First-aid kit

Following are recommendations for first-aid kits from Burning Flipside’s PETs Lead. Participants should view these recommendations as a starting point for building their own first-aid kits in response to their own needs and situations.

Radical Self Reliance and First Aid

First Aid is something everyone should know, and a first aid kit is something everyone should have.

But FOR REAL: CAMPS, THEME CAMP OR OTHERWISE, SHOULD HAVE A KIT. This is a huge (are we saying “yuge” now?) thing theme camps can do to help your medical team, the event, and the community. Nobody plans on needing it, but then they need it. So buy it with camp dues. Whether or not you choose to share your kit with people outside your camp is up to your giving burning soul.


  1. Tailor your kit to your own potential needs, as well as your skill/knowledge level. Put stuff in there that you have wanted in the past. Put stuff in there relevant to your, or your campmates’ medical conditions. A paper list of your medical conditions, medications and allergies. Glucose tablets and a spare glucometer if you’re a diabetic. Kid meds if there’s kids in the camp. Etc.
  2. If you have a kit, and there’s stuff in there you don’t know how to use, either learn how to use it, or throw it away. Practice with your kit as much as you can. Sure, you’ll use your precious stuff, but then it will be more valuable because you know how to use it correctly. This also reduces the need to….
  3. Check your kit from time to time. Meds expire, tape and such decomposes. Especially if you store it in a car in the (Texas) summer. Crusty unusable supplies are no good.
  4. Buy quality stuff. Lots of pre-made kits have these little dinky tweezers in them with blunt tips, worthless scissors, etc. There’s a big market for things that could fulfill a check in a box, but not actually do the thing they’re designed to do.
  5. Buy generics of medicines until you have personally found them to not be as good. This applies to things like moleskin as well.

The Actual List

I. Things to have in your kit if you don’t have them elsewhere

Poison ivy’s active compound is an oil. Tecnu is very expensive. Dish soap cuts oils just as well. Also useful with……
Handwashing stuff
I like to use pump sprayers, which are $12 at Home depot. This reduces water use and can be used as a great cooling method. Label it “Clean Water Only” to avoid confusion.
Bug repellant
Have you ever tried moving a floppy person that couldn’t help? A blanket or similar thing will let you haul them back to camp, or whatever. Also keeps you warm. Even in May, a person laying out all night can get cold. Wool stays warm even when wet. Also provides emotional security.
It’s what plants crave. Gatorade….meh, I don’t know, easy to carry in powder form, cheap, but kind of sucks. Too much sugar, no magnesium. If used, should be cut to about half strength. Eating complex foods is best, juices. Coconut water is bland if you’re nauseated.
Hand sanitizer
Head Lamp
Get a quality one. 20$ and up black diamond or other respectable brand. Helps avoid injuries and cast illumination on existing ones. Trying to get a splinter out in the dark doesn’t work. Best brand is zebralight, about 80$.
Duct tape
This does everything. Splints that don’t fall apart with movement, waterproof covering for bandages, sports wraps…the list goes on. You can store it by wrapping it around another object, like a water bottle, or taking out the center cardboard and wrapping it around itself.
A watch
old fashioned time keeping device. Lets you keep track of when a problem started, count pulses, etc.

II. First aid kit – Everyday ailments

Mole skin
for blisters. Seriously, bring extra. Then remember to bring extra wool socks next year. Store bought is easier than hunting and skinning your own moles.
of multiple sizes and shapes. Breathable preferred
that self adhering elastic wrap for bandages, splints, etc.
in sterile packaging. Flat pieces and in roll form.
With Coban and Gauze you can pretty much cover anything. There is a huge variety of choices when it comes to putting white stuff on red stuff. Again, the most important thing is that you know how to use different products.
contact solution. Good for washing ash, bugs out of eyes. Also good for cleaning cuts.
for the patient to bite when you’re cauterizing wounds. Just kidding
Eye drops
I like regular eye drops. Numbing and irritation relief varieties exist
Good tweezers
not bad tweezers. Fine point or flat tipped, preferably both. Good for splinters and cactus thorns.
Antibiotic creme
In general, I’m not a huge neosporin fan, at least not for small stuff. I get cut and scraped all the time and have never gotten tissue infections. Soap and keeping it clean are your best bet. That said, camping for several days may make that difficult. Being a dirty hippie may make that difficult. Using the river as your primary means of bathing may make that difficult. Also, punctures, like stepping on a stick, can get infected easily.
Aloe vera
vs. a time travel device and more sunscreen
Disposable gloves
You’re way more likely to touch someone who needs help if you’re wearing these. Also useful for touching anything greasy, sticky or otherwise gross. Also useful for ice packs.
ACE bandage
The best thing for an injury is rest. People never want to do that. Find a former athlete and get them to show you how to wrap injuries.
Useful for taping injuries as well. Don’t make this stuff up, get a knowledgeable person to show you. Too tight wraps can be dangerous.
trauma shears are actually about a buck a piece if you can find the right source. Ice packs – self cooling, or just a source of ice to put in gloves or a ziplock

III. Over the counter meds

OTC meds are not harmless.
Read warnings. Make sure people you give them to are familiar with them, or have read and comprehended warnings. Be careful with Tylenol and alcohol, as well as Advil and not drinking enough water. Be careful with Tylenol and Ibuprofen in general, especially with repeated doses, or with people that have liver or kidney issues. They probably wouldn’t pass modern OTC regulations.
There’s a million options of things to buy. Most are stupid, simply expensive recombinations of things you could buy individually for a tenth the price. Here’s a good article about OTC med labeling.
Medicines are the most susceptible items in your kit to degrading, especially in heat. Store in a cool dry place if possible. Expiration dates are less important than proper storage. Expiration dates are kinda BS anyway. Nothing OTC is going to become dangerous, only slightly less effective.
pain first line treatment for heart attack.
Pain and swelling
(Tylenol for pain, Ibuprofen for both) Lots of options, just pay attention to active ingredients.
loperamide or imodium
dramamine or meclizine, pepto-bismol
diphenhydramine or longer acting drugs for seasonal allergies
Hydrocortisone cream
for bug bites. Reduces swelling and itching
Calamine lotion
for poison ivy, if that works for you. I never use it.

IV. Real Emergency Equipment

These things should be included only if you have the training to use them. In a real emergency, CPR can be done without equipment, clothes can be used as bandages and slings, anything rigid can be a splint, a belt can be used as a tourniquet, etc. But if you want to be a little more prepared for these things, here’s a list.

Bag Valve Mask or One-way CPR mask
so you don’t have to risk infection to breath for someone
Sam splints
with education (youtube is great), can be molded into many different types of splints. 2 are better than 1.
Premade tourniquet
Cervical Collar
Oral and nasal airways
Blood pressure cuff and stethoscope