Wednesday, 28 November 2018

First Aid Kits

First off apologies for all the anacronyms to follow, it may seem a bit like alphabet spaghetti but you'll soon come to know these terms as if they were the first words you learned.

I've been training in first aid since I was 12 when I first learned the basics as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, after school I've maintained this with regular refresher courses on First Aid in the Workplace.

I have several First Aid kits that I maintain, each car we have has a small kit similar to what I pack when hiking or camping, my car is also used for my work so has a larger kit to account for the different risks and the largest is at home that has additional equipment not practical for the other kits.  

So to keep things simple lets discuss what should you have in an individual first aid kit (I.F.A.K.) because let’s be honest, there are many pre packed first aid kits out there to choose from.

The main fault with pre packed I.F.A.K. is they purposefully omit products in order to stay within a certain price point.

My training with St Johns Ambulance has always revolved around the traditional Airway, Breathing, Circulation (A.B.C.) system of casualty prioritisation.

And for 99.9% of injuries this is fine but for my work in construction and time spent outdoors for bushcraft using potentially lethal tools the military medics M.A.R.C.H. system is more relevant as major blood loss is most likely the main risk in an emergency situation;

M. Massive Hemorrhage - most first aid focusses on breathing and circulating air until help arrives but if you're isolated or the casualty has a massive blood loss wound you need to prevent blood loss in order to be able to then circulate it and the vital oxygen it carries.

A. Airway - as with regular first aid ensure the airways are unobstructed. 

R. Respiration - check if the casualty is breathing, if not begin Cardio, Pulmonary, Resuscitation (C.P.R.).

C. Circulation - traditionally cuts and wounds are placed after breathing as they are generally non life threatening, however we've already discussed that a major bleed is our start point so this is for less serious non arterial wounds that are easily bandaged.

H. Hypothermia / Heat Exhaustion - most patients will go into shock and if you're in an isolated location prolonged exposure to the elements can cause the casualty to quickly deteriorate.

Suggested items;

Massive Hemorrhage:

Gauze - at least two large dressings to plug a sizeable massive bleed, it can be bulky but its cheap and could be a life saver, if you can also have a tourniquet to slow most extremity bleeds.


Face Shield - you've cleared the casualty's airway but if it was full of blood and vomit do you want to put your mouth anywhere near it? These are small and cheap and in my opinion everyone should have one. There is more complex but specialist equipment but as I'm not trained in its use I don't want to do more harm than good.


C.P.R. Air Bags can help but I don't pack them generally due to their bulky nature and equipment for dealing with collapsed lungs etc is beyond my level but is something to consider. 


A good selection of bandages, dressings and tape of various sizes for general patch ups.

Hypothermia / Heat exhaustion:

This one is more of an initiative test, try to provide shelter from the elements and mitigate symptoms as best as possible with whatever is available.

Now many pre packed I.F.A.K. will have useful items that you should also consider such as alcohol wipes, antiseptic creams, latex gloves, cotton pads, tweezers, safety pins, scissors etc.

A big risk at my work or when camping for practicing bushcraft is burns so I also pack common clear plastic food wrap, if you wrap the burn area it prevents infection, fluid loss, is non stick unlike traditional bandages and is see through so medical professionals can assess the wound before removing it.

Eyewash is another essential to flush debris or harmful substances from a casualties eyes, little one use bottles are compact and inexpensive.

Whilst tweezers can be used for removing splinters etc, its a good idea to also pack a specialist tick removal tool, takes up very little space and costs pennies, if you're going to be outdoors for a while pack one.

Only medical professionals can legally prescribe and administer medicines, but if you're paddleless up the proverbial creek some common medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for reducing fever and pain relief together with some aspirin and antibiotics could be very handy indeed... 

Hopefully whatever you pack you'll never have to use but its far better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it 

Take care


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Time to Act

How we perceive time is relevant, when we're children time seems to pass so slowly, school will never end and car journeys last forever!

Once we're adults and we start families of our own time seems to speed up as we watch our children grow and see our parents and grandparents age

Often you will hear elderly people talk about how fast time has passed by in the blink of an eye, how the world is almost unrecognisable

This may be because when we have all our lives in front of us we don't feel it's constraints and feel free to do as we please, as our time becomes more limited it focuses us on tasks at hand

Complacency like this is perfectly fine and natural in children, after all mum and dad will fix everything and make it alright

But if we're not properly equipped with the skills, equipment and supplies, when it goes wrong we may not be able to make amends...

So stop putting things off until tomorrow, and start preparing and practicing today, to help you beat whatever tomorrow may bring

Take care


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Char cloth

There are many natural tinder sources but when you're out camping or if in an emergency situation you may not be able to find suitable materials so its a good idea to have a store of ready made tinder in your supplies

Char cloth is a great tinder source to accept a spark to produce a smouldering ember for your fire starting needs that has been used for centuries, is very easy to make, and the only materials you require are old cotton rag cloth

As we know from the principles of fire we need fuel, heat and oxygen to create a fire

So to make char cloth, our cotton is the fuel and we want to heat it but starve it of oxygen so the cloth smolders but doesn't ignite and be destroyed by fire

I made this video showing the process of making your own char cloth on YouTube

Traditionally flint and steel would've been how you produced the spark but nowadays many people use the simpler and more effective ferrocerium "ferro" rods as I did

Small versions of which are in gas lighters so a cheap disposable lighter that has no gas can still be of use in an emergency

The great thing about char cloth is you are using your fire to create the materials for your next fire

Simply cut your cotton to fit whatever metal container you're going to use, this container should have a lid that is close fitting but not airtight as the cotton will emit gases as it chars and we want to allow them to escape, I use an old altoids mints tin

Then place this container on the side of your fire, it will take about ten minutes to fully char the cloth, as this happens you will see the gas venting from your container

Once you can no longer see any venting remove from the fire and allow to cool, if you open the container too soon the introduction of oxygen to the still hot material could cause it to ignite

After a couple of minutes it should be safe to open your container and inspect your handiwork without destroying it

This is a great way to make use of torn clothing that you might otherwise have thrown away to create a very handy tinder

Take care


Monday, 5 November 2018

Principles of Fire

You've got your shelter from the elements made, and hopefully there's a nearby water source

But to keep yourself warm, to cook and to purify that water you're going to need a fire
In order to get fire you need three things;

1. Oxygen - luckily this is all around us so you've got that covered

2. Fuel - dry combustible material, again nature has your back here as there are many natural tinders all you have to do is know what ones are common where you live

3. Heat - this can be generated by friction when you rapidly move two objects together, focusing sunlight with a lens or a spark from a fire steel etc etc

Ideally you should practise as many different ways of starting a fire as you can because when you're in an emergency situation you don't know what materials you'll have at hand to work with but a good place to start is a ferrocerium rod

These readily give showers of sparks at 3000°C that will ignite suitable tinder with ease and they're able to work in extreme conditions

So get out there and practice its great fun and it could save you life one day

Take care

Camping Tick List

The Sun is out and many people will be heading outdoors for camping trips or other activities but its a good idea to do a little preparation...