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  First Aid for the Forest
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First Aid is an important subject if you're serious about hiking, hunting, or other wilderness experiences. If that's you, consider taking a First Aid course.

You can sign up for a course with your local EMT, Paramedic, or Ambulance service. Or you check out a Red Cross course at: http://www.redcross.org/services/hss/courses/


Even if you've got the greatest First Aid skills imaginable, it's important to learn how to not get yourself into situations where you need to use those skills in the first place. So before considering actual First Aid procedures, let's begin by thinking about how to prevent problems.

Develop a prevention strategy before a trip. Following this simple seven-step plan can help keep you out of sticky situations:

  1. Go with a competent buddy
  2. Take gear appropriate for your adventure. For example, most people don't need guns, knives, hatchets, and other gear that can be dangerous if handled carelessly.
  3. Walk on good ground over known terrain
  4. Advise others of your itinerary
  5. Pack a compass (or GPS) and a walkie-talkie
  6. If hiking in groups, pre-determine rendezvous points
  7. Pack proper medications (asthma inhalers, for example) and a First Aid kit

First Aid Kit Contents

While a trained First Aid provider should know how to improvise using just about any available materials, having a First Aid Kit on hand is as important as packing an extra pair of socks. You can buy Kits just about anywhere, from large department stores to outdoor sporting goods shops . But avoid ones manufactured by band-aid manufacturers - they often lack the real "goodies" that make a Kit really valuable. Here are a few suggestions:


Why gloves? If you can't wash your hands, thin latex gloves or plastic baggies over your hands are the only solution. I like plastic baggies, because you can rip out a corner and stick it in someone's mouth as a rescue-breathing barrier. And if you don't need them for first aid, you can just use them to hold trash!


SAM splints are recommended for orthopedic injuries, because they can be cut and molded and even make a usable cervical collar. They are also reusable. Wire splints are not recommended.


In North America, diarrhea is treated mostly as a joke. But if you somehow get lost or injured somewhere where you might not be found for several   days, dehydration from diarrhea can be serious. To retain fluids, a combination of sodium and glucose is recommended, such as a formula called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) developed by the World Health Organization. Kaolectrolyte is a commercial brand.

Wound Management

  • 3x3 and 4x4 Telfa gauze pads
  • Optional hydrogel dressings, such as Spenco 2nd skin
  • Peroxide in a tube
  • Wound closure strips (better than butterfly band-aids)
  • Tincture of benzoin (spread on the skin to help tape and bandages stick)
  • Waterproof cloth tape 1" wide: Also works for fixing tears
  • 1-1/2 or 2-inch roll of gauze
  • Alcohol swabs with Lidocaine
  • Dishwashing soap in a little bottle
  • 10% chlorine (Chlorox) solution in a bottle (also, add to dish rinse water to help prevent diarrhea)
  • "Super glue" for skin, sometimes sold as "Second Skin"--good for sealing cuts and building a protective layer on heels to prevent blisters
  • Elastic (ACE) bandages


  • Scalpel blades or single edge razor blades: For removing big splinters and blisters, etc.
  • Tweezers (if not on your knife)
  • Old plastic credit card to sweep away a bee stinger (flat of knife also works)--don't use a tweezers; it squeezes more venom into the skin
  • Stainless steel needle & thread: mostly for repairing gear
  • Hemostat: A needle nose pliers on a Leatherman makes a good substitute.
  • Fever Thermometer (on multi day trips)
  • Safety pins - although tape usually works better in a lot of cases, the pins are handy for some things, such as repairing clothing.
  • Mirror (metal)

Instruction card with First Aid info and Ground/Air signals

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