First Aid Kits for the Backcountry Family

Uncle Dave

We recently received this question from Matt, a reader who's thinking about venturing into the backcountry with his kids.  Check out Dave's response about what we pack for potential emergencies:



I have two kids, 3 & 6, and your blog has given my wife and I a boost in confidence to head back to Algonquin...with the kids...I enjoyed reading your recent gear list post, and am wondering what you bring for first aid/emergencies? Do you bring any type of Satellite communication device like a Spot device?  

Thank you kindly in advance for any insight!
ps my kids love the johnny cake recipe



Hi Matt,

Thanks for your email.

AMK Backcountry Kit

AMK Backcountry Kit

For first aid gear I like Adventure Medical Kits.  They are well put together with quality supplies that, depending on the kit, cover just about everything you might need.  Each of our families has the AMK Backcountry kit as well as a second smaller kit for day tripping and excursions away from base camp.  

The smaller kit can be one of the AMK smaller kits or you can make your own and fill it with stuff you think you might need.  I like the MEC First Aid Bag for that purpose.  In addition to the stuff that comes with a kit like the AMK Backcountry you'll want to take child specific meds for upset stomach and diarrhea, fever/pain relief, allergic response (anti-histamine), etc.  Add to that a good size tube of antibiotic ointment (e.g. Polysporin) and lots of extra bandaids so you can be liberal with them.  I also like to bring liquid bandage for small cuts on the feet where bandaids don't stay on when kids are constantly in and out of the water, and extra wound closure strips (Steri-Strips) and a Celox pad in case of serious wounds from an errant knife or axe.  If you are planning to use open fires (for cooking, warming, ambiance) then you need to give some thought to treating burns.  With burns an ounce of prevention is definitely worth more than a pound of cure. 

The above should take care of your basic run of the mill emergencies.  For more severe medical emergencies the most important thing you can take with you is knowledge and skills.  The AMK Backcountry Kit comes with a great little first aid manual that serves as a handy reference, but I would highly recommend taking a basic First Aid course or even a Wilderness First Aid course.  The knowledge gained will greatly increase your confidence in being able to deal with whatever first aid situations may arise.  An old adage is "The more you know, the less you have to carry."

As far as a Spot or other satellite communication devices, at present we do not carry these. The main reason is cost.  Good camping gear is not cheap and I'd rather spend my limited resources on equipment that we will use day in, day out, rather that an electronic gadget that you have to keep powered and that will likely never be used.  With small children our strategy has been to camp somewhere with no more than a day's journey out (and to take day trips from there) so that if something should really go wrong we always have the possibility to self-extract in a reasonable time frame. 

That said, the above statements only reflect our personal preferences based on our own comfort levels and the places we travel.  Your decision should be based on your own comfort level and the remoteness of your location.  If we were to undertake trips where getting out meant an arduous multi-day paddle, a satellite phone or emergency beacon would likely get upgraded priority. 

With any activity there is always some risk associated.  When camping with children the key is to focus on the most probable risks and try to mitigate those and not get too hung up on potential scary scenarios that have a very low probability of occurring.  If you start with small and short trips with an easy bailout option, your comfort level will soon grow to what it was before you had kids. 

I hope this helps.  With ski season nearing an end, the activity on our blog should pick up so stay tuned for more posts.  I'm glad to hear that the blog has inspired you to head back to Algonquin with your kids.  Encouraging other families is one of the main goals for our blog.  The experiences you'll share as a family will stay with them for a lifetime.

Happy camping and don't hesitate to drop us another note. 



P.S.  We keep all medications and anything other poisonous first aid supplies in our big AMK Backcountry kits.  These kits are stored somewhere that is easily accessible by adults, but out of reach for children in order to avoid poisoning.  Our smaller kits contain mostly bandaids of various sizes, antiseptic wipes, and a tube of antibiotic cream.  It is kept out at all times and is easily accessible for adults and kids.  This way the older kids (i.e. ages 6+) are able to get their own bandaids for minor scrapes, etc.