First aid kit for the road; how to handle minor health issues


A couple of weeks ago in Death Valley, Mrs Lite Adventurer and I woke up at 5 AM and drove to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to watch the sunrise.  While walking out onto the dunes to get a good view of the morning light, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and stepped on a sharp point of wood that was sticking straight up out of the sand.  Unfortunately, I was wearing my sandals, and the wood went about a centimeter into my foot and tore off a horseshoe shaped flap of skin.

Needless to say, we didn’t plan for this.  Mrs Lite happened to have a children’s Band-Aid in her purse and a packet of Purell sanitizing wipes, so after I finished my fit of cursing in pain, I sat down, cleaned the wound off the best I could using a Purell wipe, put the torn flap of foot skin back in place, and covered it with the Band-Aid.  It was still bleeding quite a bit, but we were already on the sand dunes, and the sun was about to come up, so there was no way I was gonna head back until we at least watched the sunrise.  We continued hiking another couple hundred yards out into the dunes to get a better view, and the sand actually helped clot the wound and slow down the bleeding.  After the beautiful sunrise (totally worth the effort), I slowly made my way back to the car, drove back to the room, and thoroughly cleaned my wound, using a safety pin and some hand sanitizer to clean the puncture and remove all the small fragments of wood that were embedded in my foot.

Death Valley doesn’t have much in terms of medical supplies, so the following morning, we drove to Beatty, Nevada which is the nearest town outside the national park and got some heavy duty bandages, medical tape, and antibiotic ointment from the Family Dollar store.  I had a limp for about a week, but now my foot feels fine.  No flesh eating bacteria I’m happy to say, and I got a tetanus shot when we got home just to be safe.

So after this recent experience, what am I going to do differently as far as packing a first aid kit for emergencies such as this?

Not much to be honest.

At the most, I may pack a couple of Band-Aids and a small roll of medical tape which doesn’t weigh much or take up much space.  Even all the way out in the desert, I was still able to get everything I needed on the fly.  If the bleeding was worse, I could have easily driven straight to the store instead of waiting a full day.  It would have been a little inconvenient, but it would have still been fine.

Now if I were spending a week in a place like Gates of the Arctic where there is no civilization anywhere to help you if things go wrong, then of course I would take some basic medical supplies.  But for most typical travel destinations, if the unexpected happens you can almost always find a way to make do by buying what you need when the time arises.  If you pack based on the idea of what might happen instead of sticking to things that you absolutely need, then that’s how the floodgates open and you end up taking a ridiculous 50 pound bag.

Even a painful incident like this doesn’t change my basic philosophy on packing for travel:  take only the few essentials and buy the rest on the rare occasion you need it.


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