Monday, September 5, 2022

First Aid Kits Only Help If You Bring Them With You

Yes, the same "crash photos" 
seen in a previous post.
I used to carry a first aid kit when I went riding but I had gotten out of the habit. I mostly stopped wearing a hydration pack, and without one, I limited my *stuff* to the bike necessities: tube, CO2, multi-tool; and a couple of water bottles. My recent ride that went a bit sideways made me rethink this approach. 

Let's face it, it's inevitable that you or one of your riding compatriots is going to crash. Hopefully there will be no serious injuries and all you'll get is a good story and a good laugh, maybe make it on to #fridayfail on But, someday, something more significant might happen so you should probably be ready.

In my mind, being ready requires two things: knowledge and supplies. I do happen to have a fair bit of medical knowledge, but until research is done to determine if oak leaves are better for packing a wound over maple leaves, I'd prefer some good old fashioned medical supplies.

If you don't have much medical knowledge, I strongly encourage you to take a first aid class, especially if it can be geared towards the outdoors. You should also take a CPR course and a Stop the Bleed course.

Once you've got enough knowledge to be dangerous, it's time to put a kit together. You *could* buy a first aid kit, but I really don't think most of the commercially available kits are that great. Most seem to favor quantity over quality and include stuff that I personally think is unnecessary. I don't want 20 little band-aids, I want a tourniquet.  Some kits I found included items like sunscreen or lip balm, which to me, is almost like carrying hair gel.

He only hurt his pride.
Anyway, I figure that most medical issues that arise on the trails can be broken down into minor, moderate, and severe. 

Minor injuries, or what another writer simply called "boo-boos" are the small cuts and scrapes that probably won't slow a ride down. I really don't need a "boo-boo kit." If I *need* a band-aid, well, I don't really need one.

So, I think about a kit that will have supplies for moderate to severe injuries; injuries that will either significantly curtail a ride or require some outside assistance.  I want a kit that I can take with me on all my rides, one that will have important stuff, but not be so onerous that I'll stop carrying it; a kit that will work for most common injuries that would occur on a ride and would provide an hour's worth of stabilization and support. A kit like this takes a lot of thought and judgement. I can't carry everything for every possibility, and let's face it, like most ER providers, I'm mostly useless without a CT scanner. 

What will I take? An off-the-shelf tourniquet could be life or limb saving, is inexpensive, and light enough to pack easily. An ACE wrap might be good enough as a tourniquet if needed, with a stick or long Allen wrench used to crank it tight, and an ACE wrap could also of course be used to help close a wound or stabilize a sprain or fracture. Should I pack & carry both? There's no right or wrong answer on what to take, and there's probably going to be something I'd wish I'd had, even if I had a kit 7 times as big. 

I came up with a supply list that I think will have lots of uses, and will be relatively easy to carry.

But, before I talk about the contents, I'll mention the pack I chose. It's the mini frame bag by Lead Out. At just under $75, it's not cheap, but was at that perfect intersection of small enough, but big enough, and easily transferrable to and from all my bikes. Seems well constructed and should be durable.

Is this too much?

Too little?

Something you'd recommend? (Note: this is my "everyday" kit, and I'd augment this for longer ventures or times when I'm really "out there.")

You Are Here.
Some people simply rely on their phones and the ability to call for help if needed. As I think we all know, network coverage can be hit or miss, you can go from 4 bars to no bars pretty quickly. Assuming you do have a good connection, you should be prepared to give your location, and "the trail with the two bridges," or any one of several local trail names probably won't help. The ability of a 911 responder to know your location (even if the phone pings a GPS location), and the ability of someone to get to you quickly will be widely variable. If your location does pop up on a map, it might simply be a pin in the middle of a green area, with no trails shown. 

If trails ARE shown, emergency responders may not know that one trail could be accessed somewhat easily with an EMS stretcher and another trail may be steep, off-camber, technical rock-garden. 

And, let's say that your EMS responders DO know where you are, and how to get there, how long will that take? Do EMS providers need to get a forest road gate unlocked? Does the service have special gear for wooded rescues? 

An area with robust trail networks might have a well- established wilderness search and rescue team, but many trails we ride are simply in suburban areas and a local ambulance and fire department will likely be the ones to answer the call. They probably won't have an ATV and will have to walk in and walk out. If you're only a mile from a trailhead, you could be looking at more than an hour before you're in the back of an ambulance. 

With this in mind, I've decided to be more prepared and will hopefully never need this kit. And if I'm the one that goes down, I hope whomever I'm with is prepared too.

No chance of breaking an ankle while walking through this, none at all.

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