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Safety doesn’t happen by accident. Travelling can be a whole lot of fun but staying safe and in good health while your on the road takes a little bit of planning and preparation before you leave. It’s really not that scary or difficult to do.

Imagine this, you’re about to take off on the trip of a life time. This one special day that you’ve been working oh so very hard towards is fastly arriving. You’re saying farewell to friends and family. Promising to send postcards and regular updates. In between social events, the day to day drudgery of working a job so you can afford to travel and doing final preparations. You’ve consulted the gear experts, you’ve googled your ass off and you’re ready to roll.

As you roll socks and jocks, stumble with zip off pants and decide to throw them away and you’re about to zip up your newly bought backpack. And there’s no space left. None. You have micro fibre towels, hiking socks, a 10,0000mm waterproof jacket that does yoga and squishes itself into a pocket. Yet sitting out there on it’s lonesome is that teeny tiny first aid kit. That square squat bulky bundle of life saving gear. That’s just not going to fit in. So maybe you decide to leave it behind. Surely you’ll never need to use a first aid kit. You’ll just rely on the kindness of strangers to patch you up.

Real travellers don’t need a first aid kit. Just a keen sense of adventure and the desire to get dysentery.

Only tourists bother with travel insurance, clean underwear and a first aid kit.

Common First Aid Kit Failures That Backpackers Make

This is literally my reaction whenever anyone brings up the Tourist vs Traveller rubbish. Because that’s what this debate is – totally rubbish.

As we’ve travelled around, stayed in hostels and been on tours we’ve noticed a distinct trend in backpackers and the lack of preparedness. Here are a few common first aid kit failures that backpackers make.

Weighty Issue

Your first aid kit doesn’t need to weigh a tonne and take up a whole compartment in your bag. Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in the situation where you need to self amputate a limb and treat yourself for weeks on end alone in the forest.

Some commercial kits weight less then 280gm for a comprehensive kit for one person. If you’re worried about the weight of your first aid kit think about how much weight you’ll loose when that scratch gets infected and your arm is amputated*

*Ok sorry that might be an over reaction but seriously. It’s not that much weight to take with you.

Common First Aid Kit Failures That Backpackers Make || Traveling Honeybird

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Date?

When was the last time that you checked your first aid kit? Restocked your first aid kit or even knew where it was? The night before an adventure? On several occasions my first aid kit has been raided by fellow travellers who failed to check that care items were in date. Or that those wrappers actually contained the bandages needed.

This task is just as important and washing and folding my new socks before an adventure. I take a stock take of what’s in my kit, look at use-by dates and make sure that I have all the things that I consider necessary for my personal survival.

Too Much Too Little?

Are you taking too much or too little? Most of our adventures in recent years have involved remote locations, with limited to no mobile phone coverage or the ability to get help in an emergency. So generally speaking I probably pack my first aid kit on the too much side of life.

There are  a few emergency items that I just don’t travel without. These are additional to the standard first aid kit that we travel with.

  • Spare sunglasses
  • Paw-paw lip balm
  • Hydrolite/Gastrolite/ Electrolyte supplement. Travelling can be really stressful on the body even before you get a dose of travellers tummy. I find these are a great way to refresh yourself and make drinking water a little bit more pleasant.
  • Cold & Flu tablets – without a doubt someone usually picks up a cold on the way. We don’t have time to let a runny nose stop us from running around.
  • Opsite Flex – Commonly known as plastic skin. This stuff is great for covering open wounds and keeping water/dirt out of the wound. I have a variety of Opsite in my first aid kits. Some have padding.
  • Gastro Stop (Imodium/loperamide)
  • Probiotic

Go through all the items in your First-Aid Kit and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I really need this?
  2. What could happen if I don’t have it?
  3. Is there something missing?

Generic list of things to have.

The below is a very generic bare minimum list of items I’d suggest that you have with you. Remember that this isn’t a comprehensive list and doesn’t take into consideration your current financial or medical situation.

Depending on the brands and packaging this below list weighs less then 150grams.

Bandage Materials
5 – Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1″ x 3″
3 – Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
2 – Bandage, Butterfly Closure
1 – Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 2″
2 – Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2″ x 2″, Pkg./2
2 – Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 3″ x 3″, Pkg./2
1 – Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3″ x 4″
Blister / Burn
1 – Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
Instrument
3 – Safety Pins
1 – Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
Medication
2 – After Bite Wipe
2 – Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
2 – Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2
2 – Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
2 – Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
Wound Care
6 – Antiseptic Wipe
2 – Alcohol Swab
1 – Tape, 1/2″ x 10 Yards
1 – Skin Tac™ Topical Adhesive, Wipe
2 – Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use

 

Do you know how to use that?

The right first-aid kit can save your life when you’re on the road, so it’s worth investing the time and the money to get it right for your personal needs. And just maybe one last note: we strongly recommend you get trained in wilderness (or any) first aid before heading out into the big scary world. Most courses are tax deductible and only take a day or a few evenings to complete. Now a days courses have e-learning available with a practical test to be completed.

A first-aid kit is like any other piece of gear. It won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use it.

The above information is taken from our on the road experiences. We suggest that you talk to your local Dr before taking any adventure and check with your health care professional on what medications are suitable for you. If you don’t want to see your local healthcare professional but are still after some great travel healthcare advise then we highly recommend Mike from the Bemused Backpackers Travel Clinic – The Travel Clinic is here to answer all your travel health related questions before you set off on your gap year or backpacking trip.

Is there any one thing that you can’t leave behind in your first aid kit? Let us know in the comments below.

Jeanette

Jeanette

Founder, Principal Blogger & Coffee Drinker

Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.

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Common First Aid Kit Failures That Backpackers Make || Traveling Honeybird

26 Comments

  1. I always pack my first aid kit depending on where I am traveling to. There are items that shouldn’t ever leave the bag and you should always have insurance, I agree to that. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Reply
  2. I’m kind of in the mind-set that’s like the opposite of Murphey’s Law… If I prepare for it, it won’t happen. And so far that’s been true. I’ve always had insurance and always carried first aid and I’ve NEVER needed it!

    Reply
    • Oh so true!!

      Reply
  3. I totally agree. No matter what kind of trip I’m heading out on, I always have a ziplock bag full of First Aid Supplies. You never know when you are going to need them, or need to help someone else!

    Reply
  4. Great post and definitely something people over look. I also carry a foil blanket, plus herbal constapation tablets so you can reverse situations if needed. I also suffer travel sickness so have pills and ginger sweets. Mine is pretty big as you can gather ha ha

    Reply
    • No it sounds as if you are prepared!!! Which we all need to be

      Reply
  5. Great advise and really well thought out. I think this is important and such an easy problem-avoider! I will definitely be picking up a small kit for my travels soon.

    Eb x

    Reply
  6. We carry a first aid kit when we go hiking and backpacking, and so far we have been very lucky, but I wasn’t as lucky in our trip last February (it wasn’t a hiking thing so we did not bring our kit) when I got bitten by a dog! Thankfully, we were at our friend’s place, and though they live by the mountains, there’s a hospital less than an hour away. This is really important!

    Reply
  7. I never think to bring a first aid kit with me! All I brought with me on my last trip was a couple different meds for basic things like headaches. Next time I’ll be a little more prepared!

    Reply
    • You really should. It’s so important to be self sufficient

      Reply
  8. Great tips here. This has reminded me that I need to check the expiration dates on the stuff in my mini first aid kit because I’m sure some of it is horribly out of date.

    Reply
  9. Great post! Sometimes you just forget about the little things you need!

    Reply
  10. So handy! I always have a small bag of bandaids and pills with me but I have to admit I rarely restock or pay attention to expiry dates!

    Reply
  11. I must confess my first aid kit is non existent, maybe I have a few band aid in with my toiletries, but that’s it. I imagine I could always go to the nearest mart if I was really desperate but having thought about it I was traveling through Western Africa without a first aid kit and there weren’t any marts, or even restaurants. I should take some form of first aid kit on my next voyage to a 3rd world country at least.

    Reply
    • On any trip you should have one!

      Reply
  12. We agree and always carry first kits too. Love the suggestions for the additional, non typical items too. There are some real gems there.

    Reply
  13. Thanks for sharing this article. I always carry a first aid kit with me and people used to laugh at me, but having worked for a travel insurance compay I know the risks. Next time ai pack my kit I’will make sure I use your list, very helpful.

    Reply
  14. Ha yeah, I’m a student doctor and my first aid kit could still be better. I travel with basic drugs and items for wound care as a minimum, especially on long hikes or treks. I tend to take less to big cities because I know I have access to everything and would never travel without travel insurance, though I’m surprised how many people who do. I also love papaw and it goes with me wherever I go, couldn’t live without it! <3

    Reply
  15. I’m SOO with you on the traveler vs tourist argument. What a waste of time!! We never leave home without a first aid kit – you just never even know what will happen! We always have one for all the ‘maybes’ in life!! 🙂 Great post to get people talking!

    Reply
  16. I wouldn’t consider traveling without a basic first aid kit, especially because I like to hike. A simple kit that will get you through an immediate disaster to a pharmacy or doctor doesn’t have to take up much space. Like you said, bandages and tape are light. Thanks for this reminder to stay safe!

    Reply
    • Yet so many people don’t take these things along with them. It’s rather scary

      Reply
  17. Most travelers don’t even think about carrying a first aid kit. Then something bad happens. I fully endorse moleskin, especially for hikers. It’s great for preventing blisters on the trail. Also, what’s paw paw lip balm? I have this image of mashed up paw paw fruit in a tin!

    Reply
    • It’s pretty much that! It’s a life saver 😉

      Reply
  18. Haha I’m a pharmacist myself and how ashamed I am to to we never actually carried a first aid kit during our travels expect for a few anti-inflammatory gels and OCD drugs to release pain. This post was like an eye opener and we are soon going to hike central highlands here in Sri Lanka. it’s definitely the time to add a well-stocked first aid kit! Thanks for this post.

    Reply
  19. My first aid kit is absolutely pathetic as far as first aid kits come! Right now it’s just full to the brim of novelty band-aids (Finding Nemo, Disney Princess and Cars!), antiseptic cream, a foil blanket and a whistle. I bought one of those super lightweight ones you mentioned from an outdoors store about four years ago and, although my supplies have severely depleted over time, I haven’t properly re-stocked. I definitely should before my next trip away, though, and will likely take a lot of inspiration from this post! Electrolytes are something I ALWAYS overlook but end up kicking myself for forgetting!

    Reply
    • It’s such a vital piece of equipment that we tend to forget. I always take electrolytes. Makes such a difference if you do get sick.

      Reply

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