By: Andrew Forrest - January 2023
A comprehensive first aid kit is essential for all hikers and walkers. In this post we take a look at the items you should include in your first aid kit together with other suggested items to keep you safe and well.
This page contains affiliate links. If you buy products or services via these links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Sometimes, not everything goes to plan when you are out on a walk or a hike. Unexpected accidents and injuries can happen at any time. Trips and slips can easily cause wounds, cuts and grazes, blisters appear out of nowhere, seasonal allergies can be triggered by pollens, diarrhoea can suddenly strike... and the list goes on.
Whilst a first aid kit won't cover every medical need, it should be there to cover most minor injuries and ailments and provide initial treatment for more serious ones before proper medical care can be provided.
As a walker or hiker, it's important to be prepared for anything that might happen whilst you are out on your walk and carry a first aid kit. Whether it's a minor injury or a more serious emergency, having a well-stocked first aid kit is a must.
By taking the time to assemble a first aid kit specifically tailored to your needs, you can feel confident that you have the necessary supplies to handle most situations that may arise whilst on your walk. If you are unable to access immediate help, you are in effect your own first responder and a first aid kit can help you provide immediate care and potentially save a life.
First aid kit items
If the injury or illness is serious, make sure you seek medical advice or help as soon as you can.
The first aid kit itself has many uses and isn't just for life-saving scenarios - simply covering a cut or blister, taking a tablet for muscle pain or headache, or stopping bouts of diarrhoea, a first aid kit can make your walk a more enjoyable experience.
So, if you have ever wondered what should be in a hiking first aid kit, we've set out below what the contents of a hiking or walking first aid kit should be.
Besides these items, if you are on any medication or use medicines regularly (inhalers etc.) or maybe have allergies and need to carry an epi-pen, then ensure you have these with you in addition to the above.
The above is my always-take essential hiking first aid kit list. If I'm walking in the mountains, whilst not strictly part of the first aid kit, I always take a lightweight bivi bag or a bothy bag. They are lightweight, waterproof and windproof and help retain body heat and reduce wind chill - a useful safety addition to any rucksack. I bought one quite a few years ago that sits in the bottom of my rucksack and I'm still hoping it's something I'll never have to use.
The other item I always keep in my first aid kit is a small spare, lightweight head torch. If you or one of your party has had an incident or accident, the onward walking speed of the party may be slower, or you may be stationary waiting for mountain rescue. In these instances, you may end up being out in the dark. I always have my main head torch in my rucksack, but on longer walks where there is potential to be out at night, I ensure my spare is fully charged and in my first aid kit in case it is needed. It is challenging to treat people if you struggle to see them. There are many different head torches available to suit your needs.
If the first aid kit cannot help treat the injury and get the hiker back home safely, then the bothy bag can become a lifesaver.
In an emergency, you should also know how to call for help if it is needed and how to attract attention - we have set out what you need to do in our 'Top 15 safety tips for hiking' blog. As part of that procedure, a headtorch and a whistle should always be rucksack essentials on any hike, both help you attract attention from mountain rescue or others out on the hills. The other safety essentials are a map and compass and the ability to use them, so if the need arises, you can give your position to any rescuers.
Remember, on your return from a walk, if you've used anything from the first aid kit, replenish it and periodically check any use-by/best-before dates on any items in the first aid kit.
You can buy many first aid kits/hiking first aid kits ready-made. These have many, but not always all of the above items in them. Personally, I've always started with one of these kits and then personalised it by changing/adding items within it depending upon where I'm walking and whom I'm walking with.
The ready-made first aid kits often come with care leaflets, showing you how to use certain of the items included and basic first aid guides. If you create your own kit, there are many free first aid guides on the internet. The NHS also provides some first aid advice.
It is always worth watching first aid course videos to remind you of what to do in emergencies annually so that it gives you a refresher. There are many available on YouTube.
IMPORTANT: Make sure for any medicines in your first aid kit that you have the information that came with it, or have copied it down onto a sheet that you keep in the kit. This should include things like dosage, contraindications (reasons a person should not receive that medicine) etc. Ensure medicines are in date. If they are not for yourself and for a group member, always ask if they are allergic to the medicine before giving it to them.
Whilst the above sets out the essential items to include in your first aid kit for walking, let's have a look at these items now in a little more detail and where you can find these items. Some of these items are available in chemists or supermarkets, but if you cannot find them, we've included some links below to where you can find them online.
You need to make yourself aware of what's in your hiking first aid kit, adapt it to your needs, and understand how to use everything that's inside it.
Top Tip: You need to keep all these items in your first aid kit dry. Some hiking first aid kits are waterproof. I keep my hiking first aid kit and a couple of other items (spare energy bars, headtorch etc) in a small (1L or 2L) drybag inside my rucksack.
Dry bag, first aid kit, headtorch and electrolytes
There are a few additional items that you could also consider including, especially if you are on group walks where you can share out the weight:
Potential extras to the first aid kit
It is important to note that the first aid kit needs to be specific to your activity. If for instance, you are hiking and also camping for the night and you are cooking, then this brings additional potential risks and injuries - you may burn yourself on the cooking equipment, so you'd then need treatments for burns. Tailor your first aid kit to your specific needs.
This hiking first aid kit list is also suitable for any backpacking or multi-day trips - you may again just have to consider any additional items you may need and also maybe increase the quantity taken of certain items.
Whilst you need to ensure you take all the essential items that you need, there are ways to make your hiking first aid kit lighter.
Don't overdo it though and 'pack the kitchen sink' just in case. Remember, as with all hiking equipment, don't pack more gear than you can safely carry for the whole day. There is a trade-off between what you can carry and what you need for comfort and safety.
Here's to happy, safe and pain-free hiking!
The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials.