In this quick fire article, Anthony Eccles (ML) of Higher Climbing Mountaineering explores the subject of first aid kits and his thoughts behind what he takes out on the hill.
(If you are interested in learning to climb, hike up mountains, refine your navigation skills, explore flora and fauna of Snowdonia and more – get in touch with Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
What should I be carrying in my first aid kit?
When deciding what to put in your first aid kit, you should ask yourself, ‘What issues could I encounter?’ – Anything, is the answer. Though in reality, it’s most likely going to be things like; Blisters, cuts, grazes, twisted ankle, Anaphalaxis, Heart attack, Hypothermia, Diabetic Hypoglycemia and severe bleeds.
What can I do about them?
Some of these are more likely than others, and some are more life-threatening than others. The first ones are easy. Blisters can be solved with compeed (other blister plasters are available) or duct tape (cheaper). Small cuts/grazes hurt but aren’t life threatening, and are unlikely to cause serious issue so we can pretty much forget taking a box of elastoplasts – they don’t add anything that a bit of tissue and a dose of ManUp pills can’t. The latter issues give us a wide range of serious cases, some of which are very hard to treat in the middle of nowhere unless you happen to be carrying a spare hospital in your 30ltr rucksack. I hope to show you that your first aid kit should be fit for purpose, and that it doesn’t need to be too complicated but should be geared towards the serious conditions that are most likely to affect you – injured limbs (most likely), hypothermia and severe bleeds. Treating anything less serious that doesn’t require immediate medical attention can usually be improvised.
So, what should I carry in my first aid kit?
Personal first aid kits are precisely that; personal. What I carry does not necessarily relate to what you might carry, though there are good reasons for a few standard pieces of equipment that anyone heading out into the hills should be taking. I’m going to make a few assumptions. First, is that you know how to summon help if you are unfortunate enough to end up needing it. Secondly, the casualty is someone you don’t know. Third, there aren’t any pre-existing conditions that might require you to carry certain medication like an Asthma inhaler.
Treating bleeding is usually pretty simple. Bandages. Lots of them. And direct pressure. I personally use a mixture of crepe, triangular and military bandages. Military bandages are excellent due to their robust packet and absorbency. You can get these online easily enough for around £4 each. The others you can get from Boots etc.
Hypothermia is a very real concern (even in summer) and treating it could range from putting a few more layers on, to stopping to apply direct warmth to the casualty. Doing this would be very hard to do without an emergency shelter, something I highly recommend that everyone should carry. These are essentially a tent without poles, and can mean the difference between life and death if you have to sit to await rescue. They cost around £30-50 depending on size – they tend to be smaller than you expect so don’t expect to be able to get a casualty and yourself in to a 2 man one!
Diabetic hypoglycemia is generally pretty easy to treat – a glucose energy gel works best as it is quickly absorbed though a chocolate bar will have the same effect but I find they don’t stay in my kit long! Your own personal protection, should you come across a casualty you don’t know, is of high importance so I keep a few pairs of nitrile examination gloves stashed in almost every jacket and in my kit itself.
That’s pretty much it. First aid needn’t be complicated – you call for help, make the casualty comfortable, stem any bleeding, keep them warm, and await help. If you want to carry more stuff then feel free – it’s often better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!