DIY: Wilderness Emergency Kit

Swelling had fallen from her eyes down to her mouth and throat.
Swelling had fallen from her eyes down to her mouth and throat.

My husband, Banjo and I recently experienced an emergency when we were in the backcountry of Algonquin Park on a canoe trip (Misadventure in Algonquin Park). The emergency resulted in us having to paddle and portage out of the interior. It took us 4.5 hours in, and another 4.5 hours right back out again.

What happened? Banjo was stung by something and her face swelled up to an unbelievable size. We were both terrified and wondered if we needed to get her help, or if we should wait it out. After rationalizing the situation, we realized that we needed to get her help right away.

That experience taught us that we were unprepared for an emergency in the wilderness. It doesn’t matter how many canoe trips we’ve been on or how long we’ve been out in the wilderness because an emergency can happen at any time.

Sorting out our first aid kit.
Sorting out our first aid kit.

When we arrived home after getting Banjo help, we started researching ways to improve our first aid kit not only for ourselves but also for Banjo. Our first aid kit will always be a work in progress as we continue to learn more about how to deal with injuries, and replenish items as needed.

Please note that this is our first aid kit. That means the list of items I’ve included are there because we are confident in our ability to use them. We recently learned at a moving water paddling course that you shouldn’t take anything in your first aid kit that you don’t know how to use. So, you either learn how to use it, or leave it home and bring other items that will be beneficial to your preparedness.

And, it is also important to note that while we have all of these items in our first aid kit, knowledge is first and foremost power. That means taking a wilderness first aid course or something similar is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for an emergency in the wilderness.

We bought an Adventure Medical Kit as our basic first aid kit and then added other items to it.

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First Aid Kit

  • Medical tape
  • Adhesive fabric bandages (various sizes)
  • Gauze
  • Tincture of Benzoin topical adhesive
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Gloves
  • Moleskin
  • Tweezers, safety pins and duct tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Ear syringe (good for rinsing out wound with water)
  • Cotton swabs
  • New Skin (liquid bandage)
  • Rubbing alcohol (relief of muscle stiffness and as an antiseptic cleanser around wound)
  • Vaseline
  • Benadryl (relief of sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, hives, insect bites, poison ivy and rashes)
  • Pepto Bismol tablets (relief of heartburn, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea)
  • Gravol (prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting. Relief of  digestive upset including lack of appetite, nausea, digestive spasms, indigestion, dyspepsia and flatulent colic)
  • Advil (liquid and fast relief of migraine, headache, fever, muscle and joint pain)
  • Aloe vera gel, 99% (relief of minor skin irritations, insect bites, sunburn)
  • Bug Bite Salve (all natural), and After Bite towelettes
  • First aid booklet
Our first aid kit

First Aid Kit for Banjo

  • Liquid bandage (for cuts on pads)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Sock (for keeping foot bandage on)
  • Gauze
  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Rubbing alcohol to clean around wound
  • Vaseline
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting or use as an antiseptic to clean around the wound). Please speak with your vet to find out how much hydrogen peroxide can be given to your dog if you need to induce vomiting.
  • Benadryl (Benadryl ONLY with diphenhydramine)
  • Pepto Bismol Tablets (1-2 tablets every 6 hours for average size dogs)
  • Ear syringe
  • Bandages of various sizes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers and tick remover
  • Buffered Aspirin (pain relief, but only use for short term). Contact your vet to find out how much buffered aspirin can be given to your dog and for how long.
  • Personal notes on how much dosage Banjo can take of particular first aid items.

I found it helpful to use small nalgene bottles to put smaller amounts of rubbing alcohol and the exact amount of hydrogen peroxide that we can use for Banjo. I taped little notes to each bottle.

Banjo and our emergency kit
Banjo and our emergency kit

In addition to the first aid kit, we put other items into a larger, water resistant emergency kit that we keep on our person at all times.

The emergency kit we keep on our person at all times


Emergency Kit

  • First aid kit
  • Bug spray (natural for us and Banjo, as well as deet)
  • Compass
  • Leatherman
  • Bush knife
  • Flagging tape
  • Waterproof matches, DIY fire starter (vaseline works too), flint and steel
  • Canoe repair kit for kevlar, tent repair kit, sleeping pad repair kit
  • Duct tape
  • Bear spray
  • Pen flare (see Jim Baird’s video)
  • Sunblock
  • Spot device (tracking, check in, and help/spot assist if you need to notify authorities of various levels of an emergency)
  • Paracord
Other items that go in our emergency kit


There is definitely more we can take with us to be prepared, but as I said, our emergency kit is always a work in progress.

If you have any recommendations of other items we could add to our emergency kit, please leave me a comment. I would appreciate it!

Thanks for reading!


  1. These kits look great. It’s funny how it takes just one emergency to make you look long and hard at how prepared you are when something happens. We had a similar situation aa few years ago, and we have really changed our first aid kit approach because of it. And yes, it’s always a work in progress. Thanks for sharing your kit contents!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you should Joyce. Feeling helpless because you don’t have a few basic items in your kit is a terrible, terrible feeling. Just like Cobi, I have been there, done that. And I don’t ever want to repeat it.


  2. I love how you included the dog in your kits. The are after all family! Just a note though, don’t use alcohol or peroxide on open wounds . They do more damage than good by damaging the tissue in a wound. They are good for cleaning around a wound but not into. The Polysporin is a better idea for on wound care for people and dogs!

    Liked by 1 person

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