How to Build a Hiker’s First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a necessity for hiking, but most commercial first aid kits are full of unnecessary gear and duplicates you won’t need or use. A hiker’s first aid kit is built by either creating your own kit, or by customizing a commercial kit you buy. No matter what option you choose, a hiker’s first aid kit should include at least the basics.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not comprehensive. You may need other items that I don’t have listed, depending on personal health situations. This is a guide to help you create your personalized first aid kit.

First Aid Education

Your hiker’s first aid kit won’t help you if you don’t know how to use what’s in it. Taking a first aid course or a wilderness first aid course isn’t a bad idea, especially if you plan on hiking a lot. Classes like NOLS Wilderness First Aid course, can give you the hands on training you need to feel confident in handling first aid situations while you’re hiking. 

What to Take?

First Aid Kit Basics

  • Bandages
  • 4 inch closure strips/butterfly closures
  • 4inch by 4inch sterile dressing pads
  • Non-adherent sterile dressing or Second Skin to cover cuts, burns, blisters, etc
  • Roll of gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Alcohol pads
  • Hydrogen Peroxide/Alcohol for cleansing/flushing  wounds


  • Antihistamines
  • Immodium or other anti diarrheal
  • Antacids
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Neosporin or other antibiotic ointment
  • Pain relievers
  • Rehydration tablets- Can be helpful
  • Any prescriptions you’ll need while you’re gone


  • Tweezers
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Safety Pins
  • Scissors
  • Resealable baggies. One of these you can use to hold used or dirty supplies to keep them separate from your other items. 

First Aid Kit Hacks for Hikers

A common problem hikers have with a well stocked first aid kit is weight. You don’t want to haul an overly heavy pack, but you want to make sure you’re prepared at the same time. I’ve collected some tips on making a first aid kit lighter, and added some of my own hacks. 

Contact lens cases are versatile. Use them to store small amounts of deodorant, creams, toothpaste, medicines, even spices or seasonings for meal time. This saves you from bringing full sized or even travel sized versions.  Write on them with a fine point sharpie so you can easily find what you’re looking for. 

Mini resealable baggies are perfect for bringing more medication than a contact lens case allows for. 

Use resealable plastic bags for storing the items in your first aid kit. They’re waterproof, reusable, and lighter than the plastic waterproof cases that come with many first aid kits. 

Instead of bringing a whole roll of tape, wrap a few feet around something  in your kit. 

If you’re buying a first aid kit, go through it and remove any unnecessary items. Many commercial kits have way too much in them, and a lot of it you won’t need. Look at each item and decide if it’s necessary, ask yourself “What can happen if I don’t have this?”. 

You can use a clean eye dropper bottle to store peroxide/alcohol instead of bringing the full bottle.  

To sum it up, make sure you’re prepared. Overly prepared (i.e. 57 Band-Aids in the same size) isn’t necessary and just adds excess weight. 

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