Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rethinking My Pack - First Aid Kit

Back when I was first thinking about a backpacking first aid kit, I wrote about my background in first aid, what I assessed to be the risks, what I thought I'd need to deal with those risks, whether I'd be happy with a pre-built kit, and what I put together. See that post [here].

Back then I was packing for two and my kit weighed 13 ozs. Since then I've hiked 644 miles of the trail, and used the kit to deal with blisters, cuts, aches and pains. I swapped out tools for lighter ones, added stuff to better prevent and deal with blisters, but I never really tossed anything out. I figured I could find weight savings without impacting my ability to care for myself or others. When I pulled it out of my pack and put it on the scale, it weighed 12 ozs. So I dumped the contents on the counter, and broke out the scale. What I found after the break...

In order to more accurately measure some of the lighter items, I started working in grams. I guess this marks the time I became a true "gram weenie." The total kit weighed 380g including 60g of anti-inflammatories that were not included in the original kit's weight. I started looking for redundancies and where I might shave some weight.

I had a partial roll of Kinesio tape weighing 47 grams, which I really like for preventing and dealing with blisters, and several sheets of moleskin and fancy gel bandages weighing 17 grams. I hadn't used the latter, and I don't need to pack a whole roll of Kinesio. I cut a foot off the roll, which should be enough for 5-6 days, and put the rest of the roll in my bounce box.

The 60g of anti-inflammatories consisted of both ibuprofin (Motrin) and naproxin (Aleve) left over from when I was dealing with inflamed tendons in my heal. The two basically work the same, and so are redundant. Naproxin is a 3x daily drug which works better when trying to get a good night's sleep, so it stays and the ibuprofen goes.

It came to my attention from sports medicine types that one should not immediately reach for anti-inflammatories for general aches and pains because inflammation is a natural reaction important for healing. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to deal with early onset pain, and reserve the anti-inflammatories for those pains that don't go away after a few days. I counted out enough naproxin and acetaminophen for 6 days, and put the rest in my bounce box.

I also had a bag of other drugs such as aspirin (for heart attack), anti-histamines (itchiness, bee stings, sleep aid), loperamide (anti-diarrheal), and prescription meds. I didn't remove any item completely, but I did reduce qtys down to 6 days worth.

I had one of those tick keys and a pair of tweezers. The 5g tick key came out. I have a 12cc syringe for irrigating deep wounds that need to be closed. I'll loose that if I decide to pack the Sawyer water filter with it's big syringe. I might loose it anyway because one can use a squeeze bottle almost as effectively. I had replaced those nice, surgical-grade scissors with a smaller, lighter pair of sewing scissors. I like having scissors to cut tape, trim skin from blisters, etc, but I'm on the lookout for a lighter pair. I never used the nitrile gloves, but would if I was treating someone else. I had two pair, I put one in the bounce box. I reduced the amount of bandages a bit.

This is the v2 kit:

  • Small pair of scissors (moleskin, bandages, triming blistered skin)
  • Long, narrow, pointed tweezers (slivers, cleaning wounds, ticks)
  • 12cc syringe (cleaning wounds, eyes)
  • Upholstery needle (lancing blisters, equipment repairs)
  • Single edge razor blade
  • Bandaids (Waterproof, 3 ea med, large)
  • 2nd Skin Moist Burn Pad (1)
  • 2x2 Gauze Pads (2)
  • 4x4 Gauze Pads (2)
  • Steri Strips 1/8" x 3" (2 pks)
  • Roll guaze bandage (1 rl)
  • Sports tape (bandaging, taping ankles)
  • Naproxin Triple Antibiotic Ointment (partial tube)
  • Kinesio Tex Gold tape (2 6" sections)
  • Aspirin (1 2pk heart attack)
  • Antidiarrheal - Loperamide HCL (OTC)  (6 cap blister pack)
  • Antihistamine - Histaprin (OTC) (allergic reactions, sleep aid) (2 pks)
  • Hydrocortisone Cream (OTC) (rash) (2 pks)
  • Acetimenophen (Tylenol for pain relief) (5 day supply)
  • Naproxin (Advil for inflammation) (5 day supply)
  • Prescription-strength pain killer ( 2 day supply)
  • Benzoin Tincture Compound (Helps adhere bandages, moleskin)
  • Qtips
  • BZK Antiseptic towelettes 
  • Nitril gloves ( to protect you from me and vice versa)
  • Sea to Summit XXS SilNylon stuff bag
I could replace that 12g silnylon bag with a cuben fiber version for some weight loss. But that could set off an expensive desire to replace all the bags in my pack with cuben ...

I've been looking at replacing big ticket items for weight loss. If I spent $505 to replace my pack, sleeping bag and pad, I could loose 21 ozs, at an average cost of $24/oz. Replacing my tent with a cuben version would give me a 9 oz saving at $532 for a cost of $59/oz! Instead, this was an exercise in weight reduction by simply removing stuff from one's pack. My kit now weighs 9.5 oz/268g for a 112g loss. Thats almost 4 ozs that cost me $0/oz.

4 ozs may not sound like much. But it all adds up when we start looking critically at each system in our packs. At the very least, its an exercise worth undertaking before spending big bucks to achieve weight savings costing $24/oz!

Besides, at that rate I saved $96! Money I can spend towards a smaller, lighter pack once I've eliminated so much stuff I don't need the big one I have now!

If you want to see my thoughts on backpacking risks, on dealing with those risks, the original list, and my sources, read [here].

What would you add? What would you leave out? Inquiring minds you know ...


  1. I use electrical tape to keep bandages in place even when wet or sweating. A small bottle of high proof alcohol can serve multiple purposes including as a replacement for antiseptic wipes. It might be helpful have a strategy to prevent heat rashes especially. Anti-diarrheals could come in handy, but just as important, and overlooked are laxatives, most people don't get regular portions of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  2. I struggle with my first aid kit, thanks for shedding some light on the matter.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.