Imagine being out on a 3 day hike and stumbling on a 30-year-old male who just fell from small embankment while trying to take the perfect picture for his collection. He has a 3-inch laceration on his left ankle that is caked with dirt and debris, his left ankle is also very swollen and he is unable to stand. You are a days hike in either direction to the nearest highway or outpost, and your phone went dead yesterday while you were taking pictures.
What would you want with you at this moment to help you manage this poor guy? There are various takes on what the ‘perfect’ wilderness medicine pack contains, and it will differ based on your terrain, space and weight available, and comfort with various contents. However, a rough guideline based on various sources is as follows:
Personal Protection – Nitrile gloves (avoid porous vinyl or latex for allergens), CPR mask, Sharps container
Wound Care – 1″ Athletic tape, Gauze dressings (different sizes, few nonadherent), Roll of gauze, Bandages, Waterproof and Breathable wound dressings, Tweezers, Magnifier for cleaning, 20cc syringe with 18 guage needle for irrigation, Trauma shears, Burn gel, Antibiotic cream, Closures (butterfly, steri-strip), Suture (3-0/4-0 vicryl or 4-0/5-0 nylon),Tourniquet
Blister Care – Dermabond (cyanoacylate tissue adhesive), Mole skin (on top of dermabond and cover with duct tape)
MSK Injuries – Compression wraps (3″ for ankles/knees), Aluminum foam splint, Triangular bandages, Backboard kit, Hot packs, Cold packs
OTC Meds – Acetaminophen 325mg and/or Ibuprofen 600mg (pack w/few grains rice in bottle), Antacids (calcium carbonate), Loperimide (anti-diarrheal), Diphenhydramine (antihistamine), Nitroglycerin 0.4mg, Glucose (honey stick or other), Oxymetazoline nasal spray 0.05%
Prescription Meds – Epinephrine kit, Anti-fungal cream (longer trips), Acetazolamide (if altitude illness anticipated), Albuterol Inhaler, Cephalexin 500mg tabs (severe fractures w/exposed bone/tendon), Prochlorperazine 25mg suppository
Other – Eye irrigation (saline), Kendrick traction device (for fractures), Emergency blanket, BLS pocket guide, BP cuff, Stethoscope, Thermometer, Tongue depressor, Pen light, Waterproof zip bags, Duct tape
Comfort Care – Aloe, Throat lozenges, Lip balm, Sunscreen, Insect repellent, Sunglasses
Obviously, the entirety of this list would not be necessary for every backpacking adventure, but it serves as a good reference for when you are considering what you should pack in your medical kit on your next backpacking adventure. You should always base your contents on both the likely and the life threatening scenarios that you may encounter.
If you would like more information, the sources used for this list include:
Platts-Mills, T. Backcountry Medicine: What’s in your Kit? Wilderness Medicine 2007; 24(2): 5-6.
Saxon KD, White JM, Eddy MM, Albertus DL, Bassin BS. Injury patterns at isle royale national park: an epidemiologic review of injuries and illnesses sustained in a remote environment. Wilderness & environmental medicine 2015;26:83-8.