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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 4: First Aid Comment
    Gregory Morris, 5/21/09 10:43:49 pm
    See parts one, two and three of this series.

    This first aid kit is meant to be light and have some of the most basic needs. It simply doesn't include the gear to handle serious injuries, or injuries that must be cared for long-term without appropriate medical attention. The fact is, a light pack-sized first aid kit can really only offer comfort. The major problems you can encounter can either be handled with improvised solutions, or just can't be handled without real medical care. I should note that I do keep a more complete first aid kit in the house, and it is an easy "extra" to grab on your way out the door in an emergency.
    • Misc bandages - I usually just grab some "standard" size band-aids and some wing-type knuckle band-aids (I seem to be prone to hurting myself in places that normal band-aids won't stick.) I don't bother with gauze and big fancy band-aids. This is mostly due to the size. The core components of my first-aid kit all fit nicely into half of a sandwich-sized ziplock baggie. For a real survival kit, I don't see a problem throwing in some more serious wound treatment options, just remember that different bandages serve different purposes. You may need something to keep pressure on a wound or to protect a wounded area from further injury. These can easily be improvised. The only thing you really need "sterile" gauze or bigger bandages for is to keep a properly cleaned wound clean.
    • Antiseptic wipes - There are lots of things you can use as disinfectants, but alcohol swabs are the best. You only need a few. This is an instance where basic knowledge of flora goes a long way. There are many, many plants that can be used as antiseptics. Get a book and learn a few.
    • Antibiotic cream - This is optional. A properly cleaned and bandaged wound doesn't need antibiotic cream as a matter of "first" aid, but if you will be away from medical attention and normal wound care for an extended period of time, antibiotic cream will help protect your injury. I keep one little ketchup-packet of antibiotic cream in my kit.
    • Pain killers - There are two kinds of pain killers you should keep with your gear. One is Tylenol (or similar) for normal aches and pains. The other is something heavy-duty for emergencies. Now, you can't just get a hydrocodone or oxycontin over the counter, so this one is tricky. Clearly I don't encourage breaking any laws to acquire or possess a serious painkiller. But if you were prescribed some and happen to have some leftovers, there's nothing wrong with keeping them around. If you are alone in the woods and you break your leg, a super duper pain pill might be the only way for you to get back to civilization.
    • Medical tape - This, as most things in my kit, has many uses outside of the obvious medical ones. But the primary use is taping broken fingers together, and affixing a bandage over a wound. There are ways to improvise this type of care, but medical tape is your best option, and it can be used for many other things.
    • Iodine tablets - This is my backup water purification system. They can also be used to disinfect wounds.
    • Moleskin - Having healthy and happy feet is ridiculously important when you are traveling long distances and carrying around a lot of weight. Sure, tough guys can handle the pain of a few measly blisters, but you shouldn't have to. Use moleskin to preemptively protect places where your boots rub.
    • Flask of Yukon Jack - Choose a 100+ proof alcohol. This is part of the first-aide kit because it can work as both an antiseptic and a pain killer. It can also be used to help start a fire (the reason for the 100+ proof.)
    • Hand sanitizer* - Clearly this is a luxury. Clean hands are nice, but strictly speaking, not immediately relevant to most survival situations. The gel-type hand sanitizer can be carried in a small plastic bottle in lieu of other alcohol-based products for sterilizing wounds. It also makes a fantastic fire starter. Unlike the Yukon Jack, hand sanitizer is less likely to be consumed when it isnít actually needed.
    • Sewing kit - The obvious use is repairing clothing, packs, sleeping bags, etc. You can also use it to suture wounds and use the needle to remove splinters. All you need is a needle and a decent length of thread or thin fishing line.
    • Medicine - This isn't actually first aid, but if you take prescription medications, be sure to have enough. If you are backpacking for a long weekend, you can just toss three days worth of pills in a ziplock baggie and go. Surviving after a natural disaster or other situations requires more planning, because you won't be able to simply visit the local pharmacy. In situations where there is advanced warning, you should definitely stock up on whatever medications you may need in the short term. However, you may not always have enough warning to do that, or the societal situation may not allow you to acquire medication for a longer period of time. In these cases, you need to understand your medical needs extremely well. You need to understand how your body and mind will react to no longer having your medication. Is there a way you can keep yourself stable without medication? Is there something you can substitute for the normal medication? Can you make any changes to your daily activity that will lower the impact of your condition?

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 4: First Aid
    TheGunGeek, 5/25/09 9:08:10 am
    Good stuff. Couple of comments...

    Besides having the "real" first aid kit at home, you should have some more heavy duty items in your car (or whatever you took to get to your adventure) so that when you make your way back to the car, you can take advantage of it before seeking better medical care. You usually don't have to worry so much about size and weight restrictions in your travel vehicle, so you can bring anything else you might need.

    You mentioned only Tylenol (or similar) for aches and pains. I'd suggest also having real Aspirin to take in case of heart/stroke problems. Real possibilities for folks out doing strenuous activities. You can get them in little packets so you don't need the whole bottle. Keep some in your car, also.
    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 4: First Aid
    Gregory Morris, 5/25/09 4:57:44 pm
    Good points. You should always have your "home base" and/or "forward base" stocked with the heavier items you may need but can't carry with you.

    As for the asprin... Yep. Being a spry youngster, I never considered that, but your point makes the pain killer dual-use, which is awesome. I may well switch out my tylenol for asprin now, even though it is unlikely I'll need it for those reasons (at least not for many years...)
    Re: Survival and Backpacking Gear Part 4: First Aid
    Paul, 5/31/09 3:23:21 pm
    In Boy Scouts we used to care aspirin to alleviate light cases of altitude sickness.
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