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How to Create a Backpacking First Aid Kit

A backpacking first aid kit is something you’re likely to find in plenty of stores and on just about any camping site’s list of must-haves. But what makes this kind of kit so important…and why should you consider making your own instead of buying one pre-made?

That’s where our guide is here to help! Read on to learn all about the needs and benefits of building your own backpacking first aid kit…including essential items, special needs to consider, and much more.

View of a first aid kit as part of backpacking gear. Backpacking first aid kit.

Why a Backpacking First Aid Kit is Essential

Whether you are going on a short afternoon jaunt or a wilderness hike–or even a cross-country backpacking trip–it’s incredibly important that you be prepared for all sorts of scenarios. Accidents and incidents can happen when you least expect them, and the last thing you want is to have a first aid crisis arise while you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to treat your injuries or symptoms.

Whether you are hiking alone, with friends and family, or particularly if you are hiking with kiddos, it’s always smart to have first aid items on hand. A backpacking first aid kit packs all the essentials together in an easy-to-carry, easy-to-use way.

Benefits of Building Your Own Backpacking First Aid Kit

It’s true that there are many backpacking first aid kits you can buy prestocked. Most of these will cover a handful of scenarios and essentials.

However, everyone has different preferences, and everyone’s body has different needs. The benefit of building your own backpacking first aid kit is that you have the opportunity to tailor it to your specific needs, preferences, favorite brands, and so forth.

Must-Have Items In Your Backpacking First Aid Kit

Administering first aid to person with injured ankle.

A Sturdy First Aid Kit Carrying Pouch

The first essential for your backpacking first aid kit is the pouch into which all the items go. If you don’t have an easy-to-carry, sturdy, weatherproof pouch, then you may find all of the contents are compromised by weather or the elements when you need them most.

There are many types of pouches out there for backpacking first aid kits, including hard clam shells, plastic, and waterproof zippered pouches. The key is to choose a pouch that fits best with the rest of your backpacking gear, personal preferences, etc.

Blister Preventers and Treatment

Blisters are among the most prevalent injuries requiring first aid while hiking and backpacking. The best case scenario is to use blister prevention in the form of a gliding balm or blister tape–the latter of which can often fit easily into a backpacking first aid kit.

However, it’s also wise to have a blister treatment option on hand in your first aid kit as well, just in case a blister forms.

Thermal Emergency Blanket

An emergency blanket can come in handy for all sorts of scenarios. In terms of first aid, they can be useful in preventing shock if a person sustains a more serious injury. For that reason alone, having at least one on hand in your backpacking first aid kit is always a good idea.

However, these blankets can also be useful in providing warmth and shelter during all types of unpredictable weather. This is a lightweight but heavy-hitting first aid kit item you would rather not be without if you need one.

Hand Sanitizer

It’s likely given that you will not need to sanitize your hands with every little thing you might brush up against while backpacking. However, having some packets of hand sanitizer in your backpacking first aid kit can be useful if you need to treat a wound, as this will help mitigate the transference of harmful bacteria during the treatment process.

Wound Cleaning and Small Wound Care Items

Wounds of all sorts can happen while backpacking. While large wounds may require trained medical care, it’s crucial to have items for cleaning and caring for small wounds as a part of your backpacking first aid kit.

These necessary items include standard bandages and bandage wraps, antiseptic wipes, roll gauze, medical tape, Steri-strips, and antibiotic ointment. With these items, you will find yourself prepared to treat most cuts, scrapes, and bumps that may happen while backpacking.

Pain Relievers

Person holding a first aid kit that includes pain relief tablets.

Pain relievers can come in handy for all sorts of maladies while backpacking. Whether it’s due to an injury, a headache from too much time spent in the sun, a sprained muscle or joint, or any other unfortunate incident, you will want to have a pain reliever on hand to treat the symptoms should they arise.

Allergy Treatments

Your thoughts may go right to seasonal or outdoor allergies for this item, given backpacking takes place in nature. However, that’s only one reason to have allergy treatments on hand in your backpacking first aid kit.

While out in the wilderness, you may encounter plants, insects, etc., to which you have not been previously–or at least regularly–exposed. On the off chance you encounter something while backpacking to which you are severely allergic, it’s wise to have both oral and topical allergy treatments in your backpacking first aid kit…just in case.

Electrolyte Replenishment

Every backpacker should do their best to avoid dehydration as much as possible. However, accidents do happen, and if you find your body’s mineral stores depleted by too much time in the sun or too much rigorous hiking, this can be a greater danger than it seems at first.

If you are at risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or passing out due to a depletion of minerals in your body, having a quick electrolyte replenishment in your backpacking first aid kit is crucial. Sometimes it can mean the difference between discomfort and serious danger to your health.

Tweezers and Scissors

There are all sorts of scenarios where you might need to have a pair of tweezers–or tweezers of varying sizes–in your backpacking first aid kit. From removing splinters to bee stingers, cactus spines, and even ticks, there are just too many scenarios where having medical tweezers on hand is an immediate need while backpacking.

Be aware that having the right kind of tweezers on hand is crucial. Cosmetic tweezers can often be cheaper than medical tweezers, but due to their design, they often lack the precision necessary to do the tasks that require tweezers in an outdoor, hiking, or wilderness scenario.

You might also consider a combo pack of medical tweezers and scissors. While your medical scissors may see far less use than the tweezers, they are another crucial item to have on hand in your backpacking first aid kit. Not only are they necessary for trimming things like gauze and medical tape, but they can even be useful to separate and remove articles of clothing in a necessary scenario, such as with a bad burn or a hypothermia incident.

Person administering first aid to hiker with a bleeding injury on knee.


You may find yourself more inclined to focus on packing sunscreen in a beach bag over your backpacking first aid kit; keeping at least a small tube on hand at all times is a wise choice. Sunburn can have many deleterious effects on your health and stamina, and at times while backpacking, you may find some sunnier days or times of less natural shelter than you bargained for.

Having a small tube of good sunscreen stashed in your backpacking first aid kit is never a bad idea, no matter where you plan to go backpacking.

Insect Treatments

There are two types of insect treatments to consider when building your backpacking first aid kit. The first is to choose an insect repellent that works for you. Some people opt for sprays, others for rollers. Some people prefer a standard repellent mix, and others lean more toward natural sources like citronella and various oils.

Whatever your preference, be sure to bring some of it in your backpacking first aid kit. While hiking, you may find yourself encountering swarms of insects in unexpected places, so having a quick and easy repellent you can put on is always a wise choice.

In addition, insect bites of all kinds can happen anywhere out in the wild. Having an insect treatment solution such as calamine lotion is an absolute must for every backpacking first aid kit. Allergy treatments may also come in handy for certain types of insect bites or stings as well.

Sterile Gloves

Last but certainly not least, sterile gloves are a must-have for any backpacking first aid kit. In fact, they may be the most crucial item on the list! Especially out in the wilderness, you don’t want to remove splinters, treat blisters, or address small wounds without the proper protection on your hands.

Using dirty hands to treat injuries requiring first aid can often worsen the matter in the long run. Always be sure to have sterile gloves on hand so you can confidently treat any wound without worrying about exposure to additional harmful bacteria.

Choosing First Aid Kit Items Specific to You

In every backpacking first aid kit, it’s wise to have things on hand that fit your specific needs. This often comes down to the individual’s bio-individuality and distinct needs.

For example, if you require certain medications, having a sustainable amount in your backpacking first aid kit can be crucial if some unpredictable scenarios arise.

In addition, if you need a specific kind of common medicine, such as a lower-dose aspirin as opposed to a standard dose, it’s wise to have these on hand in your backpacking first aid kit. If you are sensitive to certain types of allergy treatments, be sure to choose the medications that work best with your body.

The same goes for choosing sunscreen, electrolyte solutions, insect treatments, and more. This is one of the biggest draws of building your own backpacking first aid kit. Rather than being stranded with whatever a prepackaged kit contains, when building your own kit, you can tailor the contents to what you need to feel your best.

Wrapping up Creating a Backpacking First Aid Kit

Person getting out a first aid kit to use on injured hiker.

Feeling confident about how to create a backpacking first aid kit? Good hygiene is another way to help keep you safe and healthy while in the great outdoors.

Check out how to create a survival hygiene kit for an added layer of wilderness preparedness in your repertoire!