The Heavy Hiker

Sharing Hiking Experiences in Western Australia

Bush First Aid

There have been many instances where I have been grateful that I am pretty pedantic when it comes to first aid kit up-keep. The Angry Hiker has often shaken his head at me while I review what I have in the first aid kit before setting off on what will be a short journey, close the civilisation and not in difficult terrain. But I do it anyway.

I do it because I know that being prepared before-hand will save me pain and discomfort in the event of a trail injury and because I recognise that I don’t have to be on a 25 kilometre day trip or a multi-day hike to injure myself. I’m so good at injuring myself I can do it in the backyard!

So, what should you carry on your trail? Well, you need to consider what your likely first aid needs will be and what is practical to carry.

At a minimum I have the following in my first aid kit:

Pressure bandage. Ideal for use in sprain injuries, immobilising a fracture, or in the unlikely event of a snake bite.

Band- aids. The big, heavy duty ‘gunna save me from uber-blisters’ ones.

A large non-stick dressing. They don’t weigh anything and in the event that you sustain an open wound it’s good to have an adequate covering so that you don’t get an added infection.

Sports tape. Good for helping to immobilise joints and also for affixing the non-stick dressing in place.

Anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines. I always carry these anyway.

Sting-goes or similar to apply to pesky insect bites.

Antiseptic, numbing ointment. I’ve only had to use this on small abrasions but it does make all the difference to your comfort levels!

A multi-tool with scissors, a knife and possibly a small torch for use in low-light conditions.

The key to a well packed first aid kit is to understand that it’s ‘bush first-aid’. It’s not clinical conditions out there, so while it sounds attractive to take ‘butterfly stitch, suture strips’ they aren’t going to stick to dirty or wet skin and they will need to be re-applied when you’ve reached your destination anyway.

Versatility is key. Choose items that can be used for multiple things and you’ll ensure that you’re carrying the least weight but the most valuable items in your kit.

In a lot of cases there are preventative measures you can take which will prove far more effective than any bush first aid you can render on the trail.

The most common hiking injury is ankle sprain. So, to avoid this wear the right boots, use hiking poles and ensure that you have an appropriate level of fitness for the trail that you are embarking on.

The same principles can be applied to most trail injuries if you put some thought into the ‘what if’ scenarios before you leave.

What if I fall and sustain a gash /open wound? Do I have the resources to manage a serious bleed?

What if you get bitten by a snake? Is it warm and should I be wearing gaiters and being extra vigilant?

A lot of the time preventing the incident is better than any first aid measures you can apply out there. So be aware of the conditions, understand your environment but pack a first aid kit that will enable you to adequately manage a first-aid situation.

If you are frequently out and about in remote areas I do hope that you have received some kind of first aid training; be-it formal or informal. There are some training providers in Western Australia who offer ‘Remote Area First Aid Training’ or ‘Wilderness First Aid’ and perhaps you should look into a provider such as Survive First Aid who offer training out in Dwellingup.

Lastly, if you do get injured you have two choices. Apply first aid and walk out or stay where you area and get help to you.  In the event of a major injury in a remote area you’re going to wish you have a Personal Locator Beacon. These handy little devices can be activated to relay your position to emergency services.

If you hike alone or are out in remote places frequently it is recommended that you have a PLB with you at all times. Whilst I’ve never been seriously injured on a trail, I can’t think of anything more terrifying that being isolated, injured and without measures to contact emergency services.

Get prepared. Get first-aid ready and you can be confident out on the trails.

See you out there.

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