How to build a first aid kit for hiking

A hiking first aid kit is a rucksack essential for every explorer. Here’s how to build your own.

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first aid kit in backpack

Good hikers have to be responsible – you need to be self-sufficient and capable of looking after yourself when out on the trail. Thorough planning and careful preparation is the best way to make sure your adventures run smoothly.

This is particularly true if you get hurt or injured when out hiking – often you’ll be in the wilderness and unable to access immediate help. In these cases, you need to be your own first responder to treat yourself or the people around you. Having a well-stocked outdoor medical kit is key to this process.

A hiking first aid kit has many uses and it isn’t just for life-saving scenarios. Blisters, cuts, headaches, and other small ailments are the most common outdoor issues you will face, and a strong first aid kit is a great way to handle these problems to stop them from snowballing into bigger issues.

It’s no good bringing a whole hospital’s worth of equipment on your hikes, but you don’t want to skimp on gear either. With that said, here’s our guide to building a first aid kit for hiking that will cover every eventuality.  

Editor’s notes

If you’d prefer to skip the whole construction process and just buy a premade first aid kit, we recommend the General Medi Mini First Aid Kit for hiking.

Walking first aid essentials 

There are several items you should definitely include in your hiking first aid kit. These generally cover the most common ailments you may face on your adventures, but you can always buy extra items to stock up your kit should you want any additional treatment options.

Medications

Medications can be either ingested or applied to the skin to treat an ailment. Here are some of the most important medications to carry in your first aid kit:

  • Paracetamol: A painkiller used for treating fever or mild aches and pains. 
  • Ibuprofen: An anti-inflammatory drug used for treating pain, swelling, and fever.
  • Antihistamines: Medicine used to treat allergic reactions.
  • Loperamide: Medicine used to treat diarrhoea. 
medication

Wound treatments

Cuts, burns, and splinters all require treatment to stop bleeding and prevent infection. A good selection of plasters and bandages will help keep you covered. 

  • Plasters: Select a wide range of shapes and sizes. Make sure they are durable, and it’s a plus if they’re also waterproof.
  • Bandages: It’s advisable to also have a good range of shapes and sizes to cover multiple wounds.
  • Medical tape: This tape can be wrapped around the skin to secure plasters and bandages. It can also be used to stop blisters from forming.
  • Blister plasters: Blister plasters are an essential item for a hiking first aid kit. Specialized gel plasters can stop blisters from forming, or protect them from getting worse.
  • Steri-strips: These “butterfly stitches” are a good temporary solution for deeper cuts. They may need replacing with proper stitches later on at a hospital.
  • Sterile wipes: Alcoholic wipes can help to sterilize a wound before any treatment is applied.
  • Cotton buds: When used as cleaning swabs, cotton buds can help clear wounds of foreign debris, blood, and any bodily fluids that may be present.
bandages tin

First aid tools

There are a few tools you should include in your first aid kit to make treatment easier. They aren’t as essential as the other items, but they do make medical care more hygienic and efficient. 

  • Tweezers: A perfect tool for removing ticks, splinters, and other foreign objects from wounds.
  • Medical scissors: Used for cutting medical tape and shaping bandages.
  • Nitrile gloves: To be worn when treating any wounds to prevent infection from occurring.
  • Thermometer: Less common in a hikers kit but it can still be an important life-saving item. If someone has a fever or is hypothermic, you can read their temperature and make a judgement call over what treatment they require.
  • Safety pins: Can help to secure bandages or tie up slings to support sprains/breaks.
medical scissors and bandage roll

Best pre-made hiking first aid kit

A great way to start your hiking first aid kit is to buy a pre-made one. There are plenty on the market that are specialised to hiking and outdoor adventures – these are extremely convenient as they will contain many of the treatments you need for your trip. Simply buy the kit, add any extra items you need for your adventures, and then you’re good to go! 

A Lifesystems kit is a great option – the brand makes compact and well-stocked first aid kits perfect to take on your outdoor excursions. 

For something aimed specifically towards hikers, consider a General Medi first aid kit. These kits come in waterproof bags with a similar selection of items to the Lifesystems kit, but they also include an emergency blanket which can be very valuable out in the wild.

Lifesystems First Aid Kit

Why you should carry a hiking first aid kit

A first aid kit isn’t supposed to cover every medical procedure. Instead, it’s built to provide fixes to small ailments or provide initial treatment to a bigger injury before proper medical care can be provided later.

For that reason, an outdoor first aid kit is a hiking essential. Blisters, splinters, and small cuts aren’t serious enough to require a visit to a hospital, but they can still be uncomfortable.

If you carry your own medical basics, you can treat most minor injuries on the spot. And if serious injuries do happen, you will be more prepared to deal with the situation.

Deep cuts, burns, breaks, and sprains are just a sample of the more severe injuries you can pick up when hiking. These wounds may require further care but clearly, there is no magical way to teleport back to a hospital. Your injuries need to be treated as best as possible before you can return from your hike to get them properly looked after.

woman hiking in woods

How to re-stock your outdoor first aid kit

On each trip, the stock in your first aid kit will likely drop. Plasters and painkillers are likely to be used much more frequently than big bandages and medical tape, so you will need to keep on top of these things to keep your kit fully equipped.

Keep a check on your medical use while out on your adventures, and restock items as soon as you can – even if you still have spares. It’s better to keep your medical kit full than to be running on your last few supplies when out and about. 

If you head to Boots, Superdrug, or any big superstore, you will easily be able to find a wide selection of medical items. Simply pick and choose whatever pieces you need, and add them back to your current kit. Try to remove unnecessary packaging to keep the weight and bulkiness of your kit down after each restock, but keep hold of important labels and instructions.

First aid kit

Other outdoor safety gear to consider

After you have prepared your basic first aid kit, you can then start to introduce extra survival items. These pieces of gear aren’t essentials per se, but they will markedly improve your overall safety when you’re on the trail and that’s no bad thing.

An emergency bivvy is a valuable kit item to include in your backpack. They’re made to be very lightweight and could save your life if you get stuck in bad weather or are forced to sleep on the fells overnight. You can also consider purchasing a survival first aid kit or creating your own using an old tin. Consider adding items like windproof matches, fishing lines, fishing hooks, cable saws, whistles, cotton wool, candles, and flint to this.

It goes without saying that you should also have access to a map and compass at all times. A GPS device, although pricey, can be an excellent addition to your kit. This can provide pinpoint accurate navigation and can send out an SOS beacon even when your phone has no signal. Lastly, be sure to bring along a good-quality head torch to illuminate your nights spent camping.

Best bivvy bag for UK hiking

Do you keep anything out of the ordinary in your hiking first aid kit? Let us know over on Instagram – @adventurepending.

FAQ: Building a first aid kit for hiking

Want to know more about how to build a hiking first aid kit? We’ve summarised the information in this article below to help.

If you’re still looking for the answer to a question – don’t hesitate to reach out! The Adventure Pending team is always happy to answer any questions over on Instagram (@adventurepending) or via email.

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