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Outdoor First Aid Essentials

New Zealand's Emergency Phone Number = 111

Outdoor First Aid Training 

Basic First Aid  - St John

Pre Hospital Emergency Care - Popular first aid qualification in the NZ Outdoor & Tourism industry. "Completion of this course qualifies you as a trained first aid person, which helps your employer to comply with workplace health and safety legislation" 

Wilderness First Aid  - The American standard for wilderness first aid for the Outdoor, Holiday Camp & Tourism industry. 

Coping with emergencies

Before you start your trip, prepare a safety plan listing things that could go wrong (eg, loss of track, river levels up) and detail steps that could be taken to minimise or deal with each situation. Make sure the safety plan addresses accidents and medical emergencies, and includes details such as escape routes, communication and how to get help.

Remember your DRS ABCs

When you find someone unconscious:

Danger: Check the scene for danger to yourself, the group and the patient.
Responsiveness: Check for responsiveness: Shout "are you alright?" and tap the patient on the shoulder.
Send for help

Airway: Open the airway using a head tilt and chinlift, or a jaw thrust (if you suspect a spinal injury)
Breathing: Check for breathing for no longer than 10 seconds. Look listen and feel for breath.
Circulation: If there is no sign of life: Give 30 chest compressions to 2 breaths.
           Adults: Give 30 compressions to 2 breaths. 
           Children and Infants: Give 30 compressions 
           to 2 breaths.
Severe Bleeding: Do a visual check and control obvious bleeding.

If you are unable to do mouth to mouth, do chest compressions.

In an urban environment, send for an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), attach and follow voice prompts.



Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops to a level where normal brain and muscle function is impaired - usually at or below 35°C. When the body cannot cope, it goes into survival mode, shutting down non-essential functions. Hypothermia occurs when the body cannot make up for the amount of heat lost.

For more information on what causes hypothermia, the signs and symptoms and how to treat hypothermia, download the free Hypothermia pamphlet here.


Common problems  


Stop at the indication of a blister. If a blister has formed, cover with gauze or gel dressing and tape. If the blister is enlarged with fluid, drain the fluid by piercing, and then cover it to prevent infection.

Sprains and strains

Rest - stop moving.
Ice - apply cold (not freezing) water for 20 minutes.
Compression - bandage firmly with elastic bandage.
Elevation - raise the affected limb (above heart level) to reduce swelling.


  • Keep open fractures as clean as possible. Cover with clean plastic or other non-stick dressing.
  • Immobilise the broken limb, ensuring that you immobilise the joints above and below the break
  • Improvise splintsf from suitable well-padded items, e.g. a sleeping mat, walking poles.
  • Use broad ties to hold the splint in place, ensuring that you don't impede circulation. Don't use rope and boot laces.


Headaches are often indicators of dehydration. Drink regularly.

Bee and wasp stings

The effects of a sting will be at their worst 15-20 minutes after the incident.

  • Cool the affected area to reduce the effect of venom.
  • An antihistamine tablet can help reduce reaction.
  • Monitor for the signs of a severe allergic reaction. If someone in your party knows they are allergic, ensure they have their adrenaline handy incase of an anaphylactic reaction.


Place the patient in the recovery position.
Monitor their level of consciousness: AVPU - alert, responsive to voice, responsive to pain, unresponsive.

This information is taken from the MSC Bushcraft Manual. These safety tips are for guidance only. It is recommended that you undertake an MSC Outdoor First Aid course or an accreditated equivalent.

First aid kits 

A standard group first aid kit will include:

  • Alcohol wipes (10)
  • Tweezers
  • Betadine for grazes
  • Low-reading clinical thermometer
  • Crepe bandages (1x10 cm; 1x15 cm)
  • Saline (30 ml)
  • Triangular bandages cloth (2) (sterile)
  • Pain relief (e.g. Paracetamol)
  • Plastic strip dressing (10–12 bandaids) 
  • Antihistamine cream (10)
  • Dressing strip
  • Diarrhoea treatment (e.g. Diastop/ Imodium)
  • Non-adherent sterile dressings (3 large)
  • Gastrolyte sachets (4) (for replacing salts lost from diarrhoea or vomiting)
  • Gauze dressings (6)
  • Chemical cooling/warming packs Wound dressing (size 14)
  • Fine, strong thread for removing rings
  • Wound dressing (size 15, sanitary pad)
  • Disposable CPR face shield
  • Sticking tape (1 roll)
  • Safety pins
  • Butterfly closures (1 pouch)
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Notebook   
  • Pencil
  • Disposable gloves

You'll need one of these for the group.

A standard "Individual" first aid kit will include:

  • Crepe bandage (100 mm)
  • Pain relief (e.g. Paracetamol)
  • Triangular bandage cloth (sterile)
  • Antihistamine tablets (3–6)
  • Plastic strip dressing (6–10 bandaids)
  • Sunscreen
  • Dressing strip
  • Lip balm
  • Non-adherent sterile dressings (2 or 3 of various sizes)
  • Disposable CPR face shield
  • Gauze dressings (2 or 3)
  • Notebook Sticking tape (1 roll)
  • Pencil
  • Safety pins
  • Insect repellent
  • Scissors
  • Personal medication
  • Disposable gloves 

Each person should carry the recommended items in a waterproof container. If you are going on a long trip, or to a very isolated place, you may decide to carry a more comprehensive first aid kit, although you do need to keep your pack weight down. Discuss your requirements with a chemist.



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