The Five Best Camping & Hiking First Aid Kits (And Two You Should Completely Avoid)

If you spend enough time on the trail, you’ll eventually suffer an injury. It really is that simple.

Hopefully, the injury will be of the skinned-knee or splinter-in-your-finger variety, but hikers and campers also suffer more serious injuries at times.

But no matter the nature of your injury, you need to be prepared to patch yourself up to continue your trek or limp back to the car. And in most cases, this will require some kind of first-aid supplies.

Fortunately, first-aid kits are some of the easiest things to add to your outdoor gear collection. You can buy really good ones for very little money, or you can even assemble one yourself, if you’d prefer.

Whichever path you decide to take, we’ll try to help guide you through the process below.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, there are a couple of hiking first-aid kits you’ll want to stay away from — we’ll point those out too so you can avoid putting yourself in a bad spot.

Image from Unsplash.

The Five Best Camping and Hiking First-Aid Kits

Type “hiking first-aid kit” into a search engine and you’ll regret it.

There are an absurd number of models on the market, ranging from the cheap and insufficient to full-blown trauma kits in backpack form. Sorting through them all will only make your afternoon disappear.

So, we’ve tried to make it easy below. Just decide what you’re looking for and grab your credit card (that’s obviously a joke — Google already has your credit card number).

And as mentioned, there are two first-aid kits you should completely stay away from, but we’ll get to them in a minute.

1. Alysontech Mini First Aid Kit

Look, if you have better things to do than compare first-aid kits for hours, just grab this kit and get on with your life. Featuring a hard, water-resistant shell and 100 individual supplies, this small and lightweight kit is perfect for the trail.

We’re not even going to spend a lot of time describing it — it’s got everything you’re likely to need, it’s light enough to bring while backpacking, and everything comes in an easy-to-carry kit.

Like we said, this is the best kit for the vast majority of hikers and campers. Just buy it and move on to other things.

Things we like about the kit:

  • With 100 different supplies, it will allow you to address most minor to moderate injuries you may face on the trail.
  • Everything is packed into a nice, water-resistant, hard-shelled case.
  • All of the supplies are latex-free for safety.
  • It includes mesh pockets to keep everything organized.
  • It’s reasonably small and lightweight.

Problems with the kit:

  • It doesn’t include a few things that may be helpful, like an instant-cold pack.
  • It isn’t completely waterproof (though it is water-resistant).

Want to save 10 bucks? Just grab this kit in black. We still think red is far-and-away the best color for first-aid kits, but you could always slap some high-vis red stickers on it.

2. I GO Compact First-Aid Kit

If you look around, you can find a hiking first-aid kit for less than 10 bucks, but the I GO 85-piece kit is only a couple of bucks more and offers far more value than bargain-basement alternatives.

Things we like about the kit:

  • It’s really affordable, yet it includes a good minimum set of supplies.
  • It has a hard shell unlike most other budget-priced kits, which are contained in a soft bag.
  • The mesh pockets help prevent things from falling out when you open the kit.
  • It comes with a first-aid guide, so you don’t have to print out one of your own.
  • A carabiner is included, which makes it easy to clip to your body or gear.

Problems with the kit:

  • The quality of the supplies leaves a little to be desired.
  • The whole kit is a bit larger than we’d consider ideal.
  • It includes some fairly low-priority stuff, but you can always ditch anything you consider unnecessary.
  • The shell is water-resistant, not waterproof.

3. SHBC Compact First Aid Kit 

If you don’t mind spending an extra 10 or 15 bucks on a first-aid kit (something you may one day wish you’d done), the SHBC Compact First-Aid Kit is likely the better option than the Alysontech Kit discussed above.

Filled with 228 different first-aid supplies (including a few that are really better described as survival supplies), this kit will keep you covered during your next outdoor adventure. Plus, everything fits inside a water-resistant, hard shell case, which features transparent storage pouches to keep everything stowed away neatly.

Things we like about the kit:

  • Not only does this kit feature most of the first-aid supplies you’re likely to need on the trail, it also includes a few survival items (such as a whistle and one-piece multi-tool).
  • We love the transparent internal pockets, as they allow you to see all your supplies at a glance.
  • Although it isn’t the lightest kit around, it’s light enough to toss in your pack and hit the trail.
  • The kit has a “double configuration,” meaning that all of the primary supplies (not tools) come in sets of two.
  • It includes a first-aid guide.

Problems with the kit:

  • This kit may be just a bit larger than some hikers and campers would want.
  • We aren’t crazy about the “briefcase-style” design and handle.
  • The included case doesn’t come with a carabiner.
  • We think it’s kinda shady for the manufacturer to label the kit as “waterproof,” when it’s really better described as “water-resistant.”

4. EVERLIT 250 Pieces Survival First Aid Kit

Honestly, we prefer treating first-aid kits and survival kits as separate entities — they contain two different types of supplies, they serve different needs, and you’ll need them in different situations.

That said, having a “go bag” like this can be useful in some cases. Suppose, for example, that your camp site floods suddenly at night and you don’t have time to scurry around collecting scattered items — an all-in-one kit would provide obvious advantages there.

And for that matter, if you’re just getting started hiking or camping, these types of kits can help save you some time and money.

We still think this one is better suited for tossing in the trunk of your car or stashing in your garage, but it may be the right choice for some hikers and campers.

Things we like about the kit:

  • It’s stocked with 250 pieces of gear, which will keep you covered in most situations.
  • It comes with some nifty things, like glowsticks and an emergency blanket (not to mention paracord, an emergency whistle, a fire starter and a crude multi-tool).
  • The case elicited high praise from most who tried it, and we love that it includes Velcro strips.

Problems with the kit:

  • At 1.9 pounds, it’s slightly heavier than ounce-counting hikers may like.
  • The knife and scissors aren’t as sharp as you may want.
  • It’s almost over-stuffed, making it difficult to re-pack once you’ve treated a wound.

5. Adventure Medical Kits .7 Medical Kit

Lets say you’re not a run-of-the-mill camper. Maybe you’re an ultralight, marathon-style hiker. Maybe you’re a kayaker who needs to bring a first-aid kit. Or maybe you’re planning on camping in the beautiful-but-rainy Pacific Northwest.

In any of these situations (or countless others), you may find that a more specialized first-aid kit is the best choice. And in these cases, the Adventure Medical Kits .7 Medical Kit is a great choice.

Packed with a minimum set of emergency first-aid supplies, this kit comes in a small, waterproof pouch you can hang off your pack, clothes, or just about anywhere else you like. And it’s crazy light, making it perfect for weight-watching walkers and campers.

Things we like about the kit:

  • This first-aid kit features a truly waterproof case.
  • It’s one of the lightest first-aid kits around and the very lightest one we recommend here.
  • The supplies included are limited to those you’re most likely to use — there’s nothing superfluous here.
  • Though soft-sided, the case is very easy to carry or stash, thanks to the attached cord.
  • While we think first-aid kits should all be red, this one is very bright yellow, meaning that it’s still easy to spot.

Problems with the kit:

  • The slate of supplies included with the kit is a bit minimalist, but that’s to be expected from such a lightweight kit.
  • Though waterproof, the case is soft, which makes it harder to access the gear inside.
  • It’s a tad more expensive than some better-equipped first-aid kits.

Want to save 10 bucks? Just grab this kit in black. We still think red is far-and-away the best color for first-aid kits, but you could always slap some red stickers on it to improve its visibility, if you need to save every possible dollar.

Two Camping & Hiking First Aid Kits to Avoid

We take no pleasure in pointing out substandard kits or taking money out of anyone’s pocket. But that said, first-aid kits are important. Not only do you want to avoid incomplete or poor-quality models, but they shouldn’t be marketed in the first place!

With that said, we’d strongly recommend hikers and campers avoid the following two first-aid kits:

1. Physicians Care First Aid Essentials Kit

Sold by Walmart and a handful of other retailers, the Physicians Care First-Aid Essentials Kit is just garbage (while costing more than our recommendation for the most affordable first kit). The gear and supplies included are cheap, the case is likely to fall apart after a few trips, and it includes bizarre things (who is going to need a tongue depressor on the trail?).

Do yourself a favor and pick a better first-aid kit for your next trip.

2. Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Series

Although this kit is probably a slightly better-quality kit than the one previously mentioned, it’s certainly not very impressive. It’s basically a kit stuffed with some of the cheapest supplies available, to help justify it’s high price tag. Also sold by Walmart and other retailers, this kit simply costs more than other, better-supplied first-aid kits.

It does come with a reasonably comprehensive first-aid book, but you could find and print out similar info for next to nothing.

Putting Together Your Own First-Aid Kit for Hiking or Camping

Image from Pixabay.

Again, we really think most hikers and campers will be best served by just buying a first-aid kit for the trail.

Basic first-aid kits are really affordable (you can get a good one for less than 20 bucks, and the [TK] mentioned above is even less expensive), they come in a handy carrying case, and they allow you to spend your time doing things aside from buying and repackaging first-aid supplies.

But, if you’re really trying to save every possible dime or shave off every unnecessary ounce, it may make sense to put together your own kit. It’d also be a good idea to assemble your own kit if you have specific medical needs to consider or you’re going to be vulnerable to unusual injuries.

But regardless of your reasoning for doing so, you’ll want to keep in mind the following tips when putting together your camping or hiking first-aid kit:

  • Don’t overstock your kit. You don’t need 500 Band-Aids or a gallon of disinfectant. If you have a serious wound, you’re going to use tape and sterile bandages to patch it up — not Band-Aids. You’re most likely to use Band-Aids to cover blisters on your feet or small cuts on your fingers or knees. And even if you change these bandages twice a day, you’re only going to need 20 or so to get you through a week-long trek.
  • Prioritize supplies that have multiple uses. If you’re really trying to scale-back your first-aid kit, you can skip the Band-Aids and just bring plenty of tape and sterile bandages instead. While not as convenient as Band-Aids, you can use tape and sterile bandages to cover wounds that’d leave you reaching for Band-Aids in most situations.
  • Keep everything in some kind of bag or case. You don’t want to have to search through your pack for medical tape when you’re bleeding or fumble around one handed in search of your tweezers when you have a bee’s stinger embedded in your palm. So, put all of your first-aid supplies in a single bag, box or case.
  • You can use a plastic bag to store all your first-aid gear, but don’t. Look, we love using plastic sandwich bags to keep our gear organized as much as the next campers, but your first-aid kit gear should really be contained in a case designed specifically for the purpose. Most make it easy to keep your supplies organized, and they’ll protect the things that may break. Additionally, designated first-aid kit bags are easy to find (which may be especially helpful if someone else has to go rifling through your pack to help you).

Camping & Hiking First-Aid Kits: An Inventory List

Image from Unsplash.

Whether you just want to buy a first-aid kit or assemble one yourself, it’s important to ensure that it contains everything you’re likely to need on the trail.

Now, there are obviously some trade-offs and decisions to be made.

You probably don’t want to lug a complete trauma kit with you on the trail, even if it’d be quite helpful in the event that you suffer a life-threatening injury. Doing so would simply require too much space and force you to haul around too much weight, relative to the likelihood that you’d ever need a fully stocked ER department on your back.

But there are also some things that may very well prove useful, which many hikers and campers are likely to overlook.

Ultimately, you’ll just have to evaluate your risk tolerance, the odds of you suffering various types of injuries, and your thoughts on things like pack weight.

Nevertheless, most hikers and campers (indeed, nature lovers of all stripes) will want a first-aid kit that contains the following:

  • 2 to 4 doses over-the-counter pain medications
  • 2 to 4 doses over-the-counter antihistamines
  • 2 to 4 doses over-the-counter antacids
  • 2 to 4 doses over-the-counter antidiarrheal
  • 1 pair latex gloves
  • 1 roll adhesive tape
  • 4 packs of sterile gauze
  • 1 small bottle hydrogen peroxide or iodine
  • 1 small bottle alcohol or alcohol wipes
  • 1 small bottle antibacterial ointment
  • 1 small bottle burn ointment
  • 1 small bottle Aloe vera
  • 1 large piece of moleskin
  • 1 pair of small scissors
  • 1 pair of nail clippers
  • 1 pair tweezers
  • 1 small mirror
  • 1 pack assorted adhesive bandages
  • 1 emergency cold pack
  • 1 Ace bandage
  • 10 cotton swabs
  • First aid manual
  • Eye drops

Pro-Tip: Don’t forget that you’ll also want to bring along any prescription medications you need, including everything from blood pressure medication to mental health meds to birth control pills.

Camping & Hiking First-Aid Kits: Additional Considerations

Image from Unsplash.

No matter whether you just buy an off-the-shelf first-aid kit or put one together yourself, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before, during, and after your next adventure.

  • Always take stock of your supplies after each trip. We know that it’s a drag to do a bunch of work after arriving home after a great time in the outdoors, but take the 5 minutes to look over your first-aid kit and replace anything you’ve used. This way, you can just rest easy, knowing that your kit is already ready to go, should you take an impromptu trip.
  • Take a quick inventory before each trip too. Even though you inventoried your supplies when you returned from your last trip, you’ll want to take a quick glance at your stuff to make sure nobody has “borrowed” a band-aid or raided the kit for aspirin one night when the medicine cabinet ran dry.
  • Check expiration dates regularly. Many people forget that medications do expire over time, so periodically check to make sure your supplies will be safe and effective if you need them.
  • Don’t forget to learn how to provide first-aid. Obviously, you’ll need first-aid supplies in the event of an illness or injury, but you also need the know-how necessary to use the supplies properly. For example, do you know whether you should grab the hydrogen peroxide or disinfectant first to treat a cut? Do you know the proper way to remove a tick?
  • Print out a first-aid quick-guide and keep it in your kit. Unless you’re a health-care professional, chances are that you’ll have trouble remembering some of the key numbers and measures involved in rendering first-aid — even if you already know the basics by heart. How many chest compressions do you give a minute when providing CPR? What’s the maximum amount of acetaminophen you can take in 24 hours? A quick-guide will prove quite helpful when faced with these types of questions.

***

No, buying or assembling a first-aid kit for your next hiking or camping trip is not a particularly fun or sexy part of prepping for your next trip. But you have to do it, so invest the time and the couple of bucks it’ll take to do so properly.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your first-aid kit, so it’s kind of an ounce-of-prevention, thing.

But you will. Everyone gets hurt on the trail.

Let’s just hope that your injuries are all minor and associated with funny stories.

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