DIY Ultralight Adventure Travel First Aid Kit: Small Groups Multi-Day [Printable]

I never go anywhere without a medical kit. After many years of traveling internationally, my kit is now both comprehensive and as efficient as possible.  As a Wilderness First Responder, I do not want to get caught in an emergency without the basics like gloves, gauze and a Sam splint.

I want to make sure that I can properly care for myself and my companions. In this post I'll share with you what I bring and why.

The kit detailed in this post is for a group of around 4-6 people for up to a week-long trip.  

Equip Your Mind: Knowledge is Paramount

spinal neck cervical stabilization sam splint wilderness first responder
Learning about spine stabilization during my
Wilderness First Responder course in UAE

The best kit is useless if you don't know how to use its contents. 

A medical professional can often save a life by improvising with whatever is at hand. The best way to prepare for any kind of emergency is to ready yourself with knowledge and practice.

I recommend taking a Wilderness Advanced First Aid or Wilderness First Responder class before traveling. WAFA is a comprehensive course that gives you the tools and mindset you need to handle medical emergencies in any environment. If you're planning a water-based adventure, take a lifeguarding class in addition to WAFA. If WAFA is too expensive, consider the basic Wilderness First Aid course.

Wilderness Medical Organizations
Wilderness Medical Associates

Pre-stocked Kits

I never buy pre-stocked kits because they are so pricey. I can stock a kit with what I want and need for much less money. A pre-stocked kit is a great starting point. It will equip you with the basics and is typically stocked based on trip size and duration which is incredibly helpful. If you choose this route, grab a pre-stocked kit that fits your trip size and duration, then customize it for your specific trip. For pre-stocked kits, I recommend the Adventure Medical Kit brand.  They come in absolutely the best bags. The bag unfolds to create a work space and they are very durable. Stay away from Wal-Mart and Target kits because they are made for use in the front country where quality care is close by. 

Things to consider when packing your kit:
  • Group Size- More people = more problems. You will need more of everything. If someone has a high fever, you'll go through Tylenol (acetaminophen) very quickly.
  • Trip Duration- longer trips mean more potential for sickness and injury
  • Trip Location- Will you have access to quality health care where you are heading? How far removed from that medical care will you be? Are there lots of pharmacies where you can restock? It is a smart idea to bring broad spectrum antibiotics to third world countries where they may be hard to find or fake. Some people even bring their own IV kits to places where contaminated needles are prevalent.
  • Planned activities- Going snorkeling? Bring tweezers and vinegar for sea urchins and jellyfish. Hikers need more moleskin and splinting supplies. Everyone heading to third world countries should bring extra re-hydration salts for food poisoning. High altitude trekkers should have detailed knowledge of altitude illness and stock their kit with Diamox
  • Pre-existing conditions- Prone to motion sickness? Bring extra Dramamine. Pre-existing conditions often worsen during times of stress. Ensure all travelers have extras of their prescription medications. Plan ahead for dealing with flare ups of issues like heart conditions, joint injuries, and diabetes. 

Inshallah - The Arabic Word the West Needs

**Please realize that I am not Muslim, and do not speak for Muslims, nor am I attempting to do so. This is my experience and relationship as an atheist western woman with an inherently religious Arabic word. **

It is my personal experience and belief that we in the West would benefit from the daily reminder of a word like Inshallah. I have come to really love the word, even though I am not Muslim. Before I get into how we could benefit from using this word in our own conversations, let's look at its meaning and context.

Inshallah, translated literally, means 'God willing' or 'if God wills it.' It is meant to be used seriously, when you truly hope something will happen. An example of this use might be when speaking about a loved one who is ill.

In modern language, it is used in this way, as well as more liberally as punctuation and in jest. For example, if a child asks his parent if they can go to get ice cream, the parent might say inshallah (translation: probably not)

There are similar words in other languages. Spanish, for example has its own word that was borrowed from Inshallah- Ojalá. In the formal sense, it means God willing, informally it means hopefully.

My relationship with this word did not begin as rosy as it is now. When I lived in UAE and Oman, I flip flopped between being pissed off and emboldened by it.

The times it made me angry

It pissed me off in situations where I believed that God had no hand, for example when a student was hospitalized for a seizure. The doctor said "Inshallah she will be better sometime tomorrow." What do you mean Allah willing?! Isn't it your job to make sure she is?!

Other times it angered me when I saw people put their range rovers on two wheels through a roundabout, or not wearing seat belts, because from my perspective, behavior = consequences. The more you do something dangerous, the more likely an injury will happen. I didn't understand then that Inshallah explained occurrences where a person surely should have died or been critically injured and miraculously survived unscathed. If  you were meant to go, you would. If you weren't, whatever happened to you, you would survive. This doesn't mean that there weren't people who used this belief as a justification to behave recklessly. There is a saying in Arabic "Trust in Allah, but tie your camel to the post." Basically meaning, trust Allah, but don't be stupid and take unnecessary risks.

I also got annoyed when I would make arrangements to meet with someone, and they would say "Inshallah I will see you then." I didn't like it because I wanted to know they would be where they said they would, and also because it reminded me how little control real we have over our lives. As an early-20-something, I hated that idea.

The times it made me bold

Deep water soloing and cliff jumping in Oman

We (my Western coworkers and I) emboldened ourselves with Inshallah whenever we did something
risky or reckless. Yell it while cliff jumping. When you drive super fast down the wadi, and someone in the car complains, shrug your shoulders and say "Inshallah." For me it was #YOLO before YOLO was a thing. If hashtags had been big back then, I would have plastered #Inshallah all over Instagram. It was an easy way to shrug off risk.

When my viewpoint changed

It wasn't until I spent time in Morocco that the beauty of this word really blossomed. My change of heart and mind was probably due to a variety of factors. The first was the reality that adulthood wasn't getting any easier as I was getting older. I had much more life experience under my belt and had grappled with the chaotic unpredictability of life. Another was the incredibly close friendships I made with our local staff members, all of whom were Muslim, insanely smart and kind. I never got the chance to forge such close relationships with locals when I lived in Oman. I never got to see how Islam really shaped a Muslim's life until then. The final tipping point for me was one of my American students sharing her viewpoint with me.

My students and I bought necklaces in Arab script. Some girls got their names, others got the translation of a favorite word. One of my students got the word Inshallah. I knew she was not religious. I asked her what made her want to get that word. Her viewpoint radically changed mine. She told me what she observed. That the word encouraged people not to take their lives or their loved ones for granted. To appreciate every day.

Inshallah brings you into the present. It makes you keenly aware of your own mortality. It encourages you not to take anything or anyone for granted.  

The reality is that I could get hit by a crosstown bus tomorrow. Or you could. Or some crazy thing happens and the world economy collapses. All kinds of unpredictable life shattering things could happen that we never see coming.

Inshallah is used constantly in daily conversation in Muslim majority, Arabic speaking countries. You'll hear it many times a day. It relentlessly reminds us we are squishy, fragile, inherently mortal humans. It reminds us that the universe is full of chaos we cannot predict. It also reminds us to hug our loved ones an extra time, make sure they know we love them, just in case it's the last time we see them, or them us.

You know that whole mindfulness and 'being present' thing everyone is so obsessed with now? All the science and gurus tell us that meditation is the key to mindfulness and being present. But maybe we could all benefit by adding something like 'Ishallah' to our daily conversations to help us stay present and grateful.

Gaining Grit: How to find and nurture the badass within

One of my many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
 painful moments outdoors.
After hearing a recap of one of my particularly harrowing adventures, people often react with: "I don't know how you do it." For some reason, many people think that I'm fearless or super fit or something to be doing the things I do. But here's the thing,
I am not remarkable.
Let me tell you, I still cry on really tall exposed rock climbs. I huff and puff and get all red faced while hiking. I hate being cold. The difference between them and me is just a practiced mindset. Many people call this mindset 'grit.' 

Grit is mental fortitude and resiliency. With practice, it becomes an automatic emotional response that kicks in whenever you need it. 

Grit is like any muscle- the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Unlike a muscle, it is a bit trickier to activate.

I am an ordinary human who has been able to make my grit muscle strong. Everyone has grit, you've just got to find yours and strengthen it.

Keep reading to learn what grit can do for you, and how to get it

Cowboy Coffee: How to make coffee without a filter

I always wondered how the cowboys in the old west made their coffee. I'm sure they didn't bother with filters or something as fancy as a French press.

On my first overnight pack trip at Rock Creek Pack Station, I learned the trick. 

Here is what you need:
  • A heat source
  • A metal kettle or pitcher
  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • A small cup

  1. Fill the kettle 3/4 full of water and put it on your heat source to boil 
  2. Fill the small cup with the coldest water you have 
  3. Once the kettle water is boiling, slowly add the coffee grounds. Be careful because adding coffee grounds can make your kettle boil over. If it looks like it is about to, pull it off the heat for a second or two 
  4. Boil the coffee for a couple of minutes
  5. Reduce the heat to low
  6. To get the coffee grounds to sink to the bottom, pour the cup of cold water over the grounds
  7. Pour carefully and the grounds will stay on the bottom

DIY Outdoor Gear Resources

I love making things myself. I've always dreamed of having my own outdoor brand- not a very feasible business idea that I would probably end up hating in the long run. With all the technical fabrics available online, we are no longer bound to the products made by big outdoor brands. You'll find fabric, patterns and tutorials online for everything from backpacks to tents to sleeping bags and rain jackets. I've put together the resources I go to when I have a project. If you know of any that I haven't listed, please mention them in the comments.

Forums This forum is the go-to spot for hammock camping tricks. There is a forum for all things DIY, just don't post with tent making questions as it is a hammock camping only forum. This is a community of Appalachian Trail enthusiasts with TONS of info on the AT- you can get answers to all your AT questions. There is also a forum on here for DIY gear.

BackpackingLight has forums dedicated to a variety of topics including a MYOG Forum (make your own gear) To post to the forum you must have a basic membership to the site which costs $5 a year has a little corner of their website dedicated to a MYOG forum. 

DIY 20°F Ultralight Backpacking Quilt Part 4-
Final Touches and Thoughts

Final Touches

Installing the Cord / Bungee

  • Cut your cord or bungee at least 6 inches longer than the length of your casing. This will make it easier to tie knots in once it is in place. 
  • Use some wire (I used a paper clip) to create a hook that will enable you to feed your cord through the casing
  • I used glow in the dark paracord because I had a bunch laying around. To reduce bulk and weight, I removed the core strands. 

My hook made from a paperclip
Drawcord with mini-cord locks installed