First Aid: What to bring, what to do and know to stay safe on the trail

Hiking man and woman apply ankle first aid.There are different levels of hiking. There’s the kind of “hiking” you do through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Central Park in NYC, or Runyon Canyon in Hollywood. You’re outdoors and among the trees and foliage and being physically active, but it’s not too rough. You still have cell coverage and you can buy an iced latte in twenty minutes if needed. For those hikes, you don’t need first aid. You don’t need any special skills other than the ability to shock the whole scene.

But there is real hiking. Walk more than five miles. Hiking for many days. Hiking overnight. Backpack. Hike in a place where the trail may not be well maintained, where you may encounter a ferocious animal, where you must keep your wits about you. For this type of hiking, which is what most people imagine when they think of “hiking,” you should have a first aid kit ready: with physical medical equipment and Skills and knowledge will help you enjoy the great outdoors without feeling helpless. Because the real appeal of hiking is going into the wilderness, where the goodies and comforts of the modern world no longer apply. We all want a bit of adventure, but we also want to come back in a piece.

So, let’s learn about first aid when hiking. I’m not going to tell you to “bring water” or “snacks” because, as a smart adult you don’t need to be told the absolute basics.

Hiking first aid


Tweezers are a godsend, but you’ll need both the tip and the wide tip. Needle-tipped tweezers are great for removing ticks — just get as close to the skin as you can and pull straight out — while the spacious tips are great for removing debris and thorns.

These match the description.

Adhesive tapes of all sizes

Adhesive bandages (or headbands) of various sizes are essential to cover cuts and wounds. Butterfly bandages are also great for tying up wounds that would otherwise require stitches.


Betadine is an iodine-based antiseptic that cleans wounds and kills germs. You can hold a small bottle in your hand to spray on cuts and wounds.

Anti-Infection Towels

Clean wounds, disinfect hands and tools. These are just conveniences to have around.

Medical scissors

In case you need to cut tape or some fabrics/clothes, these are indispensable.

This is a good pair.

Surgical bandages

You never know what you will need to put the bandage on your skin.

This is a good person.


Used to stop bleeding, protect wounds, improve healing, and all that good to get you through your bad luck on the trail.


Gives you everything you could possibly need to handle the unexpected.

This is a.

Good knife

A good sturdy knife is always a wise choice on the trail, even if you’re just using it to whip a stick to pass the time. You will never regret have a knife. This one has a fire starter attached.

Voodoo band flossing

Voodoo headbands can be used to bandage injured limbs, like ankles, wrists or knees. They provide stability and reduce swelling. Often used in training, they can also be quite handy on the trail.

Links to buy them.

Magnesium Oil

In my experience, topical magnesium chloride oil is great for reducing joint pain and suppressing inflammation. Very useful in a pinch. Good for cramps.

Make your own by filling magnesium chloride flakes in a spray bottle and adding water, or buy one.


Staying hydrated isn’t just about water. You also need electrolytes, especially if you’re hiking. LMNT is a great powdered electrolyte supplement to always have on hand. Just add to water, shake and drink to stay hydrated. Solid juice is another option.

Mustard pack

Cramps are debilitating when hiking. They can even be deadly. One of the best cures for cramps is pickle juice, which works, but not because of the extra electrolytes. It really has no real impact on hydration or electrolyte status, and taking it helps resolve muscle cramps faster than the gut can absorb. The TRP ion channels in the oropharynx (tongue/mouth/throat) react to something in the pickle juice – possibly vinegar – and short-circuit the muscle stimulation, stopping the cramps immediately ie.

Other TRP ion channel activators are found in cayenne pepper, ginger, and cinnamon, and the researchers created a blend of extracts from all three that showed efficacy against muscle cramps. It’s called Hot Shot.

Basic mustard yellow also works. To really work it out, you can add cayenne pepper and ginger to your mustard. The combination of mustard and spicy/gingery can provide immediate relief from cramps.

Skills and Best Practices

There is a map.

Most of the places I found don’t offer paper maps anymore of the hiking area. Otherwise, you can purchase a map of the area or take a photo of the map at the top of the trail with your phone before you start so you always have something to refer to.

Use a compass (or have a compass on your phone) and know how to read a map.

Compass and map go well together. If you need it, here’s a comprehensive explanation of how to use the two together to orient yourself.

Charge your phone.

Hiking with a fully charged phone. Charge the battery by leaving your phone in airplane mode.

Walk downhill correctly.

Don’t walk downhill with your pelvis tucked in and all your weight on your feet, knees, and buttocks. Instead, keep the weight on your entire foot/heel. Break at the hip scornful to accept most of the load on your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.

Walk uphill correctly.

Take shorter steps and again, accept the load on your glutes and hamstrings. The latter chain is much stronger than the chain and lasts longer without cramping.

Most hikers don’t need to carry a large first aid kit with them. Going a few miles? You don’t need much of anything. Going for a few hours? Get some bandanas and betadine. Doing a half-day hike? Put in some tweezers and a packet of mustard. Overnight? Add another one from the list. This is not a definite list of things right Always carry it with you when you leave the city limits. It represents an exhaustive list that I could muster for serious hiking.

And remember: these are all “precautionary” things. For most hiking, even long and intense ones, you won’t get your hands on this kit. Just being prepared is fine.


Information about the Authors

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the Primitive food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times best-selling author of Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with the Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of many other books, including Preliminary designis credited with driving the growth of the primal/palo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating people on why food is the key ingredient to achieving it and maintaining optimal health, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a food company that creates Primal/pale, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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