Princess Band-Aids & Imodium

Jess McGlothlin

All over the world, I’ve seen guys show up to remote destinations without so much as an ibuprofen or a single band-aid in their kit.

Don’t be that dumbass.

I’ve signed into medical clinics in French Polynesia, Peru, Russia, and other countries and each time it was a good reminder that I needed to beef up my medical kit so I could maybe, possibly, avoid the next visit. (While it’s not always possible to avoid hospitals completely, it’s amazing the inspiration a Soviet-era Arctic medical facility can be to further one’s own medical education.) 

Hunting, fishing, and general adventuring take us to some amazing places. One corollary of such travel is that often those places are far removed from first-world medical facilities or help, should the shit hit the fan. And while it’s tempting to assume your outfitter, guide, or buddy will have you covered should something happen, don’t count on it. 

That’s a rookie move. 

First rule of the field: Take care of yourself. Be ready to keep yourself healthy, active, and in the hunt. If you can take care of a buddy along the way, great. But never count on that buddy to take care of you.

My medical kit has evolved over the years and continues to change with each location and assignment. Some places it’s possible to easily restock bandages and other terminal supplies, so therefore I pack less. Certain austere locations, whatever I bring is what I’m going to have, and I’ll always make room for the full med kit. If it’s a tactical environment, that gets beefed up even more. The core kit is constantly supplemented and adjusted as I go.

These eleven items, however, always make the list—regardless of the destination:

  1. Suture kit and nitrile gloves: Never trust that someone’s needle is clean. It’s that simple.
  2. Band-aids, gauze, and basic tape. The quintessential first-aid items. I’ve started stocking a few superhero band-aids alongside the “real” ones, and they’re a strangely good icebreaker with macho dudes. And if someone’s being a dick but needs a band-aid, he’s getting a pink princess one.
  3. Antibiotic cream/alcohol wipes. Self-explanatory. Even the smallest cut or scrape can get infected quickly in the wrong environment, so make a point to clean injuries nightly and rebandage. Good ol’ antibiotic cream and alcohol wipes cover the bases. 
  4. Leatherman. A bottle of local rum, a Leatherman about as old as I am, and a headlamp doesn’t really make for the best surgical suite. But I’ve successfully dug out a mangrove thorn from the bottom of my heel using a Leatherman and rum, so don’t knock it.
  5. Antibiotics. This one should be obvious. Bribe, befriend, whatever…  get your hands on a few different antibiotics and carry them around. Keep them in the original pill bottles so customs doesn’t freak.
  6. Stomach meds. Inevitably, food, water, or a stomach bug knocks everyone down when traveling. Remote environments often guarantee some degree or digestive upset. That Imodium is going to seem like man’s best invention when you’ve got a five-hour truck ride in the middle of nowhere.
  7. Allergy meds. See note on food and environments above. Even if you have no known allergies, carry around some Benadryl Allergy gel caps. They absorb reasonably quickly and will knock out that impending itchy throat feeling before you have to go to the hospital. Throw in a tube of steroid cream, too.
  8. Flu/cold meds. A cold won’t kill you, but it’ll make you fucking miserable. I once traded a guy a new Costa ball cap on a Belize ferry for a travel packet of Dayquil. When you need it, you need it.
  9. Tourniquet and a Sharpie. Especially if you’re around guns, knives or broadheads (but really, whatever you’re doing) carry a tourniquet. Learn how to use it. Modern CAT tourniquets are ridiculously intuitive with a bit of training. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
  10. Chest seal. A chest seal should be in everyone’s kit, for the same reasons as a tourniquet. A friend at recent tactical training—a very highly-trained, tactical professional friend who deals with a shit-ton of bad guys—summed it up succinctly: tourniquet for the extremities, packing for joint wounds, and seals on the torso. Obviously situations evolve, but it’s a good rule of thumb when the shit hits the fan and your thinking isn’t all that clear.
  11. Leukotape. Awesome for supporting injured joints or ligaments, and surprisingly effective on blossoming blisters. Stick some pieces to release paper so you don’t have to carry the entire roll. (I also carry a wad of duct tape wrapped around a pencil in my kit, which saves carrying the whole roll. Duct tape being duct tape, it’s always used for something.)

Know what’s in your kit. Know how to use it. And keep it accessible. (It does no good sitting in your suitcase when you’re out in the field.) Because, well, dumbass people do dumbass shit. And dumbass people are everywhere—including the entire FE crew, on occasion. 

*Editor’s Note: FE Contributor Christian Schuaf is the founder of Uncharted Supply Co., a retailer of custom-curated emergency and survival equipment for adventuring dumbasses like us.