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If you’re a trekker, hunter, or anyone else who likes to get out of the civilized world and into the natural one, you may be used to bringing both a medical kit and a gun with you on your adventures. But have you ever stopped to wonder if one was more valuable than the other?
Without a doubt, a medical kit is a much more valuable contribution to your equipment than a gun is. Here’s why.
Having a Gun vs. Having a Medical Kit
There’s no doubt that both of these items are incredibly useful to a backcountry explorer or hunter. But in the sheer variety of what you treat with your medical kit, provided you’ve stocked it well, far outstrips the situations in which a gun would be helpful.
Unless you’re on a hunting expedition (in which your gun is a primary tool), the other reason to have a gun is to protect yourself. If you’re not out to go shooting, then hopefully, your packed gun doesn’t get used at all on a successful, threat-free outing.
The same hope holds for a medical kit. Better to have one and never use it than to need one and not have one. Medical kits are helpful in so many situations, from blisters to head injuries. In our day-to-day lives, a medical kit comes in handy much more often than a gun.
With a well-stocked kit, you’ll find that the variety of treatments you can offer with your supplies is surprisingly varied. A simple compression bandage can turn into a sling or a tourniquet, or a splint, depending on the emergency. (Of course, you should not attempt more complicated procedures without the proper wilderness training.)
Backcountry Emergency Situations
One of the best things about being off the beaten track is that it challenges your mettle in more ways than one. Even simple tasks like keeping a scrape clean can become monumentally more difficult if you don’t have a roof over your head.
There are four basic guidelines to help you treat most adventure-related medical situations. The four most crucial tenets for treating a medical emergency are:
Control the bleeding
Put direct pressure on the wound to stem bleeding and keep blood vessels from constricting. If you need to, use a tourniquet or a compression bandage to make sure there’s not excessive swelling or blood loss.
Clean the wound
Using the cleanest water and fabric that you have, rinse the affected area, especially if the injury has broken the skin like a laceration or a burn. Once the area is clean, let it dry and then, if you have some, use an antibacterial cream on the wound.
Bandage, Splint, or Stabilize the wound
Using some sterilized gauze pads and a compression bandage from your medical kit, dress the room, putting the most absorbent material against any broken skin to absorb all the bodily fluids.
Find the straightest and sturdiest sticks (or other stick-like items like ski poles or tent stakes) to use as a splint. Align them outside of the injured joint or bone and wrap the compression bandage tightly around to keep everything immobile.
Monitor for infection
It’s challenging to keep stuff clean when you don’t have access to many resources. Especially when you’re in the backcountry where there is, literally, dirt everywhere. If you have a wound that needs tending, keep it free from infection by regularly changing the bandages and knowing the signs.
Here are some of the symptoms of infection that, luckily, can usually be reversed with some items from your medical kit. There may be swelling, redness, or excessive pus at the site, and, in more severe cases, you may experience fever and chills and see streaks on the skin radiating from the wound toward the heart.
Although a gun may make you feel more confident, a medical kit applies to many dire situations and should not be left behind. Even if you’re staying put in your house, a medical kit on hand will keep you feeling more secure as you’re going about your day-to-day business.
Best Items for Your Medical Kit
Purchasing a pre-made kit is an easy, 0ne-step process, but you may want to build your own so that you can customize it, including any prescriptions you take or favorite brands. Here are some of the necessary items to have in your medical kit before you go on your next great adventure, or even if you’re staying at home:
- Sterile gauze
- Compression bandage
- Chest seals
- Small knife or scissors
- Adhesive tape
- Burn ointment
- Blister bandages
- Instant ice pack
- Extra flashlight or penlight
To use a chest seal, you need to have some training, but it is pretty self-explanatory once you know what you’re doing. These extra-strong medical coverings with vents for entrance or exit wounds due to bullet wounds are lifesavers.
While you’re stocking your medical kit, you should replace or double-check some items to make sure they will be helpful once they’re needed.
Double-Check Before You Take Off
Along with all of the valuable medications and sterile tools you’re packing, you need to make sure that all your tools are in working order.
Check adhesives like tape or adhesive seals to make sure they’re still sticky. Prescription dates and dosages should be double-checked, and the expiration dates on aspirin, ibuprofen, antacids, antibacterial creams, and everything else should be examined as well.
Replace any rubber gloves. Disposable gloves are a strong defense against infection and irritation, especially if you have to dress a wound in the field. If your rubber gloves are more than five years old, they have to be replaced as the material breaks down.
While you’re thumbing through your kit, scrutinize the packaging on all the items to ensure that nothing has been ripped or ruined in the time since you last did an inventory check. If you’ve included a headlamp or flashlight, make sure the batteries are still fresh.
The Last Word
From treating burns to splinters to a sprained ankle, medical kits are invaluable when it comes to adventuring in the wilds or even for shorter, more local trips. Although guns are great for hunting and protection, you only pull your weapon in a handful of situations, whereas a medical kit will never let you down.