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5 Considerations when Choosing and Using a Commercial Wilderness First Aid Kit

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go… and the Things That will Happen There

5 Considerations when Choosing and Using a Commercial Wilderness First Aid Kit

The following was written by Coast Wilderness Medical Training and is sponsored content.

No one can argue that we British Columbians enjoy an abundance of beautiful backcountry destinations, just begging to be explored! However, adventure comes with risk and, whether day hiking in the North Shore mountains or on a 7-day paddle in Desolation Sound, responsible adventurers are always prepared for accident or injury.

A key aspect of that preparation is your Wilderness First Aid Kit – but how to choose from the many options available?

Read the Label

Any decent Wilderness First Aid kit has been stocked with some consideration for the number of people in the group, and how far from help they are likely to be. It’s often overlooked because it can be subtly placed, but there should be a label on the packaging that tells you the intended group size and course length.

Get Into Your Kit

Once you’ve chosen and purchased your new Wilderness First Aid kit, it’s time to break that thing open. Make sure you know what’s included – and what isn’t! If you’ve taken a good Wilderness First Aid Course, you will know your essential gear, and can add missing or preferred items.

A great example is a tourniquet – they are almost never included in off-the-shelf kits, but if you’re trained to use one, a tourniquet can make the difference between life and death in a serious backcountry accident.

Personalize, Customize, Accessorize!

Like the rest of your gear, your Wilderness First Aid kit should be modified for each adventure, based on the environment in which you will travel, the activities you are planning, and how difficult it will be for professional rescuers to access your location if you do get into trouble. Have you considered your weight tolerance, how many people are going, and how can you split some of the gear among the group? Here are only a few of the countless considerations you might make:

  • Formable SAM-style splints are great tools in case of a fracture or dislocation.
  • It is really hard to keep injured or ill people warm – but extra layers and emergency blankets can make a big difference!
  • Blisters can turn a fun hike into a long, uncomfortable day, and slow down the whole group – what are your prevention and treatment options?
  • Minor discomforts might have easy remedies – what medications from your local pharmacy are you bringing with you? Laxatives, anti-diuretics, throat lozenges, anti-nausea and pain relief are all things you might include… 
  • If you or someone in your group has a severe allergy, do you need to bring an extra Epi-Pen?


Learn to Use Your First Aid Gear

No matter how good your first aid field guide might be, or how many excellent YouTube videos you watch, there is no substitute for hands-on practice! Get yourself into some really good Wilderness First Aid training. Make sure that it is based on simple, practical solutions, that you will learn why things happen, not just that things happen, that your training has a laser-focus on hands-on practice, and that you will be learning from experienced instructors who really know their stuff.

Then, keep practicing! Partners or roommates make excellent practice patients for splints and wound dressings, and wilderness first aid companies often run scenario practice days, where you can keep your skills sharp and get feedback.

You Might Not Need a Commercial Kit

There is nothing in an off-the-shelf Wilderness First Aid kit that you can’t buy at your local first aid supply store. If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, building your own kit takes time, but saves a ton of money, and guarantees that every item in there has been carefully chosen based on your personal preferences, adventures, and knowledge. It takes a special kind of wilderness medicine nerd to really dive into building their own kit, but once you do, you’ll find yourself tweaking the contents with every adventure you have, and every new piece of knowledge you learn.

What’s Next?

Whether you choose to customize an off-the-shelf Wilderness First Aid kit, or dive into building your own from scratch, you should not do so with any unanswered questions – lean on your local experts, and contact your local wilderness first aid company to help you with anything you aren’t certain about.

Play safe, adventure wisely, and we will see you out there!

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