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First Aid, Medical and Trauma Kit´s in Bushcraft Part 2

Following on from my earlier post about Trauma Kit´s and how, after an incident in which I cut myself quite badly, I decided to separate my First Aid Kit into two kits, one for minor to serious Trauma that can be reached for in an emergency and easily opened and the other, for all the general first aid type of thing.

Over the years, I have assembled quite a range of items that I have found useful from time to time while away on trips around the world and even at home.  This is my general First Aid Kit and I came up with the following considerations before building it

Considerations

  1. It must be small and light enough that it does not take up too much space and is not therefore a candidate for ¨weight saving¨ when I am looking to save weight
  2. It must be contained within a waterproof bag
  3. The Items within should allow me to keep body in reasonable condition in the event of a minor injury or sickness
  4. Some items have been added that are there simply to improve my quality of life
  5. Have enough items within that I can treat other people without running out of items for myself
  6. Be designed to work in conjunction with a separate Trauma Kit

Like the Trauma Kit, Our First Aid Kit must be configured to meet the likely threats that we will face and these may differ depending on what we are doing and where we are located.  This kit here is designed to be used in Temperate regions, in a Bushcraft type environment eg; somebody spending several days in a remote location, camping and far away from doctors and hospitals.

Items

 

  1. Lip Balm – having dry, sore, chapped lips can be very uncomfortable, I seem to experience this in cold or windy climates and have learned to make sure that I have some with me at all times
  2. Gloves
  3. Small LED head torch¨
  4. Tweezers, sharp folding scissors and assorted safety pins – These are contained in a sealed bag to keep them together
  5. Shears for cutting clothes
  6. Surgical Tape for affixing dressings
  7. Elasticated support bandage – This is also useful for handling snake bites in tropical countries
  8. Oral Rehydration salts – Useful when sweating a lot or when you have diarrhea.  When the body looses fluid by sweating or diarrhea, it looses salts  that are essential for maintaining the sodium level in the body.  Replacing these is essential.
  9. Small tube of high factor Sun Block.  Even in cold climates, the sun can take a nasty toll on exposed skin, sun burn or even skin cancer are best avoided at all costs
  10. Antihistamine insect bite relief cream.  Useful when you are having trouble sleeping due to the infuriating effects of itchy insect bites.  This stuff is very effective.
  11.  A small ¨open and shake¨ hand warmer.  When very cold, treating cold injury or somebody in shock, It may not be possible to reheat them immediately, this can help to warm the affected area until a fire can be built
  12. Bandage designed for use around the hand
  13. Bandage designed for use around the elbow or knee
  14. General purpose bandage
  15. Triangular bandage – used for creating slings
  16. Bag of mixed medications.  At the moment, this kit is configured for a temperate but Boreal environment, it is very cold, below zero.  The bag contains several courses of Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, Codeine, Dihydrocodiene for pain management, Loperamide for diarrhea, any regular medications that I will need and some Diphenhydramine as an antihistamine for allergies.  IN warmer climates I might include antibiotics and anti malarial medications
  17. 2 bottles of clean water for wound irrigation and eye wash
  18. Large, water proof plasters (band aids)
  19. Antiseptic wipes
  20. A range of compeed blister pads
  21. A range of plasters for cuts, including extra long finger plasters
  22. Low absorbent wound dressing, large
  23. Low absorbent wound dressing, small
  24. Steri Strips – for wound closure
  25. Burn Gel – for treating (cooling) minor burns in the absence of enough cold water
  26. Small water proof dry bag to store it all in
  27. Small lock bag to essentially double bag it all – everything goes inside this and then this goes inside the red dry bag.

Notes

Note that where practical, I have put separated the items and put them into their own smaller plastic bags, this helps to keep it all organised, clean and dry.

There is usually a small bottle of iodine in there.  I use a small atomiser so that I can spray a wound to disinfect it.

There are few items in this kit that can be used to treat trauma injuries, I have that covered in a separate kit which you can see here in part 1

A decent First Aid kit helps a lot but it does not compensate for a lack or training or knowledge on the subject.  I can´t recommend enough that you get some training on Wilderness First Aid, Rescue Emergency Care or Remote Medicine as a priority.  We don´t need this knowledge until we need it but when we need it, we really need it!

Stupid Internet Bushcraft and Survival Stuff #2 – The Dakota Fire Pit

Stupid Internet Bushcraft and Survival Stuff #2 – The Dakota Fire Pit

Ah, the Dakota Fire Pit, Many a new Bushcrafter has read about these and toiled in the dirt to make one, after an hour or two of digging through roots and rocks they finally get the damned thing finished and sit back and wonder what the point of it all was.

I was going to make one of these just so that I could take a photo to include in this post but I really cannot be bothered to waste my time and energy making another one of these damned things so have instead used photo’s sourced online via google.  If these images are yours, contact me and I will provide credit.

The Dakota Fire Pit is a type of subterranean fire that consists of a hole in which the fire is lit and then a tunnel that leads to another hole through which the oxygen  is fed.  When built properly, with a small enough hole to create enough air pressure, the burning fire will suck air through the tunnel and the fire can be sited below ground level and still get a good supply of oxygen.

But why?  What is the point?

Well, there is no point really, it is just a silly, gimmicky, cool thing that has no real practical application when all things are considered.

It is often quoted that the main benefit of this fire is that it has ¨stealth¨ properties in that, as the fire is under ground, there is not much light being produced.  This basic misconception can be quite easily countered by the fact that the fire still produces smoke and that smoke travel´s much further than any light that a campfire can produce.  Firelight, does not travel very far anyway, you can test this for yourself, next time you are out at night with a fire, walk away 20 or 30 meters and notice how dim the fire is from this short distance.  If light stealth really is a concern, and I very much doubt that it is for the vast majority of people, then you can achieve the same low light conditions by siting your fire in some natural cover instead.

The ¨Stealth¨ argument just does not stand up to scrutiny.  If stealth really is a concern, I would assume that you are trying to avoid detection which would likely mean that you are in some kind of Military escape and evasion scenario, in which case you would be better served with a small hexi stove which will be in your survival kit or by not having a fire at all at night and only making small cooking fires in the daylight hours.  If detection is likely, do not light a fire full stop, the smoke will give you away long before the light from the fire does.

Other reasons to want a stealth fire would be if you are trespassing. In that case, your best bet is to use the wind to move the smoke away from the direction that the land owners are likely to be coming from.  Using a Dakota Fire pit will not help you if the smoke gets blown over to where the farmer is working or living.  Check the wind direction, if it´s blowing away from them then you should be ok.  If you are close enough for them to see the fire light then you are way too close to even consider building a fire, they will see you moving about collecting wood and digging the hole.

People on the internet contend that there is no smoke with a Dakota Fire pit, this is false, of course there is smoke, as the old adage says, where there is smoke, there is fire.  What can be achieved, is a low smoke fire if your fuel burns hot enough and this indeed possible if enough air is sucked down through that hole however, the very same effect can be achieved with literally any other fire.  Low smoke is not a function of a Dakota Fire Pit, it is a function of the temperature of the fire.

Honestly, this fire has few things going for it and it´s prevalence on the internet is a source of amusement but also frustration as I watch people struggling for no good reason.

It is a lot of extra work to get a fire, that much is certain so the advantages better outweigh the disadvantages so let´s see.

Advantages

  • Having the fire down below ground level does mean that it is easy to place a pan on top of the hole for cooking, you don’t have to worry about knocking the pan or pot over (note: that this very same feature can be had from a ¨key hole¨ firepit which is made at a fraction of the work and time.
  • If done well, you can control the airflow with a rock which helps to control the rate of burn
  • Low light
  • Looks good on youtube videos and blogs

 

Disadvantages

  • Controlling the heat is difficult
  • Takes time to build
  • Costs a lot of calories to build
  • Feeding fuel into the fire is inconvenient when you are cooking
  • Low light
  • Only works in dry ground free of roots and rocks
  • Not a warm fire, does not radiate warmth very well
  • Has very few practical applications and is very specialist
  • Is a complete waste of time

 

I think that the vast majority of people, Bushcrafters, Survival people and Military people can safely forget about this much vaunted technique and instead focus on the many other ways of dealing with very few good reasons for this type of fire.

 

Try a keyhole fire instead or just use a gas or hexi stove.

First Aid, Medical and Trauma Kit´s in Bushcraft Part 1

I gave myself a nasty cut the other day and it led me to take another look at the medical kit that I carry with me.  My kit was sufficient on the day but I identified a number of deficiencies and improvements that could be made.

Here is my cut, not the worst but it required attention, I could not just shrug it off and continue as it was producing a lot of blood and was somewhat open in nature and would needed to be closed.

To cut a long story short, I messed up, in-spite of years and years of using sharp tools to work with, I was sleepy and not feeling very well at the time and was complacent.  I was working at an awkward angle the knife slipped out of the work piece that I was carving and into my hand.  It didn’t hurt, at all in fact but I was aware that something had gone badly wrong.  So with only one good hand and the other dripping blood at an alarming rate I fumbled around for my first aid kit that was close to hand thanks to a habit that I have formed of always having a first aid kit with me when working with sharp things. 

It has to be said at this stage that I could not open and retrieve the items that I wanted to with one hand and when i used both hands, I got slippery blood on everything that made it even harder, you see, over the years several useful items have been added to my basic first aid kit, things that I have found useful and decided to carry around such as a small amount of pain medication, antihistamine cream for bad insect bites, Oral Rehydration salts, Sun Block, Lip Balm, Super Glue etc..  My First aid kit had become stuffed to bursting of useful things that can help with a wide range of scenarios from good health, pain management, blisters, small cuts, burns, and more serious bleeding and trauma wounds.

After it was all sorted out, I took a look at the bloody mess and wondered what I could have done better and if there were any improvements to be made.  It also did not escape me that the cut was within 5cm (couple of inches) form the Radial Artery in my left wrist.

I identified some areas of concern.

  1. An easy way to get into this kit and find the items that I wanted
  2. Enough absorbent material to handle the large amount of blood being produced by the wound
  3. Too much other stuff getting in the way eg; plasters (band aids), ointments, pills and other general first aid related stuff that was not needed in this time critical moment.
  4. No way to close an open wound, certainly not one handed either
  5. The First Aid Kit bag (a small dry bag) was too tight fitting, I had to shake it all out onto the floor

Most, if not all, commercially available First Aid kit´s cater for very basic first aid scenario´s and not for minor or even major trauma.

When working with sharp knives, axes and saws we are now exposing ourselves and each other to a new risk that is outside the scope of a normal first aid kit.  Those 9 triangular bandages and a packet of plasters (Band Aids) are not going to help much.

I already carried items designed to handle trauma but realised that it was too spread out and difficult to locate and use while under stress, in shock, bleeding and one handed, which is likely going to be the state that you are in should you also need to manage this scenario.

Let me just say that in all the years that I have been using knives, I have had 2 serious cuts, both of which were caused by my own complacency and both of which occurred on my left hand (I am right handed).   Simply put, most of the time while using a knife, it is your off hand that is at the highest risk of being in the way when the knife slips.

So what changes did I make?  All of my medical items were in one medium sized kit, stuff into a dry bag and often with an H bandage and Tourniquet attached to the outside as these are large items that will not fit inside.

I realised that I needed to separate those everyday first aid items and trauma kit items into two separate kits with the following philosophy in mind,

 

  1. Seconds count
  2. The kit must be able to treat minor and serious injuries in the absence of immediate evacuation to a hospital (in remote locations, this is not always possible)
  3. The main threat that the kit needs to address is knife, saw and axe wounds, not gunshots as this is not within our threat sphere
  4. It must be able to be opened and items retrieved one handed.
  5. It must be small enough that it can be carried readily without encumbrance .
  6. It must be light enough that it is not looked upon as an item to save weight on when there is a desire to reduce the overall weight of what I am carrying

 

When deciding which sized bag or pouch to use, it is helpful to first get together all of the items that you want to put in a bag and then buy a bag to meet that requirement.  The danger is that if you buy a bag or pouch first then you will just fill that up no matter what and worse still it may not be big enough.

 

I found two decent quality pouches for this and choose in the end to go with the Maxpedtion FR-1 Medical Pouch.  The other one that I tried was a One Tigress Admin Pouch.  Both were good but the Maxpedition FR-1 was slightly bigger (deeper) and therefore less of a squeeze to put everything in although it does all fit in both of them.  Another advantage of the FR-1 is that it has a grab handle at the top which is very useful when trying to get hold of it in an emergency.

 

I will start at the top left and work my way across left to right.

 

  1. Small Petzle LED headlamp
  2. Small roll of flattened Gaffer Tape (Duct Tape)
  3. Pair of gloves
  4. 2 packets of Celox ¨quick clot¨ haemostatic clotting agent.  Used for heavy arterial bleeding.  Note the ¨Tabs¨ of gaffer tape that I have added to make them easier to pull out of the kit.  When an artery has been cut, seconds really do count and fumbling around is a waste of time.
  5. Scalpel Blade + folding handle
  6. A selection of pre made suture kits.  Each packet contains a length of silk or mono filament with a little curved needle pre threaded.  These are for closing deep wounds.
  7. Forceps
  8. Needle nosed tweezers with an ear plug stuffed onto the end to stop them from piercing other things in the kit
  9. A cyalume stick for additional light when needed
  10. Tube of super glue, also used for closing wounds
  11. Big shears for cutting clothing away
  12. 2 H Bandages (Israeli bandages). Highly absorbent bandages with the ability to tighten down by means of an H shaped piece of plastic.  I have two because if the wound is enough to need one of these then it will certainly need a second one soon afterwards.
  13. 2 gauze bandages
  14. 10 packets of steri strips.  These adhesive strips that can be used for wound closures.  I have so many as I found that they tend to come off quite easily and require replacing frequently
  15. A selection of different sized, low absorbent dressings.  These are placed on the wound and bandaged over with item 13.
  16. A couple of butterfly stitches, similar in use to Steri Strips but a different size and shape which can be useful on different areas of the body where the other strips don’t work well
  17. A couple of antiseptic wipes.  For cleaning.
  18. A couple of plasters, I don’t know for sure what these might be used for but it seemed like it wouldn’t hurt to throw these in.
  19. Large waterproof plasters
  20. Small Low Absorbent dressings
  21. An airways / breathing mask.  Should this kit be used on somebody else, it is not unreasonable to foresee that they may, at some stage, stop breathing.  People are more likely to offer ¨the Kiss of Life¨ if they won’t get blood or vomit and whatnot on them.  I have so many of these things laying around that I threw one in, just in case.
  22. On the outside of the pouch, I have a CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet or TQ).  These are bulky so putting them on the inside was not possible but also, if you need a TQ then you will need it very quickly indeed and having it attached with bungee cord to the outside means that it can be retrieved very quickly.  There is some danger that it may be lost if attached to the outside so we must be mindful of this.

Conclusions

It all fit´s neatly inside and overall is a small package and is very light.  It should be noted that this is not a First Aid KIt.  It does not replace a First Aid Kit and complements my existing first aid kit.  What this does is ensure that I have life saving items easily available and close at hand, that can be used one handed, is not too big or too heavy, is configured to meet the risks associated with sharp tools and can treat a nasty injury in the absence of a hospital or the means to travel to a hospital immediately.

My main First Aid Kit is still very useful and important but it does not need to be as readily accessible and easy to sort through as this Trauma Kit so it can stay in the top pocket of my rucksack where it always lives and I can take the Trauma Kit out when I start using sharp tools.

You probably know this already but just in case you don´t, having a medical kit with you, trauma or first aid, does not compensate for a lack of training or knowledge.  It is extremely important that you know how to use the tools contained within this kit and indeed how to react to the things that the body does when injured.  I consider medical training to right up there as one of the most important skill´s that we can have.  It is my contention, that you should too

I often ask my students where their First Aid Kit´s are and invariably receive the same reply – ¨In my bag¨.  Your first aid kit is no good in your bag, which is often back at camp or ¨over there somewhere¨.  When you are working with sharp tools, you must have your kit close to hand so that when you or somebody else needs it, it is right there within arms reach so that no time is wasted while you search for it.

Get into the habit of picking up your first aid kit when you pick up that knife or axe.  Eventually this will become second nature and it will be there when you need it most.

Finally, Do not skimp, your life could be at stake here and you want the very best quality that you can find.  Your kit should be configured to meet the threats that you are most likely to face.  This is for working around sharp tools, it is not a general first aid kit, I carry one of those too which will be covered in another post.

A part 2 post will follow in which I will describe my main First Aid Kit and it´s advantages and disadvantages

Look after your kit and your kit will look after you

It is good practice keep your kit clean and well turned out.  This makes it easier for you to spot any tears or missing buttons and other damage.  A clean thing is a happy thing after all.

Picture this, A 90Km hike spread over 3 days.  It is cold, wet and windy.  This is not a problem as we have with us a Tarp for shelter, our boots and clothing to protect our body and a pot and pan for boiling water and cooking.

One thing that is common among seasoned, experienced outdoors people is that they tend to their equipment before they tend to their own needs.  After a long hard day a novice will likely throw his stuff into a heap giving it no further thought and start cooking their dinner.  After eating, they are too tired to wash up so just leave the pots and pans on by the fire and go to bed.  I expect that we have all done this at one point or another.

When they wake up in the morning, they are greeted with cold, damp and dirty clothing and slithering into that in the morning is surely not the best way to start the day.  Shivering, they are now confronted with 45 minutes chipping burnt soup from the pans before they can boil some water for a brew and make breakfast.  While performing this laborious task with cold hands and a dry mouth, they notice that there is a tear in their trousers (pants) and that their boots are wet.  As they are in the middle of nowhere and have another 30Km to cover today, they must leave soon and others in the party are already packing up after their breakfast.

Joe novice is already on the back foot, his boots are wet and there is not time to dry them, he has not eaten and there is a rip in his trousers that is only going to get worse as the day wears on.  He has about 30 minutes before the group must set off again.

If Joe novice had taken more care the night before, he would not be in this position, he would be sitting back on his packed up backpack finishing his coffee and admiring the morning mist clearing across the hills.

When you stop for the day, make camp first, get some shelter organised, get a fire going and then get your kit sorted out.

This means

  • Cleaning off most of the grime form your clothing
  • Checking your clothing for damage or wear
  • Setting your boots up for drying near the fire
  • Examine everything that you depend on for signs of damage or wear
  • Do you tools need sharpening?
  • Make repairs as necessary
  • Wash up any cooking tools that you have used
  • Purify enough water for tonight and tomorrow

It is always a lot easier to make repairs in the evenings when you have more time and there is no rush.

Only when this is done may you permit yourself to do the same for yourself, eat to refuel, drink, wash and finally to relax and sleep.

This policy extends to vehicles too when travelling in them, canoes must be checked and taken care of, horses the same, cars may need some simple checks at the end of each day such as oil and water levels.

The idea is to get into the habit of doing this so that it becomes second nature, part of your routine and to give you as much time for rest and recuperation as is possible after a long day.

Do not be the guy who looks like a sack of potatoes and is always late for everything because of his own disorganisation.

Succeeding at living outside depends very much upon forward planning and thinking ahead.  Nature rewards the organised.

Stupid Internet Bushcraft and Survival Stuff #1 – Two is one and one is none.

Introduction

The internet contains some good advice from some experienced and knowledgeable people if you know how and when to separate this good advice from the frankly much larger volume of chaff provided by either well meaning novices or individuals with delusional self belief.

Here in these pages we will begin a rundown of some common, sometime dangerous and often amusing advice perpetuated online.

Two is one and One is none

On the face of it, this seems like good advice, it means that redundancy in your equipment is a good thing.  The phrase suggests that if you have an important item such as a knife or a flashlight (torch) with you then you should carry another in case something happens to your first item.

Over the years I have completed many expeditions on foot and by canoe and there is one comment that I have never, never heard anybody say.  

“I wish my bag was heavier”

In fact many people of experience go to extreme lengths to reduce the weight that they carry.

More stuff means more weight and heavy packs can turn a nice little walk a waking nightmare.

I have seen countless videos on YouTube showing self proclaimed experts advising people to carry 4 knives, 6 flashlights, 17 lighters, 3 ferrocerium rods ect

Well, this point has some merit of course but many of the reasons which may cause you to lose or damage an item can be overcome with some simple training.

Use good quality equipment to reduce the chance of failure.  That Chinese knock off head torch or that 9.99 multi tool may save you some cash at the time of purchase but in the outdoor retail world the phrase “you get what you pay for” generally holds true.  Cheap stuff is more likely to have been manufactured with corners cut, low quality materials used and durability not a priority.

To borrow another American phrase “buy once, cry once”.

Taking good care of your equipment is a fundamental aspect of outdoor life because if we look after our our then our kit should look after us.  Proper care and maintenance mitigates the risk of failure.

“Ok but what if we look after our stuff but it still gets lost smart ass  (arse)?”

A few simple rules to follow greatly diminish the chances of you loosing things.

  1. Make sure your pockets are all done up all of the time.  Those zips or buckles are there for a reason.  Before setting off check that everything is done up but then check again a few moments after you start moving and again throughout the day.  In time it will become second nature and a glance or a feel of a pocket will be all that it takes to confirm that it’s all done up.
  2. Keep your kit organised at all times.  By far the most common reason that I encounter for people losing stuff is them scattering their belongings out on the forest floor.  Inspite of being advised not to, many people adopt this strategy anyway because it is what they would do at home indoors.  There are few locations in which you can effortlessly hide just about anything and the forest is one of them.
  3. Nature rewards the organised. 
  4. Keep your loose items in your pack or in smaller bags.  You could even hang it all up on a tree or improvised line.
  5. If all of your items of kit have their place and you always put them back in their place then you have to try pretty hard to lose something.
  6. If you are just one of those people who could lose an elephant in an empty room then consider using brightly coloured equipment that is easier to locate amongst the leaf litter and where possible tieing a little loop of cord to each item so that it can be attached to something else.
  7. Keep mission critical kit attached to your body at all times.  Ferrocerium fire starters, Lighters, Knives, folding saws even water bottles and first aid kits can be worn on a belt or attached to your belt with a length of cordage.

I watched an amusing video last night in which a day sack bushcraft bag was dissected.  It contained no less than 6 flash lights.  You need only one, arguably a small backup, some spare batteries and that’s it.  If you think that you might lose 4 flashlights then something is wrong, see above article.

One, good quality, strong bushcraft knife is all that you need although some experienced people carry a small folding knife for eating.  If you feel that you need more than one knife because you do not have a knife that meets all of your requirements then it is likely that your knife is unsuitable anyway.

Your knife is usually the single most important thing in your kit and it should be protected against loss at all times by wearing it on your belt and then getting into a habit of checking that it is still there by feel throughout the day.  The sooner you notice it’s absence the easier it will be to locate.

Do chastise yourself for losing your knife, you did mess up and you must never do it again.

Keep anything that does not like water in sealed plastic bags.

 

Use good quality gear and keep your stuff organised.

So by keeping your things organised, being disciplined and using good quality kit we can greatly, massively reduce the need to carry additional items that we don’t really need.

Of course, many people do not have the knowledge and experience to know these things and this is why they turn to YouTube for help.  The trouble is that they have no way to recognise the chancers and novices posing as experts or even a well meaning novice handing out advice and we find bad advice propagating throughout the internet.  

In this case I would recommend to you, to them, to get some training from a reputable source, if not me then somebody else, just get some.