Things to consider when buying a first aid kit for an outdoor activity like camping, and there are plenty. Our experience tells us that the first thing you should consider is the activity you intend to do and the climate in which you intend to do it. For example, a first aid kit consisting of animal band-aids and a lollipop for the kids to use in your back garden won’t cut it on an ice climbing trip to Scandinavia.

Another important consideration is your skill: if you were to open your first aid kit, would you know how to use each item in it? Is it time to maybe sign up for a basic first aid course? Even the most complete first aid kit becomes useless if you lack the knowledge to give basic first aid.

For this guide, we will assume that we will be participating in a low-risk camping activity.

Our definition of a low-risk camping activity:

  • Falls from height will be unlikely.
  • The risk of immersion in dangerous waters (cold, deep, fast flowing, etc.) will be minimal.
  • Medical care is available within the hour.
  • Shelter, food, and water are no more than 4 miles or an hour’s walk away.

Always make sure you are competent to carry out any activity you plan to do. Use your judgment to determine the risk factor for your activity. Always be aware of any factors beyond your control: a sudden drop in temperature or visibility can make any activity dangerous.

Moving on to the first aid kit, the first thing that should be included in any kit is personal medication, that is, any medicine that you have been prescribed and that you would need on a day-to-day basis.

The rest of your kit should consist of at least:

  • Waterproof bag for first aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Pair of scissors
  • first aid tape
  • Antiseptic cream
  • anesthetic spray
  • Gauze Variety
  • Eye wash
  • Burn Relief Ointment
  • Variety of Bandages
  • Plasters / Band-Aids
  • Some form a pain reliever – Aspirin / Paracetamol / Ibuprofen
  • Latex gloves
  • An EpiPen or similar

You should consider including the following items if they are not already included in your survival kit:

  • Tweezers
  • A fire steel or similar
  • water purifying tablets
  • space blanket

Finally, the following we consider optional, but make great additions when package weight is not an issue:

  • hydrocortisone cream
  • Insect repellent
  • antihistamines
  • antacids

Please read below for a description of each item and its suggested use.

Waterproof bag for first aid kit

There is absolutely no reason not to have a waterproof first aid kit bag to hold the contents of your first aid kit. The items in your first aid kit should be kept clean and dry at all times – a wet first aid kit is almost like no first aid kit.

Flashlight / Torch

You will most likely carry a flashlight anyway, but you should always carry one in your first aid kit. This should be self explanatory; First aid is much more difficult in the dark. On top of this, a torch is a great morale booster when an injured member of your party is motionless in the dark.


Don’t just carry one whistle – carry one for each member of your party in case you need to split up or get separated for any reason. Not only is signaling required for help, it is equally important to signal to each other.
Pair of scissors

These have a variety of uses in many first aid scenarios, from clipping bandages and gauze to removing clothing in an emergency. Try not to use them for general tasks and try to keep them sterile whenever possible.

first aid tape

First aid tape has an unlimited number of uses, from a makeshift splint to gauze. A roll should be found in every emergency first aid kit.

Antiseptic cream

A minor cut or scrape would not normally cause a problem, until it becomes infected and can ultimately lead to very serious complications. Applying an antiseptic cream to prevent this from happening can be very important.

anesthetic spray

This can provide welcome relief from common mishaps such as burns, stings, bites, cuts, and scrapes. Be sure to read the attached leaflet for details on the use of the spray – different sprays can be used for different ailments.

Gauze Variety

Knowing when to use gauze is easy when you know its purpose: to help stop bleeding. Gauze is made of porous fibers designed to absorb and trap blood to help it clot. Do some research on when and when not to use gauze.

Eye wash

Some consider it unnecessary, but we like to carry an eyewash in our first aid kits so we know we have a convenient, sterile wash available in the event someone in our group is involved in an eye-related incident.

Burn Relief Ointment

It’s surprising how common burnouts are on camping trips, even for the most experienced. It can happen very easily, but luckily it can also be treated just as easily with the right equipment.

Variety of Bandages

This includes a variety of sizes as well as shapes and types. Do your research on bandages: learn how and when to use them. Learn how to use one in a splint, how to make a sling, how to make a tourniquet, etc. Knowing how to use each type will help you decide which type to stock your first aid kit with.

Plasters / Band-Aids

Use them to treat minor cuts and abrasions and help prevent infection. Remember to change the dressings regularly and clean the wound before reapplying a new one.

Aspirin / Paracetamol / Ibuprofen

It could be very dangerous to give pain relievers such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Always make sure the package insert that comes with these medicines is kept in the first aid kit for reference. Always read the package leaflet carefully and make sure that it is safe to treat the patient with painkillers. If you’re ever unsure, it’s always safer not to.

Latex gloves

These offer protection not only for the patient from infection, but also for the first aid provider. Always practice good hygiene procedures when treating a patient, both for their health and your own.

An EpiPen or similar

An EpiPen should never be used without proper medical training or knowledge. Given the right circumstances and a competent first responder, an EpiPen can significantly increase a patient’s chances of survival in anaphylactic shock. Once again, a thorough investigation is recommended.


They are ideal for removing foreign bodies from cuts and abrasions. Keep in mind that multitools, like the Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman, often have tweezers built in, along with a host of other useful items; if the weight of your package allows it, it may be worth investing in something similar.

A Fire Steel or similar

Some people carry a lighter or matches, we prefer a fire steel because we know we can trust it to work when we need it. You need one of these in your backpack whatever your activity; in fact, put one on your keychain. It can be used with any type of tinder to make a fire, can be used wet and is virtually indestructible.

water purifying tablets

Always keep water purification tablets in your medicine cabinet, whether you keep them in your survival kit or first aid kit. Even the simplest incidents can become drastic and life-threatening without water, and with its size and weight, there’s no excuse to go anywhere without it.

space blanket

This item is very useful for keeping a victim warm by reflecting their own body heat. Space blankets are useful in a variety of scenarios.

hydrocortisone cream

Hydrocortisone cream can be used on insect bites, nettle bites, and the like. Using a cream like this can help prevent simple things like bug bites and stings from ruining a camping weekend.

Insect repellent

Never underestimate the importance of an insect repellant. Why suffer through all those mosquito bites when you can apply insect repellant and forget about them?


Antihistamines are considered optional by many, unless of course you suffer from severe allergies. Again, these can help turn a miserable camping trip into an enjoyable one with a small tablet.


If you know you regularly suffer from excess stomach acid, don’t forget to pack a pack of these.

As a final note, all of the above items are useless without a competent first helper. If you participate in any outdoor activity, strongly consider taking a first aid course not only for your own benefit but also for that of others in your group.

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