First-Aid Kit for Rock Climbers

Should I carry a first-aid kit, and if so, what should be in that kit?

—Ben Asprin | Salt Lake City, Utah

The great polar explorer Robert F. Scott included cocaine, opium, morphine, a tincture of cannabis mixed with chili pepper, and whiskey in his medical kit. To paraphrase Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove, “A fella could have a pretty good time in Vegas with all that stuff.”

For cragging, I don’t carry a first-aid kit, but I would pack one to go to a remote location, and I would prioritize supplies to stop bleeding and establish an airway. Anything else is a luxury.

For bleed-outs, the U.S. military uses QuikClot, a natural enzyme in powder form that coagulates blood. This stuff will stop bleeding even in the case of a severed femoral artery. You can purchase it from amazon.com. QuikClot also comes in the Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak along with other essentials such as a sterile dressing, gauze and tape.

D-I-Yers should also get a NATO First Field Dressing, sterile triangular bandages, duct tape, disposable rubber gloves and a CPR pocket shield. That is all you might need to save someone’s life—if it can be saved—in most trauma situations, but, like Scott, I’d toss in a few more items to make being around a wounded person more bearable. A flask of whiskey, pain meds such as the opiates Oxycodone or morphine in pill form, antibiotics and an antibiotic wash, scissors, a suture kit and safety pins all help quell the screaming.

Familiarize yourself with these items, and know when and how to use/administer them. For example, don’t take the pain meds and whiskey at the same time.

If you are serious, take a wilderness first-responder course. NOLS offers a two-week clinic in many states and charges $600 to $900. At a more basic level you can take a simple American Red Cross first-aid course. Gear Guy Has Spoken!

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 209 (April 2013).