Throw Bags, Accessories and WorkShops "Gear For Life"

First Aid Kits

Suggestions for First Aid Kits for Paddlers
                                                                                                               -- Jim Simmons

Commercial kits can be ordered from or from if you'd like to go that route. These manufacturers use the advice of people involved in wilderness medicine, and their kits come with supplies that are smaller in size thus taking up less space.

If you want to develop your own kit we have standard recommendations. The list comes from our outdoor paddling experiences, first responder training, as well as from course formats in city first responder and wilderness medicine from both Wilderness Medicine Institute (NOLS) and SOLO of New Hampshire. Many of these things can be gathered at discount drug stores, Wal-Mart or other such stores. A useful trick is to partner with a paddling friend to share packaged items, thus saving on total costs for your kit.

A) For managing Injuries--
small EMT or bandaging scissors (4 1/2 inch)
12 cc wound irrigation syringe
triangular bandage
9 X 5 inch trauma bandage (Kotex pad can work)
4-6 inch elastic bandage wrap
3 inch comforming roller gauze
3 inch X 5 yds Coban elastic wrap
1 inch X 10 yds adhesive tape
small quantity Betadine solution (or use potable water)
antibiotic foil packets (small)
steri-strip wound closures (butterfly closures an alternative)
tuncture-benzoin (to make steri-strips stick)
transparent film dressing (op cit or tegaderm, etc)
regular bandaids (dozen) and knuckle bandages
antiseptic towelettes
4 X 4 inch gauze pads; 3 X 4 inch non-stick pads
moleskin (blisters) or even 2nd skin
medications (benadryl, immodium, and NSAIDS)
zip-lock bags (to collect bio-hazard material)
might consider: Epi-pen auto-injector

B) Tools you'll need--
latex and nitrile gloves (handling body fluids)
CPR pocket mask (an option is a smaller life mask)
Backcountry First Aid manual (small)
patient assessment forms, pad and pencil/pen
single blade razor (or small scapel)
sunscreen, bandanna, big safety pins (myriad uses)
fire starter and duct tape
small emergency space flanket
survival items (flagging tape, water disinfection, etc.)
empty ziplock bags for bio-hazard collection
$20 (pay for emergency shuttle); quarters for phone
*you can add personal items to your kit
Rules, or commandments, for first aid kits:
a) know how to use what you carry in your kit. Take and maintain first aid and CPR training. Helping another paddler will depend most of all on your knowledge and skill.
b) keep freshly dated supplies in your kit.
c) don't hesitate to spend the money for a commercial kit already stocked with the needed items that comes in a compact size (you can add other items you prefer). The manufacturers mentioned above also provide re-stocking supplies for kits.

First aid kits are an important item in your 'rescue tool bag'. Don't leave the putin without one even if it is just a small, personal kit.

JS--Original list 2/'01; revised 6/'09
Jim Jones, an ACA Rescue Instructor and First Responder contributed to this article.

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