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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

13 Comments on How to Build Your Own First-Aid Kit

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

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

  3. 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?

    • Not ur typ grl scout // August 14, 2017 at 10:19 pm // Reply

      Aloe is great if you’re not allergic to it, like I am. I’m one of 800,000 people in the world with this allergy and it could cost me my life if I’m not conscious, I think I should get a medical tattoo or bracelet for it

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

  5. 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.

  6. I agree with TROOP45

  7. its better to have a “made your self aid kit” than a purchased one, its cheaper and you always now where the stuff is.

  8. i ‘m glad too about know this help for first aid kit keep it up informing us about this from ; max

  9. it is very cool

    • yes first aids are cool but the one part about it is to take it with you on every camp out and boy life`s is cool

  10. thanks for telling me this

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