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First Aid Kits

I have learned a couple of things from trial and error. You can make your own kit using an altoids can, small pill bottle, pencil pouch, plastic container from dollar store, etc.. The problem with making your own is that you only need a few of each item for your kit. It's hard to buy something like wet wipes or safety pins in small quantity.
I think it's probably easier to buy a cheap FAK for under $10 to get the pouch itself and a few supplies. Then, supplement this kit with your personal preferences and needs. Many cheap kits use cheap band-aids, etc.. So, adding a few extras makes sense.
Dollar-Tree sells flat, white plastic kits that hold a few bandages. You can also buy "2-pill" packs of Advil and Tylenol. If you need more volume than that to hold medical tape, etc - then, a pouch is probably the best way to go. Something that's approximately 5"X5"x2" more or less.
The RS save a trip kit is a pretty good value and you can add items as necessary.
A keychain classic Swiss army knife, or Swiss army card or Leatherman squirt is great for tweezers and scissors - but you can't fly with it unless checking your bag.

Posted by
1654 posts

Adding, I use an additional cosmetic case for an assortment of first aid supplies and other things, travel scissors, mini rolls of duct tape, benadryl, OTC pain and cold/cough meds, peppermint tea.

Posted by
1632 posts

Why peppermint tea? A regular tea bag can be pressed on a wound to stop bleeding. Duct tape is a classic - can be notched and turned into a butterfly bandage or placed over gauze.

Posted by
1654 posts

I favor and drink peppermint tea most nights. It also can settle the stomach if not feeling well.

Posted by
305 posts

MM14-
You are the second person who has mentioned mini duct tape or gaffer tape. Where did you find that? Thanks.

Posted by
3789 posts

I can see the philosophy of starting with a cheap FAK, but I have meds. I have duct tape. I decant what I have into smaller containers and roll a length of duck tape onto a straw. Doesn't cost me a cent. Small zip lock bags for pills, contact lens containers for ointments. Fit into a zip lock bag in my cosmetic case rather than take up the box size (carry on only traveller here). Over the years I have mini sewing kits from hotels - often with a safety pin or two (as a sewist, I have plenty of other options, however)
There is Rick's own Sarah Murdoch and her Box of Awesome, but a bunch of specially bought indiv wrapped items are not really necessary.
https://adventureswithsarah.net/packing-boxing-up-some-awesome-and-being-prepared-for-anything/
There are great websites, videos and Pinterest on how to use plastic straws as one use containers - salt, sugar, spices, ointments. Of course, those also become packaging into the land fill, but at least they are the brands you want and already have in your home. Only thing I can see really needing to be specially purchased is the one use crazy glue..can't decant that effectively.

Posted by
2175 posts

I bring a tiny ziplock bag with regular table salt in my FAK.
After getting a terrible sore throat in Turkey one year, and needing to amass tiny packets of salt from restaurants in order to gargle; I bring my own.
And I've need it a couple of times.
You can also use it to make saline to wash wounds ,etc.

Posted by
1277 posts

I was the rebel w the checked bag when 4 of us toured Italy and Slovenia for our 50th bdays. I got half a step ahead of the stink eye by announcing that I was bringing 1st aid kit, & did any one have any liquid requests? Miz Minalmist did ask for Sun screen. Any way, I dumped 100 Advil in a sandwich bag, about 80 bandaids in another, 50 q tips into another, etc. Etc. Etc Put all in a freezer grade quart bag.

Posted by
1714 posts

re: question about duct tape - you can buy mini rolls, but it's just as easy to wind a couple of feet around an old credit card - packs much flatter. I personally prefer gorilla tape and have used it to repair my suitcase, coat, and shoes over the years. Aside from traditional "first aid" (OTC meds, bandaids, and white medical tape (for blister prevention), I also bring a tiny metal container that holds a small eyeglasses screwdriver, spare buttons (in multiple colors), a sewing needle and basic thread colors (taken from a larger sewing kit), and safety pins. In one of my underused areas of my travel bag I throw in a handful of zip ties, small binder clips (to hold paperwork or the curtains closed), and ziplock bags in many sizes rolled up and held with rubber bands (also useful).

Posted by
2349 posts

If you have any old injury that tends to flare up occasionally, take the wrap or brace that treats it. Ankle, knee, elbow, wrist, etc. Or take KT tape, which I love. That stuff will keep me together for years to come.

Posted by
1654 posts

Mini rolls of black duct tape work for me. They fit nicely in a snack zip bag.
Stores sell mini tubes or bottles of 5-second bonding glue. I too take a mini sewing kit with a few added pins/needles & stuff, but I use a snack size zip bag. I also carry zip ties & elastics (all put in a baggie), a mini LED flashlight and varying sizes of baggies. Of course, a lot of the items are more of an emergency kit - expanding on the first aid kit.

Posted by
1632 posts

Perhaps, travelers need two kits - First Aid and Save-A-Trip or Combo.
I appreciate the above links from Frank and about Sara Murdoch.
Neosporin or any antibiotic ointment - I believe is unnecessary for most people with normal immune systems. Could be useful for folks with wound healing issues like diabetics or chemotherapy patients. Best thing for a cut is to simply stop the bleeding with pressure or some kind of bandage. Then, leave the cut alone and let the body do its job and heal.

Posted by
1277 posts

Sun, that might be accurate about antibiotic ointments when people are at home and going about their normal routines, but when folk are traveling, in and off mass transit, not sleeping well and eating strange things, a dab of Neosporin might be the boost some bodies need
Ok, we are renting a house in Mexico for 9 nights. I'm making a baggie of Not as Awesome as Sarah, but some stuff that will make me happy as I work on my travel journal, etc. I put a roll of cellophane tape in a cheap plastic dispenser in a bag, open side up. I've placed several new twist ties, 15 paper clips, 10 safety pins, rubber bands etc. In the cavity. Heavens knows what it will look like as my " carryon only" goes thru xray. I'm planning on leaving it in a kitchen drawer in Mexico . Reading yr notes above, I might add a single use super glue

Posted by
3789 posts

Plan a kit dependent on location and activities.
I know this is a Europe forum, but after a broken bone in my shoulder and someone else's sprain in the middle of 'no where, Africa', I always carry a fabric sling, or large enough scarf, and a small tensor bandage. As a solo traveler who uses apartments and no cell phone, I might need the bandage on an ankle to get myself to help.
As to antibiotic ointments, travels to countries with more parasitic soil and 'dirt', requires meticulous cleaning of wounds...even slight scrapes. A dab of ointment and a bandage provides further protection for healing. Some places really test our immune systems and are 'dirtier' than others.
You experience may vary.

Posted by
1406 posts

I've started bringing Smooth Move tea bags (only 3 or 4) with me on all trips. Highly recommended as an addition to your FAK.

Posted by
1179 posts

I’m going to be contrarian on this subject. It’s less about the kit and more about your knowledge.

I would suggest the best thing you can “pack” is your knowledge. I would strongly suggest taking a Wilderness Medicine course from NOLS or another organization.

The course teaches you how to improvise from materials at hand - so you can take less. The course teaches you which medications are the most useful - so you can take less. The course teaches you how much is enough - so you take less. The course teaches you what is truly needed - so you can take less. Most importantly, this information is in your head and weighs 0 oz.

Several of the items listed here are easily available in Europe. I wouldn’t carry them. Several others are overkill. Many people take too much of the wrong thing and not enough of the right thing. It appears that some are playing the “what-if”’game, which is a recipe for overpacking.

I consider Pepto Bismol tablets critical as they are impossible to get in many countries (and I also use them most every trip).

I keep my duct tape wrapped around the base of my collapsible water bottle.

Posted by
5818 posts

For the typical first world (e.g. Europe) tourist traveler Cindy H's knowledge stuff is on point. Most of the "first aid" items noted is this discussion are for convenience. Even small villages will have a pharmacy/apotheke/apotek/farmacia carrying items discussed.

The exception is active travel (via ferrata, trekking, ski touring etc) where travelers may be hours away from access to help. In that case, active travelers may want to consider wilderness first aid items:

https://www.wildmed.com/blog/building-a-wilderness-first-aid-kit/

Posted by
1179 posts

The exception is active travel (via ferrata, trekking, ski touring etc) where travelers may be hours away from access to help.

Yes, that was my assumption, as this board is dedicated to Rick Steves type tours.

Adventure travel needs different and more items. Even then, you may be able to get away with less if you are going with a guide service. In that case, the guide will have the big heavy items.

Posted by
1220 posts

The first aid kit in my purse is a small neoprene pouch (got it at a race expo a few years back) with a couple of band-aids and packaged alcohol wipes in it. For a small scrape or cut with no access to soap and water immediate, it's easy to use the wipe and then slap a band-aid on it.

Moved up to the $10 first aid kit ($6 kit from Target and a small tube of Neosporin) for an active trip to Utah National Parks this year and actually had to crack open the Neosporin when I got a cut on my leg from walking into the pointy corner of a coffee table back in our hotel room.

Posted by
108 posts

I carry a small pouch with aleve, dayquil, nyquil, pepto, Emergen-C, powdered pedialyte, bandaids, neosporin, and alcohol swabs. I also, in my 311 pouch include a small Bag Balm (good for scrapes, chafing, etc.) container. No, it's not the smallest thing, but I'd rather not have to deal with trying to find an open pharmacy in the middle of the night just because I have a headache or runny nose.

Posted by
3493 posts

Being lucky on my first RS tour to have an EMT who brought his FAK backpack and an Emergency room nurse as tour members (both came in handy a couple times when we had tour members who sprained an ankle and one who had a heart condition flare up), I feel totally underprepared when I bring my little insignificant zip lock full of Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment. But I do build a kit of sorts containing things I always find I need on trips. Much more useful than anything I could buy in the store, and I don't worry about buying larger containers of single use pre packaged items I will be taking because not only do they cost less when bought in larger quantities they are things I would use around the house anyway so don't go to waste. I end up with exactly what I need in a compact container and usually have enough to share when needed.

Posted by
2249 posts

I’ve learned to stop taking first aid kits – waste of space. Unless you're up the Amazon you can always buy stuff locally.

Posted by
261 posts

That's reckless! Even in the US I keep a couple Band-Aids in my wallet! Exampe: I was bitten by some mystery insect in rural Finland in the middle of the night, woke up to the painful itching, and my single serving pouch of anti-itch with antibiotic cleared it up by morning...I am not talking about lugging a professional size medic case, but you ( and everyone!) should have 2-3 days of supplies for a bout of diarrhea, a headache, a blister, etc. as part of taking care of yourself. Spending $1000s of dollars on a trip only to lose time dealing with minor physical ailments- or, have it mushroom needlessly into something bigger... just hoping for the best and a convenient pharmacy is not a travel (or life!) strategy I would recommend!

Posted by
1179 posts

@Karen - it’s hardly reckless to bring less if you know what you do and don’t need.

My most important items are blister packs of my
most common meds (Benadryl, Pepto Bismol, Imodium, Tylenol). It fits into a very small coin purse. My gaffers tape wrapped around my water bottle works just fine for band aids and blister protection.

I was stung deep in the Amazon. You know what I did? I made a salt paste and spread it on the sting area. It leached the poison right out. I could do that because I already had that knowledge in my head.

Most people take way too much stuff when it comes to first aid kits.

Posted by
12215 posts

When I put together my first aid kit I had this question in mind.....It's midnight and I need ??????. Do I need it right away or can it wait until morning? If it's something I may need, I take one or two individual doses and not an entire box or tube. The only two things I take extra of are Alleve and Pepto because they can sometimes be hard to find.

Everything fits in a snack size Ziploc bag.

Posted by
23 posts

On my last three overseas trips I’ve had to find a drugstore for something or another. BUT having a few blister packs of common meds packed meant I could find a drugstore when it was convenient for me and the day’s itinerary.

Posted by
3493 posts

I take enough of just essentials in my kit. It fits in a sandwich sized zip lock bag flat which takes up minimal room and can even be carried with me in my pants pocket.. While I can buy things like band aids locally, when it comes to any kind of medication if I can't find exactly what its is I take, it is a great risk for me to take something I find in the pharmacy in a foreign country. I don't react well to most non prescription drugs and it is only after carefully working with my doctor I have found exactly what I can take for various conditions (meaning for many things Ijust don't take anything). I really hate it when I go to buy something I take and see the dreaded "NEW! Improved!" label on the package. This probably means I can't take it anymore because they added something to it I react badly to. So, I bring my stuff with me rather than risk buying something close enough that will cause me to be too ill to continue my journey. I have learned that the paracetamol I buy in the UK works a lot better than what I get at home, so not all is bad.

Posted by
261 posts

Most readers/posters on the different RS interest areas of the Forum are very light packers? And often newer travelers looking for advice from those more seasoned. I consider myself experienced, but always appreciate learning creative or new solutions! Hence disagreement in my recent post that "taking nothing at all" wasn't useful for others. It might work for that poster, that's his/ her choice, or whatever else you personally don't feel you need ( bandaids, etc).
I agree with the middle of the night/middle of nowhere scenario and also having tried-and- true remedies or specific brands. Example: either at home or when traveling if I act really quickly and take a particular OTC sinus medication I can stave off a miserable migraine- like headache. It's a 5 minute window! But I would never take the entire carton.
I have just a tiny baggie, too. I tape the carton info/ dose onto the blister pack of however many I estimate I will need of whatever. Tip: airport security has never, in 20 years, found nor questioned the threaded needle I have wrapped around a blister pack. I can deal with a splinter ( has happened twice) or fix a little tear in my clothes😀...
Camping stores sell single dose packets of antibiotic wipes and etc. in similar packaging.
Lastly, somewhere I found a 2" by 2" first aid pocket thingee with a clip. I love that. With a few items for just city walking it is easy to keep in my day bag or purse.