Build Your Own First Aid Kit

Much of the time in the outdoors, you will be on your own for immediate medical care, with definitive medical services 2 or more hours away. Provided, of course that you can even signal for help!

In preparation for an outing or expedition, you need to make sure everyone has a first aid kit. If you don’t — build one now! If you have a first aid kits make sure it is in good order. This is a good time to look at the contents and replace expired drugs and damage supplies. If your first aid credentials have expired, see if you can squeeze in a class before your next expedition.

Since we all have significant cargo capacity in vehicle dependent travel, I recommend each vehicle take a fully stocked first aid kit. I like the duplication and I like the idea that if you get separated (on purpose or otherwise), a first aid kit is at hand.

Multiple First aid Kits

In addition to your main first aid kit, you want a smaller kit for side trips without the vehicle. Plus you may want to make up a boo boo bag for Advil, IBU, Aleve (or your favorite NSAID), band aids, anti acid tablets, splinter kit, etc. for the headache, scrapes, and bruises that do not warrant breaking out the big box.

Make a list of expiration dates

Update Expired Drugs

Heat is hard on drugs, band aids and other items in your first aid kit. So is riding around for a year or more in your off-road vehicle. Packets break and dry out; Bottles leak; drugs expire, etc. It would be a good idea to inventory your drugs and update ones that have expired or show signs of deterioration. Epinephrine should be clear. If not replace it. Replace all damaged supplies. Take the time to type up a list of drugs and when they expire in each of your first aid kits. The list makes it so much easier to check for expired drugs in the future. Make sure the batteries in your headlamp / flashlight and watch are fresh. This is a good time to refresh yourself with what you actually have in the kit and where it is located.

First Aid Kit vs. Survival Kit

Many find the first aid kit a convenient and logical place to store small survival items “ matches, whistle, signal mirror, knife, compass, etc. It may be ok to have survival items in the kit if you have room. If you decide to include survival items, make a hard separation of your survival items from your true first aid items so they do not get in the way.

Individual Packets vs. Larger Containers

I prefer to include a bottle of NSAID tablets rather than numerous individual packets with 2 tablets each. I prefer a tube of Neosporin rather than individual one time use packets. While the packets are convenient, I feel they are more expense and waste drugs. Once a packet is opened any unused contents are discarded.

Pelican cases make an excellent vehicle dependent First Aid container

Build Your Kit

I think the best kits are ones you build yourself with the tools, equipment, and supplies you know how to use. You can start with a commercial kit, however, and supplement the contents. The Adventure Medical line of First Aid Kits is one I recommend. When I travel by plane and leave my other gear home, I carry the Sportsman model. They have several larger kits that I like for vehicle dependent travel.

You want the kit to be as waterproof as possible and you should try to segment the supplies into separate areas or small bags based on categories of need. In the attached list you can see the suggested categories. I am providing this list to get you started! Feel free to make modifications. One item that merits inclusion on top of every smaller bag (or sub section) is gloves for personal protection. They will be handy and a visible reminder to wear them no matter which bag you go to first.

First Aid Kit

  • A water proof case or bag



  • 4 (at least) pair non latex Gloves (also put a set in each of the other sections)
  • Ear plugs
  • Purell hand sanitizer


  • Headlamp / Penlight
  • Watch
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • 60 cc syringe
  • Suction bulb
  • Oral / digital thermometer
  • Sterile scalpel blade
  • Fine hemostat x 2
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Stethoscope
  • Sterile needles for splinters
  • Pocket rescue mask


  • Tooth Brush – new
  • 2 4×4 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 2 2×2 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 1 small bottle of tincture of benzoin


  • 2 4×4 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 2 2×2 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • First Aid Cream
  • Neosporin
  • 1 2×2 mole skin for blisters
  • 6 band-Aids
  • 1 roll 1 inch flexible tape
  • 1 roll vet wrap
  • 1 small tube Povidone iodine ointment
  • 1 small bottle liquid soap
  • 2 inch elastic bandage


  • Epinephrine
  • 1 cc syringe x3 or Epipen
  • 4 tablets Benadryl


  • Large Triangular Bandage
  • Xeroform gauze dressing
  • Sam Splint
  • 4 Diaper pins
  • 4 & 6 Ace bandage
  • Burn sheet (100% cotton t-Shirt fresh from dryer kept in plastic bag)
  • Large dressing (Sanitary Napkins / diapers work well)
  • Handful of big plastic cable ties
  • Duct Tape

In addition, make a mental note of all the other stuff you have in the vehicle to make a splint (tent poles, tarps, ropes, blankets) or can be used to stabilize someone prior to transport.

MEDICATIONS “ Nonprescription

  • Tylenol aka Acetaminophen (Pain, Fever)
  • Advil aka ibuprofen (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Aspirin (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Aleve aka naproxen (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Allegra-D
  • Imodium
  • Benadryl
  • Stool Softener (e.g. Colace)
  • Syrup of Ipecac
  • Liquid activated charcoal
  • Cake mate / small packets of honey
  • Dramamine (motion sickness)
  • Cough & cold preparations
  • Sun block
  • Chap Stick

MEDICATIONS “ Prescription

(Talk to your doctor)

  • Antibiotic tablets
  • Antibiotic eye ointment or drops
  • Epipen
  • Prednisone
  • Albuterol Inhaler
  • Medication for severe pain
  • Steroid cream
  • Diamox (if going to altitude)

If it has been a while, I recommended you take a First Aid Course. Wilderness Medical Associates offers course from 2, 4 or 8 days. These courses are geared for the kind of first aid we need when calling 911 is not an option.

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