While accidents on the hiking trail are thankfully few and far between they certainly do happen from time to time and you need to be prepared. Here we look at some ideas for packing an essential hiking first aid kit.
Every year literally millions of hikers travel around the world's wilderness areas without any real problems and without injury. However, from time to time, accidents do happen and a little preparation can go a long way towards ensuring that the results of any injuries sustained leave you ready to head out on the trail again without delay.
For anything other than a simple hour or two of hiking in your local area, you need to do a little preparation and that should include packing a first aid kit. Your kit should, of course, take into account the area in which you will be hiking and the sort of injuries which you could possibly encounter but, in all cases, your first aid kit should contain at least the following items.
- Elastic roll bandages and gauze
- A variety of different sized adhesive bandages
- An anti-bacterial spray or cream
- Either Aspirin or Ibuprofen, depending upon your stomach sensitivity
- Moleskin to be used in the treatment of blisters
- A knife (a Swiss Army knife or something similar is ideal)
- A pair of tweezers
- Anti-itch cream
- Burn cream
- Hydrocortisone cream
The other items that you might want to add to this list are very much a matter of personal preference and you should use your own judgment here. Remember, however, that even a minor injury can rapidly become serious if it is not treated and even some basic antiseptic cream to put onto a minor cut or graze can save you from a lot of problems later. Remember too that whatever you pack will need to carry, so don't go overboard.
It goes almost without saying that you should take enough water for drinking, but a little extra for washing scrapes or wounds can come in extremely handy. Steer clear of water from streams, except when you have no alternative, as even the cleanest looking stream can be simply loaded with nasty bacteria.
Depending on where you're going to be hiking another very useful item can be a snake bite kit. The risk of snake bites is actually much lower than most people think and, in general, a snake will not bite you unless you all but stand on it. Nevertheless, if there is a risk of snake bite it's a good idea to be ready for it.
In case you're wondering, spider bites are even rarer than snake bites and there are very few poisonous spiders living in areas where they are easily seen or where hikers are likely to come into contact with them. So, simply avoid crawling around in wet or dark areas and, as a general rule, the odds are on your side.
Apart from the obvious risk of such things as a stomach upset or a headache, from too much sun and bad food or water, the commonest problem is cuts. An untreated cut can easily become infected, especially if it's caused by a plant or other vegetation rather than a sharp stone or rock. That's why your first aid list should always contain bandages and an anti-bacterial spray or cream.
Treatment is simply a matter of cleaning any cut and applying disinfectant before covering the area with a band-aid. If the cut is large you'll need to use gauze and a roll bandage rather than a band-aid but, before doing so, you need to assess the seriousness of the cut. In particular, you'll need to estimate just how deep the cut is and whether bleeding from the cut is venous or arterial.
In the case of venous bleeding, blood normally flows steadily from the cut and often has a light bluish tint. Arterial bleeding, by contrast, comes in spurts as the heart pumps blood around the body and is normally redder in color. Venous bleeding can usually be stopped by applying pressure to the wound, which will seal itself. Arterial bleeding is, however, more serious and requires the use of special clamp-and-release techniques. In the case of deep cuts (whether venous or arterial) professional treatment should be sought as soon as possible.
Perhaps the best first aid for any hiker is caution and simple common sense. Be aware of your surroundings and don't take stupid risks and all should be well.