Camp safety & first aid: How to Create a First-Aid Kit and Stay Warm and Safe

Camp Safety & First Aid

Even at home, little mishaps happen every day that require treatment. Kids get scrapes, throats get sore, and mosquitos eat our legs for lunch. In this chapter, we’ll teach you how to prep for every minor ailment before you head into the wilderness by bringing basic over-the-counter remedies, putting together a first-aid kit, packing for all weather conditions, and getting to know the natural remedies that can heal everything from cuts to bellyaches when the going gets tough.

1. The First Aid Kit

Include these essentials in your kit

a first-aid kit is essential in the wildernessPhoto by Deacon KevinSafety and comfort are a top priority, even more so when you are camping, far from medical help. A basic First Aid kit includes vinyl gloves, rubbing alcohol, germ-killing soap, antibiotic ointment, and burn ointment for preventing infection. To clean and treat wounds, include bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, tweezers, liquid bandage, and eyewash. Include Benadryl, hydrocortisone, and calamine lotion for allergic reactions; aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen for aches and pains; antacids, laxatives, and anti-diarrhea tablets for gastrointestinal issues. Don’t forget to include prescription medications and vitamins. General supplies such as petroleum jelly, cotton balls, cotton swabs, and tampons can be very helpful.

2. Insect Repellent

Clever ways to protect your family

Insent repellant should be part of your first-aid kitPhoto by Sanofi PasteurWhile commercially available insect repellents containing ‘deet’ are certainly effective, they are by no means the only way to keep biting insects as bay. To make a natural insect repellent, fill a spray bottle with half water, half witch hazel, and 30 – 40 drops of essential oil. Citronella, clove, cypress – some claim to be as effective as deet, and lavender, which has the added benefits of soothing and disinfecting insect bites, are commonly added. Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants during the hours that biting insects are most active – dawn and dusk. Burn citronella oil in lanterns, dried sage in your campfire, and sleep under mosquito nets.

3. Learn the Local Flora

Identify helpful and harmful local plants

Identify harmful and helpful local plantsPhoto by John MuntOut of the multitude of native plant species found in the wild, you can make a salad, settle an upset stomach, weave a basket, develop a nasty rash, or worse. The leaves of poison ivy, oak, and sumac contain oils that cause skin blisters and rashes, and their smoke can be fatal. Many poisonous native plants are easily mistaken for edible species, so never ingest wild plants unless you are sure of their identity. With research and planning, you can ensure a safe and fun camping experience. If you are camping with young children, carry syrup of Ipecac and the phone number for the nearest poison control center in your First Aid kit.

4. Healing Essential Oils

Antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic

Helpful essential oils for your first-aid kitPhoto by Most CraftEssential oils are derived from plants, making them a safe and natural way to treat many ailments. A drop of lavender oil will soothe and disinfect insect bites and headaches. Combine lavender oil with frankincense for sunburn relief. Use peppermint oil to treat rashes from poison oak or ivy or to cool down an overheated body; mix with water in a spray bottle for a cooling mist. Tea tree oil, highly antibacterial and anti-fungal, is ideal for cleaning and disinfecting cuts and scrapes, reducing the inflammation of muscle sprains, and treating parasites such as ringworm or scabies.

5. Stay Warm

Wardrobe Essentials

Wardrobe essentials for survivalPhoto by F TronchinThe necessity for cold-weather clothing during winter or in a severe climate is obvious, but many don’t realize that that cold injuries and ill effects can occur at much higher temperatures. If the air temperature is likely to dip below 65° Fahrenheit, you need to be prepared to dress warmly – a light jacket, scarf, and hat. For colder situations – think layers, take these in your backpack; thermal underwear, shirt, sweater, jacket, jeans, thermal socks under wool socks, insulated boots, hat, scarf, and gloves. In humid or coastal climates, look for clothing made of quick-drying materials and those that wick moisture away from your body.

6. Hypothermia

How to recognize and treat cold injuries

How to recognize and treat cold injuriesPhoto by Dave MarcyExposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water are the most common causes of hypothermia, a condition in which body temperature drops to dangerous levels. Symptoms can include shivering, dizziness, nausea, increased breathing and heart rate, confusion, slurred speech, and fatigue. Seek immediate medical attention for anyone thought to be suffering from hypothermia. In remote camping areas, critical First Aid should be applied until medical help arrives. Gently move the person only if necessary to get them out of the cold and wind as much as possible. Vigorous, jerky movements can trigger irregular heart rhythms and cardiac arrest. Remove wet clothing and cover the individual with warm, dry blankets – be sure to wrap their head, share body heat, and provide warm liquids.

7. Know your Neighbors

Learn the local wildlife

Identify dangerous local wildlifePhoto by Andrew WilkinsonA deer tentatively lifts its head to sniff the air as eagle swoops through the valley; sites of beauty that fill the soul with wonder. But there are also mountain lions, wolves, and bears, oh my! Lack of knowledge leads to fear, but education leads to wonderment. An understanding of the proper precautions and reactions in the event of an encounter changes everything. Standing your ground while slowly backing away from a bear or playing dead versus running could very well save you life. But if you play dead in a mountain lion encounter, you will likely be dinner; you have no choice but to fight if a lion attacks. Look to your state and local parks and wildlife departments and nonprofit conservation organizations like Center For Wildlife for more information.


Even when you’re miles (or mountains) away from medical treatment, knowing your body’s signs of illness and packing the right supplies to overcome all kinds of medical hurdles can keep you far from harm’s way. Use the tips from this chapter to recognize the signs of hypothermia, prevent and treat insect and predator attacks, and nurse injuries in a pinch, and you’ll have no trouble staying healthy in the great outdoors.

When you enter the wilderness armed with the creative skills to build a fire, find and purify water (even in dire circumstances), and use nature’s navigation tools to find your way in the wild without a moment of panic, you’ll have a worry-free experience on your next adventure. Use the tools and techniques from this guide to eliminate uncertainty and prepare yourself for a smooth excursion into all the wonders that nature has to offer.

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