Essential Gear: First-Aid Kits

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

Essential Gear: First-Aid Kits

The Wilderness Medical Society conducted a study that was published in the Journal of Wilderness Medicine. Researchers polled backpackers coming down off trails in Yosemite National Park and discovered that 14 percent had to cut short their hike because of injury. Half of those--blisters, infected insect bites, or minor cuts--were easily treatable. The moral of this story: A good first-aid kit can save your vacation.

More importantly, it can save your life. Things to consider in a first-aid kit are: 1) the number of people that the kit will have to support; 2) the length of your trip; 3) unique features of the environment (e.g., black flies in Maine); and 4) whether there are children in your party. Children, after all, aren't simply extremely short adults. Aspirin occasionally can be harmful for some children; child's-strength acetaminophen or ibuprofen are usually recommended as alternatives. Packing a thermometer (a digital model is easier to read in a tent) is crucial, since temperature is often a barometer of how sick your child is.

A number of companies do the packing for you--two sell specialized family kits. Atwater Carey Ltd.'s (800-359-1646) kit for parents and older children can be supplemented with pre-packaged essentials for the juvenile set. Adventure Medical Kit's Family Spirit includes the youngsters' package, so there's no need for a supplement. The booklet "Caring for Children in the Outdoors," by Barbara Kennedy, M.D., is highly recommended. Call 800-324-3517.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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