While hiking may be far safer than off-roading on an ATV or scaling cliff faces while rock climbing or canyoneering, accidents still happen. For the most part, these accidents are relatively minor. Rolled ankles, skinned knees, and bug bites might be painful, but if you know how to treat them on the trail, they won’t ruin your trip. But to treat them properly, you’ll need to have a few essentials on hand. Keep reading to learn what every first aid kit DIY should include.
A small scratch from a thorny cactus or a close brush with a rocky surface might not seem dangerous. It may bleed a bit, but if you’re like many hikers, you’ll wipe it away and continue on. And if you’re only day hiking and will be back in civilization where you can clean the cut, you’ll be fine. But if you’re going to be on the trail any longer, even the tiniest cut can become a major threat.
Dirt and other debris in your cut can carry bacteria. If that bacteria isn’t cleaned away, the infection may set in. It takes just 1 to 3 days for an infection to start. Left untreated, the infection can become deadly.
In the absence of clean running water and soap, antiseptic wipes are a must for cleaning and disinfecting cuts and scrapes. Alcohol-based wipes are good, though BZK-based (benzalkonium) wipes are even better.
For lengthier hikes, the antibacterial ointment is a great second-step after cleaning the wound with wipes. This ointment not only helps to prevent infections but also promotes faster healing.
Adhesive Bandages in Various Sizes
If there’s one thing that most hikers bring along in their DIY first aid kit, it’s adhesive bandages. These quick-fix-its can be used to cover cuts, scrapes, bug bites, blisters, and more. They’re easy to apply and change, cheap, and small enough to carry a handful in your pack. They keep your cuts sealed away, preventing further dirt and debris from reaching the wound.
Don’t just purchase a one-size box though. Pack a variety of shapes and sizes to cover any type of injury. Waterproof bandages will stay on through sweat, rain, and creek crossings.
When a cut does occur, resist the urge to slap on a bandaid and deal with it later. It’s easy to forget a dirty cut when you’re busy enjoying Zion’s stunning views. Take a few moments to clean the cut first, then bandage it.
Regular bandaids in a variety of sizes are great for minor cuts, scrapes, and bites. But if you have a wider cut that bleeds profusely or that may need stitches, you’ll need a different kind of bandage.
Butterfly bandages, also known as adhesive wound-closure strips, are designed to pull the skin back together. This prevents further pulling on the wound, which often results in more bleeding.
Gauze Pads and Medical Tape
If your store of bandages doesn’t include one large enough for your cut, you’ll want this next item in your first aid kit. Gauze pads can be used to cover larger exposed wounds. Simply fold a piece to the size you need and tape it in place–after cleaning the wound, of course.
Gauze pads can also be used to clean up and blot blood from wounds. They are much better to use than your bandana or a shirt, as either may end up introducing bacteria to the wound.
Small splinters may not be life-threatening, but they can certainly put a damper on your hike. A pair of tweezers won’t take up much space in your pack or add a noticeable amount of weight. But when you get a tiny, painful splinter in your hand, foot, or elsewhere, you’ll be grateful you remembered them.
A Blister Kit (Or a DIY Version)
Blisters are another common, annoying hiking injury. Whether you’re breaking in new boots, wearing wet socks, or just have a spot rubbing raw on your feet, blisters can leave you wishing you’d stayed at your resort that day.
A blister kit can help you treat your raw spot so that you can continue on your way (mostly) pain-free. These small kits usually include wipes for cleaning the blisters, some sort of ointment for treating them, and a bandage that protects and cushions the blister to reduce your pain. You can pick up one of these kits at any of the hiking outfitters in Springdale, online before your trip, or at many local grocery stores.
If you don’t want to spend $10 or more on a blister kit, you can also create your own. You should already have antiseptic wipes and ointment in your kit. Use these to clean and treat your blisters. Then, cover them in a small bandage. Finally, you’ll need a small roll of duct tape, which you can make by rolling tape around itself so that you don’t have to carry an entire roll. Use this tape to cover the blister area. The duct tape will reduce friction between your skin and your socks and boots, which will reduce pressure on the blister and keep new ones from forming.
You can even use this tape method before a blister forms to reduce pressure on your skin and stop raw spots before they start.
Anti-Itch Treatment and Antihistamine
Bug bites are a major annoyance on many trails, even during the heat of the summer and especially around water sources. While bug spray should be in your backpack, anti-itch treatment and an antihistamine to treat allergic reactions are a must in any first aid kit.
Hiking First Aid Guide
Even if you know how to perform first aid on the trail, it’s a good idea to keep a guide on hand. You can choose from small books or even guide cards to carry with you. These can help you treat injuries you’ve never come across before. It can help your companions who may not have first aid experience help you if you get hurt. It can also be great for keeping you calm and focused during a high-stress situation.
Packing Your DIY First Aid Kit
Now that you know what should be in your DIY first aid kit, it’s time to get packing. Don’t forget to store your supplies in a waterproof bag to protect them from rain or creek crossings. Before you hit the trail, review that first aid guide and consider taking a course, either online or in person, to help ensure that you know how to treat common hiking injuries so that they won’t put a quick end to your trip!