outdoor first aid kit open with contents spilling out
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

The Best First-Aid Kits of 2022

All forms of outdoor recreation involve some risks, unknowns, and the potential for injury. Check out our review of the best first-aid kits of 2022.

If all goes well, you’ll never need to pull the first-aid kit out of your pack. But it’s important to practice careful risk management and injury prevention. As the first line of defense, at least when you are outdoors, be prepared for anything with a well-stocked first-aid kit.

For decades, the average outdoor first-aid kit consisted of a personally assembled plastic bag filled with odds and ends from the supermarket’s pharmacy aisle. But now there are lots of great purpose-built first-aid kits on the market, pre-stocked with essentials. Portable medical kits are available for all kinds of outdoor pursuits, from days out at the crag to overnight river trips.

While you can still find a waterproof bag and fill it with supplies to create a custom kit, the time and money required can add up quickly. For those who want to skip this step and invest in a high-end, fully assembled kit, we’ve put together this list of our favorite options on the market.

To help you choose the best kit, we organized the list into categories:

For more information on first-aid kits, check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ at the end of this article.

Prepare for Your Activity

The best first-aid kit is stocked for the likely scenarios of your chosen activity. The kit should maximize practicality and not be stuffed with unnecessary items. For example, you probably don’t need instant cold packs on a winter hut trip with a lot of snow. The kits on this list are organized, useful, and worth their weight in a pack.

Medical supply quality varies widely, and we all know how frustrating it can be to pull an item out of a first-aid kit only to have it underperform when you need it most. For this list, we selected kits that generally contain good-quality items that will reliably hold up — as a first-aid kit should. If your medical supplies don’t work when they’re supposed to, they have no place in your kit.

The Best First-Aid Kits of 2022

Best Overall: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7

adventure medical kits ultralightwatertight .7

For a kit that’s so lightweight and compact, the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 ($30) is immensely versatile and practical — making it our pick for the best overall first-aid kit. At just 8 ounces, the entire kit is likely to go unnoticed in your pack. But when the time comes to provide medical care, it’s worth its weight in gold.

As the name suggests, this first-aid kit comes in a fully waterproof case. The case material is durable too, meaning it won’t easily rip open inside your pack.

Because this kit is built to be lightweight, it’s stocked with only a simple array of medkit essentials. That said, the kit’s contents are well-considered and include many important items included in larger kits, such as a full sheet of moleskin and common medications like aspirin and Tylenol.

Other items include medical tape, three sizes of Band-Aids, sterile gauze, nitrile gloves, sterilizing wipes, and much more. This kit unfortunately doesn’t come with a CPR face shield, but there’s room to add one if you choose. Ultimately, this kit is adequate for individual use or for small groups of two or three. For larger groups, we recommend a fuller kit.

Sewn-in loops allow you to easily clip this kit to a climbing harness during multi-pitch routes, and it fits easily in a kayak or a canoe. It’s smaller than a 1L water bottle, and until you need it, you’ll probably forget it’s there.

Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Quality contents
  • Waterproof
  • Sewn-in loops for easy attachment
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Low quantities of certain items
  • Not sufficient for large groups
Contents:
  • 3 butterfly-closure strips
  • 2 triple antibiotic ointments
  • 3 antiseptic wipes
  • 1 pair of nitrile gloves
  • 8 sterile dressings
  • 2 nonadherent sterile dressings
  • 2 conforming gauze bandages
  • 5 adhesive bandages and 3 knuckle bandages
  • 10 yds. adhesive tape
  • 1 elastic bandage
  • 11 precut and shaped moleskin pieces
  • 3 alcohol swabs
  • 6 ibuprofen
  • 2 aspirin
  • 2 antihistamine
  • 2 After Bite sting-relief wipes
  • 1 splinter picker forceps
  • 3 safety pins
  • 1 26-in. x 2-in. roll of duct tape

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Best Budget: First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit

first aid only all purpose first aid kit

This inexpensive and compact kit ($20) is a handy resource for quick trips with small groups. Though it has limited functionality for larger groups or adventures longer than a single day out, it’s under $20 and offers good quality for the money.

The kit’s nylon carrying case unzips and folds open like a book. On the inside, the contents aren’t especially organized, but there’s lots of good stuff, especially for the price.

In total, the kit includes 299 different items, though almost 200 of these are small adhesive bandages. We like the addition of a roll of athletic tape, though it isn’t the sturdiest and won’t be very supportive in the case of an ankle injury.

The quality of most of this kit’s contents is quite good, but many items have noticeably short lifespans and will need to be replaced within a year or two. In total, the kit weighs a little over a pound and has a thin profile. It isn’t very water-resistant, but it fits into most accessible backpack pockets with ease.

Overall, this first-aid kit is useful and affordable, but it’s not really substantial enough for anything more than a casual day trip. It’d be great in an office or bathroom as a go-to front-country kit.

Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Lots of items (mostly bandages)
  • Thin profile
Cons:
  • Lacks an organizing system
  • Not ideal for longer trips or larger groups
  • Some contents have a short lifespan
Contents:
  • Tablets: 6 extra-strength non-aspirin, 6 aspirin, 6 ibuprofen
  • 1 burn-relief gel
  • 6 antibiotic ointment packs
  • 3 insect sting-relief pads
  • 14 alcohol cleansing pads
  • 15 antiseptic cleansing wipes
  • 2 first-aid/burn cream packs
  • 2 6-in. x ¾-in. finger splint
  • 2 ½-in. x 5 yds. tape roll
  • 3 2-in. x 2-in. moleskin squares
  • 3 butterfly wound closures
  • 1 4-in. x 5-in. instant cold compress
  • 1 sterile eye pad
  • 1 2-in. conforming gauze roll bandage
  • 1 5-in. x 9-in. trauma pad
  • 2 4-in. x 4-in. gauze dressing pads
  • 4 3-in. x 3-in. gauze dressing pads
  • 6 2-in. x 2-in. gauze dressing pads
  • 2 2″ x 4″ elbow and knee bandages
  • 4 fingertip bandages
  • 4 fabric bandages
  • 50 3/8-in. x 1½-in. adhesive plastic bandages
  • 75 ¾-in. x 3-in. adhesive plastic bandages
  • 20 ¾-in. x 3-in. fabric bandages
  • 30 1-in. x 3-in. adhesive plastic bandages
  • 10 1-in. x 3-in. fabric bandages
  • 1 1½-in. x 1½-in. patch plastic bandage
  • 2 vinyl gloves
  • 1 thermometer
  • 10 cotton-tipped applicators
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • 1 first-aid guide

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Best Hiking First-Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Series Hiker

adventure medical kits series hiker

As a longstanding maker of first-aid kits, Adventure Medical Kits is a well-regarded brand that makes a wide variety of kits for various activities. For hiking, backpacking, or other trail-based activities, the Mountain Series Hiker ($26) is our pick for the best hiking first-aid kit.

From its case to its contents, the quality of this kit is exceptional. The rugged nylon material resists abrasion and is clearly built for outdoor use. On the inside, handy labeled pouches keep the supplies well-organized. Each internal pouch zips shut, which prevents the contents from sliding around and mixing together. Everything is always where you need it when you need it.

Adventure Medical Kits sources the contents of its kits from reputable suppliers. From the medical-grade trauma shears to the thick and supportive medical tape, every item in this kit is effective and high-quality.

At just 10 ounces, this is a small and lightweight first-aid kit. It’s not sufficient for high-level trauma care and can’t support groups with more than two people. Still, for small-group hiking trips up to a few days in length, this kit offers top-quality supplies and good value.

Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Good-quality supplies
  • Included Wilderness First Aid guidebook
  • Well-organized
Cons:
  • Could use more pairs of nitrile gloves
  • No included CPR mask
Contents:
  • 1 splinter picker/tick remover forceps
  • 5 1-in. x 3-in. fabric Easy Access Bandages
  • 5 knuckle fabric Easy Access Bandages
  • 3 butterfly closure fabric adhesive bandage
  • 3 antiseptic wipes
  • 1 triple antibiotic ointment
  • 2 alcohol swabs
  • 1 safety pin
  • 1 “register your kit” card
  • 3 After Bite sting and bite relief wipe
  • 4 aspirin (325 mg)
  • 2 antihistamine (diphenhydramine 25 mg)
  • 4 ibuprofen (200 mg)
  • 4 acetaminophen (500 mg)
  • 1 5-in. x 9-in. trauma pad
  • 2 nitrile glove
  • 1 wilderness first-aid manual
  • 1 EMT shears
  • 4 4-in. x 4-in. sterile gauze dressing
  • 2 2-in. x 2-in. sterile gauze dressing
  • 1 2-in. x 3-in. sterile non-adherent dressing
  • 1 elastic bandage with hook-and-loop closure
  • 1 conforming gauze bandage
  • 1 1-in. x 2.5-yd. tape
  • 14 pre-cut and shaped moleskin pieces

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Best for Overnight Trips: HART Outdoor Weekend Kit

HART health hart weekend first aid kit from REI

Over the years as an outdoor recreator and outdoor professional, I’ve really honed in on my pack and what I need to bring. But what’s never changed, no matter the trip, is the need for a first-aid kit. For quick overnights (up to 2 days of camping with one or two people), we loved the HART Health Weekend Kit ($24). (It comes in a similar multiday option if you take longer camping trips.)

For less than 25 bucks, you get a super-solid kit that can flex for all-day adventures or for shorter weekend or overnight trips. And, there’s room to add in a few more items (whether that’s extra band-aids, more tape, or personal medications). Here’s what we liked most about the kit: its price, contents, organization, and packability.

HART Health’s kits are all assembled in the USA. (Pro tip: You can order first-aid kit items from HART in bulk too, like when you need to restock things like ibuprofen or antibiotic wipes.)

Pros:
  • Good packable size
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Great organization and labeling
Cons:
  • Low contents of certain items
  • We wish that more tape was included
Contents:
  • 4 butterfly closures
  • 3 3-in. x ¾-in. strips
  • 4 3-in. x 1-in. strips
  • 2 fingertip bandages
  • 2 knuckle bandages
  • 1 4-in. x 3-in. sheet of moleskin
  • 1 4.1-yd. x 2-in. gauze roll
  • 2 2-in. x 2-in. gauze pads
  • 2 3-in. x 3-in. gauze pads
  • 4-in. x 4-in. gauze sponge
  • 4-in. x 3-in. nonadherent pad
  • 9-in. x 5-in. ABD Combine pad
  • 4 antiseptic towelettes
  • 3 triple antibiotic ointments
  • 2 sting relief wipes
  • 1 first-aid/burn cream
  • 1 hydrocortisone cream
  • 1 packet aspirin (2/packet)
  • 2 antacids
  • 2 each of ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • 1 allergy relief medication
  • 2.5-yd. x 1-in. tape
  • 1 scissors
  • 1 forceps
  • 1 5-yd. x 2-in. elastic bandage
  • 1 Wilderness First-Aid Guide book

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Best Waterproof First-Aid Kit: VSSL First Aid Mini

vssl first aid mini

Right away, it’s clear this first-aid kit is unusual. Instead of a fabric pouch, this kit comes in a military-grade aluminum cylinder. At 6.75 inches tall and 2 inches wide, the entire kit is roughly the size of a 12-ounce water bottle. For such a tiny kit, it packs in an impressive number of essential items.

Inside the VSSL First Aid Mini ($70) are four metal supply tins. Each of these is labeled with its contents, which makes it quick and easy to locate specific items on the fly. The cylinders are organized into four categories: Clean Cut & Cover, Tools, Outdoor Essentials, and Trail Marking. While the contents have low quantities and could be improved by a few key additions, they’re generally high-quality and well-marked.

The whole tube fits easily into most water bottle pockets and backpack brains. Also, it’s fully waterproof. Thanks to its metal construction, this pack can handle quite a bit of abuse without damaging any of its contents.

At $70, this kit is quite expensive compared to other options. Much of what you pay for is the well-made aluminum case. The contents are quality, but if you’re just looking for supplies and don’t want to pay more for an inventive case, this may not be the kit for you.

Still, for those seeking a compact kit in a maximally durable case, this VSSL first-aid box is the way to go. Check out our full review.

Pros:
  • Solid waterproof case
  • Well-organized
  • Compact
  • High-quality contents including a sewing kit and thermometer
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Low quantities of certain items
Contents:
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Large bandages
  • Steri-Strip closures
  • Blister pads
  • Burn and sting ointment
  • Pain-relief medication
  • Knuckle bandages
  • Disposable thermometers
  • Safety whistle
  • Gloves
  • Razor
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Sewing kit
  • 1 20-ft. roll of multiuse adhesive tape

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Best Dog First-Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Trail Dog First Aid Kit

adventure medical trail dog first aid kit

If your pup is going to be joining your outdoor adventures, it’s wise to be prepared with dog-specific medical supplies. Dogs and humans have very different anatomies, and many human first-aid items don’t work well for our four-legged friends. In this kit from Adventure Medical ($25), all of the contents are specifically designed to treat common injuries and ailments a dog is likely to sustain outdoors.

Other than the numerous helpful medical items that can be used to treat your dog, this first-aid kit includes a well-written and organized handbook. When your dog is in obvious pain or discomfort, the guidebook can be an invaluable resource for figuring out the issue and responding properly.

Inside its fabric outer case, this kit comes with a waterproof ziplock bag that keeps the contents reliably dry. This is especially helpful if your dog carries its own gear — the kit won’t be ruined when it’s time to splash around in the water.

For dog owners who bring their pup along everywhere, this kit provides peace of mind that comes with medical readiness. From paw care items to leg wraps and an effective tick remover, the Trail Dog first-aid kit has you and your best buddy covered. Plus, it’s fairly inexpensive at $25.

Pros:
  • Well-stocked with dog-specific supplies
  • Includes waterproof ziplock bag
  • Inexpensive
Cons:
  • Low quantities of certain items
Contents:
  • 2 3-in. x 3-in. sterile gauze dressing
  • 2 2-in. x 3-in. sterile non-adherent dressing
  • 1 2-in. conforming gauze bandage
  • 1 irrigation syringe (10 cc. with 18-gauge tip)
  • 1 saline wound and eye wash
  • 1 2-in. self-adhering elastic bandage
  • 3 triple antibiotic ointment
  • 6 antiseptic wipes
  • 2 alcohol swabs
  • 1 triangular bandage
  • 1 pet first-aid manual
  • 1 splinter picker/tick remover forceps
  • 1 oz. of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 antihistamine (diphenhydramine 25 mg)

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Best Car First-Aid Kit: My Medic MyFAK

my medic myfak

Compared to a lightweight small-group first-aid kit, this option from My Medic ($149) is burly and heavy, but it’s also far more advanced and comprehensive. This 32-ounce behemoth is fully stocked with high-quality medical equipment. While you probably wouldn’t want to carry this larger kit around in a backpack, it’s an excellent choice for car camping or to keep in base camp.

This kit is an appropriate match for those with formal medical training. Wilderness first responders and EMTs will find this kit has supplies for advanced trauma care such as medical-grade trauma shears and pre-made splints.

For those without training, the included 82-page first-aid and survival ebook can help you perform the proper treatment. However, because this book is only available digitally, it can be difficult to access while in the field.

For a group setting, this kit is highly capable — especially on outings where it doesn’t have to be carried, like car camping trips or river rafting. Inside the kit, zippered pockets and elastic straps help you organize its good-quality supplies. One small compartment can detach from the main kit, offering a handy mini-kit that works well for short excursions and day trips.

Overall, this heavy-duty kit is a bit of an investment at $120. For solitary backpacking or multi-pitch climbing, it’s far more bulk than you want. But for car camping, it’s a solid kit that can handle a whole lot of different injuries, ailments, and emergencies.

Pros:
  • High-quality
  • Capable of advanced trauma treatment
  • Suitable for groups
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Guidebook only available in digital form
Contents:
  • 2 5g LiquidSkin
  • 1 9-in. x 5½-in. Dyna-Stopper bandage
  • 1 3-in. x 12.3-ft. gauze roll
  • 4 2-in. x 2-in. gauze pads
  • 4 4-in. x 4-in. gauze pads
  • 3 ¼-in. x 3-in. secure strips
  • 2 2-in. x 4-in. bandages
  • 2 1½-in. x 3-in. knuckle bandages
  • 2 1¾-in. x 2-in. fingertip bandages
  • 2 3-in. x 3-in. knee/elbow bandages
  • 4 1-in. x 3¼-in. bandages
  • 2 Burn Jel
  • 1 CPR shield
  • 1 ActiSplint (finger)
  • 1 triangular bandage
  • 1 elastic bandage
  • 1 Vaseline
  • 2 sunscreen
  • 2 lip guard
  • 2 BZK antiseptic wipes
  • 2 alcohol prep pads
  • 2 sting and bite medication
  • 2 oral pain relief
  • 2 P.A.W.S. hand-sanitizing wipes
  • 2 generic Neosporin triple antibiotic ointment
  • 2 hydrocortisone cream (skin irritations and allergies)
  • 2 SALJET Bullet 30mL (sterile saline topical solution)
  • 2 extra-strength Tylenol 500 mg
  • 1 Benadryl 25 mg x2
  • 2 Pepto-Bismol antacid
  • 3 Advil 200 mg x2
  • 1 survival rescue blanket
  • 1 rescue whistle
  • 1 penlight
  • 1 thermometer
  • 1 7¼-in. EMT shears
  • 2 moleskin blister protection
  • 2 nitrile gloves
  • Tweezers
  • 1 1-in. x 2.5-yd. roll of waterproof tape
  • 1 MyFAK bag

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Best of the Rest

Surviveware Small Kit

surviveware small review

This petite and impressive kit offers the utility of a much larger option. On the outside, a rugged, high-denier nylon opens up with a large, robust zipper. Once opened, this kit is noticeably well-organized and uses pouches and resealable packaging to protect the supplies. Surviveware is known to make quality kits, and this is no exception.

Weighing just under a pound, this kit ($37) exists as a balanced midpoint between ultralight kits like the Adventure Medical Kits .7 and heftier car camping kits like the My Medic MyFAK. Still, it feels compact and is certainly not too bulky to bring along in a backpack.

For solo trips, this kit may be slightly heavier than you want. But the extra weight might be worth it if traveling far away from definitive medical care. For a small group of up to three people on a short overnight trip, this kit is perfectly capable.

The contents of this kit are extremely well-considered. We appreciate the inclusion of a nice pair of trauma shears and a functional tourniquet. A wide elastic pressure bandage also stands out as a valuable addition.

There are so many supplies in this kit it can be difficult to fit everything back inside once it’s been disassembled. The supplies are in generous quantities. For example, there are over 40 wound-closure strips in this kit, and they come in various sizes.

For $37, this kit is a bit pricier than other kits of similar size. However, its rugged construction and well-stocked interior fully justify the price tag. For rafting or other water-based activities, we recommend placing this kit inside of a dry bag, as it’s not fully waterproof.

Pros:
  • Quality contents
  • Included removable CPR kit
  • Well-organized
  • Generous quantities
  • Durable
Cons:
  • A little heavy for solo backpacking
  • Doesn’t include any medications
Contents:
  • 6-in. shears
  • 600-denier polyester bag
  • Adhesive bandages: 5 butterfly large, 5 butterfly small, 5 H-shape, 2 large, 20 standard, 5 mini, 5 square shape
  • 3 cotton gauze
  • 10 cotton swabs
  • 1 pouch with instructions
  • 1 crepe bandage
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • 2 head bandage pads
  • Tape
  • Laminate baggies
  • 5 personal mini bags
  • PBT conforming bandage
  • 4 safety pins
  • Splinter probes
  • 3 closures
  • 1 guide
  • 1 triangular bandage
  • Tweezers
  • 1 whistle

Check Price at Surviveware

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a First-Aid Kit

The first-aid kit you choose should be able to handle the situations or injuries likely to accompany your personal pursuits. If you need a first-aid kit for solo lightweight backpacking, you probably shouldn’t purchase a large, heavy kit that’s better suited to car campers.

Similarly, if primarily bringing your first-aid kit on multi-pitch climbing routes, you don’t need a kit full of first-aid supplies for dogs. Simply put, there are lots of first-aid kits available, and you’ll need to be discerning to identify the best one for you.

Many current first-aid kits will include the number of days and number of people the contents serve. For example, a kit designed for two people for 4-5 days could work in a variety of scenarios.

Many key factors differentiate one first-aid kit from the next, which we’ll dive into below. Of these, kit size, weight, supplies included, durability, price, group size, and type of activity are the most important.

Size

First-aid kits come in all shapes and sizes. On this list, the VSSL First Aid Mini comes in a cylindrical case and is no taller than a 12-ounce water bottle, which is great because it can fit into most packs’ water bottle-holders. On the other end of the spectrum, the My Medic MyFAK is about the size of a watermelon and weighs 2 pounds.

If you want to carry your kit on long trail-based adventures like thru-hiking or trail running, go with something small that will fit easily in a backpack or fanny pack. The Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 weighs less than half a pound and clips easily to the outside of a pack or harness, or it can stash into a hydration vest.

Generally, small and ultralight first-aid kits are good for one to two people over single-day trips or brief overnight outings. But most small or ultralight packs don’t include the ideal supplies for larger groups or for trips that venture way out from the front country.

Larger kits, like the My Medic MyFAK, are better for supporting a group of more than two people over longer trips. The downside to a larger kit is increased weight and volume. For car camping, canoeing, or river rafting, weight is probably less of a concern, so a large kit may be the way to go.

man pulling supplies out of first aid kit in woods
(Photo/My Medic)

Weight

The kits on this list range in weight from less than half a pound to over 2 pounds. If your activity of choice requires you to consider every ounce, go for something small and light like the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7. Remember, less weight usually means fewer supplies and reduced quantities.

You should also consider that every first-aid kit can be customized at home. If certain supplies are deemed unnecessary, you can leave them behind to shave weight or replace them with supplies that better suit your needs.

For activities like car camping and whitewater rafting, weight may be of less concern, and you could get away with bringing a heavier kit along. A heavier kit usually means more supplies, which is a good thing for large groups and long trips.

Supplies Included

Before purchasing a first-aid kit, read through the list of supplies and consider whether or not the kit comes with the kinds of items you’re likely to need.

Almost all kits come standard with a certain quantity of adhesive bandages, various forms of gauze, antibiotic ointment, medical tape, and more. Other items that are less often standard but potentially highly important include trauma shears, basic medications, finger splints, and emergency blankets.

Be sure to check the quantity of each included item. Some kits, like the First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit, come with an impressive 299 items. But a closer inspection reveals that many of these are small adhesive bandages.

Another important item to look out for is a first-aid reference. A small reference book is especially important for those without medical training who may not know how to use the items in their kit. If you don’t know how to use your kit and it also doesn’t come with an instructional guide, the kit won’t be very useful to you in the field.

Some kits are small but still include some high-quality, high-value items. The Surviveware Small Kit is quite compact but still includes potentially crucial items like a pair of medical-grade trauma shears and a functional tourniquet.

Durability

A durable kit will hold up to the conditions it’s designed to be exposed to. First, a kit should have a durable outer case. We like that the VSSL First Aid Mini has a waterproof aluminum case.

Other kits on this list like the Surviveware Small Kit have a high-denier nylon carrying case that resists abrasion and holds up in the long term. You don’t want to have to break out your sewing supplies to do surgery on your first-aid kit.

Because many common medical supplies are fragile and vulnerable to water, it’s wise to seek out a waterproof kit. This is especially important for those who plan to bring their kit along on water-based activities like kayaking or rafting. Kits that aren’t already waterproof can be customized with a durable ziplock bag or a dry bag.

If possible, check the expiration dates of supplies inside of a kit before you purchase. Many kits come with medications, which is great unless they’re all due to expire soon. I have gotten into the habit of checking the dates of all my kits’ meds every 2-3 months or so and replace them as needed.

first aid kit on boat
(Photo/VSSL Gear)

Price

On this list, we included inexpensive kits like the First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit and pricier kits like the VSSL First Aid Mini. Because prices for first-aid kits vary a lot, it should be possible to find something within your budget. That said, remember that cheaper kits often include cheaper supplies that won’t function quite as well when you need them most in the field.

Group Size

Most first-aid kits are designed to support a certain number of people for a certain number of days. Ultralight kits are usually made to accommodate one or two people on shorter trips of 1-2 days. Larger kits can support larger groups on longer trips.

Often, the difference between a single-day kit and a kit for long trips is supply quantity. For example, a kit with a single triangular gauze would be fine for a single day out when multiple injuries are unlikely. However, on multiday trips, you might need to use certain items multiple times over the course of the trip, so the supply quantity should reflect this.

Type of Activity

Some first-aid kits, like the Adventure Medical Kits Series Hiker, are made for specific activities. These can be super helpful because they’ve been put together with special consideration for the kinds of injuries that are likely to occur during that activity. For example, a good hiking first-aid kit is likely to include plenty of supplies to deal with a sprained ankle or skinned knee.

While activity-specific kits may be slightly less versatile than other options, they are ideal for those who will be sticking to one activity.

hiker putting adventure medical kits series into backpack
(Photo/Amazon)

Why You Should Trust Us

The only way to find the best first-aid kits on the market is to use them constantly and over time — our staff put months into testing these different kits, carrying them on day hikes, overnight weekend road trips, solo backpacking trips, group camping trips, bikepacking trips, pack-paddleboarding and kayak trips, and more. We also spent time testing different models and variations of kits to see how they vary by brand and where each first-aid kit really excels.

One of our staff members used to work as an outdoor guide and instructor and always carried — and sometimes had to use — a group first-aid kit in the field. When you are responsible for leading or guiding a group of people, the importance of a proper and well-stocked first-aid kit becomes even greater.

FAQ

What Is the Best First-Aid Kit to Buy?

While we recommend all of the first-aid kits on this list for various reasons, we have selected the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .7 as our choice for the best overall first-aid kit — though, we’ve also used the Adventure Medical Kit .9 (that accommodates a slightly bigger group) and the Mountain Series kits as well, and liked those too.

Ultimately, the best first-aid kit to buy is the one that’s most likely to be useful when you need it.

What Should Be in a First-Aid Kit?

While the supplies in first-aid kits vary depending on the purpose and design of the kit, some key items should be on every first-aid kit checklist. These essential first-aid items include:

  • Adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • Medical tape
  • Gauze
  • Sanitary gloves
  • Scissors or trauma shears
  • Tweezers
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Compression bandages

Other items that are less universal but still potentially valuable include:

  • Irrigation syringes
  • OTC medications
  • Burn ointment or 2nd Skin burn pads
  • Cloth slings or splints
  • Tourniquets
outdoor first aid kit in side pack pocket
A small aid kit fits perfectly into a pack pocket in testing.

What Are Some Basic First-Aid Skills?

Basic first-aid skills include the ability to treat and care for common injuries and ailments. Properly cleaning a small cut and applying an adhesive bandage is considered basic first aid.

Those who administer first aid can continue to work on their skills over time and increase the level of care they can provide. Before going out to recreate with your first-aid kit, it’s helpful to know how to deal with a range of injuries and emergencies that are most likely to occur — from wound care to blister prevention to lifesaving CPR.

How Do I Get Trained in First Aid?

First-aid courses are regularly available in most areas and regions. Some common providers of basic first-aid courses include the American Red Cross and the National Safety Council.

For medical training designed specifically for the outdoors, certifications like Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder are worthwhile pursuits. Common course providers of wilderness medicine include NOLS and Wilderness Medical Associates.

When Do First-Aid Kits Expire?

That depends. Usually, medications are the first items in a first-aid kit to expire. However, many other first-aid kit supplies have expiration dates too.

The adhesive on a roll of tape can also expire — if your tape is old and disintegrating, it’s useless! A new first-aid kit should last for a year or more before anything inside expiries, but it all depends on the specific contents of the kit.


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