First-aid kits: Stock supplies that can save lives

A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. Keep at least one first-aid kit in your home and one in your car. Store your kits someplace easy to get to and out of the reach of young children. Make sure children old enough to understand the purpose of the kits know where they’re stored.

You can buy first-aid kits at many drugstores or assemble your own. You may want to tailor your kit based on your activities and needs. A first-aid kit might include:

Basic supplies

  • Adhesive tape
  • Elastic wrap bandages
  • Bandage strips and “butterfly” bandages in assorted sizes
  • Super glue
  • Rubber tourniquet or 16 French catheter
  • Nonstick sterile bandages and roller gauze in assorted sizes
  • Eye shield or pad
  • Large triangular bandage (may be used as a sling)
  • Aluminum finger splint
  • Instant cold packs
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Disposable nonlatex examination gloves, several pairs
  • Duct tape
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Plastic bags, assorted sizes
  • Safety pins in assorted sizes
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic solution and towelettes
  • Eyewash solution
  • Thermometer
  • Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing wounds
  • Sterile saline for irrigation, flushing
  • Breathing barrier (surgical mask)
  • Syringe, medicine cup or spoon
  • First-aid manual
  • Hydrogen peroxide to disinfect


  • Aloe vera gel
  • Calamine lotion
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Laxative
  • Antacids
  • Antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Personal medications that don’t need refrigeration
  • Auto-injector of epinephrine, if prescribed by your doctor
  • Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)

Consider keeping aspirin in your first-aid kit, as well. Aspirin may be life-saving in an adult with chest pain. If you or someone else has new or unexplained chest pain or may be having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Then chew a regular-strength aspirin. However, don’t take aspirin if you are allergic to aspirin, have bleeding problems or take another blood-thinning medication, or if your doctor previously told you not to do so.

Never give aspirin to children.

Emergency items

  • Emergency phone numbers, including contact information for your family doctor and pediatrician, local emergency services, emergency road service providers, and the poison help line, which in the United States is 800-222-1222.
  • Medical consent forms for each family member
  • Medical history forms for each family member
  • Small, waterproof flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
  • Waterproof matches
  • Small notepad and waterproof writing instrument
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Cell phone with solar charger
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant

Give your kit a checkup

Check your first-aid kits regularly to be sure the flashlight batteries work and to replace supplies that have expired or been used up.

Consider taking a first-aid course through the American Red Cross. Contact your local chapter for information on classes.

Prepare children for medical emergencies in age-appropriate ways. The American Red Cross offers a number of helpful resources, including classes designed to help children understand and use first-aid techniques.

How to climb a mountain in 5 simple steps

Nothing stirs a climber’s soul quite like a beautiful summit. John Muir put it best when he wrote, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ But if you want to enjoy a high-altitude escape – perhaps at the very top of the world – it’ll take much more than just willpower.

Planning and preparation are half the battle. So who better to consult than an expert – Ellen Miller, a high-altitude training specialist and endurance coach – before I attempted my highest climb yet, an ascent of 13,209-foot Homestake Peak in the Colorado Rockies.

After reaching that summit, I started dreaming of even bigger climbs – like Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Rainier – and sought more advice on how to take the next step towards becoming a serious mountaineer from Conrad Anker, leader of The North Face climbing team.

Here, two of the greatest alpine climbers on the planet offer important tips for achieving a successful summit.

Train far in advance

‘You want to go climb Everest? Go spend time at 19,000 feet and 25,000 feet before going up to 29,000,’ said Miller, the only American woman to conquer the world’s tallest mountain from both Nepal and Tibet.

As we hiked up Vail Mountain, Miller talked about hydrating twice as much at altitude as at sea level and the importance of acclimatizing gradually. I was relieved to hear that this mountain-deprived New Yorker had prepared accordingly: marching up stairwells in my apartment, in train stations and in office buildings; training a couple months out (okay, so not the five months she recommended); interspersing hilly bike rides with strenuous hikes near the city; and wearing a loaded backpack on the treadmill at the gym (okay, so apparently not full enough). ‘You want to load your pack progressively,’ said Miller. ‘Four months out, 10 pounds. Three months out, 20 pounds. Two months out, 35 pounds.’

Above all else, Miller values past mountaineering experiences. While acknowledging that today’s digital age is driving a desire for instantaneous gratification, she said it is crucial to maintain a willingness to spend years training and working one’s way up to high elevations.

Go with a guide

Conrad Anker, star of the recently released film Meru (, emphasised the importance of first identifying what you want to climb before joining a mountain organisation to get a greater understanding of what’s required. Consider some of his US-based guide recommendations, like American Alpine Club (, Mazamas ( in Portland, Oregon, and Rainier Mountaineering, Inc (, which leads skills seminars and climbs around the world, from Aconcagua in Argentina to Mt Elbrus in Russia to Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Outside the US, Adventure Consultants ( offers climbing schools in Europe and New Zealand and does guided treks all over the world.

Whether you’re going it alone or just want to trust yourself on a guided trek, these organisations will take you from rookie to rock star, covering everything from setting up an unplanned bivy to glacier climbing techniques to navigating in white-out conditions and weather interpretation. And unless you want to be stuck in your tent for three days waiting out a blizzard, you need to know the best time to go, be it Mexico’s Citlaltepetl from October to April or Alaska’s Denali (formerly Mt McKinley) in the spring months.

Get your gear in order

You can’t over-prepare for climbing a mountain at high altitude – especially when it comes to gear. ‘If you’re going on an expedition, have your gear laid out a month in advance, particularly for a multi-day or extremely high [above 20,000 feet] or cold expedition,’ said Miller. ‘Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your gear is in working order or if you need a new item, even something as simple as glacier glasses.’

Anker agreed that the foundations for a successful climb have everything to do with being organised. ‘Start from the feet up: boots, socks, pants…make a checklist,’ he said, citing a climb he did with his son this past summer in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. ‘For the Petzoldt route to the Upper Exum Ridge, we knew we needed a helmet, climbing shoes and regular shoes.’ (If you want to follow in his footsteps, go through an Anker-approved service like Exum Mountain Guides –

Be mentally prepared

‘You have to be relentless in this pursuit of your passion,’ said Miller, who believes that mental training is as important as physical training. No matter how fit you may be, all climbers must take altitude seriously and the best way to build mental toughness is to climb big mountains. ‘The Colorado 14ers are a great intro to mountaineering,’ said Miller. ‘Mt Rainier is a beautiful place to get some glacier experience, and the Ecuadorean volcanoes of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are easy and lovely to climb.’

And even after years of conditioning, when you think your brain and body can handle thin air and freezing temps, Miller suggests reaching altitude with caution. ‘Ease the progression, moving slowly, adjusting, that is key to acclimatization. Be well prepared, well rested and hydrated, and really think about approaching a mountain thoughtfully,’ said Miller.

To develop confidence and expertise in the mountains, Anker said an inexperienced climber would be wise to choose an adventure within his or her ability level, or train with a mentor who knows the situation and has seen something that’s more challenging.

Miller, who considers Nepal and its mountains to be like a second home, also suggested surrounding yourself with your own tribe – people who love training and believe their lives have been changed for the better because of climbing. ‘There’s no room for the naysayers,’ said Miller. ‘Tune out the folks who will say it’s too scary or too dangerous.’

Focus on the climb

While altitude can be a deciding factor in a climber’s ability to reach a summit, it’s far from the only hurdle. Even the most experienced alpinists head into the mountains with a healthy mix of reverence and fear. But the secret to a successful climb is focusing on the task at hand. ‘You can’t be climbing serious mountains, scrambling over rocks, ice climbing and thinking about your schedule for next week or the grocery list,’ said Miller. ‘It is really important to get in the zone and enjoy being so incredibly focused. Often times, life depends on that focus, that ability to reign in your brain.’

Focusing on a project at work is different from focusing on fixing a pitch in 30mph winds. The more you practise this kind of focus while training, the more disciplined you’ll be when it’s time to wake up just after midnight and push for the summit. ‘You’ve got to summon the restraint to rewire your thought pattern,’ said Miller, relaying a dizzying array of things that go through a climber’s mind. ‘Don’t rush, stay in eyesight of each other. You’re at the top when you’re at the top, not a moment before so stay focused on vitals, weather, supplies and other elements.’

How to Pack Your Backpack…the Right Way.

It’s nearly impossible to pack a backpack for a multi-day trip correctly the first time. Inevitably, each packing session turns into a re-shift of how you start. Oh, you don’t have room for your running shoes? What about if you put your propane on the outside, next to your poles? How many protein bars is too many? Do I really need fresh coffee in the morning, or can my French Press become the sacrificial lamb to the backpacking gods?

While it all depends on your pack’s capacity, remember that these things are designed to hold everything you need, and hold it just how you need it. You just have to know what goes where. It’s a matter of weight distribution, item organization, and a little bit of luck. But just to keep you from relying on luck too much, here’s a guide to getting the art of packing right.

Gregory Mountain Products

Will Saunders

Sleeping Bag First!

What comes out last, goes in first, because your sleeping bag is the last thing you’ll need at the end of the day. Plus, having a large, light item at the bottom of your pack perfectly sets you up to be able to pack your heaviest gear at the center of your shoulder blades. So, first thing’s first: put your sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack.

Put the Weight Where It Needs To Be

There are a few tricks that keep the aches and pains of hoisting 40-pounds of life necessities up mountains at a minimum—namely properly distributing the weight you’re carrying. Lightweight items go in first—on top of your sleeping bag. This includes clothes, and other odds and ends. Your heaviest items (bear canisters full of food, pots stuffed with food and clothes) and the bulk of the weight of your pack (including water bladders) should be centered between your shoulder blades and close to your back. Then, fill in the rest of your pack with middle-weight gear (first-aid, stove, water filter, etc.) further away from your back and in the middle of the pack—filling in the excess space.

Use Your Brain

The brain—aka the zippered pocket at the top of your pack—is your best friend. Keep everything that you need quick access to during the day here. Sunscreen, snacks, GPS, a headlamp, or an extra layer of clothing belong in your brain. Keeping these necessities where you can have quick access to them will undoubtedly save you from time spent on the side of the trail dissecting your pack, just for a tube of lip balm.

Keep It Together

Invest in some small zippered bags (not plastic bags, because that’s wasteful!) that can help keep smaller items wrangled together. Put your silverware in one bag, toiletries in another, and snacks in another. That way, you won’t be digging through your pack at sunset trying to find a fork when your hunger level is at a strong 10. This is also a great way to cut down on bottles and containers that you won’t need out there. Just squeeze foot powder, sunscreen, toothpaste, into baggies (we can recommend plastic bags for these messier items).

Say No to Backpack Ornaments

Sometimes, not everything fits inside your pack. Tents can be awkwardly shaped and hiking poles can impale your pack—leaving you with gear to attach to your person externally. Luckily, most packs are equipped to handle these scenarios without leaving you looking like a backcountry Christmas tree—with gear dangling all around you (and getting in your way). Attach your tent or sleeping pad to the bottom of your pack horizontally, and use side straps to lock your poles down vertically. Whatever you do, attach external gear in the direction that maintains the integrity of your packs’ shape—because nothing is worse than walking down a trail hitting every tree, shrub, and person that you pass by. Remember, it’s all about staying balanced.