EMS Tips First Aid

Top 3 Items for a Backcountry First Aid Kit

Since I spend a lot of time outdoors and I am a lead instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates I am often asked what should be in a backcountry first aid kit. This question is especially important for lightweight backpackers, day hikers, cyclists, hunters, cross country skiers, and other outdoors enthusiasts that don’t have a boat or a vehicle to carry a large first aid kit.

When choosing first aid kit contents first select the items you cannot improvise. Those items are:

1) Nitrile Exam Gloves – to protect yourself from blood and other potentially infectious material.

2) CPR Pocket Mask – for delivering rescue breaths to a patient with absent or inadequate breathing.

3) Timekeeping device – like a watch or cell phone with a stop watch. After those three essentials a lot of other equipment for bleeding control and splinting can be improvised.

The obvious exception to improvisation is medications. Choose medications – over the counter and prescription – based on known history of yourself and other participants, likely problems (such as pain on a backpacking trip), and access to additional first aid kit supplies in a vehicle or boat.

In this short video I discuss selecting a first aid kit. Generally I prefer a pre-packaged first aid kit appropriate for my activity and destination. Use the comments area to ask specific questions about selecting first aid kit supplies for your next outdoor adventure. Visit for course information and locations.


By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.