Gear to Go
Don't venture too far without these safety essentials
By Michael Kessler
"When preparing your own medical kit," says Dr. Eric L. Weiss, director of the Stanford Travel Medicine Service, "you should bring everything you've used in the last 12 months." Weiss himself travels with Imodium AD and the antibiotic Levaquin in case a risky dining experience bestows a case of traveler's diarrhea. If you're going to a mosquito-infested jungle or a city in the tropics where you're at risk for dengue fever and malaria, Weiss recommends Sawyer Products' new Controlled Release, a nonirritating DEET spray that slowly penetrates the skin in small but effective doses. "The most important thing," he says, "is to know about your destination and its risks so you aren't taken by surprise." The most hassle-free option is to pack a pre-packaged med-kit that includes most medicine-cabinet essentials in a compact case. At one pound, six ounces, the paperback-sized (think Shogun) Adventure Medical Kits World Traveler ($75) holds a small trove of Motrin, Tylenol, ointments, dressings, a pair of scissors, bug dope, and antidiarrheal tablets — enough, anyway, to get you back to your hotel or safely to a bush. Its three panels unzip like a big trifold wallet for easy access, and a handle allows it to hang from a towel hook or tree branch. For lengthy trips or groups of up to 14 people, Adventure Medical Kits Comprehensive Kit ($150; three pounds, four ounces) offers nearly double the goodies, with a few extras like a snakebite kit and temporary fillings. Do-it-yourselfers who prefer to combine their own remedies with an assortment of skin-, tummy-, and head-fixers should consider the Outdoor Research Backpacker ($50; 16 ounces), which comes with a small handful of cure-alls, rubber gloves, and a sling bandage in a roomy, hold-anything package. The main zipper compartment houses its standard items (which include a few empty pill bottles), while a pocket-laden, snap-out modular panel takes care of your extras. Atwater Carey's International Traveler First Aid Kit ($51) is ideal for a couple backpacking around Asia, but isn't enough for larger groups. It covers all the pharmaceutical bases — painkillers, antihistamines, bandages, and ointments, skimping slightly to keep it a 10-ounce package that'll stuff in a jacket pocket.
A filter worthy of world travel should remove 100 percent of all nonviral nasties, such as cryptosporidium, giardia, and countless bacteria, plus any virus attached to a host that's bigger than .2 microns (the unit for measuring a filter's pore size). MSR's WaterWorks II ($125) does all of that, while filling a Nalgene bottle in about 60 sweat-free pumps. A water-well-style handle folds away unobtrusively so the 19-ounce unit can squeeze into any reasonably sized backpack pocket. To guarantee wholesale viral slaughter, however, you'll need a filter that incorporates iodine, like SweetWater's Global Water Express ($90). This 19-ounce kit comes with a Platypus collapsible water bottle, a carrying strap, output attachments for Evian-style or Nalgene water bottles (which it fills in just over a minute), and a cleaning brush for in-the-field maintenance.
Photographs by Gary Hush
Copyright 1998, Outside magazine