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Backcountry First Aid Kit List From Flight Paramedic Matt Smith

Backcountry First Aid Kit List From Flight Paramedic Matt Smith

In a winter environment, being prepared for medical or traumatic emergency is not just a precaution; it's a necessity. One would never go into avalanche terrain without beacon, probe, and shovel - a good winter first aid kit should be added to that list of essential gear.  Accidents can happen, and when they do, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference.

That's why we've turned to the expertise of Canadian Outdoor Medical Consulting, a Squamish based training and event medical company, to guide you in assembling the best ski touring backcountry first aid kit. Whether you're a seasoned backcountry veteran or a newcomer to the world of ski touring, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to ensure your safety and the safety of your fellow adventurers.



First Aid Kit List

When figuring out what to put in your backcountry first aid kit, it's helpful to think about;

  • What problems you may encounter

  • The likelihood that these problems will occur

  • What equipment you need to help solve these problems

Matt does this by going through the widely used ABCD system.



Stay safe! Use all your avalanche Personal Protection Equipment:

Gloves: Wearing medical gloves has been shown to reduce the risk of illness to the rescuer.

Hand Sanitizer: Helpful during clean up.

Deadly bleed control: This should be managed immediately, after ensuring the scene is safe. You should have at the very least a proper gauze bleeding control bandage. Consider a tourniquet or commercial bleeding control dressing such as an Oleas bandage.



There are multiple reasons why the airways may be blocked in a winter first aid; snow is a highly likely scenario. Clearing this is crucial first. Training is key here - take a good CPR course - only carry airways adjuncts like OPA’s or NPA’s if you are trained in their use.



Most cardiac arrests in the winter environment involve a component of asphyxia; 

Pocket Mask: carry a pocket mask or face shield: to allow you to feel confident in your ability to oxygenate the patient in a prolonged rescue scenario. 



Take a CPR course and practice, practice practice. Most wise ski tourers practice avalanche rescue and companion rescue - why do we not practice first aid with the same frequency? Literature shows that with a combination of asphyxia and hypothermia, there can be good outcomes after prolonged periods of cardiac arrest, if the rescuers are trained in CPR. 



Again, training is key here - take a good first aid course and learn how to manage specific injuries. Some essential pieces of kit include: 

Triangular bandages: Use to help secure a broken or dislocated extremity. 

SAM Splint: Essential tool for splinting multilple different extremitiy injuries.

Gauze: For covering most minor wounds. Make sure you have some for bleeding control

Non Stick Gauze: useful for abrasions

Tensor wraps: also an essential component of splinting. Used for sprains and strains. 

Bandaids, blister control supplies & tape to secure.



Hypothermia kills. Prevention is key - don’t forget to isolate the patient from the snow or cold ground rather than just piling layers on top.  Along with medical supplies a first aid kit should include: 

Emergency Blanket: Help protect the patient from the ground. Or used as a roof for a shelter

Emergency Bivy: Properly wrap around a patient.

Instant body warmers: Place these under the armpits or in the groin where the main arteries are for maximum warmth.

Storm matches/Lighter: Use if you need to create a fire.

Fire starter: Help with emergency heat. 

As you head out on your ski touring adventures into the backcountry, remember that a well-prepared first aid kit is a reliable companion. In the world of winter wilderness, accidents may be unforeseen, but your response shouldn't be.

The insights shared by Matt, have given us a comprehensive guide to building the best ski touring backcountry first aid kit. Come grab one of there first aid kits at Escape Route, and check out Canadian Outdoor Med at for first aid training.





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