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Warning! Refresh Your First-Aid Kit Warning! Refresh Your First-Aid Kit
As we enter the wheeling and exploring season please be sure to be prepared in all areas — especially your safety.  Here,  we flashback... Warning! Refresh Your First-Aid Kit

As we enter the wheeling and exploring season please be sure to be prepared in all areas — especially your safety.  Here,  we flashback from June last year on a Tom Severin article about something easily overlooked; your first aid kit.   Take a minute and do a refresh.

The Editors



A Pelican (type) case makes a sturdy First Aid Box for 4-Wheel Drive travel

Summer is almost here, which means the four-wheeling season is kicking into high gear. Now is a good time to inspect all your gear, including first-aid kits.

First-aid kits are easy to overlook. They’re usually tucked away and tend not to get used often. But when you did need one…well, it’s nice to have those supplies at hand. And comforting to know they’re in good shape.

You know that pain drugs, ointments, and lotions lose potency over time. That’s why the containers and packages have expiration dates. Bandages and related supplies degrade over time as well.

Four-wheeling is tough on medical supplies, even those in a container. The jostling causes packets to tear and bottles to break. Dust and sand coat the products, potentially contaminating them.

Perhaps you just need to restock. Did you replace the supplies used during the most recent incident?

Why the first-aid kit needs your attention

Here are some reasons your first-aid kit needs refreshing.

Have not looked at it in 6 months: Not looking inside the first aid kit for 6 months is enough of a reason to take a look. At a minimum, you refresh your memory with the contents that you have available in the event of need.

Shared kits: If others share the kit or have access, clean out all the garbage. This includes wadded up, discarded packaging.  Also, throw out the other half of a 2 pack now open and possibly dirty and contaminated. Throw out open ointment tubes that may be contaminated. You do not know if the ointment was dispensed by rubbing the end of the tube directly on a wound.

A “Boo-boo” bag just for band-aids and pain meds.

Consider, establishing a “boo-boo” kit to treat the common, minor problems. Things like pain meds, splinter kit, and band-aids, to keep everyone out of the big kit.

Adhesives dry out: Heat and dry air take their toll on adhesives. Band-aids and tape no longer stick well.

Gloves deteriorate: They dry out and can tear, even when packaged.

Pack at least a half-dozen pair. You could go through several during an incident. Remember that you need to change gloves for each patient you attend to. Plus, other good Samaritans assisting may not have their own gloves. You can not have enough gloves! In a large kit, pack gloves at the top of each compartment so they are available no matter what you are retrieving.

Damaged goods are suspect: They may not be sterile anymore. Inspect all packaging for tears, holes and other damage. Replace any supplies whose packages are not in pristine condition. Replace any items with yellowing packaging or discolored. Use gloves to remove and clean up anything showing blood or that you suspect blood splatter.

Temperature extremes affect liquids: Ointments, creams, and liquids exposed to extreme temperatures lose effectiveness. Check labels for the effective temperature ranges. Replace any products that may be compromised.

Remove out of date treatment methods: Get rid of that snake bite kit. We no longer slash and suck snake bites.

While you’re at it, consider replacing the batteries in your flashlight(s). That way you can count on getting light when you need it.

If you’re not sure whether something is good, replace it. If an item does not have an expiration date, write your purchase date on it. Then use your judgment when it should be replaced. Batteries are a good candidate to write installations dates. Rotate them early to avoid acid leak damage.

Don’t like to toss out new-looking bandages and other products? Store them in the medicine cabinet at home. They’ll go fast enough. And at home, you have alternative solutions if, in fact, a Band-Aid will not stick.

Type up a list of drugs and their expiration dates. Store that in the first-aid kit for quick reference.

A list makes it easy to stay up-to-date

A word about OTC pain killers. You may have heard or seen the term NSAID. That stands for nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAID drugs like Advil and Aleve fight pain, fever and inflammation. Drugs like Tylenol which are not an NSAID are designed just for pain and fever. They do not deal with inflammation. It’s good to have both types of medication on hand.

Refresh all your first-aid kits

You decided to inspect the first-aid kit in your 4WD vehicle. Great. But don’t forget about the kit in your:

– other vehicles, including motorcycle, motor home, and boat

– cabin and other secondary homes

– garage, tool room, shed

The supplies in some of these kits could vary. But all supplies degrade over time.

The right container is important


Update all your kits.


A good container is sturdy and watertight. Most off-the-shelf first-aid containers are plastic with a clasp mechanism. Inspect the container. Does it seem sturdy enough for off-road use? Will the clasp withstand multiple uses?

Pelican (type) containers are designed to be sturdy and watertight. Consider buying one of those (or a similar model) for your first-aid supplies.

Hikers often carry soft-sided kit bags. Being soft, they can conform to many spaces in a vehicle. If you go that route, choose one that appears well made, or has received good reviews.

Regardless of the type of case used, inspect and clean it frequently. A light coat of wax on a zipper will extend its life. If the case is broken or cracked, find a replacement.

Epinephrine Certification

Allergic reactions caused by insect stings, food, and medications can turn into a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In a severe case, there are generalized hives, itching, swelling, tight scratchy throat, respiratory distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and altered mental status. Epinephrine is the primary treatment to save their life.
Epinephrine is also used for severe cases of Asthma that do not respond to a rescue inhaler.

California has a program that allows you to acquire, carry and administer epinephrine auto-injectors. You must take an approved EPI class and be certified in CPR/ AED. This is a quote from the California EMS Authority site:

“State laws have been updated to allow physicians to prescribe epinephrine auto-injectors to businesses and the general public with proper training and certification. The epinephrine certification card issued by the EMS Authority allows an individual to obtain a prescription for and administer an epinephrine auto-injector to a person experiencing anaphylaxis, with civil liability protection.”

For more information here is the link to the California web site

California is not unique. At least 25 states have some process for the lay-rescuer to stock and administer EPI.

If it has been a while, I recommended you take a First Aid Course. Wilderness Medical Associates,, offers courses from two, four or five days. These courses are geared for the kind of first aid we need when calling 911 is not an option.

First-aid kits are so important, every off-road vehicle should have one. If you don’t own a first-aid kit, buy or build one. Then inspect it regularly so the supplies will be ready if and when you need them.

Tom Severin

Tom Severin is an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association© certified professional 4WD Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and President, Badlands Off Road Adventures.

  • Todd Ockert

    June 19, 2019 #1 Author

    Very important on this very vital kit for safety.


  • Harry

    June 20, 2019 #2 Author

    I’ve found batteries are the first thing to go, along with the flashlight itself. I’ve changed to LED flashlights and the long life batteries. I always have one or two flashlights powered with the batteries ready to go. Other light sources are modified so the batteries don’t go bad. What I do is open the battery case and install fresh batteries, then I install a piece of thin plastic so no contact is made between the battery and the metal of the light source (no circuit is completed). If I need more light, I can easily remove the cover, pull the plastic out, install the cover and then I have light. This works extremely well to ensure I always have a light source.

    I also do this for my LED emergency flash units. In many cases, I can just pull the thin plastic out so the lights will operate. Since these are seldom used, I want the batteries to be useful when I need it. My understanding is most batteries are good for up to ten years, so it’s very wise to date the batteries. I also carry a pack of fresh batteries in an unopened package so I have spare batteries if I need them.

    I like the idea of the cases, so I’ll be looking to get one in the near future. One tip: find luminescent, glow in the dark, paint so you can find the case when you want it found.


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