Each year we plan, prepare, scout, train, spend our money, leave our families, and head to the hills chasing the animals we love. An often overlooked and essential part of a successful trip is being sure we are prepared to handle the many challenges the backcountry may throw at us.
Let me tell you a little about my background. I love hunting in challenging places, pushing myself physically is part of a successful hunt in my book. I spend as much time as life will allow in the mountains each year, but hunting is not the only thing that matters. I need to make it home safely to provide for my family and tend to my many other responsibilities. I am a practicing Physician's Assistant (PA) in Utah. I have worked in Emergency rooms, urgent care, family medicine and as a part of search and rescue. Before medical school I was an athletic trainer and worked for the fire department as an EMT. I have seen hunts fall apart because of accidents that could have been prevented or salvaged with the right preparation and equipment. Just like the rest of your hunting equipment your first aid and emergency kit should be well thought out, familiar and accessible.
As always weight is an issue, keep your first aid kit light so you won't be tempted to leave it home. It will not do you any good unless it is with you. I often change some of what I take depending on where I’m going, how long I will be there and who I am with. I will break down some of the basics that you should never leave home or camp with out.
Now this may not be in your first aid kit but the most important thing you can have is a way to help if needed. Do not depend on cell phone coverage, often times we can find a signal when we are healthy, mobile and do not need it. A GPS with a good radio is very valuable. Not only do they typically get coverage where cell phones don’t, but a hunting partner can find your position using their devise when capable. A satellite phone is the gold standard although not always necessary in every hunting situation.
You can't be prepared for everything but these are the things I take because of size, weight, probability of use, and practicality.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Aleve or Advil. These will decrease pain and reduce inflammation to help retain function of a sprained or strained joint. Tylenol is great for similar pain relief along with reducing fevers. Aspirin should be with every hunter with diagnosed heart problems such as angina, previous heart attack or coronary artery disease. This thins the blood and can prevent further complications of an acute cardiac event. Strenuous activity such as hiking or glassing up a 200” buck can precipitate these events. Benadryl or other antihistamines are a great thing to have for any allergic reaction including stings, exposure to certain plants or pollens, or seasonal allergies. You can fit all of these into a very small container, they weigh next to nothing and can really save a hunt. Always label them and be familiar with dosing and recommended use.
Some other components are simple bandages, both a roll of gauze as well as several Band-Aids. Along with these a small tube or pack of topical antibiotic such as Neosporin or bacitracin can prevent infection from the inevitable cuts and scrapes that come while hunting.
Everyone has seen blisters really affect someone’s ability to get around the mountains, simple mole skin, tape and early intervention can prevent these form ruining a hunt. If you develop a blister it is always better to leave the skin intact and cover the blister. If it pops on its own, treat is as any other cut to prevent infection.
Some of the other miscellaneous items I pack are sunscreen, tweezers, and duct tape, all for their obvious and intended reasons, which in the case of duct tape is everything. These are some of the basic tools everyone should have with them at all times. This is very basic first aid, yet each of these things has the potential to truly save a hunt. In my next article I will go over the most common serious injuries that occur in the back country as well as what we can do if they happen to us, or someone in our hunting party.