
- Wilderness First Aid Kits for Groups of 8-12 People
- Basic Life Support First Aid Kits for Hasty Team Members, Ski Patrol, and Guides