Lonny is a Registered Nurse with extensive Emergency Room experience, an ACA certified Swift Water Rescue instructor, and a WMA certified Wilderness First Aid instructor. He is an active paddler and teaches in GCA Swift Water Rescue instruction program.
What do you need in a first aid kit? This depends on where you are going and who you are responsible for. If you are kayaking on a GCA trip down the Nanny or the Ocoee you do not need the same kit you would if you were a trip leader on a multi-day kayak trip in the Grand Canyon. But, regardless of anything else, the thing you need most is KNOWLEDGE of first aid. You can do a lot more with good training and skills than you can with a whole basket of gear.
This said, here are a few basic items that are useful. First, remember that the most important person on the trip is YOU. So, carry your personal protection equipment (PPE). PPE is latex gloves and a CPR mask. Nothing personal, folks, but I don’t want to kiss any of you in this day and age. My gloves and CPR mask are the first items in the top of my first aid dry bag. Now, on to list a few other items that I think are useful.
A simple first aid field guide for quick reference.
Bandaging and dressing material (4X4 gauze pads, roller gauze).
Tape to hold gauze in place. Duct tape is great for this.
Commonly used items like band aids, mole skin, soap and providine or iodine for wound care.
A SAM splint for splinting musculoskeletal injuries (this is a great device) and a triangular bandage.
If you know how to use them, oral and nasal airways and a 60 cc syringe.
Small EMT shears, tweezers, safety pins, pencil and water proof paper to write notes of what you did on.
A small flash light, water proof matches (a lighter can get wet) and fire starting material.
A small container of sun screen.
A watch with a second hand for counting pulse and respiration.
For meds, I carry Ibuprofen and Benadryl. If you, or someone on your trip, needs prescription medication, have extra.
I also carry two 55 gal. trash bags in the bottom of my dry bag. These can be used as emergency shelter, vapor barriers for hypothermic people.
Don’t forget your PPE. Any time there is a chance of getting any type of body fluid on your hands WEAR YOUR GLOVES.
I put all of the above items in individual, strong zip lock bags by category of use, and put those in my so-called “dry” bag. I rarely get into my dry bag and it is always damp on the inside, so seal all the bags well.
You cannot carry a complete ambulance in your boat. But, if everybody carries the basic gear, there should be enough in an emergency. Then, improvise using the gear you have. Use webbing to tie off a splint. A PFD can be a sling and swath for a shoulder or arm injury.
Again, this is a very basic list. Look at where you are going, who is going, how long you will be out, and what your responsibilities are.
Above all, take knowledge. That is the item that makes the difference.
by Lonny McBride
From The Eddy Line, February 1998