What are the first items on your packing list? Clothing, personal hygiene items, electronics, and identification always top mine. Required health-related items make the cut. Remembering to pack for “everyday” travel comes easily enough, but what about products related to personal safety and emergency health? For me, they tend to be last on the list, if they are remembered at all.
On shorter trips, I rarely pack anything that you may find in a first aid kit. When I left the USA to live in Australia for a year, I assembled a very small first aid kit that left much to be desired. If you’re embarking on a long-term trip, trekking through mountains or wilderness, or simply wanting to be prepared to respond to basic first aid situations, consider adding first aid related items to your packing list.
Why pack a first aid kit
A first aid kit for home or personal use is intended to treat minor injuries, such as blisters and cuts/scrapes. Items inside the kit can help stop bleeding, reduce pain and inflammation, and help prevent infection. Note: A travel first aid kit is intended to address minor injuries. Seek a medical professional for additional treatment.
Types of basic first aid kits
A small “on-the-go” pack: I brought this to Australia with a few additions. Small and inexpensive.
Ready-made kit: You can find these at most drug stores/pharmacies, in related aisles of a bigger store, or online.
Ready-made, assembled kits you can purchase online:
Assemble your own: Review the items we mention here and research additional needs you may have based on the destination for and duration of your trip.
You may also be interested in packing first aid books, which can help you recognize and treat common, basic injuries:
Basic items to include in a travel first aid kit
The most common contents include adhesive bandages, pain medication, dressings, and something to disinfect small wounds. The number and size of individual items you include may vary based upon the length of your trip, the destination, and how many people are traveling together. As you look for ready-made kits or plan to assemble your own, at the very least look for products that match the following descriptions.
Adhesive bandages of various sizes
You may call them Band-Aids, plasters, or something else altogether. In addition to cover minor cuts and scrapes, you may need them for the blister(s) you developed after a long hike or the first time you wear heels after months of walking in flat, supportive athletic shoes.
Other important items:
- Sterile dressings, such as gauze pads
- An elastic bandage to treat a sprain or to apply pressure elsewhere
- Saline, soap, or other products to clean a minor wound before dressing it
- Antiseptic product to help reduce infection after cleaning the wound
- Antibiotic ointment
- Dressings specifically designed for burns
- Hand sanitizer (for the person treating the wound)
- Pair of gloves
- Medication to address pain and inflammation
- First aid manual or quick-reference cards
Please note that this is an introductory list. Health and emergency preparedness organizations can provide more comprehensive lists.
First aid kit packing tips
- If you are traveling with a partner or group, you may wish to divide some of the items amongst the group or carry more than one kit.
- Bring a couple of essentials in a day pack if the main kit is stored at your accommodation.
Replenish items as you use them.
- Take note of expiration dates of ointments and medication and buy new ones as necessary.
Do you pack a first aid kit? If so, do you assemble your own or purchase a ready-made kit? If you have used your kit on the road, tell us how!