Do you have everything you need in your camping first aid kit? We learned the hard way that we didn’t!
We had a bit of a scare not too long ago when another kid was stung multiple times, and no one had any Benadryl handy. Luckily it all worked out, but it made us realize we did not have an adequate first aid kit available in our camping gear. We realized it was time to get serious about our camping first aid kit.
Growing up in California, I always had an emergency backpack in the car and even though I don’t currently live in earthquake country I still advocate keeping one around. In that backpack I have fresh water, some simple meal items, and a basic first aid kit. After discussion with the nurses in our family, we added some items for a proper first aid kit for our camping adventures and, so far, it seems to work out well.
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My original first aid kit was based on the Red Cross First Aid Kit list. However for camping we have found some additional needs (such as a light-up magnifying glass to help with splinters!). Luckily, we either car camp or take an RV so we have room to carry these additional items. Additionally, some of their items (such as the emergency blanket) we always carry in our vehicles as part of our three-day emergency kits, so we don’t duplicate those.
At a minimum, your camping first aid kit needs to include supplies and remedies to provide relief for the majority of situations that might arise: abrasions, blisters, cuts, insect stings, sunburn, etc. This means you will need items for those allergic reactions, pain relief, stings and bites, and wound care.
Caveat: this is not a list of everything we keep in our home first aid kit. That kit is even more extensive.
Allergy & Bites
I get allergy shots and sometimes they will flare up immediately. My allergy nurses always have some of this they can use as a preventative or if I start itching as soon as I get the shot. This works wonders and so I now carry some with me every time we go camping or hiking.
I’ve never had a severe reaction after my shots, but I am aware of the possibility of anaphylaxis and I do carry an Epi-pen with me at all times. In case you are wondering, here are some symptoms of anaphylaxis to watch out for from the Mayo Clinic:
- Loss of consciousness
- A drop in blood pressure
- Severe shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- A rapid, weak pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
On the off chance that you are stung by a bee or wasp, this suction tool that extracts the saliva/venom from under the skin helps alleviate the itching, stinging, and swelling that occurs. By removing the irritant, our bodies stop producing the reaction and the problem has been eliminated instead of masked.
We started using calendula cream when our child was just a baby and we keep a tube of it in our camping first aid kit because it is useful for so many things: cuts, scrapes, chafing, minor burns, and sunburn to name just a few. Some use it instead of hydrocortisone cream. We use both at different times.
Everyday Allergy Medicine
We take allergy medication every day regardless of if we are at home or away, so I always pack some extra above and beyond our daily doses. It won’t go bad because I will just cycle it back into use at home and this helps if we get the opportunity to stay an extra day or two.
Hydrocortisone is used to reduce redness, swelling, and itching. I like to buy the topical cream in packet sizes to share with others as needed. It seems more sanitary than sharing a tube.
First aid supplies
Antibiotic ointment is used to prevent and treat minor skin infections that have been caused by small cuts, burns, or scrapes. It works by stopping the growth of bacteria and will not treat any infections caused by fungi or viruses.
Antiseptic wipes should be sting free and can be used prior to the application of antibiotic ointment to kill germs and sanitize the skin.
Alcohol wipes do have a place in a first aid kit, but they should be used on things, not people. You know what they are especially great at? Helping to start a fire when the logs aren’t cooperating.
Having Band-aids in your camping kit is just as important as having band-aids in your car when you have a child. Trips to the playground or ballfield often end up with scraped up knees, shins, and elbows. We started off by buying one of those big boxes of mixed style bandages and then splitting it into smaller Ziplock bags for our various first aid kits and now we restock based on what sizes are running out.
Instant Cold Compress
A cold compress is useful for slowing or stopping bleeding, reducing swelling, and reducing inflammation. However, while camping, we can’t always guarantee having the ice available to make an ice pack. Enter these instant cold compresses that work when activated. We love these just as much as we love hot hands for cold nights.
Gauze pads and roller bandages
We like to keep a couple of sizes of sterile gauze pads in our kit: 3 by 3 inch and 4 by 4 inch are the most readily available. Again, we purchase a box and distribute them throughout our various kits. Keeping rolls of gauze bandage is also handy for when the pads aren’t the correct size. The most common sizes we have found of that is either 3 inches or 4 inches wide. Either one works for us.
It is important to always have a pain reliever and fever reducer with you. While acetaminophen might be the preferred choice of many, we have a family allergy, so ibuprofen is our choice.
Tape and scissors
Some adhesive cloth tape (and scissors to cut to size) is useful to hold the gauze in place. If you don’t want to keep scissors in your kit but will have a pocketknife (and the ability to sterilize it) available, the scissors would be optional.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Your hands carry germs. Their injury carries germs. We don’t want to share germs, so gloves are nice to have when it comes time to do first aid.
Absorbent Compress Dressings
No one likes to think about needing something to soak up blood while camping but bad bike spills have been known to happen. Having some of these in our kit means we are better prepared.
Same goes for these triangular bandages. We don’t ever want to use them but having the ability to quickly create a sling or tourniquet while waiting for medical attention can be useful.
If someone in your party is suffering from a sprain, strain, or a pulled muscle, don’t forget RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
- Rest – the most important piece of advice to allow your body to heal
- Ice – you might not have an ice pack available, but this is why we carry instant cold packs
- Compression – this is when an ace bandage comes in handy
- Elevation – the goal is to have the affected body part higher than your heart
Eyewash/saline for eye rinse
Having campfires means that soot can fly around and if it gets into your eyes it can be painful. I once had to drive my father to the emergency room after he scratched his cornea while burning leaves. If we had done an eye rinse first, he still would have needed to go be checked out, but it wouldn’t have been as bad.
You may only know iodine from donating blood, but it is a broad-range antimicrobial that kills bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, and yeast which means it will protect the skin against any microbes until the solution is washed from the skin. In other words, it is extremely useful to keep around. Warning: those with shellfish allergies should stay away from iodine.
Wound Rinse and/or extra 8 oz bottle of clean water
Sometimes at camping sites, on the trail or at the ballfield we do not always have access to fresh water so having liquid to wash off or rinse out a wound is not a bad idea. We love this wound rinse.
Aloe Vera Gel
We are assuming you have already packed the sunscreen but what happens if you do get burnt, either by the sun or from the fire? If it is a bad burn, use the Neosporin you brought and seek medical attention. But if it isn’t a bad burn, use some aloe vera gel to cool down the skin and get some relief.
I like to keep a piece of paper in my first aid kit of the medicines we have and when they expire because we tend to refill smaller bottles from the larger bottles we keep at home. This means we are cycling through them more frequently and the expiration date on the bottle is rarely accurate.
Insect Spray & Sunscreen
These two items are always linked in my mind due to putting both on our child every single morning before he went off to preschool. His Montessori based preschool took the children out for playtime every day, rain or shine, cold or hot, only staying inside during storms. And they asked we put insect spray and sunscreen on to help them out. Obviously, you should bring both along camping and if there is room for them in your camping first aid kit, you won’t forget them.
We like to keep a dedicated lighter in our first aid kit for sterilizing tweezers prior to removing splinters. I’m sure there are other reasons to keep it around as well…
We try to not ever go camping or hiking in brand new shoes, but we are still known to get blisters on our feet at times. Moleskin has been our friend for many years now.
Sometimes those pesky splinters are very small, and a magnifying glass helps me see to remove them. I’m told it could also be used to help start a fire if there is enough sun, but I’ve never attempted to do so.
I keep a variety of sizes of safety pins handy in our first aid kit. They come in handy in case of clothing malfunctions. But the reason I keep them in the camping first aid kit is to help hold bandages together if necessary.
I keep talking about splinters because we seem to be splinter prone. If you aren’t, tweezers might not be a necessary item for your family. I carry a pair in every car, in all first aid kits, and in our geocaching kits because you never know when you might need them. PSA: Do not use your geocaching tweezers for medical emergencies unless you have sterilized them, please and thank you.
I keep wet wipes everywhere, including my first aid kit. I don’t use them instead of antiseptic wipes for cleaning of wounds. But I do like having them around to clean my hands before I work on cleaning up someone else’s wounds. Because honestly, I’m not going to put gloves on just to put a band-aid on my child’s knee.
We keep some of these in our camping first aid kit to contain soiled trash to pack it out of whatever situation we are in.
Last, but definitely not least, would be how we corral all these items while traveling. We started off with a lidded bucket but that was hard to keep organized. And I laughed at all the people who used a tackle box to organize their camping first aid kits, but you know what? They work! We love the Plano 728 Angled Storage System because it comes with three separate boxes to aid in organization.
FAQs about Camping First Aid Kits
Q. What if you don’t want to make your own camping first aid kit?
A. We started off with a ready-made kit and replaced items as they were used up or worn out. And there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to skip the DIY and purchase a pre-assembled camping first aid kit, there are some great ones on the market. We especially like the ones made by Adventure Medical Kits. We found them when we were searching for a first aid kit geared towards taking our dog with us and have been happy with these “me and my dog” first aid kits.
Q. Is it cheaper to buy or make a camping first aid kit?
A. It is usually cheaper to buy a first aid kit and that is what we started with. However, there were so many additional items we wanted to include that we ended up building our own. It helped that we were also building kits for our vehicles and our house at the same time, so we were able to take advantage of bulk buys and dividing items up amongst all our kits.
Q. Where do you keep your camping first aid kit?
A. The short answer is somewhere easily accessible. We keep ours with the rest of our camping equipment that is stored inside our house for temperature control. Then, while we are camping, we keep our kit under the table in the shade. This way it is readily available in case of any emergencies.
Q. Do you really carry all that stuff with you? It’s a lot!
A. Yes, there is a lot of stuff in our camping first aid kit. But we are also rv camping when we carry this large version. If we are car camping with a tent, we take a smaller subsection of items because of space limitations. And if we were to choose to go backpacking, we would reduce it even more for weight. However, in our current season of life, we would rather have all this stuff in our camping first aid kit and never need to use it than have a foreseeable emergency and not have it.
Q. Are kids able to use the camping first aid kit?
A. Short answer is yes, we feel it is worth it to teach older children how to use as much of the first aid kit as is possible for their age. We also emphasize that this is a tool, not a toy, and that the most important part of first aid for a child is alerting an adult.
We also have taught our child how to call the correct emergency number (in our case 911) when it is truly an emergency. Emergency dispatchers are trained to speak with even small children and can help get first responders to your location based on the information they are able to extract from a child.
The More You Know
The best first aid kit in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t know how to use it. We recommend taking some first aid classes, either in person or online. There are some very good videos on youtube as well. Unfortunately, you might not always have wifi or cellular signal while out camping so we recommend also bringing a first aid book with you on all of your trips.
And there you have it, a list of all the items in our camping first aid kit.
Any items you feel we missed? Tag us on Instagram @campinganswer and let us know!