Overland Safety: First-Aid Kits

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Lifestyle Overland

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Overland Safety Kit: Part I - The First-Aid Kit



A first-aid kit is one of those items you may never need, but when you do, you want it to be suitable for the task at hand. First-aid kits come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from $5 to $300 and upwards. It can be overwhelming trying to make a selection from the plethora of options. These kits contain anywhere from a few bandages and mild wound treatments, to full-blown field surgical kits.
Fortunately, several manufacturers have recognized this dilemma and developed pre-assembled kits prepped for various lifestyles, durations, and group numbers.

Minimum Requirements - What do I need?

If you like to customize your own kit, there are some basic checklists to build from such as these below:

REI First-Aid Checklist
Red Cross Anatomy of First-Aid Kit

Risk Evaluation - What are you gonna do?

You will need to assess your anticipated risks before selecting or building a kit since it can affect your final list of contents. Here are some questions to consider that may help determine what goes into your kit:

Is anyone in my group allergic (or potentially allergic) to bee stings?
Are there any food allergies to be aware of?
Will I only be riding in my vehicle, or do I plan on hiking some trails, fishing a stream, etc.? What new risks need to be considered when my activity changes?
Are there any specific health issues requiring prescription medication?

Kit Size - Number of People and Trip Duration

Once you determine your contents, the next question is how much of each item will you need. Again, the pre-packaged kits are great for this because they are packaged based on group size and duration. Two companies that have a good reputation for quality kits are:

Chinook Medical Group (Highly recommended by a certified WEMT overlander)
Adventure Medical Kits

Medicine Kit - OTC and Prescriptions

Acid reflux isn't life-threatening, but it can end an enjoyable weekend if you don't have any treatment available. The same goes for headaches, pulled muscles, cramps, diarrhea, sunburn, poison ivy, etc.
Most first-aid kits come already stocked with samples of various OTC medicine which is a good starting point. But let's face it, digging through 30 some-odd packets of first aid supplies, ointments, and small-print pill packs at 1:00 AM is no small task when you have blurred vision from a headache that feels as if a West Virginia coal miner is stuck in your head and trying to get out with a jackhammer.
Instead, something you might consider creating is a dedicated overland medicine kit that has small quantities of medication for these potential medical annoyances. Having this already prepped and staged in your kit will keep you from having to rummage through the medicine cabinet before every trip. These always-ready "go-boxes" are especially handy when you are dealing with the challenge of packing for multiple family members.
Important note: In regards to family members, make sure you bring the proper medication for children since the dosages can vary greatly from the adult versions.

Prescriptions should rank even higher on your list for obvious reasons. These might be tough to keep stocked and up-to-date in your "go-box" so you will need to develop a system to ensure you remember them before you cruise into your campsite 5 hours later and realize they're back home. A detailed, categorized checklist for your overall overland kit can help prevent the forgetfulness that comes when you're rushing to get packed on a Friday evening after work.

Snake Bite Kit - I'll Pass

During your search for a first-aid kit you're going to come across snake-bite kits like this:

It's my (strong) opinion that you pass. The short explanation is that more damage is done to a bite victim when someone attempts to suction, cut, electrically shock, and/or isolate the bite area. Take a look at the first customer review on the product link above if you're up for a very long, detailed read about snake bites and venom effects on the human body. The review author is a herpetologist specializing in venomous snakes and a wilderness medicine practitioner with experience treating many snakebite patients in West and East Africa. He is on a mission to keep people from harming themselves as is evident in his article.
The best immediate treatment for a snake-bite victim is to remain calm and get to a hospital. Keeping the heart rate down for the victim will slow the affects of the venom. Attempting to manipulate the bite area will only increase the speed at which the venom enters the bloodstream

First Aid Training - Got the kit, now what do I do?

So you went all out and bought the biggest, baddest, and highest quality kit you could afford. Your rig throws a belt. You're neck deep in the engine bay getting ready to install your shiny backup belt (which you're so proud you packed in your kit). It's been a while since the alternator has been loose so the tension adjustment bolts are a bit snug. You give it all you've got with that crescent wrench and... slip, lacerating your hand on the fan blade. Now, what do you do?
You've never cleaned and dressed a substantial wound before. Do you think you could patch yourself up? What if this is day one of a week long overland trip? Do you think you'll cancel the whole trip due to a moderate laceration? Let's say you patch the cut up with all the cool supplies from the fancy kit. 3 days go by. The wound is festered and you have a fever. You're 5 hours from the nearest hospital and now a simple wound has turned into a much bigger issue. What is the most likely cause of the infection? Probably improper application of first-aid due to no basic training.
This is just an example of what could happen if you don't educate yourself on using the tool you invested your hard earned money into, which was intended to help prevent a major medical issue. My illustration isn't an attempt to scare you, but to help you visualize the potential issues that can arise from improper use of your most important tool.

Here are some excellent organizations that provide first-aid training:

Red Cross First-Aid & CPR Class
NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute
REI Wilderness Medicine Classes

7/18/16 EDIT: Here is an excellent resource for common first aid topics by the Mayo clinic: First Aid

If you're like me, finding time to go take a class can be tough. Fortunately, there's the Google and YouTube option which is better than nothing. Though I highly recommend taking an actual hands-on course where you can practice the fundamentals.

Also, an injury quick reference guide is a another great addition to the kit. Some higher-end kits include these.

First-Aid Kit Examples - What's some options for the overlander?

Here are a few kits I've come across that may fit the bill for most OB members. These are just suggestions, but they give you a place to start:

Chinook Home and Vehicle Kit
Chinook Adventurer Kit
Adventure Medical Kit - Marine 600 Kit (Waterproof)

Adventure Medical Kit - Sportsman
Adventure Medical Kit - Mountain Series Weekender

If you don't have a First-Aid Kit yet, I hope this article helps point you in the right direction. I myself will be revisiting my current setup after the research I did for this article. Good luck on your selection!

7/18/16 EDIT: "There's an app for that!" While nothing can replace true training, this app by the Red Cross organization is a handy tool to keep yourself fresh on first aid treatment. Google Play Version Here

Please, feel free to continue the discussion below with your questions or comments on this topic.
 
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Lifestyle Overland

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This is the kit I'm drooling over now. A bit more advanced than I need, but has all the features I'd like to have. $200.00 is more than I'd like to spend though.

I'll most likely end up with this kit at $125.00. This is primarily due to the fact I overland with a large group and want to be ready to provide care if needed:

This kit looks as if it would meet the needs of most overlanders. At $60 its an affordable option:
 
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Nomad

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Mostly bandages bandages bandages and polysporin but do have a few things for heavy trauma..
Add as you go and learn when you can...
Just don't count on me to save your life I pass out at the sight of blood LOL....
 

Lifestyle Overland

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After reviewing my generic $30 (expired) first aid kit I've decided it's time to heed by my own advice and get one suited for the job.
I found that these kits are much cheaper to buy from distributors such as Amazon. Oh, and if you have a healthcare FSA (Flexible Spending Account) they're fully covered!
Since I'm coming up on the end of the year, and the FSA is use-it or lose-it... I've decided I'm getting the comprehensive kit.

P.S. @CorrieOB You might need to consider this for Jon Snow:
http://amzn.com/B00T72ST0A
 

deeker

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I have built my own kit to grow as I've developed my first aid skills (Wilderness FA) or the training of my better half. My wife works at a large hospital and can bring home "expired" items like bandages and other non-drug consumables. I mostly have stuff for cuts, scrapes, small burns and the like. Anything more serious will require a trip for more expert care... although I would like to carry along a SIGN nail, just for fun... :hushed:
Advil, Imodium, After-Bite and a couple other comfort aids are included in my kit, as well.
Being able to tend to the minor stuff before it becomes a problem is a good thing.
 

Robert OB 33/48

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Good idea, but if the doctor of jackson does it I will pass. :yum:

Serious, its a good idea. Problem is that we need several good kits. Because not everyone is way up in the mountains.
In the Netherlands, I only need to keep the cictim alive till help is there. Which will be within one hour. So, less problems.
Going to Morocco, I definitly will need a better kit. So thanks for the topic here.

I think I will go and discus this with my pharmacy shop.

Thanks and greetings from Robert
 

deeker

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I think having the kit and skills to provide help in various settings is important. If you are going somewhere very remote or with questionable (by first world standards) medical care, be more self-reliant. If you just need to make a call and hold someone's hand until EMS arrives, that's different. But still - be a great hand-holder!
 
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SonOfNeptune

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I have been running around with a couple of the medical kits from itstactical.com They seem to be pretty good basic kits that provide for the major 3. Looking to expand them into a full size family/travel kit. Thanks of the thread. It has provided to be very useful
 

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One thing I have noticed over the years doing survival training, back country camping, and offroading is that when people build their med kits they have a tendency to buy tools and supplies they are not qualified to use. I know quite a few people with suture kits but none of them know how to use them and if they tried they would cause more damage than good. I highly recommend when building up a med kit to build it to match the level of training and skills of the person that will actively be using the kit.
 

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I've put a lot of thought into this too, and I concur that the skills are arguably more important than the equipment, though one goes close in hand with the other.

Having spent my life in the Army I have recieved some of the very best austere environment trauma training there is, however I often tend to forget little things like the significance of comfort after an insect sting for a 6 year old, or the concerns of a worried mother when I say "hypothermia isnt an issue today" etc.

More training is always better.

Chinook does a GREAT job at packaging what you need for a reasonable price. If you play games and spend all day searching Amazon etc you might come out a few bucks under what they are charging, but you're losing out on their expertise, and your own time. We have used their stuff in the military for years, and it really is the high water mark.

I have been running around with a couple of the medical kits from itstactical.com They seem to be pretty good basic kits that provide for the major 3. Looking to expand them into a full size family/travel kit. Thanks of the thread. It has provided to be very useful
Let me second this though, ITS tactical are great guys, they do a lot of good for this sort of community. You can do worse on supplies, theories, and techniques.
 
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Michael

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Hey guys,

I thought I would add this here. I have this kit, and it is awesome and extremely compact for what it provides. This is a "Survival" kit, not specifically a "First-Aid" kit. Take a gander:

 

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I think you have to gauge response time to other side when you build your kit. I carry a full jump bag in my jeep. Minus any drugs or IV's as my NYS AEMT-III very lapsed many years ago. But you can include things like a adjustable C collar, SAM splints, bandages , oral airways etc. Along with a standard stethoscope and BP cup (sphygmomanometer) . Cover the ABCI's and you are pretty good to go. You aren't going to be healing anyone or performing surgery, but you can ease their pain until help arrives, wether it be a few hours or a few days.


Sent from my iPhone using Overland Bound Talk
 

bee_CO

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I think most of what I'm about to write has be covered in this thread by the op or by others, but just to reiterate or possibly add a few things (I kinda just skimmed so maybe some things are repeated)

I've seen a lot of first aid kits posted on various forums, and people then think they need all of that....but they don't .
First , don't bother getting things you don't have the training for how to use, and don't try to use them if you don't have the proper training. Example: I've seen pictures of first aid bags on the webz with airways(OPA, NPA, and even king airways) in them...unless you are trained and competant, don't put them in your bag...even though they would look cool for your photos for the Internet.
(if you are trained... By all means)

2) Gloves! Put them on top so they are easy to grab. And pack multiple pairs.

3) Gauze Pads. They don't take up much space but people tend to skimp on them. In a heavy bleeding situation, they can get soaked quickly. Better to have more than not enough. Also gauze are simple, and don't really require any training to use.

4) Tourniquet. Preface by saying if you don't think you're trained enough to use one, maybe don't include it, per above. But they can save lives and limbs if applied properly and in the right situation, and they are now a lot more user friendly to do it properly than in years past.

5) basic first aid shit. Don't get caught up in all the fancy trauma gear... Its more likely you will use this kit more for minor boo-boos than anything else. So don't forget the ol Bandaids, neosporin, and ibuprofen.

6) adding into #5, is medications. Forget the expired oxy in your medicine closet from when you broke your arm 2 years ago. Back to the basics. Ibuprofen, aspirin, tums, etc. I'll let you pick. But again, it's not always an emergency when you use your first aid kit... Sometimes it's just an unpleasantry you encounter in everyday life.

7) Clif Gel Shot or similar. If someone is diabetic or not and they get low blood sugar, these things are packed with glucose and absorbed quickly by the body to help get your blood sugar back up and stop them from acting like a diva... Because You're not you when you're hungry ;)

8) Those space blankets can be useful, and pack up small. Definitely keep one in your medical bag.

That's all I've got.
 
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Wawa Skittletits

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After reviewing my generic $30 (expired) first aid kit I've decided it's time to heed by my own advice and get one suited for the job.
I found that these kits are much cheaper to buy from distributors such as Amazon. ... I've decided I'm getting the comprehensive kit.
This is exactly what I just went through. Thank you for mentioning that Adventure Medical is available on Amazon. I just went ahead and ordered the comprehensive kit as well.
 

boehml

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One thing I have noticed over the years doing survival training, back country camping, and offroading is that when people build their med kits they have a tendency to buy tools and supplies they are not qualified to use. I know quite a few people with suture kits but none of them know how to use them and if they tried they would cause more damage than good. I highly recommend when building up a med kit to build it to match the level of training and skills of the person that will actively be using the kit.
I agree, training is king and practicing said training is crucial as Mellowdave said. I personally carry a first aid kit similar to those posted, but I also carry a dedicated O2 tank. That being said I am trained to an EMR level and find the use of oxygen is worth its weight in gold; far to many times has oxygen done so much for my patients.

For those who upgrade their kits, try to stay away from tactical type stuff that is designed for, well, tactical use. For instance, a tourniquet is probably more likely to cause harm than good and the same outcome can be achieved with a triangular and pressure points. This is only an example, and of course everything has its place and intended use.