First Aid
Credit: Kevin Callan

My wife told me I should get out more — so I took a wilderness first-aid course.

It’s something I do every five years or so. I think it’s something everyone should do if you spend quality time outdoors. Not only did I have a chance to be more social, especially with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts, but also it helped boost my confidence in case something goes wrong out there.

Taking the course every few years also helps me refresh with new techniques and gear used by the professionals. A few things have changed since I last took the course. The biggest bonus I got this time around was a good deal on a first-aid kit. Our instructor told us about a deal Costco had on a first-aid/survival kit combo made by Adventure Medical Kits. It only cost $30. I remember Costco had something similar last year. It’s an amazing bargain. It’s too big of a kit for taking in the interior, but the contents alone had to be worth over a $100. It was perfect for me, since I generally make up my own first-aid kit. I ended up buying two. One for the house, and one to act as a grab bag to make my own smaller kit for interior camping trips. That way, I know exactly what’s in it. The survival kit added to the package wasn’t cheesy either — it had some great content too.

Our instructor also told us about a product called Quikclot, also made by Adventure Medical Kits (and sold at Canadian Tire). Its active ingredient is a naturally occurring volcanic mineral called Zeolite, which quickly draws out the inner liquids in blood and leaves the thicker clotting platelets to rapidly stop severe bleeding. Pressure and elevation are still the main ways to stop bleeding, but this stuff has proven effective by emergency personnel, police, fire fighters and the military. To me, it makes perfect sense to put some in your wilderness first-aid kit. The substance is stored in a gauze package that looks like an oversized tea bag. When you place the bag onto the wound, it begins to absorb water and therefore stimulates platelets and red blood cells to clot. The mesh bag keeps the inert material from getting into the wound and is easily removed once the bleeding becomes under control. One package costs $12 and is single-use only. Worth its weight in gold when you need it! Make sure to check the expiration date. It has a shelf life of three years. You don’t want to mistakenly buy old stock.

Another new product once again comes from Adventure Medical Kits — Easy Access Bandages. At first, I was wondering why my instructor was so keen on these things. After all, it’s simply a bandage that reduces contamination by the way it’s applied. Then he had us open and apply a traditional bandage and then an Easy Access Bandage. I have to admit, the new one was far easier. It’s done via a one-handed approach — just pull it out from the portable container and stick. There’s none of those loose tabs. It’s not necessarily a life-saving innovation like Quikclot — but the entire class found them pretty cool to use.