The great outdoors are good for your health. You get moving, breathe deeply, and relax. But every now and then, an accident can happen. And when it does, you’ll be glad to have a good first aid kit on hand! Here’s what you need to know to put one together and stay safe, without weighing yourself down. 

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Pharmacies and most outdoor equipment stores sell ready-made kits. When you’re starting from scratch, a ready-made kit is a good option because it’s often less expensive than buying each item separately. Just check what’s inside and add to it based on your needs. 

And keep in mind that what you need may vary depending on the activity, the destination, and how much time you plan to spend outdoors. Hiking for a few hours requires fewer precautions than a week-long canoe-camping expedition. Also consider who’s coming: the likelihood of getting blisters—and needing bandages—is different if you’re going solo or with three young children. 

Here’s what we recommend. Psst! Brands are provided for illustration only. Generic or other brand equivalents work equally well!


  • Tweezers
    Very useful for removing splinters or small debris in a wound.
  • Tube of antibiotic ointment (Polysporin)
    Once a wound is cleaned, the ointment forms a protective layer against infection and accelerates healing.
  • Bandages
    Regular adhesive bandages (Band-Aid type) come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are ideal for small wounds. Hydrogel bandages (2nd Skin type) are also very useful. They stay in place well, accelerate healing, and are clear, so you can see how your wound is doing. Some are specially designed for blisters.
  • Sterile gauze pads
    The 10 x 10 cm pads are perfect for covering larger wounds.
  • Athletic tape
    It can be used in many ways: to hold a sterile pad in place, to wrap a sprain, to fasten a splint, etc.
  • Elastic bandage
    A wrap bandage with fastener clips used to apply pressure to a wound, support an injured joint, or secure a splint. It’s washable, reusable, and less painful to remove than an adhesive bandage. The 5 cm width is suitable for most needs.
  • Triangular bandages used for slings
    Bring two, because sometimes more immobilization is required, as for a fractured humerus. The correct size is 90 x 90 x 130 cm. To learn how to make a sling, click here.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    It relieves just about everything, from headaches to knee pain. If you have limited space in your backpack, there’s no need to bring the whole bottle. Just put a few pills in a smaller container labeled with the name of the medication and its expiration date.
  • Antihistamine (Benadryl)
    Very useful for treating a wasp sting or poison ivy rash, for example. Of course, if you have a severe allergy, never leave home without your EpiPen.
  • Water purification tablets
    When you’re in trouble, you can fill your water bottle in a stream to avoid dehydration. Water purification tablets are very useful in this case. They take up little space and reduce the risks associated with bacteria, viruses, and certain micro-organisms.
  • A good pair of scissors
    They don’t have to be big, but they have to cut properly. Old craft scissors covered with glue aren’t very useful when you have to cut a pair of pants to expose a wound.
  • Medical gloves
    Not only do they prevent you from contaminating wounds, they protect you from being contaminated by body fluids. Choose nitrile or latex gloves.
  • Plastic syringe
    We’re talking about an irrigation syringe (without a needle), filled with water. When you press the plunger, water is ejected. It’s the best way to clean a wound. Make sure the syringe has a narrow tip to generate good water pressure.
© Sépaq
© Sépaq


  • Skin closure strips
    These small bandages are used to close a minor wound. Once the bleeding has stopped and the wound is cleaned and dried, you apply the adhesive sections to each side of the wound.
  • Instant cold pack
    The pack contains water separated from a salt component by a thin membrane. When you squeeze the pack, the membrane breaks and the salt dissolves, causing a chemical reaction that cools the liquid. This compress can help reduce muscle spasms, pain, inflammation, internal bleeding, and so on!
  • Survival blanket
    When folded up, it’s tiny and weighs almost nothing. But in an emergency, it plays a critical role in maintaining body temperature. Depending on which way it’s placed (gold or silver side toward the body), this ultrathin metal blanket prevents hypothermia or heat stroke. NASA invented the material in 1964 to protect its equipment in space. Years later, a former employee used it at the end of a marathon to prevent hypothermia, marking the beginning of its use by the general public. It’s also known as a space blanket.
  • Insect bite relief stick
    Press the tip on the affected area to relieve itching, pain, and swelling from insect bites or stings— so you can focus on your adventure!
  • Tick tweezers
    This small, crowbar-shaped tool can be used to remove the entire tick, preventing it from injecting its toxins. It often comes in two sizes, according to the size of the insect to be removed. To find out what to do if a tick bites you, click here.
  • Diarrhea relief medication (Imodium)
    Having diarrhea is never fun, especially when you’re in the woods.
  • Universal splint
    It’s made of a malleable material, is versatile, and can be cut with scissors if needed to immobilize a fractured limb.
  • First aid manual
    There is a small-size version. It doesn’t replace a first aid course, but in an emergency it can guide you in handling things until help arrives.
© Sépaq
© Sépaq
© Sépaq
© Sépaq


Ready-made kits come with a pouch. If you’re putting a kit together yourself, you can find empty ready-to-fill cases at outdoor equipment stores. They are usually brightly coloured, water-resistant, and easy to handle. A waterproof bag can also do the trick. What’s important is that you can easily find things inside. 


Unlike hiking boots or paddles, a first aid kit is something you hope to use as little as possible. That said, you should still inspect the contents of your kit at regular intervals, say twice a year. Check to see if everything is still in good condition, if the antiseptic wipes or medications have expired, etc. And of course, every time something is used, replace it immediately.


Having a first aid kit is all well and good, but you also need to know how to use it. Why not take a first aid course to find out what to do in an emergency or to refresh your knowledge? A variety of courses are available, from basic training to wilderness first responder or avalanche safety. You’ll learn lots of interesting things that will boost your confidence!

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