On a recent outing near my home, I unknowingly rested my feet near a nest of fire ants and got stung several times on my left foot. Unfortunately, these nasty little buggers are pretty common here in the Southwest. I had been stung by these ants before and didn’t have much of a reaction, but this time around my foot swelled up like a balloon and felt like it was on fire. The pain in my foot lasted a good 48 hours and it was difficult to even sleep or walk on it. Not only that, but the redness and discomfort in my foot lasted for another week. For the treatment of fire ant stings, doctors will tell you to take an antihistamine like Benedryl, a good pain killer and anti-inflammatory like Aleve, and to apply hydrocortisone creme to the wound site three to four times a day to reduce the swelling and redness.
Fortunately, I had all of these items at home to take care of my foot, but it got me thinking about the contents of the first aid kits in my truck camper and Jeep. Would I be ready for a similar incident during my travels? If you don’t have a well stocked first aid kit in your RV or Jeep, you need to get one. A first aid kit is an essential item for anyone who is serious about spending time in the great outdoors. I’m not just talking about a small box of band aids, alcohol wipes, and a bottle of aspirin either, I’m talking about a good, well-stocked first aid kit to treat all kinds of wounds and conditions. There are two ways to get one. You can purchase a commercial off-the-shelf first aid kit, like the excellent Adventure Medical .9 Kit, or you can build your own. This article focuses on the latter using one of the finest portable medical pouches to protect and organize your kit, the Maxpedition FR-1. Here are the items I have in my Maxpedition FR-1 Emergency First Aid Kit:
- Adhesive bandages (band aids): Assorted sizes for small cuts, blisters, etc.
- Closure strips or butterfly closures: For closing large wounds. The four-inch strips are more effective.
- Sterile dressing pads (4×4 inches, 5 each): To apply pressure to a wound to stop bleeding.
- Non-adherent sterile dressing (2×2 inches): Use to cover blisters, burns or lacerations.
- Gauze roll: Holds dressing in place.
- Adhesive tape (1 inch roll): Holds dressings in place.
- Cold compress packs (2 each): To reduce swelling and for pain relief. Can also be an effective aid in treating heat exhaustion.
- Ammonia inhalant: Individually wrapped packs to prevent or treat fainting.
- Tweezers: For removing splinters and ticks and for removing debris from wounds.
- Scissors: Trauma scissors, which have a blunt end to protect the patient, can be used for cutting away clothing from injury, cutting medical tape, etc.
- Safety pins: Can help remove splinters, fasten arm sling, or to make a hole in a plastic bag for improvised wound irrigation.
- Cotton-tip swabs: For removing foreign objects from eye, or applying antibiotic ointment.
- Tampons (2 each): Don’t laugh. These are great for not only soaking up large amounts of blood, but also as a fire starter.
- Resealable plastic bags: Many uses, including icing a swollen joint or creating a wound irrigation device.
- Alcohol wipes: For cleansing small wounds.
- Topical antibiotic ointment: Prevents infection from minor scraps, cuts, and burns.
- Moleskin: Prevents blisters. Cut and apply a section to your foot as soon as you discover a hotspot.
- Super glue: In the absence of stitches, seals deep cuts.
- Burn cream: Assists in the healing of damaged skin from minor burns.
- Pain relievers: Provides temporary relief for minor aches and pains, reduces fever, helps reduce inflammation of sprains and other injuries.
- Antihistamines: I prefer Benadryl. For relief from pollen allergies and to reduce any reaction to bites and stings.
- Imodium 2 mg capsules or tablets: For relief of diarrhea from intestinal infections.
- Hydrocortisone 1 percent cream: Relieves the swelling, itching, and redness from insect bites and stings and any allergic reactions. Can also be used for poison oak and poison ivy.
- Antacid: Purchase individual calcium carbonate packs or your antacid of choice.
- Latex or nitrile gloves: Protects against blood-borne diseases and infection.
- Electrolyte packets (3 each): For treatment of dehydration, heat exhaustion and loss of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea.
- Disposable mask: To prevent the spreading of germs.
- Space blanket: Lightweight emergency shelter. For treating shock and hypothermia victims.
- Emergency whistle: Distress signal to call for help.
- Water Purifier Tablets: Chlorine dioxide tablets to sterilize water. Be sure to wait the required time before drinking (usually an hour). See directions for details.
- Spark-Lite Fire Starter: To prevent hypothermia and sterilize water. Should include a sparker or lighter and tinder.
- Paper and pencil: For recording medical data such as body temperature, pulse, time and date of symptoms, injuries, medicines administered, etc. Most repackaged kits include accident report forms.
- Thermometer: Takes the guesswork out of determining fevers.
- Small flashlight: For nighttime illumination (check batteries often).
- First aid instruction booklet: Should cover the basics of first aid treatment.
Fortunately, most of these items can be found at your local drug store. When assembling and organizing smaller items in your kit, use clear, resealable baggies. Ensure all medications are labeled. If you have room in your kit, you can also include other commonly used items like a stick of Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, a small tube of sunscreen, and a quality insect repellent. For the latter, I prefer a non-deet based insect repellent, Quantam Health’s Buzzaway. You’ll also want to supplement your kit with any prescription medications that you and your family may be taking and have items like an epinephrine pen for those who are allergic to bee stings. Check the items in your first aid kit periodically to ensure they aren’t too old or have expired. If an item in your first aid kit gets used, replace it as soon as possible (things like moleskin, band aids, and aspirin get used the most in ours).
The focus of this article is on making your own first aid kit, but a few words about the Maxpedition FR-1 Medical Pouch are warranted. This rugged, little pouch was designed specifically to house and organize a first aid kit. It measures 5.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and 7 inches high. When unzipped, the FR-1 opens like a giant clam shell. You won’t find any pearls inside the FR-1, but you will find multi-layered pockets and elastic loops to keep all of your first aid items organized. The pouch features a paracord cinch to keep it open, while the outside is lined with MOLE webbing so you can attach it to a backpack or keep it on a hook inside your RV. The outside also features Maxpedition’s trade mark, their so-called Torch-Lair ,where you can store a small flashlight. Better yet, behind the Torch-Lair the pouch is lined with a field loop where you can affix a first aid symbol or an ID patch with your name and unit. I really like the FR-1, it makes for a very functional, very cool-looking first aid kit.
I’d love to get your feedback on this list. If you can think of anything else I missed, please let me know. Thanks.