Wild Camping Emergency Kit

First aid kit

First choice in selecting a First Aid kit to be part of your wild camping emergency kit – should you buy one pre-packed, or should you pack it yourself?  I’ve always gone for doing it yourself for various reasons.

  1. If you pack your first aid kit yourself, you know what’s in it.
  2. If you’ve selected and bought the contents of your first aid kit, you’re more likely to be in a position to restock it.
  3. Oddly, that usually also means you’ll be more ready to use the thing in the first place (you don’t have to worry about ‘breaking the seal’ on an off-the-shelf pre-packed kit.)
  4. Packing a first aid kit for wild camping use is different from packing it for general use.  The items needs to be lightweight, robust and be generally useful to the sort of person who goes wild camping.  Off-the-shelf first aid kits are more multi-purpose.
  5. You can waterproof individual items.
  6. You can spend money on higher quality items where it matters.
  7. You can choose the size based on the size of your party.  This means you can make more sensible trade offs about what you’ll need and size.

First Aid kits can be a thing of beauty if you pack them yourself.  I’ll openly admit that there’s a lovely feeling to clicking shut the lid on a self-packed kit.  So if you do go down that way, how should you put it together?

First thing to consider is the box itself.  In general keep it small and watertight.  It should be capable of being sunk at the bottom of a bowl of water for a good long while if it’s going to survive at the bottom of your rucksack.  Plastic ones are fine.

For this I love pelican boxes.  This can be shut tight, come with foam interiors and include a small pressure release valve.  This is vital when the box has pressurised itself, say if a spray plaster has leaked, or if the contents has been chilled down while sealed.  Ie when it becomes hermitically sealed.

For the contents, here’s the list of stuff that I currently carry:

  • Gloves: Powder-free nitrile
  • Drugs and medication.  In the least this should include antihistamine, ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin – all non-dispersible.  If you have access to better then by all means take it.  However, it’s useful to keep them all together in a resealable bag with the names of the drugs on the outside.  Otherwise you’re left trying to read a mostly empty blister pack and guessing what it should be.
  • Antiseptic liquid.  I prefer that to wipes, although wipes also work.  Liquid covers far more though.
  • Minor Wound and Blister kit
    • Sterile gauze swabs
    • Steri-strips
    • Melolin wound dressing pads
    • Plasters
    • Compeed
    • Moleskin plaster
  • Crepe bandage
  • Military dressing
  • Syringe
  • Blunt needle
  • Small bandage
  • Transpore Tape
  • Betadine
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Trauma Shears
  • Wild proof lighter

Stuff not to take:

  • Suture kit – if you know how to use this already then great, but otherwise it’s unlikely to be something you want to use in the field.  Stern-Strips can easier and can close a wound just as well while you get medical help.
  • Nasopharyngeal airways and Guedel airways – these are used to maintain an airway, and are sometimes included in advanced first aid kits or kits for sub-aqua divers.  But you need a lot of different sizes to cover everything, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be in a position to need one while out camping.  The fact that you fancy going out in the wild tends to filter out the people who may need one of these at the rush.

Of course, it’s not enough just to have a well-equipped emergency first aid kit. It needs to come with at least basic first aid skills and life support skills.  The training offered by St John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross is perfect.  There are also first aid books by both of these that are worth getting and reading.


One thing always to have, though, is a spaceblanket. These are the tin foil sheets you see handed out at the end of some races. They’re amazingly good at keeping in heat, and can really save your day if one of you starts to go hypothermic. Carry one. Carry two, if you can.