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How to build your own first-aid kit


You’re on an outing with your troop when a buddy slips off the trail and messes up his leg. Miles and at least a day’s hike from the nearest trailhead, what are you gonna do?

Hopefully, you have the first-aid training and supplies needed to care for your friend. If not, earn your First Aid merit badge ASAP — and read on for advice on assembling a useful first-aid kit filled with the right contents.


Build it or buy it?

The biggest advantage to building your own first-aid kit is knowing the contents of your kit and where it is inside. The hard part is buying everything you need in small enough sizes to keep your first-aid kit light and compact.

But buying a prepackaged first-aid kit often costs less, requires no set up time and usually comes in a specially designed storage bag with handy pockets and compartments.

If you buy a commercially made first-aid kit, just make sure you take everything out of it and then put it back in so you’re familiar with all of the contents and components. Understand what each item is used for so you’ll be prepared, and don’t hesitate to add additional items.


You’ll often save money by buying a prepackaged first-aid kit. A decent first-aid kit can cost as as little as $10 to $25.

Customizing a first-aid kit

The type of first-aid kit and supplies you bring will be dependent on your group size, trip duration and remoteness. For remote locations you’ll need to rely on your group’s resources, and your first-aid kit should be stocked with supplies to treat a much wider range of injuries or illnesses than for a day hike in the woods.

Make a list of the types of activities you do most often and the sort of places you most often go and how long you’ll be gone, then build or buy a first-aid kit to fit.


What every first-aid kit should include

Don’t forget to pack a first-aid manual. Nothing takes the place of first-aid training, but it’s important to have a good manual that you can turn to in an emergency. Beyond that, you’ll want to include supplies to treat the most common outdoor injuries — stuff like moleskin for blisters, tweezers for splinters, bandages, antibiotic ointment and antiseptic towelettes for cuts and scrapes, ibuprofen for aches and pain, and antihistamines for allergic reactions.

What you should leave out

Skip the instant ice packs. They’re heavy and only provide about 15 minutes of cold therapy. To properly treat a sprained ankle, you need to ice the injured area every 30 minutes. Use ice from a cooler, snow or cold water from a river or lake if you need to improvise.

And forget the hydrogen peroxide — it’s so strong it kills the germs and living tissue, so it’ll just take longer for your wound to heal. The only solution you need to clean wounds is clean drinking water or a dilute povidone-iodine solution if the wound is particularly dirty.

Keep your first-aid kit current

Make a contents list so you can keep an inventory of items in your first-aid kit. Get into the habit of checking your first-aid kit before every outing. If any medicines and ointments have expired or have been used up, replace them. And make sure nothing is wet or spoiled.


As it says in the “First Aid” merit badge pamphlet, “The worst first-aid kit is the one that never gets made.” Make sure that doesn’t happen by buying a good first-aid kit or building one yourself.


Personal First-Aid Kit

Here are the basics for your pack:

  • Six adhesive bandages
  • Two 3-by-3-inch sterile gauze pads
  • One small roll of adhesive tape
  • One 3-by-6-inch piece of moleskin
  • One small bar of soap or travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer
  • One small tube of antibiotic ointment
  • One pair of scissors
  • One pair of non-latex disposable gloves
  • One CPR breathing barrier
  • Pencil and paper

For the Patrol

firstaid-650This first-aid kit should cover one patrol on a typical outing:

  • First-aid manual, like the “First Aid” merit badge pamphlet
  • 1 2-inch roller bandage
  • 2 1-inch roller bandages
  • 2 rolls of 1-inch adhesive tape
  • 6 alcohol swabs
  • Water purification tablets
  • 12 assorted adhesive bandages
  • 2 elastic bandages, 3 to 6 inches wide
  • 12 3-by-3-inch sterile pads
  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • 2 triangular bandages, 40-inch
  • 2 3-by-4-inch nonadherent sterile dressings
  • 5-by-9-inch trauma pad to stanch bleeding
  • Moleskin
  • 3 butterfly closure bandages
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Insect repellent
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Aloe vera gel for sunburn
  • 2 pairs latex gloves
  • Mouth-barrier device

At Home

Gather these materials and keep them in a handy spot in the house:

  • First-aid manual, like the “First Aid” merit badge pamphlet
  • 2 2-inch gauze bandages
  • Roll of 1-inch adhesive tape
  • 12 3-by-3-inch sterile pads
  • 12 assorted adhesive bandages
  • 2 elastic bandages, 3 to 6 inches wide
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Box antiseptic wipes with benzalkonium chloride
  • 2 pairs latex gloves
  • Safety pins
  • Calamine lotion
  • Eye goggles
  • Mouth-barrier device
  • Small bottle antihistamines (Benadryl)
  • Small bottle acetaminophen for pain and fever
  • Small bottle ibuprofen for inflammation, muscle aches, pain and fever

11 Comments on How to build your own first-aid kit

  1. im glad to knw this !
    thank you, it helped me a lot !

  2. Good advice!!!

  3. We used the REI Backpacker for a 6 day trek last summer. It’s light and packs easily. There is plenty of room to add extra stuff. We added some extra pairs of gloves and a couple of triangle bandages in case we needed to improvise a splint. The only down side is that there are some hidden pockets that might might make things hard to find in an emergency. Fortunately we didn’t need to use much of anything.

  4. thanx for this type of thing!

  5. very helpful

  6. Thanks BL I needed that help.

  7. In any kit, be sure to use non-latex gloves and bandages.You cannot pick who you will be treating, and you will not know if they are allergic to latex.

  8. This helps me a lot

  9. Duct Tape! I never leave home with out it! I’ve backpacked over 4,000 miles and it is the only thing in my first aid kit that I use over and over again. It is significantly better than moleskin for blisters. Moleskin has a tendency to move or roll up when you do a lot of miles. Plus it is thick and sometimes creates a problem sore spot. The duct tape is thin and sticks extremely well. I’ve used it to splint fingers and a wrist, repair shoes, tent, pack, etc. I once made a cup to drink from. Great stuff. I just make several wraps around my walking sticks or water bottle and I’m good to go.

  10. Thanks dude21 I will try that! Anyone else have any suggestions?

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