Lou Unpacked — What’s in my emergency-repair-first-aid kit?

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 19, 2008      

Baring the soul of your repair kit is like skiing in a speedo in front of Grant Gunderson’s glass, but I’ll take the plunge. Below is what I carry for average to short trips fairly close to civilization. For bigger remote trips, I’d add in a few things and coordinate with partners to eliminate redundancy. For super short laps above parking and trailhead, I sometimes simplify things more by carrying a smaller knife and less fire starting gear.

Backcountry skiing gear.

Top row from left to right: Film canister with aspirin, ibu, prescription drugs, etcetera; screw driver bits that fit multi-tool; case for all (padded pouch from early Pieps transceiver).

Middle row from left to right: Chunk of bicycle inner tube for fire starter; duct tape; cordage; spare tiny Ion headlamp; CPR mask; list of frequencies programmed in my amateur radio.

Bottom row from left to right: Waterproof matches and lighters; compass, smaller multitool with driver socket welded on plier handle; spare lithium batteries; high power folding reading glasses.

Bottom left to bottom: Ski and skin wax (also used for fire starting); Inka pen.

For longer trips I sometimes add a spare pole basket, athletic tape, antibiotic ointment, malleable wire, and blister treatment items.

Other items that double for repair or first-aid but are not in kit: Voile straps; bandanna; plastic bags and food wrappers; ski goggles; belt; climbing gear; sunscreen; lip balm.

It’s worth mentioning that since we do guite a bit of skiing close to trailheads, I keep a complete emergency kit and rescue gear in our vehical. This winter I’ll be keeping all that stuff in a “go bag” so it can be transfered from one vehical to another. Items in the “go bag” include spare clothing, beacon, goggles, probe, shovel, blanket, radios, batteries and food items. Having this stuff has come in handy many times, mostly as loaner gear for people who forget essentials. That alone provides a huge improvement in safety, as instead of aborting their trip skiers will frequently take the risk of traveling without an item of gear they left at home.

What do you guys carry? Comments on!

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24 Responses to “Lou Unpacked — What’s in my emergency-repair-first-aid kit?”

  1. Halsted August 19th, 2008 10:20 am

    I’d toss in a couple of 2 -3 screw type hose clamps. Their great for fixxing broken poles and in rigging ski sleads, etc…

  2. Lou August 19th, 2008 10:21 am

    I’d agree Halsted, especially for longer trips. I’ve thrown in a few wire ties as well…

  3. Nick August 19th, 2008 10:49 am

    Maybe this falls under your general “drug” category, but I always take Benadryl or some generic of that to deal with interesting allergic reactions.

    If I know someone in the group has some serious allergic issues to something reasonably prevelant in the area, epipin comes along too.

  4. Tyler August 19th, 2008 10:52 am

    A thought: New CPR guidelines do away with mouth to mouth resuscitation. A few reasons for this according to docs available at the American Heart Association. The guidelines still suggest that mouth to mouth can be effective if performed by a trained individual. In any case, you could swap or add in latex gloves. I think that is an important one.

  5. Clyde August 19th, 2008 11:20 am

    But what we really want to know is what’s in your iPod!

  6. ArthurDent August 19th, 2008 11:24 am

    I like the padded case, that’s ingenious.

    I agree with adding benadryl.
    Also, finding myself above treeline a lot caused me to nix a lot of the firestarters in my own kit (there being no wood above treeline). After changing things around, I now carry minimal fire starting stuff, a handwarmer or two for small active heat sources, and a light ‘space’ blanket as a windproof tarp or cover. Plus all of my packs either have a foam pad (for insulation) already in their frames or a beater one that ‘lives’ in the pack.

    I always figure that rescue, even rescue as simple as me walking back to my own car to get more stuff (like you also have the brilliant idea of), will take at least three hours. So, I added exposure (3 hrs to dead in a worst case) onto the list of hazards that need to be dealt with by the stuff in my pocket.

  7. Greg August 19th, 2008 11:29 am

    I always carry nitrile gloves packed in zip-lock bags. (2 gloves per bag * 2 bags, squeeze the air out and seal to keep it compact) Bring nitrile since you never know if the injured person has a latex allergy, and the last thing you want to deal with is anaphalaxis plus another injury. Film canisters also work for holding the gloves but are bulkier and hard to find now that everyone has gone digital.

    I carry alkaline batteries, not lithium, since that’s what’s recommended by the beacon manufacturers, plus they’re less expensive. My beacon and my headlamp both run on 3 AAA’s so the spares serve double duty.

    I like to always have a few safety pins handy since they weigh almost nothing and can be used to quickly fix a wide range of things.

  8. Lou August 19th, 2008 11:29 am

    I still don’t have a music player! Am upgrading my cell phone to one that’ll include music, so then…

    Latest would be John-Alex Mason


  9. Lou August 19th, 2008 11:33 am

    Greg, excellent call on the nitrile, and they’re more durable anyway, correct? As for alkaline vs lith, the lithium work fine in a beacon if you remember to replace when you get home. Only reason not to use them in beacon is the beacon battery meter won’t work with them, and instead of gradually draining down they totally quit with no warning when drained.

    Big advantage of liths for spares is they weigh significantly less and have major shelf life if packed correctly (protected from moisture).

  10. Dongshow August 19th, 2008 11:36 am

    Tyler, I’m teaching CPR currently and were instructed to encourage rescue breaths. The compression only CPR is mostly intended for people uncomfortable with giving mouth to mouth without protection. I actually bring up the scenario of backcountry skiing/snowmobiling (more common) and mention how your normally going to go out with and should discuss any medical issues before hand. Still, those paper thin face shields aren’t a bad idea and take up no space.

    I bring a leatherman, zip ties, cord. It really depends on where I’m going and the weather. I’d like an extremely small packing down bag for any injuries on the extremely cold days. A firm believer of redundant gear in the car. I’m also a hemophiliac and should bring medications but I’m not as responsible as I should be.

  11. Mike August 19th, 2008 11:58 am

    Zantac. Alka-Seltzer. Never ski without any of those. Zantac and Alka-Seltzer are great for indigestion issues brought on by trail food.

  12. Lou August 19th, 2008 12:07 pm

    And hut food…

  13. ScottN August 19th, 2008 4:55 pm

    Lou – What kind of radio do you use/bring?

  14. Lou August 19th, 2008 5:09 pm

    We use a variety of FRS/GRMS models, as well as Yaesu ham radios such as the venerable FT50.

    More here.


  15. Simon August 19th, 2008 6:01 pm

    I love the inner-tube idea for firestarter- that will definitely make it into my skiing and back-packing kit. And, I already have inner-tube sheathed up on my ice-tool shafts!

    I usually have a few zip-ties along. And a replacemnet mouth-piece for my water bladder. Also, I went to a ski store, and pillaged their repair room for old screws that had been removed from binding mounting jobs. They were happy to give me a few used screws, and I was able to find some that would work if I need to do an emergency binding re-attachment. Easier said than done, I know.

    What else… I throw in an alum-space blanket, because its so light, and can be rigged as a shelter. I have a few plastic snap-on rivets for adding a tie-on point to most fabrics. And, I keep it all in a zippered-pouch I found at MEC, that has a clear plastic side, so I can find what I need, without dumping the whole kit out. I’m sure REI carries something similar.

  16. Lou August 19th, 2008 7:40 pm

    Simon, the clear plastic pouch, that’s a great idea. Seems like I dump my kit every time I do anything…

  17. Randonnee August 19th, 2008 9:42 pm

    The problem with my emergency ready-bag is that is grows to unmanageable size with ingenious additions! Last winter I chucked it in a bin and started over.

    I carry in all seasons a mylar bivy sack- it is so light. For ski touring, I like to have some bubble wrap and duct tape for boot bang. That is a great solution that relieves the pain of boot-bruising. I like to have a roll of 1 inch fiber tape- I like it because it is strong for first-aid splinting or gear repairs.

    A small rolled piece of wire actually saved a nice powder day on Mazama Bowl near Paradise (Mt Rainier NP). My blue TLT All Terrain boots actually cracked apart in a couple of places, from so much wear and tear from my large mass. Anyway, I used a lighter to heat my knife awl, melted holes in the plastic boot shell and stiched the cracks with wire.

    I have carried a couple of very lightweight Skyblazer flares for the event of being down and injured in the woods- I solo a lot. Now I am thinking that I should have one of those rescue locater devices (welcome to the 21st century, eh : )} ! )

  18. Jeff August 20th, 2008 10:26 am

    I carry a sam splint as well. They can easily be bent to conform to the shape of your pack and are wicked lite…

  19. Todd August 20th, 2008 10:29 am

    I just checked out the blog today and TOTALLY appreciate the “Lou Unpacked” article. As a former WEMT, S&R, guide, avid backcountry enthusiast, it’s ALWAYS great to look into what other folks have –these are so personal and I always have at least one tweak to my own kit after seeing someone else’s bag – heck – even the bag itself. Over the past couple of years, I’ve tweaked that more than anything, honestly.

    Currently, I use the OR Backcountry Organizer #1 for my personal rig – I like the dividers / organization and the size that fits in any small area of any pack. I used to use an old med kit pouch, but the OR deal is lighter and with the siliconeized nylon, it slides in and out of a pack easily. On the med front, Benadryl is a must for the reasons already listed. I would also suggest a small sharpie and paper, and iodine tabs (double duty for wound irrigation if need be and water treatment). One big thing – most of us forget to do until it’s too late is to reevaluate / replenish at the beginning of the season…check your battery dates, make sure you have the right stuff – because remember the trip last year when you used the last bit of duct tape? You forgot to put it back…

  20. pete anzalone August 20th, 2008 6:31 pm

    Great ideas on the emorgency kit and the go kit but let’s no forget about the “stay kit”. Cooler packed with on half beer, one half ice and one half water. Bud tins work best.

  21. Stephen Verchinski August 21st, 2008 11:12 pm

    “Drive or Ski while intoxicated or under the influence is as bad as boating under the influence… common sense goes out the door.

    Stay kit?
    Tin of Smoked Salmon, Canned Dolmas, Crackers and NON-alcoholic wine or beer.

    Go kit? Add either the SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker or ACR Res Q Fix 406 GPS PLB Read up on them and select one or the other or both!

  22. Lou August 22nd, 2008 6:24 am

    We prefer the SPOT

  23. Rick October 9th, 2008 4:01 pm

    Ditch the inner tube and go to a hunting/Army/Navy store and get a couple packs of trioxane. They usually run about 50 cents a pack. Forget about just starting a fire, they can be your fire with a burn time of about half hour. They can be lit easily with a spark. The only downside is that they were designed as an invisible emergency heat source for the military so don’t burn yourself! The flame is almost totally invisible.

  24. Adam January 15th, 2010 11:21 pm

    wet wipes…a must

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