Accidents happen, especially when you spend time in the great outdoors. Skinned knees, burned fingers, splinters, sunburns, bug bites – there are dozens of ways that a first aid kit can come in handy when you are camping. The purpose of first aid is to assess the situation, ask for help if needed, and then care for health problems that arise suddenly. You can provide comfort and keep small injuries from becoming bigger problems.
Of course, in the case of a serious illness or injury, it is extremely important to call for help immediately. Most campgrounds post emergency contact information on their printed maps or near the communal bathrooms. It is good to know which number you would need to call in the event of an emergency, and to make sure that you know where you would go to get cell phone reception if you do not have a strong signal in your campsite.
There are many pre-packaged first aid kits available for sale, or you can choose to assemble your own. Many of the recommended items in this article are probably already in your medicine cabinet at home!
If you are assembling your own kit, it is easy to customize it according to your needs. If you buy a prepackaged first aid kit, make sure it has everything you need. Some first aid kits will advertise that they contain ‘one hundred pieces,’ but if eighty of those pieces are bandages and ten others are pain relievers, you might end up underprepared.
What should be included in a camping first aid kit?
Here is a list to get you started:
❒ A sturdy container for organizing supplies
❒ CPR face shield
❒ Non-latex gloves
❒ Antiseptic cleansing wipes
❒ Antibiotic ointment
❒ Sterile adhesive bandages
❒ Non-stick pads
❒ Adhesive tape
❒ Instant cold pack
❒ Moleskin for blister prevention
❒ Pain-relieving medication
❒ Anti-diarrheal medication
❒ Antacid and bismuth tablets
This is a list of commonly used first aid items that no kit should be without. Keep reading for some additions you may not have considered!
Consider Your Container
The best containers for first aid supplies have compartments or pockets to keep the contents organized, which minimizes the amount of time you need to spend searching for the item you need. The container should be water-resistant and easy to secure, but not so big that it is awkward to transport.
Some campers repurpose a small fishing tackle box, but there are many commercially available first aid kit containers, too. A small bag with clear zippered compartments means that all the items are instantly visible. Whatever container you choose, make sure that it is capable of keeping your supplies clean and organized.
A CPR face shield will offer you protection from saliva if you need to give CPR. A pair of non-latex disposable gloves might be easy to overlook, but they will keep you safe in the event that if you contact with body fluids.
Bonus tip: If you have a spare glove and need to ice an injury, a little ice from your cooler tied inside the glove will make a quick, disposable cold pack.
Keep It Clean
When an injury happens, cleanliness matters, and being outside and away from running water can make this more challenging. It is very important to clean even small scrapes and cuts thoroughly to prevent infection. A cleansing wipe that does not sting or burn will keep kids (and adults) happy.
If you have access to running water, a sample-sized bar of soap is handy, too. A travel-sized bottle of multi-purpose saline solution is nice to have if anyone in your group wears contacts and forgets to bring their own supply. It can also be used to flush out an eye if sand or other debris is blown into your eyes.
Cover It Up
Sterile bandages in various sizes will keep you covered no matter how big or small that cut or scrape happens to be. Bandages come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are waterproof, and some are made to be very adhesive. Whatever you choose, make sure they are latex-free to prevent skin irritation for those who are allergic.
Non-stick pads and some skin-friendly adhesive tape are a good addition for a larger scrape or burn. A roll of gauze can be used to wrap up a sore finger or help to hold a non-stick pad in place on a larger scrape.
Soothe and Comfort
Bug bites and bee stings are a discomfort that many campers know all too well! A soothing, itch-erasing eraser does not take up much space in your kit and comes in handy during mosquito season.
In case of an allergic reaction, an antihistamine is an important addition. It also works in case someone’s seasonal allergies are bothering them, which can happen unexpectedly outdoors.
Bonus tip: An old-fashioned but effective remedy for itchy mosquito bites is a bar of soap dipped in water and rubbed directly on the bites. It works!
For hiking blister prevention and treatment, packing some moleskin in your kit is important! Just cut the moleskin to size and place it over the sore places on your feet. If a blister has already formed, do not stick the moleskin to it – cut the moleskin to fit around the blister to prevent more friction from making the blister worse.
If you have overdone it hiking or portaging a canoe, a topical muscle soother will help you rest comfortably. Look for one with a vanishing scent so that you do not attract wildlife – some campsite visitors might be attracted to the smell of mint, for example.
A disposable adhesive heating patch is helpful for sore muscles, and really helpful just in case someone wakes up with a stiff neck. For a minor burn or bruise, an instant cold pack brings quick relief. They are especially handy when you are not able to run to the freezer for an ice cube – like when you are camping!
Did you forget to apply sunblock, or touch the roasting stick while it was still really hot? A travel-sized container of aloe vera gel will help to soothe a sunburn or a burned finger. For minor cuts and scrapes, an antibiotic ointment will help prevent infection and heal wound more quickly. Good news: Many topical ointments also contain pain-relieving medicine!
Care For the Inside
A pain reliever is something that no good first aid kit should be without. Strains, sprains, and headaches are all helped with a dose of over-the-counter painkillers. If you are camping with children, make sure that you bring a child-appropriate medicine, and follow the dosing directions carefully.
A chewable form of a pain reliever is helpful for those who do not like to swallow pills. An antacid or chewable bismuth tablet can help soothe indigestion, especially if you are doing some experimental campfire cooking.
Likewise, an anti-diarrheal is something that you will be very glad to have if you need it! Prepackaged individual doses of these medicines are sold in most pharmacies, and in addition to be pre-measured into a correct dose, they take up almost no space in your first aid kit.
Additional Tools and Helpful Items
A pair of tweezers is very helpful for removing splinters, which are a common injury when camping due to all the firewood-handling. Additionally, a small, sharp scissors is useful for cutting adhesive tape and moleskin.
A stretchy, supportive bandage feels good on a minor strain or sprain. It can also be used to hold a non-stick pad in place on a larger scrape.
If you plan on fishing, this fish hook remover can save you a trip to the emergency room! It makes removing a hook from a finger (and a fish’s mouth, of course) incredibly easy.
Taking Care of Your First Aid Kit
Whenever you use an item from your first aid kit, you should replace it as soon as possible – preferably as soon as you return home. Once a year, check all the expiration dates on the over-the-counter medications, ointments, saline solution, eye drops, and sunblock. Dispose of any out-of-date medications in a safe way.
You Are the Most Part of a Camping First Aid Kit!
Even the best-stocked first aid kit is useless without knowledge. A pocket guide to first aid is also useful to keep in the kit, since it contains reminders for the best ways to use the contents of the kit.
Additionally, every adult in the group should take a class on basic first aid and CPR, and should know when the illness or injury requires more help than they can give. Knowing when to call for help is the most important first aid skill!
With a little preparation and the right tools, you can enjoy your camping with the confidence that you can handle anything that comes your way. The best adventures sometimes end with a few scraped knees, sore backs, or burned fingers, but they also make the best stories. A well-stocked first aid kit will make sure those stories have a safe and comfortable end to the day!
What did we forget? Is there an essential first aid item that you would include? Let us know!