What's in a first aid kit for camping?

Injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Mishaps do happen and when you're out in the wild, you might find it hard to deal with any situation that may arise whilst on a campsite if you're not prepared. From minor bruises and cuts, and bee stings, to allergic reactions, having a first aid kit on hand can make a big impact in preventing further injuries and even save yourself or someone else's life. If you are planning on spending time outdoors, you'll want to make sure to bring a few camping first aid essentials.

If this is your first time packing a first aid kit, having a checklist can help you make sure you’ll never miss the essentials.  Be prepared with this New Zealand survival first aid kit checklist:

Why you need a first aid kit for camping

A first aid kit is a very important part of your camping gear that should not be overlooked. First aid kits are used to treat minor injuries including cuts, scrapes, burns, bruises, and sprains, thus minimizing the risk of infection or injury severity. Knowing how to use the items in a first-aid kit is as important as having them. In fact, campers should enroll in a first aid course to help them understand how to effectively use all the items in the kit. Even a complete first aid kit can be rendered useless if you don’t have the skills to provide first aid services.

What is in a first aid kit for camping, anyway? The best camping first aid kit in NZ contains items that treat injuries, cuts, scrapes, and burns but you can also tailor your first aid kit depending on the kind of trip you are taking. When choosing what items to include in your kit, first you need to determine when and where it will be used and if there are environmental factors that should be considered.

If the outdoor activity includes boating, your first aid kit should be waterproof. For camping, a first aid kit can be a nylon bag or compact box. You also need to consider how many people the kit will serve and the possible injuries that are likely to occur. Regardless, these items should be in every camping first aid kit:

First Aid Kit Essentials

First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase one from your local pharmacy or make your own. Some kits are designed for specific activities, such as hiking, camping or boating. First aid kits do not need to be large, and a commercial kit is not necessarily better than a homemade one. Keep at least one first-aid kit in your bag whenever you travel. A first-aid kit might include:


Wraps, Splints and Wound Coverings

Bandages are an essential part of every first aid kit. They can serve a number of potential applications which are useful when dealing with different kinds of accidents and injuries.

You’ll never know what kind or size of cut you will receive so it is important to bring a range of bandages and gauzes in different sizes.

A dressing should be large enough to totally cover the wound. It should have a safety margin of about 2.5 cm on all sides beyond the wound. Wrapping your exposed wounds allows them to heal faster and also avoid further infection. 

A splint is another supportive device in a first aid kit used to keep in place any suspected fracture in one’s arm or leg. There are two types of splints: flexible and rigid splints. In emergency cases, anything can be used for splinting. 

For rigid splints, you can use wood or plastic boards, or rolled-out papers or magazines, which can be used to splint a fractured arm or leg. For flexible splints, on the other hand, you can use any flexible object, like a pillow, blanket, or sleeping mat to splint foot, ankle and joint fractures.

Consider what you need for your camping trip. Possible items could include:

    • Assorted adhesive bandages - protect wounds from further injuries, friction, bacteria, and dirt.
    • Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips - used to close small, shallow wounds.
    • Gauze pads -highly absorbent pads ideal for drawing fluids away from the wound site and help clean dirt and germs from the injured area.
    • Nonstick sterile pads -serve as a cushion and protect cuts, scrapes and minor burns without sticking.
    • Medical adhesive tape (10 yd. roll, min. 1" width) -holds bandages or other dressing onto a wound.
    • Safety pins - can be used to fasten splints and bandages.
    • Medical disinfectants -used to clean and prepare wounds for treatment.
    • Antiseptic wipes (preferably alcohol-free wipes) -essential in every first aid kit, wipes can be used to clean wounds and its surrounding area without needing to use soap and water.
    • Spare clean water- to wash out wounds.
    • Scissors

Medication & Painkillers

Pain relievers and fever reducers are some of the most basic non-prescription drugs to put in a first aid kit. These drugs provide relief for many minor aches, pains, and illnesses in case you, or someone in your group becomes unexpectedly ill. Just make sure all that medicine and products are properly stored and that no medication or product exceeds its labeled expiration date. Here are some over-the-counter medications you might need in a pinch:


    • Antibacterial ointment - helps treat or prevent infection for minor cuts or scrapes.
    • Blister treatment
    • Splinter (fine-point) tweezers - to remove ticks, insect stingers, and small splinters.
    • Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication 
    • Insect sting / anti-itch treatment
    • Antihistamine - to treat a patient experiencing allergic reactions
    • Saline solution:which can be bought pre-made or created yourself by combining hot water with salt, which you then let cool and put into a bottle.
    • Eye pads and drops: designed to be sterile and safe to clean eyes with.
    • Hand sanitiser: either alcohol or non-alcohol based used to disinfect and remove bacteria from your hands.
    • Burn relief cream

Environmental And Extra's

Thorough preparation is essential if you want to have the best camping experience. Depending on the type of environment you’ll be hiking in, here are a couple a few extra things you’ll need to consider adding into your kit:

Cold Climates

If you’re out exploring in snowy conditions, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. Don’t forget a heat-reflecting emergency blanket. Nature can be unforgiving, especially during the winter months. You also need to pack “emergency” extra clothes and blankets to keep you warm and dry throughout the night.

Tropical Areas

Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases are common in tropical areas where the high temperature allows the mosquitoes to thrive. If you’re camping on a trek with mosquitoes and other insects, bring anti malaria pills and DEET-based repellent.

High Altitude Area

If you’re the type of person who enjoys climbing to new heights, reaching high altitudes can be a challenging experience, because the higher you go, the harder your lungs have to work to take in the oxygen you need.  Make sure you’ve got some medicine to get you through any altitude sickness. For headaches, ibuprofen and paracetamol can help. You might also want to consider bringing acetazolamide and anti-nausea pills.

How To Pack And Carry Your First Aid Kit

Mishaps and injuries can happen anytime, especially when you’re out in the wild. At some point, you will need a first aid kit. Before you set out for a week of camping, make sure you carry a safe, portable first aid kit with you.

  1. Choose a durable, brightly coloured, and clearly labeled container.
  2. Gather all medical and first aid essentials.
  3. Pack any miscellaneous items specific to your circumstances.
  4. Organise your supplies.
  5. Give your kit a check-up before you leave.
  6. Make sure to place the first aid kit in an accessible location in your bag or car.

If you are planning a trip into the great outdoors for some camping, having a first aid kit with you will not only help you with injuries that commonly occur while out camping, but it can also keep you prepared for survival situations that might arise while you are on your trip. You never know when an item from it will come in handy so make sure to refer to this Survival first aid kit nz checklist. Not sure what camping supplies you need? Check out our full range of the best camping supplies in NZ today!