The Ripple - 2018

Craft - Designing your own First Aid Kit

Canoeing, camping, and other backcountry leisure activities can be incredibly risky and dangerous. Having been involved in the planning/organizing of many outdoor activities, I am well aware of these risks. Some of you who are reading this may already be greatly experienced and know how to plan for these dangers. For others who are new to canoeing, you might be having trouble planning to reduce the risks involved in backcountry camping. But fear not, this article is for you. I am an experienced wilderness first aider and paddler, and this article will be directed to those who might have little or no first aid training. I will cover what you might want to bring for a three day to one-week trip with two to six people. I will provide sources for pre-made first aid kits, what you might want to add or remove from those kits, and how to use some of those supplies. Keep in mind that this is not a first aid course and it is highly recommended that you obtain some form of first aid training before embarking on your trip. Here we go - I have a prebuilt first aid kit made by Adventure Medical Kits, and it contains:

  • 20ml single-use syringe (does not contain needle, it is used for flushing wounds and irritants) (1)
  • Wound closure strips 6mmX100mm (10)
  • Compact roll duct tape (1)
  • Chloride wipes (10)
  • Temperature strips (2)
  • Insect bite relief (2)
  • Adhesive barrier wipe (2)
  • Butterfly adhesive bandage (4)
  • Adhesive bandage 25mm (6)
  • Roller gauze 7.5cmX3.7m (2)
  • Triangular bandage (1)
  • Cotton tipped applicator (2)
  • Nitrile gloves (1 pair)
  • Medical tape (1 roll)
  • Sterile non-woven sponges 5cmX5cm-4 ply (6) (2/pouch)
  • Non-adherent pad 7.5cmX10cm (2)
  • Sterile non-woven sponges 10cmX10cm-4 ply (4) (2/pouch)
  • Instruction sheet wound care/burn/blister (1)
  • Emergency blanket (1)
  • clotting sponge 9cmX9cm (1)
  • Self-adhesive wrap contains rubber/latex (1)
  • Patient assessment sheet (1)
  • Sterile non-woven sponges 10cmX10cm-4 ply (4) (2/pouch)
  • Combine pad 12.7cmX22.8cm (2)
  • 1-way valve CPR mask (1)
  • Triangular bandage (1)
  • Pencil (1)
  • Medical scissors (1)
  • Tweezers (1)
  • Nitrile gloves (1 pair)
  • Safety pins (3)
  • Moleskin sheet (2)
  • Fractures/sprains instruction sheet (1)
  • Bleeding/CPR instruction sheet (1)

All in all, this is an adequate kit but there are some items I would include in addition to these items. First off would be a reusable CPR mask. The disposable masks that come in most first aid kits are usually low quality and tricky to use in a real-life situation. These reusable masks also mean that you won't need to spend as much to restock your kit after an incident. The next item that I would think to add would be adult diapers. Diapers are very absorbent and don't take up too much space, especially if you spread them around the group and have each participant take a couple. Diapers are also useful for treating someone who can't move due to their injuries but still need to use the bathroom. Next, I would throw in tampons because like diapers, they are highly absorbent and they can be placed into puncture wounds quite easily.

I would also add a commercial tourniquet as the store-bought ones are much more effective and easier to use compared to improvised ones. However, I do strongly recommend taking a first aid course and asking specific questions about the use of tourniquets, as they must be used in a proper manner or they could cause more harm than good. The next item on the list of things to add is clotting powder. This powder can be sprinkled on wounds and will help stop bleeding. One must be careful when using clotting powder on arterial bleeds as the pressure of the blood squirting out of the wound may dislodge the powder. There are also clotting sponges available that behave in the same manner as the powder but won't be forced out of wounds as easily.

In my first aid kit, I noticed a significant lack of gloves - there were only two pairs in the whole kit. I have since placed an additional eight pairs of gloves in the kit as I need to have some for people who I might need to help, and additional pairs for myself in case I need to care for someone over an extended period. I have would add biohazard bags to my first aid kit as well in order to store biohazardous waste for proper disposal. I would also recommend that a larger variety of adhesive bandages (Band-Aids) be added as there is only one size currently included. More specifically I would add some larger adhesive bandages to avoid using up all my gauze and tape on a wound that is only an inch or two long.

The next thing I am adding to my kit is hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is incredibly important in a kit and should be accompanied by alcohol prep pads for cleaning and sanitizing, Benzalkonium Chloride can also be used for cleaning wounds. Also add Polysporin, or a similar antibiotic product, for preventing infection in small to medium sized wounds. Aloe Vera gel is another useful item to include for treatment of sunburns and insect bites. I am also adding more roller gauze to the kit. Roller gauze is so fantastically useful for treating larger wounds because all you need to do is keep rolling it on until you think you have enough. Then you just tape the bandage and the roll in place so if you need to add more, you only need to take the tape off the roll then keep applying more bandage. Next on the list of things to add is moleskin for treating blisters. Moleskin is incredibly valuable on long wilderness adventures as blisters are very likely to happen. I would also add more triangular bandages to my first aid kit as they are even more useful than roller gauze. Triangular bandages are used for treating everything from burns to bone and joint injuries. Another useful item to add more of is safety pins. Safety pins are useful for puncturing blisters (especially blood blisters underneath nails) and holding triangular bandages in place. Be sure to take a first aid course and ask about releasing the pressure of blood underneath a nail before attempting this procedure as it can be painful.

I will also add SAM splints to my kit. These are metal and foam splints that can be shaped and bent to suit the needs of a specific situation. These splints come in multiple sizes for legs, arms, and fingers. Next is the C-collar or cervical collar, but before adding this useful tool to your kit, you must receive first aid training as the cervical collar must be used in a very specific manner or you can cause more damage to the injured person. The last thing I would add to my first aid kit is some form of record keeping material like SOAP notes or a similar template that makes it easier to track an ill or injured person's information and vitals. Before leaving on a trip, I would also have all participants get prescriptions for antihistamines such as Benadryl. Also consider acquiring Aspirin, Imodium (which helps with diarrhea), and Ibuprofen for pain relief. However, please take a first aid course and ask about the five rights of medication before doing this.
I hope this article is of use to those who are having trouble planning for a wilderness adventure or feeling that their first aid kits are a little lacklustre. Please take a course, no matter what fancy gadgets you have as they will do nothing for you if you don't know how to use them properly. A person with knowledge and experience with just the clothes on their back will outperform the person with all the tools in the world.