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  • Writer's pictureBryan Donoghue

Wilderness First Aid - Quick Guide For Camping and Hiking Safety

How to Create Your Own First Aid Kit for Camping and Hiking, Where to Buy a Pre-Made First Aid Kit, and How to Use Your First Aid Equipment Properly

The wilds of Bryce Canyon at sunset are breathtakingly beautiful, but very far away from any medical facilities. Be prepared when hiking or camping!

Sunset hiking at Bryce Canyon: 90 miles from the closest hospital - Photo Credit


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Accidents happen. We all know this, we are all fully willing to accept that even the most experienced hikers and campers can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances leading to injury. We all know we SHOULD carry a first aid kit in our backpacks for just such an occasion.

But do we?

How many of you - hikers, thruhikers, backpackers, wilderness explorers of all shapes and sizes - how many of you actually carry a fully equipped first aid kit with you when you embark on your outdoor adventures? How often are vital first aid staples removed from your pack when looking to reduce weight or bulkiness?

Even for those of you who do indeed go exploring with a first aid kit: ask yourselves - is it good enough? Am I prepared for the majority of injury situations that may befall me or my companions?

First Aid is indeed a topic that often falls by the wayside for many in our outdoor community - especially the beginners. But ask any experienced hiker or camper who has met with an unfortunate accident while out on the trail, and they will be quick to tell you how important it is to carry basic first aid essentials with you at all times.

Once again, Pathloom is here to help! We want your outdoor adventures to be as safe as they are fun, so read on for a quick list of camping and hiking First Aid essentials to help you put your kit together for the trail. We’re also linking a number of excellent resources that can help you learn effective Wilderness First Aid skills - we hope you never need to use this knowledge, but we want you to be prepared in the event that you do!

Also, if you’d prefer to just purchase a kit - and this may indeed be your best option - we’ve included a few good recommendations below. Just make sure any kit you purchase contains all the basics at the very least!

If you do already have a First Aid kit that you take with you on every outdoor expedition, go pull it out, pop it open, and check on the inventory levels and expiration dates of the supplies and medicine contained inside. These things can get used up, expire, and/or lose efficacy as the years go by. Empty band-aid wrappers, an ointment that has hardened over time or sterile wipe that disintegrates into dust when you try to use it isn’t going to be very helpful out on the trail.

Being overprepared with too much First Aid gear can also be a problem, as it can lead to a giant, bulky pack, weighing way too much and taking up valuable room in your backpack

Focus on essentials or your pack could end up like this! Photo Credit: Steve Edgerton

Essential Wilderness First Aid Equipment:

  • Antibacterial Ointment (like Neosporin or Bacitracin)

  • Antiseptic Wipes

  • Antihistimine

  • Bandages and/or Band-Aids

  • Gauze & Tape

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Ibuprofin and/or other OTC pain medication

  • Moleskin / Blister Treatment

  • Rubber gloves (avoid latex in case of allergy)

  • Tweezers

  • Water purification tablets/device

Additional Wilderness First Aid Equipment to Consider:

Bear in mind this is by no means a comprehensive list - medical needs vary from person to person, environment to environment. You may want to tailor your kit to suit the region you’ll be camping or hiking in. For example, if you’re camping in the desert you may want to bring some anti-venom for snake bites or scorpion stings - whereas you wouldn’t necessarily need these taking up room in your pack if you were hiking up a mountain where poisonous snakes are rare. And if you have severe allergies, you don’t need a website to tell you to always have your Epi-pen on you.

NOLS has created a risk assessment pyramid for wilderness first aid as part of their training regimen for outdoor medical skills

Credit: NOLS

Resources for Learning Wilderness First Aid Skills

Even if you DO have all the equipment you should be carrying in your outdoors First Aid kit - do you know how to properly utilize everything?

A quick reference guide or manual tucked into your pack can be extremely useful in perilous situations. Here’s a great, cheap guidebook for sale from The National Outdoor Leadership School.

Some other great options for wilderness First Aid guides are “Medicine For The Outdoors” and “Wilderness Medicine: Beyond First Aid.”

The Wilderness Medical Training Center offers a digital version of their Wilderness Medicine Handbook you can download on phone or tablet - an amazing comprehensive resource for outdoor First Aid techniques - as long as your device remains charged!

a wilderness first aid expert tends to a wounded hiker in a state park in Virginia

Wilderness First Aid Training in Bear Creek Lake State Park - Photo Credit

Wilderness First Aid Classes

Interested in taking a course on Wilderness First Aid or receiving certification? NOLS offers in-personclasses around the country and the world. They’ve partnered with REI to offer these, and enrollment in one of these 16-hour hands-on courses includes a kit of your own with the price of admission. Find a class close to you here! Some are even eligible for college credit!

The Wilderness Medicine Training Center offers hybrid classes that combine online instruction with in-person training modules. Check out their full list of offerings here.

Some First Aid retailers, such as My Medic, even offer online-only First Aid classes to help improve your survival skills from the comfort of your own home! While this is certainly convenient, and you can learn quite a lot in this format - bear in mind that classes like these will not give you the vital hands-on learning experience offered by NOLS and REI.

And not that we’re biased or anything, but there are some great articles on the Pathloom blog that can help round out your knowledge for all things outdoor-related. Check out this piece on dealing with allergies, or this one on bushcraft basics.

An Old Time First Aid kit is made all the more useful when paired with a bizarre nurse gecko frog thing action figure to help administer the medicine contained within

Wilderness First Aid Kits Available For Purchase

Stay safe out there!


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission . This comes at no extra cost to you, and helps us pay our bills without cluttering up our content with ads.


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