Monday, April 18, 2016

Sustainable Hiking: Day Pack First Aid Kit

Hiking while raining isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, mine included, so when last weekend’s steady rain seemed endless I decided to ditch my hiking plans and take care of some hiking housekeeping instead. Curling up on the couch I dove into some light reading which included brushing up on the 10 Essentials and Beyond the Basics on the REI blog. My mission was to round out my day pack’s first aid kit.

Wanting to keep the process as zero waste as possible, I started by collecting all of the first aid kits I own which included the existing kit in my pack, the one in my car and a variety of supplies I had around the house. I quickly concluded that creating a light, efficient, zero waste first aid kit was going to be a challenge.

The medicated wipes and medicine in the kits were expired by at least 5 years (I guess it should rain more often!). Beyond being expired, the downside was that each dose of medication and wipes were individually wrapped, creating 2 handfuls of waste. I next discovered that finding refills for first aid kits is nearly impossible. Purchasing a new first aid kit was out of the question, because I didn’t need the container or all of the supplies. Luckily, REI offers first aid kit refills such as medicated wipes, ointments and the topical relief kit.

They offer the same for medication, however I choose to go another route that would, in the long run hopefully be less wasteful. I bought travel size tubes of ibprofen and allergy medication that can be refilled by household bottles as needed. I also opted for a small tube of antibiotic cream, instead of single packets. These are light and small enough to carry, without the added waste of single use doses.

The first aid kit in my car included 2 sets of various bandages which included adhesive pads in various sizes, bandages and gauze. I evenly distributed those between the kit for my pack and car, which was plentiful, and meant I didn’t need to purchase anything new. I also added a pair of folding scissors, fabric tape and a pair of tweezers that I had at home, which completed the tools necessary for using the bandages in the kit.

The mesh bag I use to store all of the first aid supplies was purchased years ago for a camping trip and originally came with an eco friendly soap, towel and sponge cleaning kit. The bag is light, compact and by reusing something I already had, nothing new was purchased.

Along with first aid supplies, I also keep a poncho, emergency blanket, hand warmers, waterproof matches and a small bic lighter. I plan on adding a small tea light candle, zip lock bag, needle and thread, duct tape, water purifying tablets, cord and light plastic for an emergency shelter. These items should fit in the same mesh bag, making for a light, compact first aid and emergency kit.

Although I have yet to use my first-aid or emergency kit (knock on wood), it is something I will not go without. It is also one of the instances where safety trumps going zero waste. As long as leave no trace principles are practiced and kit contents are properly disposed of, we as adventurers and advocates of nature are doing the best we can to enjoy the outdoors, while protecting the earth and ourselves.

Do you have experience with a zero or low waste first-aid kit? What are your tips or challenges?