No experienced outdoorsman heads into the field for any extended period without some sort of first-aid. But there is a limit to what you can carry. The best practice is to keep a full medical kit in your car, boat, or base camp, while packing into the backcountry only the essentials for safe, comfortable travel. If you want to buy a stand-alone kit for each situation, there are plenty of options. Or you can buy one complete kit and break out what you need to compose a field bag from that. Either way, here are some ideas on what you should be looking for.
Build from the Basics
A primary medical kit for camp or home should have not only basic bandages and antibiotic ointment, but also materials for more serious situations, such as anti-coagulant to stop heavy bleeding, burn cream, and wound-closure supplies. Tweezers, a magnifying glass, scissors, gauze, and medical tape are all standard items. When selecting your main kit, just be sure to look for assemblages that offer multiple units of items that will cover the widest range of trauma, from bee stings to monkey butt.
Lightweight doesn’t have to mean limited utility. When buying or building your own backcountry field kit, the most important factor is how well considered the contents are, and how familiar you are with them. A worthy backcountry kit will offer anywhere from 30 to 100 pieces, stow in a zippered nylon or zip-lock case, fit in the palm of your hand, and always, always, always include moleskin.
Knowledge is Power
There is no substitute for emergency medical training. But if you don’t have time to take a basic first-aid or CPR course (you should), then invest in one of the many books on the subject written specifically for outdoorsmen and women. Two reliable choices are Wilderness Medicine by William Forgey, M.D., and Bushcraft First Aid by Dave Canterbury and Jason A. Hunt. As with everything pertaining to the outdoors, knowledge is weightless.