Best Whitewater Kayaking Medical Kit

If you’re looking for a good whitewater kayaking first aid kit that’s suitable for multi-day trips, here’s the best one I’ve seen, compliments of Eli Ren. (Used with his permission from his post on Professor Paddle,which is linked to here.) The following is all from Eli’s post, and you can click here for the printable Whitewater Kayaking Medical Kit Checklist.

Contents include (from top of the bag working in):

1st bag (the most urgent stuff right on top):
Face mask
CPR face shield (disposable practice shield from CPR course, but it will keep vomit out of your mouth)
Oral airway

2nd bag (wound care):
one 5×9 Combine Dressing (for serious bleeds)
a bunch of 4×4’s
Tegederm – several sizes (best thing for boaters)
2 ouchless dressings (better than gauze since they don’t stick to wound)
Glacier gel dressings (best thing for blisters)
Band aids (the clear tegederm-style ones are best)
Alcohol swabs
Antibiotic ointment

3rd bag (meds – double bagged)
Ibuprofen 200mg (take 800mg for serious pain)
Benadryl (a cheap, must-have, life-saving drug)
Tylenol (best thing for lowering a fever)
Aspirin (short shelf-life, but cheap and potentially life-saving)
Imodium (potentially life saving in case of a bad intestinal crisis or for just preventing dry-suit catastrophes)
(prescription pain killers if you have them – in case of serious injury)
(epi-pen if you have severe allergies to anything)

4th bag (bandages):
Triangular bandage (crucial for dislocated shoulder)
Ace bandage
Roller gauze

5th bag (intensive wound care):
Clorhexidine surgical scrub sponge
15ml sterile saline
Betadine solution
Sterile 10ml syringe
Sterile needle (for irrigation)
Skin stapler 35W (can be used without anesthetic)

Other stuff tucked in around the sides:
12hr candle, lighter, & 55-gallon trash bag (emergency heat-tent)
Sam-Splint (I can’t over-state how useful this is)
Duck tape (better than medical tape)
Gorilla tape (for gear repair)
Heavy needle & 135-weight thread
~12′ of 3mm accessory cord
Zip-ties (spares for my homemade break-away bulkhead)

In PFD pocket:
Another 55-gallon trash bag
Spot messenger
6′ 3mm cord

And here are Eli’s comments:

“I have done emergency medicine in a number of outdoor environments, and by far the most used things in the first-aid kit are 4×4’s bandaids, and duck tape. That being said, I have had to use everything on this list with the exception of the stapler, but only because the steri-stips worked well enough. You could certainly add more stuff to this list, but I find this kit covers almost every scenario in which you are not calling for a helicopter, while still being compact and light-weight. You could probably cram most of this stuff in a an Otter/Pelican box or Nalgine and wrap the sam-splint around the outside, but I think a drybag works better. I consider a sam-splint mandatory as it is super versatile and I have been in 3 situations where the sam-splint saved the day. Don’t forget to pack any prescription medications people might have. If you are doing more of an expedition, I would also consider carrying several antibiotics along with a copy of “The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy” to make sure you know which one is appropriate. And it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, you should get good medical training so you know how to properly utilize all this stuff.”

I’d never heard of a SAM Splint but I looked them up and they appear to be pretty amazing, we’ve ordered two in the meantime.  Seeing as over the past few years of kayaking I have been a regular consumer of the services of our great medical system, this is probably a way overdue investment. 😉

Anyway, I thought this was a great list and I hope you find it useful.  Again, here’s theprintable Whitewater Kayaking Multi-Day First Aid Kit checklist version.