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How to build your own first-aid kit

firstaid-foot

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.

THE LOW DOWN ON FIRST-AID KITS

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.

Price

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.

firstaid-backpack

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.


BUILD YOUR OWN FIRST-AID KIT

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.

firstaidkit

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

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

  1. BoyScouterTRP25 // February 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm // Reply

    Commercially made kits are not worth the price. The supplies included are usually of poor quality and are not always effective. Build your own. You will know where everything is and how to use it. You can also stock it with higher quality supplies that will in turn be effective and worth the cost and trouble.

  2. Our unit has the boys make their own first aid kits. a small peanut butter jar or parmasian cheese jar work very well. Being round, tape fits in them easily and the tape center holds small asprin containers perfectly. They both have a lot of room for other items like gaze, band aids, ointments, gloves and seal up water tight. This way the boys can personalize their kits to their needs. The Troops EMT bage covers the big stuff.

  3. dddduuuuuhhhh

  4. i got a $100 first aid kit that was unopened for free

  5. Good first aid is the vry useful thing in our life so aal the places home,car,school every where we should keep first aid box…..i have in my home…..

  6. Scoutmaster Steve // September 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm // Reply

    A few years ago I found it hard to find refills of single use tablets and ointments (such as triple antibiotic). REI and other outdoors stores now carry more, but the best bets are online. Look for “unitized” first aid supplies or refills. Unitized means it is packaged for individual use.

  7. For those who have made your own first-aid kits for the boys, what did you guys use? I want to have the boys (cub scouts) make their own or purchase a small case/bag so they can put their own items in it. Any ideas?

  8. add meat tenderizer and water to put on bee stings

  9. zappic human // February 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm // Reply

    I want one of the kits with the mouth-barrier device. They don’t sell them in any of the stores I have been. Anyone know where to find them?

    • Check the nearest Red Cross office. One way valve masks cost about $20.00. The disposable masks cost about $4.00 each, but do not have a vomit protection valve.

  10. 1st almost star // February 13, 2011 at 11:43 am // Reply

    walmart for 20$ i got a marine water rescue kit on sale, The baggy it comes in( about 10 in long) is perfect to blow up and use to keep someone who cant swims head above water. Great buy!

  11. I do the BUILD IT YOURSELF First Aid kit

  12. The Adventure Medical Kits “Ultralight Water-tight” series kits are great.

    • I like the water tight kits as weel, just be careful opening it. I didn’t realize where the ziploc was and ripped it.

  13. this site is great you guys are all great helps

  14. epic dude // May 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm // Reply

    this is very important

  15. epic dude // May 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    i think that it is very important to keep a first aid kit

  16. Thankyou for this article. It helps me a
    lot!!!

  17. saintpatrick // March 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm // Reply

    They didnt mention this, but if anyone is on any prescriptions, they sell these small Zip lock bags at Walgreens, and they are great for holding a day or weeks worth of pills. so that a top one on my list.

  18. If you are going to make your own 1st Aid kit, add a bandana into the supplies. Trust me, it will help a lot.

    You can thank me later!

  19. Around me they sell them in the camping section at walmart.

  20. dos ani one know where i can buy a space blanket?????
    the shiny kind.

  21. any insect reppelen with no deet in it will not reppel mosqitoes

  22. I think you should always add Aloe Vera gel to your firt aid kit. I hear it takes burns away quick and good.

  23. All Around Camper and Hiker 382 // September 28, 2009 at 11:14 am // Reply

    Which is the better quality producer of first aid kits for camping and backpacking–the American Red Cross First Aid Kits or the first aid kits produced by Johnson and Johnson?

  24. I do think it’s important to take the nesscesary supplies,
    Otherwise if not, it will just be some extra weight

  25. galaxy_gazer // August 19, 2009 at 8:26 am // Reply

    A couple brief comments about commercial (bought) first-aid packs.
    First – the commercial packs are okay – and a potential rescuer can quite easily identify that they are a first aid kit. But you *need* to open them up, look through them (see what *is* in there – and more importantly, what is *not* in there) and adjust them for your own needs {diabetic? better have insulin; allergies? in goes the Benadryl}. Second, don’t assume your 6-year-old never-used first aid kit is good. Go through first aid (yearly, maybe) and replace out-of-date medications, cremes, etc.

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