Backcountry First Aid Basics

There's a joke amongst the Cairn Crew about a first aid kit - it's the one piece of gear that you have to have, but never want to have to use. If you spend any time outdoors, you need to put some thought into how you'll cope with an injury - minor or not - if it happens while you're out in the wild.

This list isn't an in-depth guide on first aid written by experts in first responding. This list is written by people (the Cairn Crew) who have spent a lot of time in the outdoors and have spent a lot of time reviewing outdoor gear. Here, we wanted to provide you with some basic advice and resources to help you prepare for your time outside. Some of it may seem like common sense, but it can be pretty easy to ignore common sense (and the potential for something going wrong). 

So do yourself, and those you're hitting the trail with, a the list below before you head out on your next adventure. There's no excuse for being unprepared!

AMK Ultrlight Watertight .7



Consider a few things when selecting a first aid kit: group size, outing duration, the activity, and the season. Yes, you can build your own kit; but honestly, you'll spend more money and end up with excess items that you'll (hopefully) never need to replenish. We recommend grabbing a pre-made kit from the professionals. The Cairn Crew featured the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 kit in the Spring 2018 Obsidian Collection because it covers you for most outdoor excursions (1 to 4 people for up to 4 days) in a package that's easy to carry and keeps your supplies dry in all conditions.



Enhance your existing first aid kit with items that are relevant to your group's needs and activity. Examples may be including climbing salve (Cairn curated gear: Joshua Tree Climbing Salve) if climbing is on the agenda or extra blister care (Cairn curated gear: Adventure Medical Kits Blister Medic Kit) items if you're on an extended hike. 



We've all heard, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." And we've all heard it for a reason: it's true! Take the time to prepare your body to prevent common outdoor ailments. You'll look at the examples here and say, "duh," but we all need reminders. Be honest - how many times have you headed out on a clear day and forgotten to slather on the sunscreen? It get a little too stoked to enjoy a nice day outside and inevitably something is forgotten.

Preventative measures (Cairn curated gear call-outs are included):

  Sunscreen (All Good Sunstick SPF 30)
  Anti-chafing balm (Pjur Active Anti-Chafing Gel)
  Blister prevention (Foot Glide Anti-Blister Balm)
  Dry skin protection (Green Goo Dry Skin Stick)



Whether you're spending a significant amount of your time outside or are a weekend warrior, first aid skills are invaluable. We highly recommend checking out local wilderness first aid courses, or doing some online education if local classes aren't available. Not only will you walk away with potentially life-saving skills, you'll probably find some new outdoor adventure friends in your course!

Here are a few resources for first aid education:

  Red Cross


These are relatively simple steps that any outdoor enthusiast can take to add an extra layer of preparation to his or her next adventure. What do you do or how have you prepared yourself for potential issues in the outdoors? Share in the comments!