How to Choose the Best First-Aid Kit For Your Trip

Whenever you head out for a hike you never plan to slip on a rock and skin up your elbow. You never plan to catch your hand on those thorns, walk through poison ivy in the dark, or have that spider bite you. We never count on any of the mishaps or the accidents that happen, but we know something is probably going to happen. The point is if you spend enough time in the great outdoors, then it is not a matter of if you will get hurt but when. This is why being able to properly choose the best first-aid kit for your trip is so important.

Several factors need to be taken into account when trying to determine the first-aid kit you need to pack. For example, the number of people, type of people (i.e. kids, adults, elderly), and trip duration are just a few things that you have to take into consideration. Furthermore, based on your skill level you may choose to build your own first-aid kit or go with one of the pre-built first-aid kits out there.

During this post, we will discuss all of those things and everything else that we feel you need to know to decide on the best first-aid kit for your next trip. We will talk about some of the products that we recommend and even include some links and videos to first-aid tutorials.

Table of Contents

This list outlines the various categories and considerations you need to consider when choosing the proper First-Aid Kit for your trip. Every adventure will have its own challenges and require its own items. However, hopefully, you will have the confidence you need to pick the First-Aid Kit that will best fit your needs by the end of this post.

First-Aid Kit Considerations:

Number of People

First and foremost, you need to consider the number of people that are coming along on the trip. Not only do more people mean that you need to bring more quantities of each of your supplies, but for every person, you add the odds of injury increase. To put it simply, each person that joins your party adds another two ankles that could get sprained on your trip.

Type of People

Next, make sure you think about the type of people that are coming with you. Kids, adults, elderly, all have different needs and are prone to different types of injuries or sicknesses. For example, kids tend to be more susceptible to sickness. So, you would need to make sure you pack more medications that would treat various ailments.

Additionally, make sure to take into consideration any specific medical issues or needs for all of the members of your party.

Trip Duration

Another factor that will not only determine the quantity of your supplies but the type of supplies that you need to pack is the duration of your trip. “Duration” can mean a couple of different things. The most obvious meaning is the amount of time your trip is going to take. However, “duration” can also refer to distance. For example, if you just say Day Hike, that is not quite enough information. You are much more likely to carry substantially different supplies for a 14 mile Day Hike than you would for a 2 mile Day Hike. Furthermore, a 38 mile Section Hike over 5 days is significantly different than a 56 mile Section Hike over 5 days.

The point is to make sure you do not just consider the number of days or hours you plan to be gone. You also must take into account the distance that you are planning to travel when planning out or purchasing your first-aid kit.

Type of Trip

Yet another factor to take into account is the type of trip that you are going on. We have already touched on “type of trip” in the sense of a Day Hike, Section Hike, Thru Hike, etc., but that is not the only type that you need to consider.

For example, you need to contemplate the location that you are traveling to. If you are heading off to the desert, you will likely want to take extra sunscreen and extra burn cream. However, if you are going to be headed to the southern portion of the United States or some type of tropical climate, then you will likely need to worry more about bugs. So, extra bug spray and extra anti-itch ointment could potentially be necessary. Additionally in thinking of warm, humid climates, if you are allergic to bee stings, then you may want to pack an extra EpiPen.

One other consideration is the amount of elevation change that you will face during your trip. If there will be a great deal, you will likely want to consider taking extra moleskin and/or blister treatment.

The point here is that not only do you want to consider the type of trip in the sense of the amount of wear and tear that it is going to put on your body, but you also want to factor in the conditions that you will be facing. While you can certainly pack a general first-aid kit that will be good for any situation, every trip has its own needs. So, trying to think ahead for the situations you might face can help you be prepared and stay safe on your next adventure.

Personal and Prescription Medications

Always remember to pack any prescription medications that you take regularly. Additionally, you never know when you could be out in the wilderness a little longer than planned. So, make sure to pack a little extra than you think you may need. Remember it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. While this is true with most items, this is one area you really cannot afford to skip on.

Furthermore, if you are planning to go on a trip that is going to be more physically demanding than what you are used to, then you may want to pack some extra OTC (over-the-counter) medications for pain and anti-inflammation. In some cases where I plan to be covering a lot of miles while backpacking, I will try to get ahead of the inflammation and take Aleve day and night, for the duration of the trip. The point is if you have multiple people in your group, items like Motrin, Tylenol, and Aleve can go fairly quickly. So, you may want to make it a point to have extra for items like this.

Next, you will be amazed to find how many people suddenly discover that they have allergies once you have managed to get out in the middle of nowhere. So, make sure you pack things like Allegra, Zyrtec, and/or Claritin. I usually like to pack all three. I have found that different ones work for different people.

Finally, if you are going to have children in your group, then make sure you pack children’s versions of all necessary medications. Read the labels of bottles for guidance on age and weight. However, if you are not sure about one or more medications, then make sure to check with your pediatrician for counsel.

How to Build Your Own First-Aid Kit

Build Your Own First-Aid Kit

First and foremost, you will want to secure a water-resistant bag large enough to hold all of your medical supplies. Following that, you will want to assemble a series of smaller waterproof bags and plastic bottles. As for the waterproof bags, something as simple as Ziploc bags will do. Although, if you are planning to be in extreme weather conditions, then you may want to spend a little extra money and get freezer bags. They are a bit thicker and will typically hold up better and last longer. Then, for the plastic bottles, you can usually find small travel bottles designed to go in carry-on bags for plane flights. There are dropper bottles, spray bottles, plain bottles that just have caps, and really any other kind you may likely need.

Next, you will want to break out the labels and/or a Sharpie to label all of your medications thoroughly. One thing to note, the ink of most pens has a tendency to fail once introduced to water, and writing from pencils usually rubs off over time. So, definitely make sure you go with something more permanent like a Sharpie or a label maker. Once you have “picked your poison” for label making, not only do you want to write the names of your medications on everything, but you will want to make a point to write expiration dates on each of them. There is nothing worse than getting out to the middle of nowhere and discovering that you have expired medicine. In some cases, the expired medicine can make you sick and in others, it will have little to no effect.

The majority of the items in your first-aid kit should last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. However, you will want to check your kit and all of the expiration dates regularly. Ideally, you will want to give your kit a good check every time you head out. Although at a minimum, you should go through your first-aid kit at least once a year.

Finally, always include a quick-reference guide or more comprehensive booklet that explains how to administer first aid. Also, always take into account the type of trip you are going on and supplement your kit with extra supplies for a longer trip or special supplies for your destination, activity, and group members.

As far as supplies to put in your first-aid kit, you can check out our comprehensive First-Aid Kit Supplies Checklist that we have put together.

Pre-Packaged First-Aid Kits

Pre-Packaged First-Aid Kit

First Aid Only 299 Pieces All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit (FAO-442)

While building your own first-aid kit makes sense in some cases, the majority of the time going with a pre-built kit is simply easier. Why try to “reinvent the wheel?” There are literally teams of people out there that scrutinize the various items that should comprise a successful first-aid kit so that you are prepared for most situations that you will face. At a minimum, you will often be better off starting with one of these kits as your base and then adding to it from there. That raises a few questions though. What makes a good pre-packaged first-aid kit? What should I look for in a good pre-packaged first-aid kit? How large of one should I go for? Are there any particular brand names that are known for their first-aid kits? These are all fair questions, and let us see if we can help answer some of them.

First-aid kits come in all shapes and sizes. If you intend to carry your kit on long trail-based adventures like thru-hiking or trail running, go with something small that will fit easily in a backpack or fanny pack. However, if you plan to camp out of a car or go glamping and weight is not an issue, then there are some kits that are the size of a watermelon, have everything under the sun, and weigh multiple pounds. So, know the situations you plan to carry your first-aid kit into when choosing one.

Generally, small and ultralight first-aid kits are good for one to two people over single-day trips or brief overnight outings. But most small or ultralight packs do not include the ideal supplies for larger groups or for trips that venture deep into the backcountry. Larger kits are better for supporting a group of more than two people over longer trips. The downside to a larger kit is increased weight and volume. For kayaking, canoeing, or river rafting, weight is probably less of a concern, so a large kit may be the way to go. Even if you purchase a kit that is over your intended weight limit and every ounce counts, never forget that the kit can always be “customized” before you head out.

Before purchasing a first-aid kit, read through the list of supplies and consider whether or not the kit comes with the items you are likely to need. Almost all kits come standard with a certain quantity of adhesive bandages, various forms of gauze, antibiotic ointment, medical tape, etc. Other items that are less often standard but potentially highly important include trauma shears, basic medications, finger splints, and even emergency blankets. Although, be sure to check the quantity of each item that the kit lists. Some kits claim to have an impressively high count of items. However, upon further inspection, you will find that they are literally counting every single individual band-aid.

Finally, medical supplies tend to have attrition to moisture. So, when you are attempting to decide upon a first-aid kit, make sure you choose one that has as waterproof a case and as much durability as possible. If weight is not an issue, then an aluminum case would be most ideal. Obviously, aluminum is not a one-size-fits-all. Therefore, for alternative situations, look for kits that have high-denier nylon carrying cases that resist abrasion and are more likely to hold up long term. Ultimately, if you can only find a bag that is water-resistant and not waterproof, then you may want to invest in a jumbo Ziploc bag to protect your kit.

First-Aid Kit Supplies Checklist

Regardless of whether you end up going with a pre-packaged first-aid kit or you choose to build your own, you are going to want to keep a first-aid kit supplies checklist handy. Initially, you will want to use it to make sure there is not anything that your kit is missing. However, as time goes on, you will need to replace various supplies as they either get used due to necessity or because their expiration date comes to pass.

One thing to note about a supplies checklist, they tend to list everything under the sun on them. This is mainly because they list everything that you could potentially need, not necessarily everything that you do need. So, always be sure to take into account where you are going and only take the things that are applicable to your next trip.

Now, remember you do not want to pack for every wild scenario that could happen. Yeah, sure, you could be attacked by a bear, struck by lightning, or develop pneumonia. Although let us be honest, the odds are greatly in your favor that none of those things will happen. So, make sure to try and pick the items from your checklist that will cover the lion’s share of situations. To get you started, here is a basic first-aid kit supplies checklist.

Basic First-Aid Kit Supplies Checklist:

  • Antiseptic wipes (BZK-based wipes preferred; alcohol-based OK)
  • Compound tincture of benzoin (bandage adhesive)
  • Splinter (fine-point) tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • First-aid manual or information cards
  • Antiseptic wipes (BZK-based wipes preferred; alcohol-based OK)
  • Antibacterial ointment (e.g., bacitracin)
  • Compound tincture of benzoin (bandage adhesive)
  • Assorted adhesive bandages (fabric preferred)
  • Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips
  • Gauze pads (various sizes)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Nonstick sterile pads
  • Medical adhesive tape (10 yds roll, min. 1″ width)
  • Blister treatment
  • Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication
  • Insect sting / anti-itch treatment
  • Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions
  • Splinter (fine-point) tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • First-aid manual or information cards

Hopefully, this list is enough to get you going. However, if you would like to see the comprehensive checklist that we have put together, then feel free to follow the link below.

First-Aid Kit Supplies Checklist

Our Recommendation

Taking into account everything that we have discussed up to this point, we wanted to provide our recommendations for various categories and situational needs that call for a first-aid kit. Now, remember these are just a start. You can still reference our First-Aid Kit Supplies Checklist to figure out any “holes you need to fill” in the kit of your choice.

General Use

Pre-Packaged First-Aid Kit

First Aid Only 299 Pieces All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit (FAO-442)

Best Ultralight

Best Ultralight First-Aid Kit
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight Watertight .5 Medical First Aid Kit

Best for Hiking

Best Hiking First-Aid Kit

First Aid Kit – 100 Piece – Small First Aid Kit for Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel, Vehicle, Outdoors – Emergency & Medical Supplies

Best for Backpacking

Ultralight Watertight First-Aid Kit

Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight Watertight .7 Medical First Aid Kit

Best for Kayaking/Canoeing

Best Kayaking/Canoeing First-Aid Kit

WELL-STRONG Waterproof First Aid Kit Kayak Accessories Boat Emergency Kit for Fishing Kayaking Boating Camping Rafting Beach

Best for Glamping/Car Camping

Best First-Aid Kit for Glamping or Car Camping

Swiss Safe 2-in-1 Hardcase First Aid Kit (348 Piece) + Bonus Mini Kit (32 Piece), Survival Preparedness for 50 People

Best Bang for Your Buck

Best Bang For Your Buck First-Aid Kit

Monoki First Aid Kit Survival Kit, 241Pcs Upgraded Outdoor Emergency Survival Kit Gear – Medical Supplies Trauma Bag Safety First Aid Kit for Home Office Car Boat Camping Hiking Hunting Adventures

Best All-Around

All-Around First-Aid Kit

Lightning X Deluxe Stocked Large EMT First Aid Trauma Bag Fill Kit w/Emergency Medical Supplies (Fluorescent Orange)

Additional Outdoor Safety Essentials

There are a number of items that could arguably be related to first-aid, but often do not find their way onto the list of a first-aid kit. This is just a small list of potential items that we have put together, but there could obviously be others. One item on the list is “water purification tablets.” If you would like to learn more about various water filtering/purifying methods, feel free to check out our post about “Best Water Filter & Water Purifier Options for Camping, Hiking, & Backpacking.”

  • Personal information/Contact material
  • Coins for a payphone
  • CPR mask/barrier
  • Small notepad with waterproof pencil or pen
  • Medical waste bag (plus box for sharp items)
  • Tubular stockinette
  • Eye patches
  • Waterproof container to hold supplies and meds
  • Emergency heat-reflecting blanket
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Tissues
  • Road flares
  • First-aid manual
  • Small bottle of water
  • Small mirror
  • Disposable instant heat/cold packs
  • Water purification tablets
  • Lighter

First-Aid Training & Tutorials

If you are wanting to take your first-aid skills to the next level, there are plenty of resources out there. Whether it be training courses, certifications, online tutorials, or books, you should be able to find what you need to learn how to get the most out of your first-aid kit. We have assembled a few of the resources below to get you started and pointed in the right direction.

Training & Certifications

Online Tutorials



We certainly hope this post has been helpful, and by now you feel comfortable moving forward with the purchase of a first-aid kit (or the supplies for your own). Whether it is the number of people, the type of people, location, duration, etc., hopefully, you have an idea of what size your first-aid kit needs to be and what all should go in it. On top of that, try to check out one of the wilderness first-aid training resources that we posted above, even if you do just pick up a book. If none of the resources above interested you, then try to find some training of your own. Above all else, we hope you stay safe out there and ultimately do not actually need your first-aid kit. However, in the event that you do, hopefully, this post will have you prepared for whatever nature throws your way.

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