A Serious Lesson In First Aid


Emergency medicine is my specialty! Don’t believe me? Sometimes I find it hard to believe too! But after 3 years of medic school/internships and almost a year of working in the field I believe that my knowledge is worth sharing.

First, don’t ever buy a pre-built first aid kit. They have too many things you don’t need and not enough of the stuff you do need. For example, why the heck would you need a set of unsterile rubber gloves? We use gloves at work to protect ourselves from patients, NOT to prevent infecting them. Here is my kit and a few tips that might save your life some day. You will need:

Your hands.

If you cut a giant hole in your body the only thing you need to worry about is placing direct pressure on the wound. Once you have decreased the bleeding hike out and go to a hospital. Done. But if you are in the rare scenario where that is not possible you will need:

A pot.
A syringe.

Start a fire and boil the crap out of some filtered water. In fact, boil a small piece of cloth too. Use the syringe to irrigate all of the goo and dirt out of your wound then scrub the hell out of it with your disinfected cloth. What you won’t need is:

Suture kit.      <– NOPE!

I have talked about this with many doctors. DON'T SEW IT UP! As your wound heals it will push out the infection. If you do a half-ass job at sterilizing a deep cut when you are in the back country you will get an infection, go into sepsis, and die. Don't die, it isn't fun. Instead use:

Small roll of sterile gauze.
2"x3" gauze.
Antibacterial cream.
Transpore tape.

Put on some cream, cover it with a clean gauze pad, place your roll of sterile gauze over the wound and tape it against your skin. This roll will put continuous direct pressure on the wound and keep it from bleeding. Transpore tape is an absolute GOD SEND! I use that stuff for EVERYTHING! It sticks to even sweaty skin and breathes really well. Hike out, and go to the hospital to receive your stitches. If you find yourself in a scenario where you or a good friend have lost a lot of blood you will need:

Heat pads.

Why? Even in Iraq where it is like 10 billion degrees the Medics will make little body ovens for severely injured soldiers to keep their core temps even hotter. After they started making these body ovens (using hair dryers and cardboard boxes) the survival rate of the injured soldier was significantly increased. Don't quote me on that story because I have no reference other than my teacher's word but when you consider that blood doesn't clot very well when it is cold this story makes perfect sense. PLUS! If you fall into some cold water or didn't bring enough warm clothing a handwarmer under each armpit will be a wonderful thing. Other things you should consider are:

Bandaids. (small cuts)
Diphenhydramine. (allergic reactions to your new favorite plant)
Ibuprofen. (pain killer or fever reducer if you ingest some bad water!)
Duct Tape. (duh!)
Safety pins. (fixing torn clothes and stuff)
Tagaderm. (blisters)
Alcohol wipes. (cleaning off wounds and dirty hands)
Tweezers. (removing ticks and slivers)

Even as I wrote this I decided to remove the mini scissors from my kit. At home, I use the scissors to cut off dead skin around my wounds for cleaner healing but in the backcountry I won't be worrying about that. The only other things you should add are:

Daily medications.
Epi pen. (if you have known severe allergic reactions)

That is it! Anything more and you have too much stuff. My kit weighs 5.4 ounces. Some people go even lighter but after closely reviewing my kit I decided that I would rather empty an ounce of water from my bottle than remove any of these things from my kit. Be safe!


Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment purposes only. If you attempt any of this you will be severely injured or die.


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