Global Rescue travelers have learned many useful skills during their adventures. From appreciating cream and sugar yet being able to drink black coffee, to knowing how to sew a button or mend a pair of pants, the list is plentiful. Despite the obvious utility of those skills though, another equally important skill, is knowing what to pack in an everyday, travel-friendly first-aid kit. 

All destinations have inherent differences just as each individual traveler has his or her own unique differences. Evaluate your own personal needs and the parameters of your travel to find the items or build the kit that best suits you.

An easy starting point is to look for a commercial off-the-shelf product. There are several high-quality kits out there that cover trips of different duration and are designed for the needs of the solo traveler up through the expedition group.  

The alternative to a commercial product is to build your own.

Global Rescue has customized its own list of must-have items over the years, always including commonly needed items plus a few medicines. When possible, it’s best to try to use only items that serve more than one purpose, including medications.

While it is impractical to pack for every single contingency, it is possible to create a small, packable kit full of highly useful items that takes up very little space in your backpack. Most travel emergencies do not require a combat medic-style kit – quite the opposite. Blisters, minor soft tissue injuries (scrapes and cuts), orthopedic injuries (ankle sprains) and stomach ailments are some of the more frequently encountered issues that can all be addressed with a well-stocked kit. 

The following is a list of items we recommend for every trip, whether you’re going to Switzerland or Nigeria. The list is also designed as a personal kit for individual use, as a majority of the items can be carried in a small zippered pouch.

  • Tweezers – fine point hard to find a reason NOT to have tweezers
  • Tick remover – yes, a single-use item but very handy if needed and it’s nearly paper thin
  • Alcohol pads – eight is a good amount
  • Band-Aids – about a dozen
  • Blister pads – We suggest the Band-Aid Advanced Healing brand, which works great and stays in place. Carry a few of the regular and finger/toe variety
  • Gauze pads a few small 2 or 3-inch pads
  • Super glue – for minor skin tears it’s not ideal, but works in a pinch and is also good for getting a few more miles out of your shoes
  • Cravats – Carry two standard size triangular bandages. There is very little you can’t splint or bandage with two well-placed cravats.  Too many other uses to list.
  • Ibuprofen 400mg – pain reliever, inflammation, minor fever reducer
  • Ondansetron 8mg ODT – anti-emetic, these dissolve on your tongue, great for nausea and vomiting
  • Cipro 500mg – gold standard for traveler’s diarrhea, unless you’re in Southeast Asia
  • Doxycycline 100mg – malaria prophylaxis, tick-borne disease, skin infections, a good multipurpose antibiotic
  • Pepto Bismol – chewable tablets, many indications
  • Antihistamine – a non-drowsy type like Zyrtec or Claritin, used for hives, itching, watery eyes, rash, runny nose, and sneezing due to allergies or the common cold. Secondary uses for motion sickness, anxiety, or as a sleep aid
  • Sewing kit – TSA approved for carry-on if needles and scissors are under four inches
  • Chapstick, with SPF – sunscreen for your lips, nose, ears and also useful on zippers or even hot spots
  • Iodine tabs – clean, treated water is a must
  • Emergency headlamp – small in size 
  • Duct tape – wrap about a meter around the outside of the kit
  • Consider an Epi-Pen – especially if you or a member of your group have potentially life-threatening allergies

For trips to a more remote setting, you might augment this kit with other items, namely more medications and bandaging materials.

Prior to any trip, it is recommended that you consult with your physician to determine which medications are right for you. This can be done in conjunction with a visit to a travel clinic for vaccines and other destination specific advice.

Despite the fact that many countries require medicines to be transported in their original packaging, several travelers take it upon themselves to repack the items to better fit in their luggage. Many of us are guilty of this but keep in mind that medicine not in the original packaging, especially prescription medications, run a greater risk of being confiscated.

It should be noted that a first-aid kit is not a substitute for proper first-aid training. Everyone has the potential to benefit from some type of first-aid training.

Wilderness First-Aid (WFA) or the more in-depth Wilderness First Responder (WFR – pronounced woofer) are excellent options for travelers. These courses focus on providing care in austere locations with little support and finite resources. Improvising and using common on-hand items is highly stressed all the while adhering to sound medical principles. Check local outfitters and clubs for a course offering near you.

Whether you’re seeking advice or immediate medical or security assistance, Global Rescue operations centers are staffed 24/7/365 to assist our members. Click here to contact us about the benefits of membership.