First Aid Essentials in the Wilderness 

While we always hope for the best, those who love the great outdoors know the beauty of being out in the wilderness can come with a bit of risk. While one of the main draws of the great outdoors is being able to disconnect, it also means you’re further away from help if you need it. 

That’s why it’s so important to be prepared with the knowledge and tools for what to do if someone does happen to get hurt. After all, when you’re in the middle of the woods, you can’t rely on Google when there may be no service and medical help may not be a phone call or drive away. 

Injuries on the trail can be common, but they’re typically minor and easily treatable. When providing first-aid in the wilderness, the majority of the time your main goal is to prevent a condition from getting worse and continuing on your expedition. However, it’s important to be prepared for any situation. Time, the environment, a lack of resources, and a lack of communication with the outside world may all be factors that can make treating injuries more difficult in the wilderness. Before departing on your trip, consider what can go wrong and what access you’ll have to medical attention, cell phone service, or fellow hikers.

Wilderness First-Aid Kit Checklist

You can purchase a prepackaged first-aid kit or prepare one on your own. However, knowing how to correctly use the items in a first-aid kit is just as important as having them, so it may be in your best interest to take a wilderness first-aid course to be confident and fully prepared. 

The length, remoteness, and environment may dictate what items you should bring. For a standard DIY wilderness first-aid kit here is a guide to what items you may want to include:

Basic Care Supplies

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Assorted adhesive bandages, preferably fabric 
  • Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips
  • Gauze pads (various sizes)
  • Nonstick sterile pads
  • Medical adhesive tape
  • Pain-relief medication
  • Blister treatment
  • Insect sting / anti-itch treatment
  • Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions
  • Fine-point tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • First-aid manual or information cards


  • Prescription medications 
  • SPF 30+
  • Sunburn relief gel or spray
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Throat lozenges
  • Diarrhea medication
  • Antacid tablets
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Glucose or other sugar
  • Injectable epinephrine for severe allergic reactions
  • Aspirin (for response to a heart attack)

Wraps, Splints, and Wound Coverings

  • Elastic wrap
  • Triangular cravat bandage
  • Finger splints
  • SAM splints
  • Rolled gauze
  • Rolled, stretch-to-conform bandages
  • Hemostatic gauze
  • Liquid bandage

While splint kits and wraps may bring peace of mind to carry along, they aren’t essentials and are often bulky and take up space. If you don’t have the space, remember you may always be able to improvise these items with things like handkerchiefs, articles of clothing, and a tree branch.

Tools and Other Supplies

  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Safety razor blade
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Oral Thermometer 
  • Scissors
  • Irrigation Syringe
  • Medical gloves
  • CPR mask
  • Small notepad and pen or pencil
  • Medical waste bag
  • Waterproof container
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Hand sanitizer/ soap

Providing First-Aid 

When someone in your group becomes injured, the first thing you should do is evaluate the situation with the following steps:

  1. Check the scene: Ensure the area is safe and identify what may have caused the injury
  2. Identify any life threats: Are there any immediate life threats to the injured or to you?
  3. Carry out an initial assessment: Perform a head-to-toe check including vital signs and patient history
  4. Create a problem list and care plan: Identify injuries and how to treat them
  5. Treat the patient: Provide both medical and emotional support
  6. Monitor regularly: Check the condition of the patient and injury regularly for progress or if the condition worsens

Wilderness First-Aid Tips

  • Carry a reference book with a full range of medical issues. 
  • Fluids are always more important than food.
  • Don’t panic and remain calm. 
  • Delegate tasks to uninjured companions while providing first-aid. 
  • Resupply the first-aid kit before each trip and adjust its contents depending on the specific trip. 
  • Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Be prepared with basic survival skills in case you become stranded.


Recent Post