I see many blog posts that highlight the best first aid kit in general. But none of them really cater to the hiking and backpacking audience. Believe it or not, there really is a difference. You’re going to want a separate first aid kit for hiking than the one for your home. At the end of this guide, I’ve included a nice checklist for you to make sure you have prior to your hike.
In this guide, I will explain some of the things I bring for my first aid kit while hiking, backpacking, or camping. You never know when you’re going to get cut up or get a weird rash. On most hikes, you never really know what to expect either. Most people go on to hike or camp in places they’ve never visited. Because of this, preparation is a critical part in the entire process.
Richie and his family frequently go on hikes with my family. We’ve been doing this for a long time now, and so we feel we’ve got a good grip on the preparation aspect. We even recently published a guide to protect yourself from blisters.
I hope this guide is serves helpful for you guys. Always remember, you’re going to be out to survive for more than a few hours. If you’re going to camp, you will need survival skills to get through the night. Preparing beforehand is essential for everything to go smoothly.
Best first aid kit for hiking
Before I list out some of the first aid we’ve bought and used, I want to outline what we typically look for. Also, I will exchange “hiking” and “backpacking” often, as we almost always bring a backpack to hike. It’s a good idea since you can store all your essentials with ease.
Hiking emergency kit criteria:
The kit you choose should be as portable and compact as it possibly can be. Many people don’t bring backpacks to their hikes, so portability becomes even more important. Even if you do bring a backpack, you want your first aid emergency kit to take up as little space as possible.
There are even some kits called “first aid backpacks” that I gloss over below. These are quite literally little bags that serve as first aid but are easy to carry around. Having a portable first aid kit is a priority.
This ties in with portability, but it deserves its own section. A lightweight first aid kit is necessary when hiking for several hours. Again, I highly recommend bringing a backpack. But even if you just have one of those first aid bags, you want it to be as light as possible.
This is where most first aid kits fall in terms of quality. You obviously want the best kit when hiking, but it can’t be good if it falls apart. Whether the kit is in a box or in a bag, you need it to last the entire trip and then some.
There are waterproof first aid backpacks that are also highly protective against heat and other elements. Some hiking kits come in a hard-shell pouch that can stand the test of time. These are the ones you want. This is also why getting a first aid kit specifically for hiking is important. The general first aid kits that go in your home are fickle. They won’t last long outdoors or even inside your backpack.
Lastly, the last factor we look for in a first aid kit for backpacking is affordability. Is it cheap? Or do I have spend a lot on it? We try to find a nice balance between being a cheap first aid kit and being a good first aid kit.
The best ones are listed directly below, and I’ve also included a section dedicated to cheap first aid kits. These don’t necessarily follow each of my criteria, but are the most affordable. They are the bare-bones of the first aid kits, but I don’t recommend them for hiking.
Now with our backpacking first aid kit criteria finished, we can finally list out the best of the bunch. We’ve run through quite a few emergency kits, since we hike anywhere from 2-4 times a month. Our families also usually go together, and so we need several boxes in stock.
There are is a lot of first aid out there, but you need to find the best ones. These are the ones made specifically for hiking and meet all the criteria above.
#1: Surviveware First Aid
The Surviveware is our go-to when it comes to first aid kits. There are just so many uses for the pouch. We can bring it hiking, camping, or even boating. I’ve been using this exact kit for at least two years now, having purchased it from Surviveware more than a couple times.
This kit comes in an ultra-durable little pouch. The pouch can easily attach to the outside of your backpack, the handlebars on your bike, a hook on a boat, or whatever you need it to. It’s also small enough to stuff in your bag if you prefer that. I weighed a few of the kits I purchased, and the scale would read anywhere from 15 ounces to 16.5 ounces.
The pouch itself is extremely durable, made of 600D polyester. In my 2+ years with the kit, I’ve never once had it ripped or torn. I’ve only had to buy it again for two reasons. The first is that we would run out of supplies and this kit is affordable enough to simply buy a new one. Second, we’ve lost our fair share of first aid kits and so we had to purchase a few more just in case.
No survival first aid kit is complete without having generous supply of actual first aid material. Surviveware’s kit is one of the better ones in this regard. It comes with 100 items that I find incredibly useful for hiking. I’ve taken the item list from their product page, as it would be too much to list on my own:
6” Shears(1), 600D Polyester Bag(1), Alcohol Wipes(3), Antiseptic Wipes(4), Adhesive Bandages: Butterfly Closures(5), Butterfly(5), H-Shape(5), Large(2), Standard (20), Mini(5), Square Shape(5), Cotton Gauze Swab(3), Cotton Swabs(10), CPR Pouch with Instructions(1), CPR Breathing Mask(1), Crepe Bandage(1), Emergency Blanket(1), Eye Pads(2), Hypoallergenic Tape(1), Nitrile Gloves(1), Personal Medicine Laminate Bag(1), Personal Medicine Mini Bags(5), PBT Conforming Bandage(1), Safety Pins(4), Splinter Probes(2), Strip Wound Closures(3), Sting Relief Wipes(3), Tourniquet(1), Triangular Bandage(1),Tweezer(1), Whistle(1)
Surviveware’s attention to detail in making the supplies easy to locate adds to the kit’s usefulness
Clearly, there are plenty of items included. There are a total of 47 bandages that come in different shapes. You have your standard alcohol and antiseptic wipes to clean any wounds. There is even a CPR breathing mask, which I rarely see in any hiking first aid kit. I find this incredibly important, as many people hike in dry areas (take the Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, for example) and are often not properly hydrated.
Surviveware did an outstanding job making sure you have supplies you need. Out of all of the backpacking first aid kits we’ve used, this is the most diverse in terms of hiking supplies. The contents are even properly organized by category within the kit. This increases its usability ten-fold and is a big reason why we keep purchasing this particular kit.
Overall, if you need the absolute best first aid kit for backpacking, hiking, biking, or boating, get this one. Its exterior is extremely durable and waterproof, the supplies are plentiful, and it is affordable for the high value you get.
#2: TripWorthy Compact First Aid Kit
This is my runner-up when it comes to the best hiking first aid kit. The kit utilizes a flexible, yet durable high-quality nylon bag. TripWorthy’s kit is slightly larger than the Surviveware one above, but it is still very portable. There are handles to make it easier to carry around, though it is not nearly as easy to attach.
Neither the bag nor the contents casings inside are waterproof, which makes it a poor choice for anything other than hiking. However, for a backpacking first aid kit, I find it durable enough to last years.
The contents are more than enough as well. I believe there are around 100 pieces. Fortunately, there is a CPR face mask included too (again, this is not common but it is much appreciated). The full list of contents is handily listed on their product page.
As a compact first aid kit for hiking, TripWorthy’s product is among the best of its class. If you need a cheaper, more affordable version of the Surviveware kit, this is it. You won’t get a kit that’s waterproof or as attachable as the Surviveware, but this kit is far better than those found in stores. It’s compact, flexible, easy to carry around, durable, affordable, and has much more supplies for your money than standard first aid kits.
Best first aid kit for camping
Similar to how general kits are different from kits for hiking, you must also be able to distinguish camping first aid kits. The supplies are slightly different and durability isn’t as necessary (since you won’t be moving as much as when backpacking), though it is still important.
Camping first aid kits are also typically larger. Though portability is still critical, it isn’t as profound considering you will be stationary for most of your camping time.
Other than those differences, the criteria I listed for emergency kits still applies here. We still want relatively portable and lightweight kits that are still durable and don’t cost too much.
#1: Bighorn Medical Kit
This is far and away my first aid choice for camping out with the family. It has everything you need to last anywhere from a few days to probably up to two weeks and still have more than enough supplies left.
The Bighorn kit is housed in a heavy-duty bag with waterproof casing. This isn’t an outdoor first aid kit, but it is doubtlessly suitable for even the harshest outdoor environments. My measures of the exterior came out to around 9.1″ x 7″ x 4.5″ (length x width x height). It also weighed in at 24.4 ounces, right in line with their 1.5 pound claim.
The contents list is too much to list, but the supplies are definitely very useful for different survival purposes. Along with your standard supplies, there are items such as gloves, syringes, duct tape, pain meds, and thermometers, among the many that most kits don’t have. When buying this kit, though, I would suggest adding more medication supplies (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) depending on your needs. These are necessary to add if you’re camping out for more than a day or two.
This is more expensive than a standard first aid kit, so be wary. With that said, this is a complete all-in-one first aid kit for camping. It is extremely durable and its contents will last you and your family quite a while. We purchased ours for around $50 and I would say it has undeniably proven its worth.
First Aid Backpacks
If you’re looking for an actual backpack that serves as a first aid kit on its own, you have some good options. I’d say these are ideal for families or a team of 2-3 going on a camp.
My optimal system would include one person in the group responsible for the first aid backpack. The other group members would carry backpacks for other camping/hiking supplies like food, water, etc.
#1: Ergodyne Arsenal 5243
The Arsenal 5243 is an professional grade first aid backpack that is highly durable, portable, and has plenty of storage space.
The backpack uses 600D polyester material with additional backing. We’ve only had it for a month or so and cannot speak on its longevity. However, the 600D polyester is similar to the Surviveware first aid pouch we talked about above. It seems to be tough enough to withstand different climates and last more than a few years.
The Ergodyne Arsenal is very lightweight, which is surprising considering the material. It weighs like a regular backpack, despite its material being heavy duty.
The storage space is more than adequate. There are plenty of mesh pockets to hold all your supplies. To note, the Arsenal 5243 does not come with any supplies. This drops its value a little bit, but allows you to custom build your own first aid kit. The backpack cost us around $60, and then our supplies to fill it up cost roughly $25.
#2: Ready America Four-Person Emergency First Aid Backpack
Ready America’s deluxe emergency kit is a hybrid between an emergency kit and a first aid backpack. It is designed to prepare you against disasters, but it fits well as a survival camping backpack.
Among the items in the emergency survival kit are:
- Food (trail mix, granola bars, etc)
- Survival blankets
- Lightsticks that last up to 12 hours
The backpack comes armed with a plethora of useful tools, medication, and survival supplies
Emergency power station
The emergency power station is a hand-cranked tool that provides you power for a small amount of time. This could charge your phone, play back AM/FM radio, or serve as a flashlight or siren.
Of course, it’s not just the emergency kit that is included within the backpack. There is also a first aid kit that holds 107 pieces. These are just standard supplies, but it should be sufficient for hiking in a 3-4 person group.
In all, the value is definitely there. The backpack holds a useful emergency kit as well as first aid. It probably won’t last more than 2 or 3 days, but for brief hikes or camp-outs, it has proved useful.
Cheap first aid kits
All of the choices above, save for the first aid backpacks, are all affordable options. We don’t like spending more than we need to. The first aid medical kits I recommended above have all shown they are highly affordable yet worth the money.
However, maybe you need just a simple first aid kit for camping or hiking. There are definitely cheaper options out there, but you won’t get the same level of quality or usefulness. For bare bones options, I’ve put out a few that look good. Note that I have not actually purchased any of these, unlike the ones listed in this guide.
#1: Be Smart Get Prepared 250-Piece Kit
This is a huge kit in terms of contents, but it again is incredibly useful. It is diverse enough for various purposes (hiking, camping, fishing, or a simple home first aid kit). They advertise it as being enough for 50 people.
I included this kit for a few reasons. First is because it has plenty of supplies for camping out. Second is for its hard-shell casing. Durability is a must and the casing in this seems tough enough to bring outdoors. Lastly, as of this writing, it costs less than $25 and is highly rated on Amazon.
#2: First Aid Only All-Purpose Kit
For the most basic, bare-bones first aid kit, I wouldn’t go any lower than First Aid Only. It is a 299-piece set cased in a soft, zipper bag and contains both first aid and survival supplies.
The kit isn’t waterproof nor is it as durable as the higher quality kits. However, it is a very cheap first aid kit that fills our needs in medications, bandages, and emergency tools.