This is the eighth part of a series.
The First Aid Kit (FAK) is an area where I see a lot of extra weight and people packing their fears. If you are afraid of getting hurt and being unprepared, the chances are you will have a huge FAK. Regardless of what you carry, the most important questions are do you know how to use what you carry and will you really need it? For example, I can carry a suture kit, but I’ve never given stiches to anyone and the trail is not the time to practice. My FAK is just enough to treat myself/others to get off trail for serious ailments or things I can treat myself.
What do I carry? In a SMALL Ziploc bag, I have a few bandages, a couple of butterfly bandages for SERIOUS cuts, antacids (probably the most used item), anti-diarrhea medicine, pain reliever, a couple of gauze pads for major bleeding, blister prevention, and an emergency whistle, my push button light, and a tick key (to remove ticks). That’s it. Basically, things I am comfortable/confident using and enough to get me off the trail if I need future treatment. If I am REALLY hurt, I am already carrying a bandana that can be used as a sling and I am in the woods where I (or someone else) can fashion a splint from items in our environment.
I see these FAK for sale that contain unnecessary items, too many items for a simple backpacking trip, unrealistic items (snake bite kits come to mind), or situations that you are likely to encounter. The only exception is an Epi pen in you have a serious allergy to bee stings and other items. I have hiked with a person with an Epi pen and at the beginning of the hike he described where it was and how to use it. They can be lifesaving if that situation applies to you. Even if you are an emergency room doctor and accustomed to handling major trauma, there’s really no need for items such as IV bags, surgical equipment, or other items. If you are in bear country (specifically grizzly bear), then bear spray should be considered. It is uncommon/rare for a black bear to be aggressive. Most of the time they run off unless you are near bear cubs.