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We have split our medical kit into two parts, each in its own zippered pouch. The large kit is for overnight trips away from potential help, in the wilderness or on a boat, or for long vacations. From the larger kit, we fill the smaller kit with whatever emergency supplies we need for a particular day hike or short outing, and it goes with us everywhere. These are what work best for us.

You can buy first-aid kits that contain most or all of the items you need, but they tend to be very expensive compared to just going to the pharmacy and buying the items individually. Those I list here cover most contingencies.

  • adhesive tape
  • antacid or other stomach settler
  • antibiotic ointment
  • antihistamine
  • antiseptic wipes
  • bandage assortment
  • Band-Aids
  • benzocaine burn spray
  • blister pads
  • calamine lotion
  • children's acetaminophen
  • diarrhea medicine
  • carsickness medicine
  • elastic bandages
  • eyewash
  • first-aid book
  • gauze pads
  • Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever
  • instant ice pack (chemical pouch)
  • iodine
  • ipecac syrup
  • latex gloves
  • laxative
  • magnifying glass
  • measuring spoons
  • petroleum jelly
  • rubbing alcohol
  • scissors
  • splint
  • thermometer
  • toenail clippers
  • Tums
  • tweezers
  • waterless hand sanitizer

Also:

  • Add prescription medications to the kit, even those you don't use at the moment but might need on a long trip; filling out-of-state prescriptions can be difficult.
  • A snakebite kit may be a good idea if you will be in snake country, but you must follow the directions; improper use can cause serious infections.
  • We bring a prescription epinephrine injector called EpiPen Jr. for allergic emergencies like the near-fatal bee-sting reaction I had as a child. We don't know if any of our kids are sensitive to stings, but it's best to be ready.

    Do you have suggestions for what to pack in a medical kit? Share your insights on our Health & Safety Message Boards today.