A hiking first aid kit is indispensable for safe hiking. Backpacking first aid kits are even more essential when help is far away.

Your wilderness first aid kit must be as complete as possible within the limits of reasonable weight and size.

It should be tailored to your skills, the size and medical needs of your group, your location, length of trip, and the hazards you are most likely to encounter.

I highly recommend taking a wilderness first aid course.

You’ll learn basic first aid for hikers and backpackers, the skills you need to properly assess and treat injuries and health problems in the wilderness.

Some of the skills you learn are how to improvise splints, slings, and other items using your regular equipment and material from the wilderness.

Hiking First Aid KitThis allows you to carry fewer items in your backpacking first aid kit.

If you can’t find a wilderness first aid course in your area, you should at least take a basic first aid/CPR course through the Red Cross, or do an online course in your free time.

When planning your hiking or backpacking trip, think about how to contact emergency help in the event of a serious injury.

Will you have a satellite phone, personal locator beacon, spot gps, or cell phone? (Remember that cell phones are often out of network range in the backcountry.)

If you will not have any means of contacting emergency help, then your backcountry first aid kit must be very well-stocked, and you should know how to care for an injured person for an extended amount of time.

You can buy outdoor first aid kits or make your own.

Make Your Own Hiking First Aid Kit

Making your own outdoor first aid kits allows you to tailor them more closely to your specific needs.

Pack it in a waterproof, durable container, and stow it in an easy-to-access spot–an outer pocket or the top of your backpack.

Here are the supplies you need. The “Essential” column lists items that should be in every hiking first aid kit; the “Extras” column contains items that may be optional depending on your location, skills, and group needs.

DIY Hiking First Aid Kit Items

Read and Record Items

  • First aid manual
  • Pen or pencil
  • Notepad


  • Adhesive bandages
  • Medical tape
  • Moleskin
  • Gauze pads
  • Ace bandage
  • Butterfly bandage


  • Knife
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Plastic gloves
  • Small mirror
  • CPR face shield
  • Sling
  • Splint
  • Ice pack
  • Thermometer
  • Irrigation syringe

Drugs & Lotions

  • Pain reliever
  • Antiseptic
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antacid
  • Prescription medications
  • Burn ointment
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Anti-allergy
  • Anti-itch


  • Snake bite kit
  • Bee sting kit

Use the pen and notepad to keep records of injuries — people involved, causes, symptoms, time of injury, and any other relevant information. This is especially important in more serious, life-threatening situations.

Keep all empty wrappers in your wilderness first aid kit, so you know what to replace when you get home.

With a well-stocked backpacking or hiking first aid kit and some basic first aid skills, you’ll be better prepared, safer, and have more peace of mind in all your backcountry travels.

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