Four men wearing packs at Eagle Rock

Zion Gear Company owner Adam Thurmon (far right) and friends at Eagle Rock Loop. Photo courtesy of Adam Thurmon

Many of us love to get outdoors to escape the confines of our homes and traffic of the city. But with such freedom also comes distance from our medicine cabinets and convenient medical care. Routine maladies such as fevers, cuts, and sprains can be a lot more uncomfortable and distressing when you’re out in the woods without typical medical resources. To help you prepare for an outdoor adventure, we spoke with camping experts about the best items to pack and how to effectively prevent and respond to illness or injury.

Pack a First-Aid Kit

Ross Tullis, who works at The Bear Mountain, an outdoor shop in Waco, says campers should pack a first-aid kit with sufficient supplies for yourself and anyone else in your party. Key components include:

  • Sterile wipes
  • Bandages (a variety of shapes and sizes)
  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Self-adhesive tape
  • Suture kit
  • Sterilized gloves
  • Blister pads
  • Instant cold packs
  • Medical scissors
  • Tourniquet
  • Hemostatic agent (examples include Celox, Hemcon, and QuikClot)
  • Safety pins
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Ibuprofen or Tylenol
  • Anti-nausea tablets
  • Acetaminophen
  • Antihistamine
  • Aspirin

Adam Thurmon, who owns Zion Gear Company in Lindale, says water purifiers are also an important piece of gear, especially if you’re drinking from natural sources. Thurmon says it’s also a good idea to bring along a whistle and/or mirror to signal for help. If you don’t have any of those items, clapping three times in a row is a well-known distress signal, according to Tullis. You should also always let someone know where you’re going before taking off.

Preventing and Responding to Illness

Thurmon says one of the best ways to keep healthy during a camping trip is to stay hydrated with clean water. Overexertion, overheating, and overexposure to the sun can lead to problems like heat exhaustion and sunburn.

Furthermore, Thurmon says to be aware of what foods you’re packing, and only bring items that don’t cause you discomfort. There are prepackaged foods available for campers, but only eat them if you know how you’ll react. Camping isn’t the best time to be trying out new cuisine, especially if you want to avoid the perils of an upset stomach.

In the event that you get sick, Thurmon says to hydrate and rest. If your vehicle is nearby, that’s the place to go. He also suggests keeping a map and knowing where nearby places of help are.

Preventing and Responding to Injury

If you’re backpacking or taking a long hike, fatigue-related injuries are a potential problem. Tullis says it helps to get in shape in advance with strength training. It also helps to have properly fitted equipment and shoes. Backpacks that are too small can restrict movement and fatigue the shoulders, whereas oversized packs can shift your center of gravity and lead to lower back issues.

Thurmon and Tullis both emphasize the importance of good footwear. Shoes should fit correctly, and it helps to have a deep heel cup and ankle support. Trekking poles can also help prevent injury and provide added support, especially during a descending hike, which according to Tullis is where most people tend to experience injury. Thurmon also advises campers to take a first aid course if possible.

In the event of a cut or an abrasion, the wound should first be sterilized and then bandaged to prevent infection. Thurmon says that tape can be wrapped around gauze to keep things out, and the hemostatic agent to help stop the bleeding.

Campers should seek further help if injuries show signs of infection, which include inflammation, pus, and discoloration.

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