When it comes to off-road motorsports, one piece of conventional wisdom rings true across the board: you can travel farther in 30 minutes than you can walk in a day. It is, after all, one of the main reasons many of us prefer to hit the trails as opposed to a track – to find solace in the great outdoors and get away from it all. It all referring to anything and everything we’re subjected to during the daily grind; people, cars, and buildings.
Unfortunately, off-road motorsports comes with an inherent risk of injury and getting away from it all includes getting away from doctors, ambulances, and hospitals. This, in turn, means if you go down hard 50 miles past the middle of nowhere and end up with a serious injury, you might find yourself playing triage nurse just to survive the return trip to civilization.
I’m not a Survival Enthusiast, although I do enjoy watching the variety of survival themed shows on TV. There’s the British Foreign Legion guy in Man vs Wild who’s an expert at drinking his own urine to stay hydrated. Then there’s the two muscle bound guys of Dual Survival – an ex Special Forces Soldier and a barefoot Primitive Living Expert with hippy tendencies. They’re placed in remote locations with a few random items that they must utilize for survival. More often than not this show borders on homoerotic comedy, like when they were stranded in the woods with a backpack containing condoms and cigarettes. And of course the most famous Survival Experts – the seven castaways who were shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island. This group proved to be the most innovative, constructing a multitude of modern amenities using only bamboo and coconuts.
I’m also far too lazy to be a ‘Prepper’ – people who spend their lives preparing for a major cataclysm. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes I prefer to be eaten. I won’t pretend to understand the mindset of someone who devotes most of their time and resources constructing and supplying a bunker, but I can certainly appreciate their determination to be prepared. And being prepared when riding in areas without cell phone reception or emergency services can be crucial, particularly when it comes to a severe injury.
Obviously no one wants to lug around an EMT tackle box of medical supplies, so here’s some suggestions for creating a compact back country first aid kit that can cover the basics and help stop blood loss should you be skewered by a tree branch, handlebar, or antler:
Band Aids – Duh, these are one of the main staples of any first aid kit. Since most of us aren’t concerned with small cuts and scrapes these could probably be left out. But they store flat, take up minimal space, and might come in handy for blisters.Butterfly Closures – Can be used as an emergency substitute for stitches. Again, they store flat and take up minimal space.
Medical Tape – Opt for the heavy duty water proof kind. In a pinch it could also work for repairing an inner tube, securing cracked plastic, or sealing up the split seams on your old riding pants that somehow ‘shrank’ since the last time you wore them.
Gauze – Pads and a roll. Another staple and probably the bulkiest item(s) to store, but if you have a roll that’s long and wide enough it can also double as an ace bandage and provide support for a twisted ankle or sprained wrist.
Scissors – You need something to cut the gauze and tape with! Most cheap compact medical kit scissors won’t cut the mustard, so splurge on a decent pair.
Tweezers – These come in handy for removing rock and bone fragments from your flesh, as well as pulling out unsightly nose hairs.
Alcohol/Hydrogen Peroxide – Imperative for cleaning a Zombie bite – closing up a dirty wound invites infection. Instead of lugging around a big container of this stuff, grab an empty 1 ounce bottle of Visine (or equivalent) and carefully use it to suck up your antiseptic of choice.
A Pair of Nitrile Gloves – Have you smelled your riding gloves lately? Are they reminiscent of a homeless man’s butt crack? No sense trying to clean a wound with your dirty nasty hands.
Black Tea Bags – Tea contains Tannins, which help activate Thrombocytes for rapid blood clotting. Saturate the tea bag with (clean) water and compress it against a wound that refuses to quit bleeding. Tannins also have astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral effects on a wound. (and with that I just used up my weekly allotment of words containing more than two syllables)
Tampons – Speaking of things that won’t quit bleeding…a couple of these can absorb a lot of blood. Constructed of densely packed cotton, they also make an easy fire starter. Unless you’ve devoted your life to video games or Star Trek Conventions, you can probably swipe a couple from the Mrs or Mistress.
Super Glue – This was used extensively in the Vietnam War to help control bleeding in wounded soldiers until they could be properly treated at a hospital. These days it’s effectiveness at sealing a wound is unquestioned – but there’s a debate raging whether or not it’s toxicity is worth the benefits. I say if everything else fails, who cares! Plus it has huge potential for emergency bike repair and spontaneous practical jokes.
Survival/Space Blanket – Shock is defined as circulatory collapse caused by physiological trauma. I’m not sure what that means but it sounds serious. Keeping someone warm who’s suffering from shock is one of the fundamental treatments. There’s also a bit of debate over the effectiveness of these blankets, but I say err on the side of caution and pack one – they fold up to about the size of a (low income) wallet. In all fairness it should be noted that I went into shock when I found out a lot of people were actually reading these posts – and treated it successfully with cold beer.
Ziplock Bags – Great for storing all these items. Double or triple them up to make sure dirt and moisture stay out. Also great for storing your severed fingers or busted out teeth (Tooth Fairy redemption rate is anywhere from one to five dollars per tooth depending on what state you live in).
YOU’LL FEEL BETER AS SOON AS YOU PASS OUT
Some Honorable Mentions – Duct Tape: I didn’t include this because it’s just too damn bulky to pack. But is there anything that can’t be fixed with duct tape? Create a joint stabilizer, splint, soft cast, or sado masochistic jock strap – the possibilities are endless.
Cayenne Pepper: Applied directly into a wound it can stop bleeding quickly. It also allegedly improves circulation and lessens pain from swollen or arthritic joints. I’m going to start snorting it immediately.
Triple Antibiotic Ointment: Not a bad thing to carry but again, it gets excluded for the sake of space.
I’m a firm believer in Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. My hope is that carrying a First Aid Kit with me means I’ll never need it. If you decide to assemble your own back country kit try to include small items that offer a big return. Favor things with multiple uses. After all, there’s only so many things you can do with condoms and cigarettes.