I’m a minimalist—even when it comes to carrying a medical kit. On big weekend tours, you should take a full medical kit like one by Adventure Medical Kits. But do you need to take the full shebang every time you step out for a two-hour mountain bike ride on your local trail or a quick sidecountry jaunt at the ski hill? Here the five essentials.
1. Tape. You can improvise splints and bandages from ski poles, clothing, and the stays of your backpack, but you can’t improvise tape. My favorite is Johnson & Johnson waterproof first aid tape: sticky, hypoallergenic, and slick for blister prevention.
2. Compression wrap. Two common afflictions to backcountry travelers are sprains and wounds like cuts and scrapes. The best all-purpose dressing is Coban self-adherent, reusable wrap.
3. Communication device. The best combo is a GPS and cell phone, or a personal locator beacon. Tell us SAR guys a) you need help and b) where we can find you.
4. Pain medication. Carry ibuprofen and acetaminophen or prescription-strength prescribed by your doc.
5. CPR mask and nitrile gloves. Protect yourself first, hopefully you never need these.