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What Should Be in Your Travel First Aid Kit

You don't need to carry 10 lbs of medical supplies while traveling. Just be sure to carry a first aid kit that has all the essentials... and maybe a few extra items, just in case.

As a birding and nature tour Trip Leader, I’m routinely responsible for the safety and well-being of the people who travel with me. I’m cautious and take as many preventative measures as I reasonably can to avoid mishaps. But cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and illness aren’t always avoidable while traveling.

A first aid kit is therefore one of the most important things for me to pack on any trip. The same should be true for you, especially if you’re a nature lover that travels to relatively wild places far beyond any city or hospital. On most trips, you probably won’t ever need to open your kit. But when you need it, you will be so happy that you brought it along.

First Aid Kit

A pre-assembled first aid kit might be sufficient for your travels. Familiarize yourself with its contents and add items as necessary.

The kit I carry is fairly substantial, since I’m concerned about a whole group. You don’t have to carry a big kit that adds 10 pounds to your luggage. You only need to carry a core set of essential items, supplemented with additional items as you see fit.

These days, you can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit for your travels, which is a perfectly fine option. If you buy one of these kits, be sure to familiarize yourself with its contents and make sure it includes the following essential items.

Essential Items


Here I’m talking about small band-aid-style adhesive bandages as well as larger wrappings. Small cuts and scrapes are the most common injuries during travel. You can treat these using high-quality bandages of various sizes. My favorite product is Nexcare bandages by 3M.

Crepe bandages are great for securing gauze over wounds and providing compression for splints and dressings.

Large, triangular bandages can also be useful for wrappings and for making slings.


Gauze pads are essential for managing a bleeding wound. They are absorptive and can help keep pressure on a wound when wrapped as part of a dressing. Carry individually wrapped, sterile gauze squares.

Athletic or Surgical Tape

Use this to secure wound dressings, splits, etc.

Antiseptic Wipes

Infection is a real danger even in small wounds. Before covering a wound with bandages or a dressing, it’s important to treat it with antiseptic wipes.


Necessary for cutting gauze, bandages, and tape.


Handy for removing small items from the skin or from wounds.

Pain Medication

Carry both acetaminophen and ibuprofen tablets, as these medications work in different ways. A combination of the two can handle mild-to-moderate pain.

Additional Items to Consider

  • Antibacterial Cream
  • Benadryl and/or loratadine
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Splint
  • Hand Sanitizer and/or disposible gloves
  • Eye Drops
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant

No matter what kit you have, be sure to check before each trip the expiration dates on the medications, and check to make sure the packaging is still in good shape on any sterile items.

Certain items are critical for special conditions. For example, diabetics need to have some form of glucose in their kits and people with a history or high risk of a heart attack need to carry nitroglycerin and aspirin. If you are assembling a kit for not only yourself but also for your traveling companions, make sure you know if they have any such special needs.


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