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What to Pack in a First-Aid Kit

What to Pack in a First-Aid Kit

What to Pack in a First-Aid Kit
Brought to you by Global Rescue

Global Rescue travelers surely have learned many useful skills during their adventures. Appreciating cream and sugar yet being able to drink coffee black comes to mind, along with knowing how to sew a button or mend a pair of pants, or possessing a working knowledge of the half-life of a pair of Smartwool socks. Despite the obvious utility of those skills, another thing that is equally important is knowing what to pack in an everyday, travel-friendly first-aid kit.

All destinations have inherent differences from one another just as each individual traveler has his or her own unique differences. Evaluate your own personal needs and the parameters of your travel to find the items or kit that best suits you. An easy option is to look for a commercial off-the-shelf product. There are several high-quality kits out there that cover trips of different duration and are designed for the needs of the solo traveler up through the expedition group.

The alternative to a commercial product is to build your own. Global Rescue has tailored its own list of must-have items over the years, always including commonly needed items plus a few medicines. When possible, it’s best to try to use only items that serve more than one purpose, including medications.

While it is impractical to pack for every single contingency, one can create a small, packable kit full of highly useful items that takes up very little space in your backpack. Most travel emergencies do not require a combat medic-style kit; quite the opposite. Blisters, minor soft tissue injuries (scrapes and cuts), orthopedic injuries (ankle sprains), and stomach ailments are some of the more frequently encountered issues.

The following is a list of items we recommend for every trip, whether you’re going to Switzerland or Nigeria. This is designed as a personal kit for individual use and the majority of the items can be carried in a small zippered pouch.
- Tweezers, fine point (hard to find a reason NOT to have tweezers)
- Tick remover (yes, a single-use item but very handy if needed and it’s nearly paper thin)
- Alcohol pads (eight is a good amount)
- Band-Aids (about a dozen)
- Blister pads (prefer the Band-Aid Advanced Healing, which work great and stay in place; carry a few of the regular and finger/toe variety)
- Gauze pads (a few small 2”x3” pads)
- Super glue (from minor skin tears, not ideal but works in a pinch, to getting a few more miles out of your shoes)
- Cravats (Carry two standard size triangular bandages. There is very little you can’t splint or bandage with two well-placed cravats. Too many other uses to list.)
- Ibuprofen 400mg (pain reliever, inflammation, minor fever reducer)
- Ondansetron 8mg ODT (anti-emetic; these dissolve on your tongue; great for nausea and vomiting)
- Cipro 500mg (gold standard for traveler’s diarrhea, unless you’re in Southeast Asia)
- Doxycycline 100mg (malaria prophylaxis, tick-borne disease, skin infections; a good multipurpose antibiotic)
- Pepto Bismol (chewable tablets; many indications)
- Antihistamine (a non-drowsy type like Zyrtec or Claritin; used for hives, itching, watery eyes, rash, runny nose, and sneezing due to allergies or the common cold. Secondary uses for motion sickness, anxiety, or as a sleep aid)
- Sewing kit (TSA approved for carry-on if needles and scissors are under four inches)
- Chapstick, with SPF (sunscreen for your lips, nose, ears; also useful on zippers or even hot spots)
- Iodine tabs (clean, treated water is a must)
- Small, emergency headlamp
- Duct tape (wrap about a meter around the outside of the kit)
- Consider an Epi-Pen if you or a member of your group have potentially life-threatening allergies

For trips that will take place in a more remote setting, you might augment this kit with other items, namely more medications and bandaging materials.
Prior to any trip, it is recommended that you consult with your physician to determine which medications are right for you. This can be done in conjunction with a visit to a travel clinic for vaccines and other destination specific advice. Despite the fact that many countries require medicines to be transported in their original packaging, several travelers take it upon themselves to repack the items to better fit in their luggage. Many of us are guilty of this but keep in mind that medicine not in the original packaging, especially prescription medications, run a greater risk of being confiscated.

It should be noted that a first-aid kit is not a substitute for proper first-aid training. Everyone has the potential to benefit from some type of first-aid training. Wilderness First-Aid (WFA) or the more in-depth Wilderness First Responder (WFR – pronounced woofer) are excellent options for travelers. These courses focus on providing care in austere locations with little support and finite resources. Improvising and using common on-hand items is highly stressed all the while adhering to sound medical principles. Check local outfitters and clubs for a course offering near you.

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