How to Assemble a Medical Kit for a Wilderness Trip

by | Aug 13, 2021 | Evacuation, Injury prevention, Treating injuries, Wilderness Survival Tips | AWLS

Opinions vary, but over the years we’ve learned some principles to help put together a useful–but still packable–kit.

To start, it’s good to consider which of the following items is NOT one of the Ten Essentials of survival gear?

  • Navigation
  • Sun Protection
  • Emergency Shelter
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hydration

Correct Answer:

D – Although I may personally disagree, toilet paper is not necessarily a survival essential.  Still, human waste management should be considered to limit our impact on wilderness areas!

  • The Ten Essentials are: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first-aid, fire, repair kit/tool, nutrition, hydration, emergency shelter.

Putting Together a Wilderness Medical Kit

Medical professionals have an entire hospital stockroom at our disposal so preparing an “essential” wilderness medical kit for an outdoor experience is daunting.

What you’ll need in your kid will vary depending on your trip, but it may help you to categorize items into a two by two grid comparing medical impact to likelihood of use.  You’ll have a better sense of which items should then undergo a size/weight/cost feasibility analysis.

We recommend that you:

  • Consider a modular system where supplies can easily be added or removed without rebuilding the entire kit for the needs of each trip.
  • Inspect medical equipment for expiration, damage, need for resupply.
  • Take into account personal training and experience level
  • Anticipate the training/supplies of other members
  • Understand your status/responsibility as provider vs member of team
  • Be familiar with activities/locale
  • Be aware of the group size/health
  • Forsee the degree of austerity
  • Accommodate an appropriate trip duration
  • Evaluate kit items with regards to bulk/weight/cost.

Anticipate needs and limitations:

  • PAWS: Prevention/procedures, Analgesics/antibiotics/antiseptics/anaphylaxis, Wound/weather considerations, Survival gear.

Sound daunting?  We’ll make it a bit easier. The most important quality of an “essential” medical kit? It’s the one that makes it into your pack, every time.


A Wild Thought:

A “single use” epi-pen auto-injector contains 4-5 additional doses; carefully crack open the plastic and manually administer IM.


Eng, Ronald. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. Seattle, WA: 2010, Ed 8.  Print

Forgey, William.  Wilderness Medical Society: Practice Guidelines for Wilderness Emergency Care.  Guilford, CT: 2006, Ed 5.  Print

Ingebretsen, Richard, and David Della-Giustina.  Advanced Wilderness Life Support: Prevention – Diagnosis – Treatment – Evacuation.  Boulder, CO: 2013, Ed 8.1.  Print.