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What Should You Keep In Your Basic Emergency First Aid Kit?

It doesn't hurt to be prepared.

By: Amber Locke + Save to a List

I am an optimist, a dreamer and a proponent of the power of positive thinking. I have also accepted my unfortunate talent of stumbling over loose rocks or tripping on the shallowest of roots. Therefore, I am a realist when it comes to being prepared for unforeseen situations. Especially when I am outdoors or on the road, I do my best to have the essentials in case of an emergency.

Taking just a little time to equip your daypack, overnight pack and car with a few necessary first-aid items can prepare you for a variety of unpredicted experiences, from a poison ivy rash to a sprained ankle on the trail.

The Basics

  • Band-aids
  • Ace bandages
  • Medical tape
  • Rubbing alcohol/alcohol prep pads
  • Cotton balls/Q-tips
  • Ibuprofen/Aspirin
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gloves
  • Swiss army knife (tweezers, scissors, knife)

In the Car

  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight
  • Bungee cords
  • Rope
  • Toilet paper
  • Extra batteries for headlamp or flashlight
  • Gallons of water

Drive up Burch Mountain | Photo: Connor Smith

Easily Accessible Items to Keep in Your Pack

  • Compass & Whistle: I have one of these attached to my pack at all times.
  • Matches/fire starter kit: Dryer lint, Doritos or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly are great fire starters.
  • Lighter wrapped with duct tape (no need to bring the whole roll with you)
  • Headlamp
  • Water purification tablets or filtration device
  • Tampon: You never know when you’ll have an emergency and these can be used to quickly absorb blood from a bloody nose or even start a fire.

Ointments & Salves

As far as medicine goes, I typically try to find natural remedies to replace the chemical laden sprays and ointments sold in drug stores. Here are a few of the essential oils, plant based ointments and salves that I like to keep handy in case of scrapes, bites or itchy rashes.

  • 1 part tea tree oil/ 2 parts water in a spray bottle: This natural combination is great as a tick and bug repellent. Tea tree oil is also an antifungal and disinfectant that can be applied to open cuts and scrapes.
  • Peppermint essential oil: You can ingest a few drops of peppermint essential oil as a fever or food poisoning relief. It can also be used aromatically for headaches.
  • Aloe vera: Whether you have a sunburn or got a little too close to your campfire flame, aloe vera is a wonderful natural treatment for burns.
  • Calamine lotion: Good for bug bites and rashes, calamine lotion can be made naturally at home. Everyday Roots has a great recipe here.
  • Devil’s club salve: This is a magical salve that I discovered in Alaska. It naturally treats everything from arthritis to bug bites. I can personally attest to the products amazing relief from a terrible bug bite reaction. My feet swelled so large that I couldn’t put shoes on and it hurt to walk. I used Maiden Alaska Herbals devil’s club salve and the pain and swelling significantly improved.

5 Tips For Your First Solo Backpacking Trip | Photo: Jason Zabriskie

As a solo traveler, I always let people know what my plan is before I head out. It’s a good idea to have a core group of friends and family who know what trail you’re taking and how long you expect to be there. Some people even suggest taking a photo of yourself and the pack you’re carrying before you leave so your support group has references in the off-chance that you go missing.

While all of these things will help you, in the end, the biggest obstacle you have to face is clearing your own mind of these possible scenarios. Be prepared and, as author Susan Jeffers says, “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Cover photo: Michael Matti

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