Would you know how to survive if something went wrong on a Sawtooth backcountry hike or a Salmon River rafting trip? Have you been trained in first aid and CPR? Is your trusty first aid kit within arms reach in an emergency? Unless you answered “yes” to all three of those questions, you probably aren’t as prepared as you could be.

Let's start with your first aid kit. If you have one, good for you. You're better prepared than a lot of people. You kit should be compact, well-stocked and updated frequently. It should also be tailored to your trip and style of recreation. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your kit should be appropriate to your destination; your medical needs will be different in the summer vs. the winter, the desert vs. the mountains, etc.
  • Similarly, if you're within easy driving distance of emergency care (McCall or Sun Valley, for example), you may not need as comprehensive of a kit as someone trekking into the Frank Church wilderness.
  • Take into consideration the individual health needs of your fellow travelers: are you prepared to treat someone with asthma, diabetes or a life-threatening allergy?
  • Check frequently for expired medications or other out-of-date supplies.
  • Do you have too much? Your kit should be relatively small and lightweight. You don't want something heavy or cumbersome on a 10-day backpacking trek.

If you don't have a kit, don't worry - they're fairly easy and inexpensive to put together. Here is a sample packing list from our neighbors at the Washington Trails Association:

  • Bandages
  • 4-inch closure strips or butterfly closures
  • 4 inch by 4 inch sterile dressing pads (5 to 10)
  • Non-adherent sterile dressing (2 inch by 2 inch)
  • Gauze roll
  • Small roll of 1-inch adhesive tape
  • Multi-use tool or knife
  • Forceps or tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Malleable splint
  • Irrigation syringe (35 cc)
  • Suction syringe (65 cc)
  • Safety pins
  • Cotton-tip swabs
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • ACE, Coban, or other rubberized bandage
  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Cleansing pads with lidocaine
  • Topical antibiotic ointment
  • Moleskin
  • Povidone Iodine USP 10 percent, 1 oz.
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Pain relievers, including aspirin and Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines
  • Immodium 2 mg capsules or tablets
  • Pepto Bismol or antiacid tablets
  • After Bite or hydrocortisone cream USP 1 percent
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • CPR microshield mask
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Space bag/blanket
  • Paper and pencil
  • Wilderness First Aid booklet

That sounds like a lot, we know, but keep in mind that you're not packing a family-sized bottle of Tums and a jumbo box of Costco bandages. Try to purchase small, individual packets of medications and pack travel-sized versions of items like scissors. It also sounds expensive, but most things - like bandages, aspirin, cotton swabs, etc. - you may have laying around the house.

If putting together your own kit just doesn't sound like your idea of fun, there's an infinite variety of kits available online. Whether your budget is $20 or $200, you're sure to find one that meets your needs. Here are some sites you might check:

So, what are you waiting for? Assemble your kit and hit the road ... or trail or river!