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First Aid on the Bike

A first aid kit that bikes with you must be light and compact. So it should cover only the basics -- stuff to get you back to the car without bleeding all over, and stuff that may keep you from aborting the ride.

Biking backpack with first aid supplies in the pocket I don't want to cancel a ride because my biking buddy cut his elbow. Or because he's got diarrhea. Or a headache. So I store some "basics" in my CamelBak. They're always there. If the ride is long enough to warrant the backpack, I have the first aid supplies with me. If it's a quick half-a-water-bottle ride, I leave the backpack (and the first aid kit) at the car.

I use one side-pocket of my CamelBak to hold first aid supplies. (The other side-pocket is for riding glasses.)

I store the first aid supplies in half-height zip-lock baggies. The bags protect my supplies against moisture and vibration wear-and-tear.

One bag contains major dressing supplies, one is for bandaids and prep pads, and a third is for medication.

Half-size ziplocks are GREAT for storing supplies

Dressing materials in my pack For coverage of massive scrapes, my dressing bag contains a 4-inch kling roll gauze, two feet of tube gauze, and three large (4-inch) non-stick pads.
To hold a dressing firmly in place (while packing minimal weight along with me), I like self-adhering elastic wrap (Coban). It weighs almost nothing, sticks to itself to keep a dressing secure, and (if you don't get it all bloody) can be re-used.

Coban wrap -- very useful stuff!

Various bandages In another bag I keep one giant bandage, several standard plastic bandaid strips, two fingertip bandages, three knuckle bandages, and four butterfly wound closures.

For wound cleaning, I have two individually packaged benzalkonium chloride towelettes. (These also clean potential poison ivy oil.) I have two insect sting relief pads, which are also useful for stinging nettle. And I have a tiny packet of hydrocortisone, which I probably don't need.

In the medication bag, I keep two 2-pill doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol). I pack one full anti-inflammatory dose of ibuprofen (four 200 mg pills), which is good for two pain relieving doses (two 200 mg pills). I have a packet of two aspirin.

In case diarrhea threatens, I have two Immodium (loperamide 2 mg) pills. Because I'm a doc, I pack a Compazine 10 mg pill for nausea. You could use over-the-counter meclizine 25 mg (Bonine or Dramamine II) -- it works for mild nausea.

My drug stash

Hypothermia supplies I bike all winter long. Not on roads. Up in the brush, snow and mud. And in the summer, I'm in Utah's high altitudes, where it can turn cold and nasty in a hurry. So I pack hypothermia gear. The goal is not just to stay warm on the trail; it's to stay alive if I'm lying on the trail with a broken leg.

So, in the bottom of my main CamelBak compartment, I always have a cheap throwaway rain poncho, a foil hypothermia blanket, and a Powerbar.

And that's my on-the-trail first aid gear. It adds almost no weight -- the Powerbar weighs more than the rest of the first aid supplies put together. Back in the motel, my overnight bag has a more extensive first aid supplies, so I can do after-trail wound care -- and replace what I've used from my backpack without hunting for a drugstore!

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