This is what is in my kit for emergencies while out bushwalking: my phone and Garmin emergency device, a first aid bag with medications, basic survival gear and a walking buddy to help me out.
My phone and Garmin InReach Mini
If I have coverage, my phone can be used to call for help and to give my location coordinates. A first aid manual is a handy app. I store my medical information and emergency contact details on my phone (Medical Id) for use by first responders.
Without mobile coverage, I reach for my Garmin. If it is not a life threatening emergency I can use the satellite network to send a quick message with my location coordinates to a family member – “I’m ok” or “I need help” are two messages that I have set up for quick sending. I can also use the Earthmate app on my phone with the Garmin device to send a custom, longer message.
If something life-threatening happens, I can press the SOS button on the Garmin to initiate rescue. Unlike a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), my Garmin InReach Mini requires a paid subscription but has the advantage of supporting two way messaging. I carry this small device when walking and adventure bike riding. Read more for an in-depth review.
My red bag
In zip lock bags in a dry sack, I have the following
- Foot care and blister treatments such as Compeed, hikers wool, strapping tape, paw paw ointment
- Medications for pain relief, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, diarrhoea
- Snake bandage
- Wound care – disposable gloves, hand sanitiser, various bandaids, antiseptic, micropore, triangular and roller bandage, sanitary pads, small pair scissors
- Tablets for sterilising water, hydralyte.
- Tick freeze (freeze don’t squeeze, dab don’t jab), sticky tape or hair removal strips (stinging plants), fine tip tweezers, splinter probe
- And an emergency blanket (because everyone carries one of these, even if space blankets might be worthless)
Before a major multi-day walk, I shake everything out and replace what has been used up or expired, and add things as needed.
Survival and repairs
Other items useful in emergencies include
- a lighter or matches (usually stored with my stove)
- emergency food rations (chocolate!)
- some repair tools such as a shoelace, duct tape wrapped around my drink bottle, safety pins
- and a whistle – my Osprey pack conveniently has one built into the sternum strap
Everyone needs a buddy
My safety is my responsibility. I always bring my own first aid kit, I don’t want to rely on what someone else may have packed. A hike leader’s first aid kit is a bonus, not a replacement for my own stash.
When things go wrong, a small blister on a hard to reach toe, a twisted ankle, or risk of hypothermia, then a walking buddy is helpful. Someone to wrangle the band aid, to take some weight out your bag, to talk sense when you are befuddled and get you into a sleeping bag to warm up.
A buddy who has done Remote First Aid training with you is even better – so sign up for that training together. Learn to recognise the dangers in the bush, things that bite and sting, and how to respond to them.
And the disclaimer – I’m not a health professional – first aid kits are personal. What you carry depends on where you are walking, what conditions you might expect, and any special needs you have. Your safety is your responsibility.
What’s in your first-aid kit?