Disclaimer: I’ve made some updates to my First-Aid Kit since I originally posted this on January 18th, 2018

The one thing that’s constant about my preparing to hike the PCT is that the gear list is ALWAYS changing. There’s an ongoing effort to reduce the base weight in my pack. Not just by pounds, but by ounces. I’m learning that every single ounce counts.

I made some updates to my First-Aid Kit based on recommendations I received from a couple fellow previous PCT thru-hikers. The hand sanitizer and sunscreen were moved to my toiletries bag. The small packets of insect relief were expired so I got rid of those. I also moved the adjustable ankle support to my clothing bag. I also reduced the amount of some of the items I was originally carrying in my kit, all noted below.

The total weight for my updated First-Aid Kit is now 18 oz!!

I’m far from being considered an experienced thru-hiker. In fact, I wouldn’t even call myself a thru-hiker yet because hiking the PCT will be my FIRST thru-hike. The whole process of planning for this trip over the last year has been one big lesson in learning how to let go of things I don’t need, learning just how much I can actually live without. So many lessons learned and I haven’t even got out on the trail yet. I’m not trying to be an ultralight hiker. I’m just trying to get my base weight down to a manageable weight so I have a better chance of enjoying my five-month hike up to Canada. The updates I’ve made in this post are an effort to provide full disclosure and be as honest as possible about my experience as well as documenting my learning process.


This week, my focus was on finishing putting together my First-Aid Kit for my PCT thru-hike. A First-Aid Kit might not be as exciting and sexy as say putting together a light and comfortable sleeping system or deciding what Insulation System you’ll rock along the way (AKA the clothes you’ll wear on the trail), but having an adequate First-Aid Kit can be the difference between enjoying your walk through the woods or having to get off trail completely to tend to a medical situation. A First-Aid Kit is one of the Ten Essentials every hiker, backpacker and thru-hiker should carry in their pack on every trip. My goal is to complete my thru-hike from Mexico to Canada in five months. My ultimate goal is to remain healthy and safe the entire time I’m out there hiking.

Having a proper First-Aid Kit hasn’t always been a strength of mine. Honestly, before preparing for my PCT thru-hike, I never really knew what I might need out on the trail in case of an emergency. I just knew I needed something. Up until August, I’d go on every single day hike and backpacking trip (including my first Grand Canyon Rim-2-Rim hike back in September 2015) with a pre-assembled Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Weekender First-Aid Kit that weighed almost two pounds and contained enough medical supplies for a group of six people. Not only was this kit considered heavy, it was also a bit overkill. When would I ever need to address the medical needs of six people while out on a day hike? Did I think I was Search and Rescue? I didn’t even know what half the stuff was in the kit, making it deadweight in my pack. But it was something.

My First-Aid Kit has been paired down considerably over the last few months. It wasn’t until this past July when I took a Backpacking Basics class at REI that I realized a complete overhaul of my First-Aid Kit was in order. When it came to my pack during the gear “shakedown” portion of class, both of the instructors agreed the first thing that needed to go was my monster first-aid kit. When I got home from the class, I replaced the oversized, heavy kit with a Ziploc bag full of bandages of all shapes and sizes, Body Glide, duct tape, two safety pins, antiseptic ointment, a couple packets of insect bite relief, hand sanitizer, pre-cut moleskin, OTC pain reliever, a couple of pre-cut hot herbal patches and a pair of latex gloves.

Now that I’m preparing to thru-hike the PCT in April for five months, I’ve decided to expand my First-Aid Kit a bit more to cover things I might not have easy access to while out on the trail. Even with the few modifications, I’m happy to report that my new First-Aid Kit is still considerably smaller and lighter than my original kit. The new kit weighs in under a pound and has all of the necessary items I’d need should I run into trouble while hiking the PCT this year.

The photo and contents of the original First-Aid Kit I put together:

1 oz. Zanfel, 1 oz calamine lotion and 0.5 oz Kenalog topical ointment (for poison oak)
0.5 oz. Neosporin
1 oz. Hand sanitizer
1 oz.  SPF 50 sunscreen
2 oz.  Desitin (for chafing)
1 oz.  New Skin liquid bandage (for blisters)
Multiple sized Band-Aids
Multiple sized blister bandages/cushions
Antiseptic wipes x 2
Small packets of insect bite relief
Imodium (9 caplets)
Aleve (130 caplets)
Benadryl (24 tablets)
Pre-cut hot herbal patches (for aching muscles)
Pre-cut moleskin (blister care)
1 pair of latex gloves
1 Ace self-adhering elastic bandage
Safety pins x 2
1 lightweight, adjustable ankle support (in case I sprain my ankle)
Flagyl for Giardia (Prescription Medication)
Diamox for altitude sickness (Prescription Medication)
Antibiotics for UTI (Prescription Medication)
Zithromax for sinus infection (Prescription Medication)

A word about the above prescriptions…
One of the PCT thru-hikers I met this summer highly recommended I pay a visit to my doctor before getting on the trail to get a couple prescriptions to add to my First-Aid Kit.  I thought this idea was rather genius, especially since a majority of the PCT trail is in a remote area. Who knows where the next medical center would be and god knows how expensive it would be to score a prescription of some sort while I’m out there.

The last four items listed in my kit are all prescriptions I got from my doctor. These will cover me in case I come down with stuff like Giardia (a parasite you can potentially get from drinking contaminated water), altitude sickness (I may or may not get travelling though the Sierras or while summiting Mount Whitney right after Kennedy Meadows), a UTI (ladies, you feel me on this one) or a sinus infection (from travelling through cold and wet environments.) My doctor did advise me should an infection go down into my chest and be accompanied by a fever, it would be grounds for getting off trail to seek medical condition. Yes, my goal is to complete my hike, but my ultimate goal, as I mentioned at the beginning, is to do this hike healthy and safely. I don’t want to die out there.

All of the contents of my First-Aid Kit are being kept in a 1-L Osprey Ultralight Stretch Stuff Sack (shown in the photo above in blue.) Within the stuff sack, the medications and liquids are being stored in multiple Ziploc snack-sized bags. I’m learning that a thru-hiker can never have enough Ziploc bags while on trail.


Updated as of January 22nd, 2018:

The photo and contents of my updated First-Aid Kit I’ll be taking with me on my PCT thru-hike:

1 oz. Zanfel, 1 oz calamine lotion and 0.5 oz Kenalog topical ointment (for poison oak)
0.5 oz. Neosporin
1 oz. Hand sanitizer Moved this to my toiletries bag
1 oz.  SPF 50 sunscreen Moved this to my toiletries bag
2 oz.  Desitin (for chafing)
1 oz.  New Skin liquid bandage (for blisters)
3 waterproof pad bandages Reduced original amount by 3
5 Band-Aids (regular size)
6 blister gel bandages
3 oval, textured blister bandages
8 small pre-cut pieces of self-adhesive moleskin
3 hot herbal patches, cut in half (0.9 oz) – for sore muscles
1 Ace self-adhering elastic bandage
3 Antiseptic towelettes
2 – 0.9 g triple antibiotic ointment packets
Small packets of insect bite relief  They were expired
Imodium (5 caplets) Reduced original amount by 4
Aleve (27 caplets) Reduced original amount by 103
Benadryl (24 tablets)
Safety pins x 2
1 lightweight, adjustable ankle support (in case I sprain my ankle) Moved this to clothing
Flagyl for Giardia (Prescription Medication)
Diamox for altitude sickness (Prescription Medication)
Antibiotics for UTI (Prescription Medication)
Zithromax for sinus infection (Prescription Medication)
All contents are still being kept in a 1-L Osprey Ultralight Stretch Stuff Sack

The total weight for my updated First-Aid Kit is now 18 oz!!

At this point, it’s hard to tell how my new First-Aid Kit will work out for me. Hopefully I won’t need to use anything in it and it ends up being deadweight in my pack. Just in case I do need to use my kit while I’m out there, whether it be for me or a fellow hiker, at least I know I’ll be prepared and able to help.

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