Build a BOB: First Aid and Hygiene

Posted on: August 31, 2015

As with all of the other components of our BOB, we want our first aid and hygiene supplies to be good quality and in enough quantity to meet our needs but to not take up too much space in the pack. Medical and hygiene go hand in hand. While it would be virtually impossible to reach or maintain any sort of true cleanliness out in the field, anything you can do to limit the possibility of infection or illness is well-advised.

First Aid Supplies

Most store-bought first aid kits are a decent enough start, but that’s really all they are, a good start. Keep in mind that any time you see advertising for a kit that mentions the number of items – “This 272 piece kit has all you’ll need” – they are counting each bandage as one piece. In other words, read the full contents list rather than just going by a piece count.

I personally like the Adventure Medical Kit line of products. The contents are well thought out and very well organized. In most of the kits, the contents are divided up by their purpose or into injury-specific pockets within the pouches. This makes it easier to find what you need quickly.

The Sportsman Bighorn Kit is a great option. It contains all of the basics and then some, but doesn’t cost a fortune.  What you certainly could do is take a look at the contents list and start assembling your own kit mirroring this one or another one that is similar. One thing I’ve found over the years is that if you follow the sale ads and use coupons when appropriate, you can often put together a great first aid kit for less money than a premade kit. Either way, I would suggest you augment the supply of meds beyond the rather minimal amounts found in these store-bought kits.

The medications you’ll want in your kit include (at a minimum):

Pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen)

You may want to include your preferred over-the-counter remedies for cold, flu, and other such routine ailments. Murphy’s Law dictates the day you end up truly needing to bug out will be the same day most of your family will be down for the count with the latest strain of influenza.

Don’t forget prescription medications, too. If you or a family member regularly takes any medication that is life-sustaining, you need a small supply of it in the BOB. There are a couple of different approaches to handling this.

If you have a good relationship with your primary care physician, have a conversation with him or her about the issue. In this day and age, it is not at all uncommon or unusual for people to be putting together emergency kits so as long as you avoid mentioning the New World Order, UFO invasions, and zombie uprisings, you’ll probably be okay. As long as it isn’t for a narcotic, odds are your physician will at least try to work with you on this. I doubt the insurance company will be so helpful, though, and you’ll probably have to foot the entire bill on the extra meds.

The second way to handle this takes longer but has less of an impact on your wallet. With most prescriptions, you’re able to refill a few days before you’d finish your current supply. Refill the script as soon as you’re able to do so and take the doses from the overlapping period and set them aside for your emergency stash. NEVER SKIP A DOSE! Always set aside the newest meds and use the oldest first. Make no mistake, this can be a royal pain in the butt to try and keep track of all of this but it needs to happen if you or a family member take any sort of life-sustaining medications.

You’ll definitely want a good supply of moleskin, especially if you have family members who aren’t used to walking for long periods of time. Elastic wraps for sprains and strains are also going to be needed. I recommend more than just one or two of those wraps, too. A SAM splint will be needed should there be a fracture involved.

Stock way more adhesive bandages than you might think you’ll need. Same with the larger gauze pads and such. Even just a single wound will use up several bandages as it heals.

Triple antibiotic ointment is helpful in reducing the possibility of infection. While the jury is out, somewhat at least, on the efficacy of this sort of product, I figure it will do far more help than it will hurt. Alcohol wipes are also good for quick cleaning of small cuts and scrapes. Plus, they double as a fire starter. Just cut them open and light. They don’t burn long but they do burn hot.

One of the most common injuries when doing an extended hike or camp trip is, believe it or not, burns. Many people just aren’t used to cooking over an open flame and someone invariably steps on a burning ember, picks up a burnt stick by the wrong end, that sort of thing. Have burn cream and appropriate bandages in your first aid kit.

In a similar vein, sunscreen is a very welcome addition to the kit. In today’s society, a large percentage of the population spends very little time outdoors and, as a result, is at high risk of sunburn if they need to bug out. Sunburn can be very serious, not to mention painful.

Eating food that might be different than your normal diet will sometimes lead to nausea and/or diarrhea. Therefore, a good supply of Pepto Bismol tablets or the equivalent would be well advised. Personally, I always keep antacids in my kits, too.

Anti-itch remedies might be very welcome, depending upon the conditions. Insect repellent, while not truly a first aid item, is also recommended.

One of the basic tenets of first aid is to protect yourself first. To that end, a supply of surgical gloves is a good idea. A CPR mask is also recommended. Just to be on the safe side, a small supply of N95 masks should be included, too. These will not only help prevent the spread of infection but they should work well to protect the wearer from biological agents that could be in the air.

A dental first aid kit is also well-advised. If you’ve ever suffered from even a moderate toothache, you know just how badly it can affect your thinking, judgement, and morale.  This kit isn’t bad but I’d augment it with a tube of lidocaine. This kit comes with a couple of small packages but you’ll want more if the problem is moderate to severe.

Don’t overlook the importance of a good first aid manual as well. Unless you’ve received first aid training (and you should absolutely seek this out), you might not know exactly how to handle certain emergency medical situations. A manual can tell you what to do, even if it is only reminding you of something you already knew.


As I mentioned earlier, being squeaky clean will be an impossibility when you’re on the road. But, that doesn’t mean you should just revel in your filth, either. The cleaner you are, the less likely you are to get sick or to have a wound become infected.

Your first line of defense is hand sanitizer. Use this after going to the bathroom to prevent what those in the military refer to as “ass to mouth” disease. I fully realize there are folks out there who believe hand sanitizer is responsible for a surge in various illnesses because the frequent use of it has lowered immune systems and such. Right now, our primary goal is to reach our bug out location without filling our pants. To that end, we want items in our BOBs to assist with accomplishing that goal.

You’ll probably want toilet paper, of course. You can grab a roll from your shelf for your BOB, if you want. Twist out the cardboard tube so the roll will crush flat and put it into a ziploc bag to keep it dry. Baby wipes are perhaps a better choice, though, as they can also be used to general body cleaning. Feel free to go with both, if you have the room in your BOB.

A small towel and a bar of soap will go a long way toward making you feel human again. In fact, if you’re a Douglas Adams fan, you know just how important a towel can be. I wouldn’t suggest a full size bath towel, though. Dish towels are usually large enough for our purposes during a bug out.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss will not only help with morale but if you end up with a bit of squirrel stuck between your teeth, you’ll want to be able to get it out. A travel toothbrush will fold down, saving space. Odds are you’ll only need a travel size tube of toothpaste, unless you plan on being on the road for weeks at a time.

As for deodorant, that’s a personal choice. The thing is, those with a keen nose (humans and critters alike) can smell odors from quite a ways off. A “fresh scent” pit swipe will probably be far more noticeable than the funk from going a day or two without a shower. Just something to consider.

I wouldn’t worry about shampoo or conditioner. A brush or comb, though, will be helpful in detecting and removing pests that might find their way to your head.

Hand lotion (unscented) might be appreciated as hand sanitizer tends to dry out the skin. Lip balm will be very welcome as chapped lips are all but inevitable when traveling on the road by foot.

Survival Resources sells a great little hygiene kit that you might consider. Otherwise, gather your hygiene supplies and keep them in a ziploc bag in your BOB.

The takeaways from this section:

A good quality first aid kit is an essential component of your BOB. It should have the supplies necessary to treat the common types of injuries and illnesses.

Proper hygiene, at least the way we think of it today, will be virtually impossible while on the road during a bug out. However, at least some semblance of cleanliness should be doable, provided you’ve packed some essentials in your BOB.

Get caught up on all installments in this series here:
First aid / Hygiene
Signaling and Communication
Choosing the Pack or Container
Common Mistakes
Useful Odds and Ends

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