Essential First Aid Kit For The Outdoors

Since about 1991 I have been responsible for people in the outdoors in one guise or another: that’s decades! In all those years I have dealt with many first aid incidents with several that have needed the assistance of the emergency services. And you know what? In all those years, and in all those situations, from fallen climbers to hypothermic walkers to the chap who suffered with a heart attack on Great Gable … I don’t think I have ever used a single bandage as a first aider. What I almost always have needed, was a calm head, a reassuring voice, something to keep my casualty warm, and a plan. So if you cover nothing else, make sure you know what to do, and have something to keep your casualty warm and off the cold floor.

Picture of two people sat in a shelter on a wet day

Here I look at what you should reasonably consider carrying as a first-aider in the great British outdoors. I haven’t suggested something for every conceivable situation  since often you will have to use your initiative, or simply make do. And anyway, if you end up packing your fears, you’ll simply pack a first aid kit that is so large you’d just leave it at home!


Individual first aid kit for the UK

A key consideration here is that exposure to the environment can be the most dangerous factor affecting you and your casualty’s safety and situation. Also it is presumed here that you will be in a remote environment away from shelter.  And naturally the best thing that you can invest in is first aid training!

1 x half roll mat
1 x survival bag / group shelter (depending on what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with)
2m of Gaffa tape rolled around a water bottle
1 x mobile phone (kept inside a plastic wallet)
2 x pair of protective nitrile gloves
several low adherent pads (different sizes)
2 x Israeli wound dressings
2 x packs of steri-strips
1 x crepe bandage
10 x assorted plasters
3 x antiseptic wipes
1 x tube of Savlon antiseptic cream
1 x packet second skin / moleskin
1 x blister kit – eg Compede
3 x triangular bandages
1 x pencil or Write in the Rain pen
1 x tweezers
1 x tough cut scissors
1 x tick removal tool
1 x casualty monitoring card
1 x packet of ibuprofen*
1 x packet of paracetomol*
1 x packet of anti-histamine tablets*
4 x aspirin tablets

Casualty Monitoring Card (plus a pencil)

This really is one piece of kit that weighs next to nothing and takes up little or no space. Print yours out on an A4 piece of paper (ideally waterproof paper). I have written a post on the need and advantages for carrying a casualty card here, but in short you need to carry/use one of these since:

There are four good reasons why you should carry and use one of these …

  1. As a medical record
    You are potentially the first on the scene. Hence you are best placed to record what has happened there and potentially before the casualty has lost consciousness.
  2. It can inform your decisions
    One aspect of using the casualty card is that you use it to monitor and record the casualty’s vital signs: pulse, breathing, colour, temperature, and state of alertness. In turn it keeps you focused on how the casualty’s condition may be changing. As you gain information you’re better able to make decisions.
  3. It is of use for the medics who take over
    Recording the vital signs and recording them every five minutes means that when the medics arrive they have an idea of how your casualty is progressing: getting worse? Getting better? Staying stable?
  4. It can massively reassure the casualty that you know what you are doing
    And this is the best reason in my experience for using a casualty card – it makes you, a humble first aider, look incredibly professional and this is hugely reassuring to the casualty and to anyone with them.

It costs practically nothing, it weighs practically nothing and this one piece of first aid kit is enormously beneficial. So if you don’t already carry one in your first aid kit – now’s the time to get online and to print a few off.

Nb. All the kit listed in this post carries the central theme of being low-weight, low-bulk whilst also being very versatile. All items could be of huge assistance in many situations. I have also assumed here that you will be carrying gloves automatically. If it’s a summer’s day and you don’t have any gloves packed, you’ll need to add some blue nitrile gloves to the list too!

Will Legon (of ) works professionally in the outdoors leading groups walking, mountain biking and instructing single pitch rock climbing. Since 2009 Will has been delivering first aid training specialising in outdoor first aid coursesHe is an ITC (Immediate Temporary Care) trainer, offering a range of courses accredited by Ofqual and the SQA. In a former life, Will was a maths teacher and an infantry officer in the Territorial Army.

Further Reading