I am writing this article not just only as a guideline, but as a confession.
I have spent over 16 years in New Zealand; I have been tramping and exploring the outdoors for 13 years; I have been around firearms and knives in the back country for over five years; I have jet boated up remote rivers for nearly a year. I have done all of these things with a less than acceptable, or even worse no form of, personal first aid kit. That stops now.
I’d like to consider myself pretty savvy with applying first aid. I’ve completed many courses, all starting when I was a teenager in the New Zealand Cadet Forces. I even competed in competitions as an individual and in a team. I enjoy these scenarios and paired with my McGyver attitude, I’d say I have above average skills when it comes to initial application of medical assistance. So why the lack of suitable first aid kit? Perhaps because I have gotten away with it for so long.
So far, so good.
I’ve suffered mainly from allergic skin reactions and anything from mild to extreme blisters (two occasions resulting in severe pain and bleeding!). While exploring the outdoors, I’ve never been shot, I’ve never broken a bone and I’ve not really suffered any serious abrasion. Although there was that one time last year when I had the wind knocked out of me after a cut Manuka branch found it’s way right under my kneecap, at speed, which inspired some crying on my part before continuing on. But in the scheme of things, I’ve been quite lucky while in the bush. I realise that the next trip could be the end of that luck.
I put the question to my Facebook followers – what can you not do without in your kit? I received many great ideas but some common suggestions popped up: something absorbent and some type of tape. Oh and training. For you and your hunting companion(s). ((On that note I’d like to take a moment to thank two great role models for me: Regan Courtney and David Benfell. Both very different hunters and outdoorsmen but these chaps taught me from day one about safety and the importance of communication in a hunting group. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hunting with either of these guys, you will have received a little safety brief before setting off, complete with actions on if something goes wrong and also the location of personal first aid kit, PLB, cellphone, truck keys and any personal medication. That is the standard that I like to stick by in my own hunting so I thank you guys for setting the bar. Just a shame that I haven’t always taken the kit with me!))
No doubt there are unlimited items that could be taken, but let’s agree on an absolute minimum. As hunters, we enjoy items that can serve more than one purpose so have a think about how other items in your pack may help you if your luck runs out.
- Insulation, strapping, cloth. Some sort that is strong.
- Something absorbent. Bandages, clothing, tampons, pads etc.
- These can be used for compression in the form of a wrap or used to strap a splint to a break or sprain or even used in the absence of a triangle bandage.
- Triangle bandage..see above! Can be used as a tourniquet
- Anti-inflammatories (see: nurofen)
- Pencil and paper in waterproof bag
- Israeli bandage or other bullet wound specific bandage
- Safety pins
- Butterfly stiches, or needle and thread if you’re mega keen
- Superglue if you’re not so keen
- Latex gloves
I’d also like to stress the importance of carrying a wrist watch and pencil and paper with you when in the bush, if not at all times. Timelines can significantly aid those people you will be handing over your patient to and when in the heat of the moment it is very easy to lose track of accurate time frames. I’ve come across more tragic accidents in urban areas than in the bush, hence why I urge you to have these items with you as a habit. A smart phone doesn’t always cut it – if it’s on paper, you can easily hand it over to a paramedic or member of police.
If you’ve decided that compiling your own first aid kit is too much hassle and you’d rather just purchase one, I urge you to become familiar with all the items within it. Feel free to remove and add items as you see fit, as there are some extras that help out us hunters more specifically. For example, “Soov” has been a life saver for me, especially in summer.
Oh and if you’ve got a job, your employer will more than likely pay for you to attend a first aid course if they haven’t already. Workplace first aid is better than nothing.
Happy hunting and be safe out there. Hot barrels (and full first aid kits!)