Monday, June 6, 2016

Gear: First Aid kits

Most of us that enjoy the outdoors (be it camping, paddling, or any of the other many sports/activities there are available) usually do some research on the appropriate equipment, clothing, and specific needs for said activity. 

One thing I've noticed through the years is the lack of preparedness most people have when it comes to first aid training and equipment. A typical attitude I've encountered is "there's always a nurse or paramedic in our group", which may be true sometimes, but when it comes to life-threatening injuries or sudden illness, would you be willing to gamble your life or that of someone you love on the odd chance that someone else will be there?
Part of being an outdoors person is being self-reliant and first aid kits should be at the top of your list. I'm not endorsing any particular brand, just reviewing different styles of first aid kits that may be suitable for everyday carry as well as specific activities. 

It is worth mentioning that your first aid kit is only as good as your training, so with that said, go take a class that is appropriate for your type of activity, and the location you will be at, you'll be glad you did should it ever become necessary for you to use these skills and equipment.

Below are examples of the kits I carry on different vehicles and/or ocassions. This is not an endorsement of any of the brands shown, just a reference.

The Vanquest fatpack comes in 3 sizes to accomodate different amount of equipment and is compatible with all M.O.L.L.E/PALS attachements which makes them easy to attach to a number of packs on the market.

Vanquest FAT pack 4x6

Contents: adhesive bandages, rolled gauze, sterile 4x4 gauze, hand cleaner towels, Nasopharyngeal Airway and lube, Compression bandage "bloodstopper", gloves.
Maxpedition Sitka (my around town for the day pack) and Vanquest FAT pack 4x6
Of course is not just about taking a first aid class and buying the "coolest" kit available, practice and familiarity with your equipment are as important. What I recommend to people that attend my Wilderness and Remote First Aid presentation is to check their kits every time they have their vehicle serviced, routine service that is (oil change).
What are you looking for? items that are expired, or that humidity has gotten into packages of sterile contents, gloves that need replacing, items that should be there, but have been used and not replaced, etc.
In this kit the wrapper in the sterile 4x4 gauze pads has become yellowish, but the integrity if the paper it still good, still time to replace and use those for practice.

This is a quick deploy kit I keep in my jeep and what I would bring as a personal kit on hikes prior to the smaller FAT packs
How do you stay proficient on something you may not do very regularly? Truth is if your job does not include providing emergency medical attention to people, chances are you don't get to practice after your original class/training, so the answer is the same as for trained professional rescuers, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and MORE PRACTICE. On the upside is that most First Aid certifications have an expiration date, so you get to train or re-train your skills, and learn new things as science changes field care. Re-reading your first aid manual should be done before heading on a trip as well, as a a quick re-fresher.

Another thing to keep in mind when making or purchasing a first aid is the activity you will be participating in  and number of people in your group. Different activities will have different emergencies participants could suffer, for example, will you be hiking up a mountain? then altitude sickness should be something you should be prepared for. Are you going four wheeling? Soft tissue (cuts, bleeding, sprains, etc.) and bone injuries (fractures) could happen if a vehicle overturns or during recovery efforts.
At the end of the day I hope I (or you) never have to use these skills or equipment, but when things do happen I'm glad its there, and you will too. If you have any questions regarding anything in this post please feel free to reach out to me, I'll be glad to point you in the right direction if I don't have the answer.
In the meantime, like always go outside and play and leave only your footprints!!