Hiking is a fun way to exercise while connecting with nature. With an extensive network of trail systems in the United States, there is no shortage of beautiful locations to hike safely. But prior to taking off for a hike, preparation is key to making sure that the journey is enjoyable. A well-planned first aid kit, specifically packed for the trip at hand, can help you take care of common incidents that do not require professional medical attention. It is also important to know what to do should an emergency arise.
Preparing for the Hike
Deciding to go for a hike involves much more than putting on a pair of shoes and driving to a trail head. Proper preparation raises the odds that a hiker will be able to enjoy the journey versus trying to nurse an injury on the slow trek back to civilization. Once the appropriate trail, length of hike, and hiking companions have been selected, the packing process begins. Selecting the best backpack and contents will depend on the type of hike planned. If hiking with a group, specific items can be disbursed among the hikers to lighten the load, but making sure that personal medical needs are adequately addressed is key. Should the traveling party include children or a dog, it is necessary to pack for their needs as well.
Safety guidelines and information provided by the trail system being hiked should be reviewed prior to the trip. Make sure that you’re aware of the weather forecast, trail conditions, and time of sunset, and pay special attention to where aid stations will be located in case medical assistance is needed. It’s also important to tell someone where and when you’re going in case you get lost and they need to alert emergency responders.
Why a First Aid Kit Is Needed
Hiking can lead to many types of injuries, from a minor scrape to a large wound. The most common hiking injuries include blisters, scrapes, bug bites, and sunburn, but dehydration, hypothermia, and snake bites are also potential dangers. Most minor injuries can be handled with a well-prepared first aid kit, while more severe cases will require attention from a nurse or physician.
What to Pack in the First Aid Kit
While an off-the-shelf first aid kit can be helpful in a pinch, it may not meet the specific medical needs of each hiker. It’s important to pack your own first aid kit to make sure that you know what is in the kit and how to use each item, should the need arise.
The first item needed in a first aid kit is any prescription medication you require during the time you’ll be out, labeled with its name and dosage and your name and placed in a sealed bag. Make sure to bring extra in case you get lost or are otherwise delayed in returning home. There should also be a note or card with emergency contact information and pertinent medical details for each hiker. Keeping the first aid kit stocked with ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea medication, and antihistamine pills is a good idea. Stocking various sizes of bandages or a bottle of liquid bandage will be handy in case of minor cuts and scrapes, as will antiseptic ointment. Also bring athletic tape in case of blisters and hydrocortisone cream for insect bites and plant allergies. Latex gloves, alcohol wipes or sanitizing gel, tweezers, and a small knife or scissors can help you remove splinters. Other items to consider packing are a CPR mask and CPR/first aid card, electrolyte replacement powder for dehydration, safety pins, and an elastic bandage. All small items should be clearly labeled and placed in small waterproof bags or bottles, and the first aid kit should be easily accessible in the backpack.
Packed and Ready to Go
Once the gear has been gathered and the first aid kit has been packed, the adventure can begin. Once on the trail, should an emergency arise that is outside the capabilities of the prepared first aid kit, call 911 if you have a cell signal, or blow a whistle to alert others out on the trail of your distress.