Add Prevention to Lighten Your Load on Personal Trips
By Tod Schimelpfenig, WMI Curriculum Director
If you want to stir the conversation around the fire, gather together a few medical geeks and mention first aid kits. Everyone will have an opinion, likely with some emotion attached to it. If it’s still a dull evening, spin the talk to lightweight first aid kits and throw another log on the fire.
Our first aid kit opinions are influenced by our experience, our medical skills, what we anticipate might happen on the trip, and how prepared we want to be when we are called into action. When I’m responding to a search and rescue incident, I’m expected to be able to perform advanced life support skills. My medical kit reflects this—it’s large and heavy, not something I want to take on a backpacking trip. When I lead a NOLS course, I carry the NOLS Field First Aid Kit. It reflects what our experience tells us is useful for a group of 12 novices traveling in the wilderness for 30 days.
When I venture into the mountains with only two to four people for five to seven days, I’m prepared for what I know are common medical scenarios with my lightweight first aid kit. I know I can manage blisters with a pound of prevention and only ounces of medical gear. I also know that it’s difficult to carry enough wound care and other medical supplies for the uncommon, but gear intensive, incidents. In those cases, I’ll improvise.
My lightweight kit weighs eight ounces and is packaged in an ordinary Ziploc bag. It is designed to manage blisters and small wounds; treat uncomfortable, minor ailments such as nausea, itching rashes and diarrhea; control mild to moderate pain; and support an ankle sprain. But, no matter what you decide to carry, know how to use it. Look in your first aid kit before every trip; know what you have and what needs to be replaced. More importantly, don't forget your brain and your behavior. Thinking and acting with caution and care and focusing on prevention and risk management, are the most powerful medical tools in your first aid kit.