I’m still solidly in favor of the days when people tested themselves by heading out into the wilderness with nothing but a knife and the things they knew about the world. If you ever find yourself in that situation, you’ll need more than any pre-packaged survival kit provides. Survival kits of any kind are a stop-gap. They fill holes in things you should already know. Depending on kits can get you into trouble, if you trust the maker of the kit to give you everything you’d need.
The days of knowing your surroundings well enough to survive on only the knife and the brain you carry may be over except for the professionals amongst us, since our natural boundaries now extend far beyond the twenty or thirty miles of countryside that used to constitute all the land a person would see in their lifetime. We go everywhere now — even the tamest vacation traveler takes journeys that explorers of olden times would have prepared for years in advance, and all we pack is a suitcase. You can’t be prepared for everything, and we face potential troubles none of the old-timers ever considered, like plane and train and car wrecks and how to survive in a life raft on the open ocean. There are too many possibilities to consider in detail, but having the basics on hand always helps. The basics don’t take up much room.
First aid kits geared towards family outings go very heavy on the bandaids and sunblock. If you take kids to the park you’ll need all of that, but it isn’t a true survival kit or even a true emergency first aid kit. First aid kits should also be geared up for serious events like broken legs and deep cuts — cuts that would require stitches, not just bumps and booboos. If a kit doesn’t have triangle bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, and Ace bandages, add them to it. You’ll probably never need anything that serious, but if you do, bandaids won’t help.
Going to the park isn’t a big deal — in most local and state parks help is very close by. Traveling to wilderness areas and national parks is different. Take your family far from the usual sources of emergency care, and you’re the only one responsible. Look at your emergency first aid kit in those terms — think of how it prepares you for more serious problems. If it doesn’t, add gear.
Mechanical first aid problems aren’t the only ones you’ll face in the boonies. Sanitation isn’t the best even if you’re experienced, and diet changes drastically. One of the most miserable maladies on the trail is so insignificant that at home you hardly consider it — you just go to the medicine cabinet and take the remedy. If you leave that cure at home you could be in for a horrible time. Heartburn isn’t a small thing if you have no handy antidote. Always take antacids, there’s simply no reason not to do this. Rolaids and Tums don’t weigh much, and Alka-Seltzer Plus even adds aspirin.
Next on the list of common and embarrassing problems would be diarrhea. Bad water, poor sanitation, and marginal food all contribute to this and few experiences are worse when you actually have to keep walking. Pepto-Bismol is very effective but heavy. Pepto-Bismol tablets are equally effective and light. Manufacturers of first aid kits steer away from brand name products. Add them yourself.
The two kits I’ve featured here have very different purposes. The Whistle Creek Survival Kit is one that every member of the family should have with them, if they’re old enough to be functional in a real emergency. Keep it in the pocket. You’ll probably have left the pack in camp when you actually do get lost. The First Aid Only First Responder Emergency First Aid Kit gears up for the common situations families with young children encounter — including lots of bandaids in the 159 pieces. Add more of the essentials to it and you’ll be well prepared. Toss in a Whistle Creek while you’re at it. It’s a great first aid bag if you tailor the contents yourself.