Page Updated: Jan 2020
Emergency first aid kits are essential on all African hunting expeditions, even on a ranch hunt in South Africa. Not only are the 'normal' health hazards like heart attack, diabetic crises, anaphylactic shock, etc all possible events, you have the added into the mix - possible hazards from firearms, dangerous African game which includes plains game, remote unfamiliar terrain, lack of close top quality medical help...the list goes on.
Most African hunters will read in their hunt paperwork that their hunt outfitter provides a 'comprehensive' first aid kit in camp and in the hunting truck, so they will generally pack a small commercially produced first aid pouch of band-aids, blister pads, aspirins with other bits and bobs and trust to luck that nothing serious will happen.
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Don't forget you can determine the quality of your PH or outfitter by the importance he gives to his first aid kit. However, even when you get 100% satisfactory answers to your first aid questions, there could emergency situations in the African bush where you alone will need to act to save a life.
You could buy a pre-made first aid kit but they are all pretty useless unless you know what to do and how the components work.
Some comprehensive wilderness emergency first aid kits can be pretty big and heavy which is not ideal when hunting in Africa - you do not want to be lugging a ton of possibly unnecessary stuff in the field. There are some kits that breakdown into smaller pouches of items for carrying in the field.
Pay attention to the contents listed and their quality and quantity - with some kits you could practically do heart surgery in the bush while others may just provide a bit of gauze and 3 Q-tips! Most manufacturers make a range of kit sizes suitable for different emergency scenarios, so if you are going to buy one, make sure you get one with enough supplies for yourself and others in your party and the contents are suitable for your level of knowledge and your hunt location.
Once you've got your pre-made first aid kit, it is a good idea to lay everything out, examine the items and pack it again so you know exactly what you have and where to lay your hand on an item quickly. Don't break open any sterile packs though. You might want to split the contents into a handy pouch to take with you while hunting, a pack that can be left in your day bag on the truck and other stuff to remain in camp.
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight and Watertight Medical Kit 9 delivers quick and effective care for small groups on short outings. It comes with two-stage waterproofing, inner DryFlex bags and an outer seam-sealed siliconized nylon bag with water-resistant zipper to keep your first aid supplies safe and dry. This 12-ounce kit can be stashed in a pocket or backpack for first aid care for groups of up to four people on trips of up to four days. Includes sterile bandages, bleeding and wound care, blister/burn care, fracture/sprain care, common medications and essential tools, all contained in a high-visibility kit bag. Buy Now
These Adventure Ultralight and Watertight Medical Kits come in 4 different sizes, including the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight 5 for 1 person for 1-2 days.
As an hunter in Africa, it is generally far better to build your own first aid kit to suit your specific requirements...
Firstly on an African hunt, a medical emergency can happen anywhere - on the way to camp, in camp and in the truck when someone has forgotten to make their rifle safe, and of course when you are out in the bush on foot some distance from the hunting truck and hunting camp. So your first response aid items should be with you at all times carried in a pouch on your belt or in a backpack.
The most practical carry-with first-aid pouches are those designed for military personel. Look for ones that are not too big or become too bulky when filled. Around 8" x 2.5" x 5" is adequate. Choose a rugged pouch that opens easily without fumbling and folds open giving you a clear view and easy access to your equipment.
It is a good idea to have 2 pouches...
This Condor Rip-Away EMT Pouch has a tri-fold design for easy access for the items which can be arranged in pockets and elastic loops. It has easy pull zippers and cinch buckle, Molle attachments and velcro for easy attachment to you or your backpack. 8" x 3.5" x 6". This is just the pouch without contents - you add your own. Buy Now
First aid pouches may also be bought with first aid contents. Always check the list of contents to decide whether they are what you need. The US Army IFAK has quite 'advanced' first aid contents.
Many African hunters use a Camelbak in the bush for hydration on the go. They are also useful for storing your first aid pouch if you don't like having too many things hanging on you while you are hunting.
The Ambush Camelbak is a popular design for hunters because it is slim, lightweight and compact. Apart from the 3 litre water reservoir, it has external fill access for quick refills without removing pack. There are side-release shoulder straps for rapid removal, multiple drink tube exit ports for routing drink tube over your shoulder or under your arm, plus top and bottom external zip pockets to hold your first aid pouch and other essentials. Buy Now
There are really only 2 important items to carry on your person in the African bush...The rest can stay in an IFAK pouch in your day bag on the hunting truck. If a serious emergency occurs, the truck can be radioed to come quickly or a person can usually be despatched back to the truck for the full first aid kit, whichever is judged to be faster. The truck may have to come cross-country to reach you which may be slow and difficult especially as the driver will usually be alone with no one to slash a path through. However you should have enough CPR expertise and kit (plus your hunting knife or multi-tool to cut clothing) with you to immediately sustain the life of an injured person until help does arrive.
These come in a 4", 6" or 12" width sizes and are sometimes known as 'Emergency Bandages' or 'Jerusalem Bandages'. They are a hugely versatile piece of kit used to staunch bleeding from wounds caused by traumatic injuries - in the case of a hunter, these may be gunshot wounds and animal gorings. A single Israeli bandage has a number of useful features - a non-stick wound pad on elasticated bandage that conforms easily to all body areas, a pressure applicator bar to provide instant pressure to slow bleeding and a closure bar to fix the bandage in place (no pins or tape needed). It can also be adapted to immobilise and splint a limb and as a tourniquet if necessary.
The 4" and 6" bandage sizes are ideal for any limb or smaller body wounds. In addition to the single pad bandages, they can be bought in a pack with a second loose or mobile pad which is very handy for covering entry and exit gunshot wounds or stuffing into a gaping wound. The 12" bandage is designed for abdominal wounds with an additional moist seal to cover any exposed organs.
The application of the bandage is simple, even for someone without any medical experience. Even an injured person could apply it single-handedly to his other arm. Cleverly, the tail of the bandage is hitched into the roll, detaching as you bind the wound, so when all your fingers turn into thumbs, the roll can't run away into the dirt.
Which size Israeli bandage to take hunting in Africa? Ideally take both sizes for different wound sizes but you may find the 4" easier to pack (even though you can reduce the amount of gauze, regular bandages and tape you carry in the bush). As the applied pressure from a 6" bandage is spread over a larger area it could be slower to take effect on a smaller wound. Also if you have a couple of 4" bandages you could apply them both, overlapping slightly, to a larger wound.
Here is a 4" Israeli bandage with 2 pads. Buy Now
This is the next essential item to carry with you in the bush to further control traumatic bleeding.
It is a soft, pliable gauze roll which is impregnated with kaolin which promotes coagulation. The 'Z-Fold' makes it easier to pack into a wound without rolling away and getting contaminated. Buy Now
Another brand of hemostatic dressings is Celox Z-Fold Gauze which comes in varying lengths.
A word on tampons, sanitary pads and diapers...
Seems a lot of hunters carry a tampon or sanitary pad in case they have to cope with a gunshot wound. Why? Tampons are designed to expand and absorb menstrual flow. Sanitary pads or diapers do not expand - they just absorb and wick away menstrual flow or urine. Sounds great - stuff a tampon or pad into a ballistic wound and the bleeding will stop...except it will not - a tampon or pad is not designed to stop bleeding - it just soaks it up. Even the large size tampons with applicators for extra heavy flow will not be big enough to stop up a large gunshot wound and stop bleeding.
The only way to control a large traumatic haemorrhage is to pack the wound tightly with Quikclot gauze or, failing that, any large roll of gauze (a wound may take more than 12 feet of gauze) or even a cotton T shirt, and apply pressure. Pressure will work to minimize the blood leaking from damaged blood vessels and, hopefully, start the clotting process. The fibres of the gauze pack will provide a large surface area for the now sticky blood to clot further, as long as the damaged area is kept immobile.
You could manage without the following things but they make life easier and offer you some protection against possible bodily fluid infections.
You might like to toss a few medical examination gloves in your carry-with first aid kit. Sterility is not a prime issue at this stage of an emergency, so the gloves need not be the skintight sterile surgical type. Do get a slightly larger size than your usual glove size as they can be a struggle to get on with sweaty hands. If you are allergic to latex or corn starch powder get Non-Latex & Powder-Free Exam Gloves
If you have to carry out CPR in the bush, an emergency CPR ventilation mask is compact and much simpler to use than an just an airway with a plastic sheet shield. It has a one-way valve, filter and provides an air-tight seal with the face allowing ventilation through both the mouth and nose. There are numerous pocket adult CPR masks available but the Laerdal Pocket Mask CPR Barrier Device is one of the better quality ones. Buy Now
If you have a medical condition, don't forget to add your important personal medications to your carry-with first aid pouch. These may include diabetic medication, extra sugar/glucose, heart or blood pressure meds, pain killers, antiobiotics, anti-diarrhoeal tabs and an epipen if necessary.
Depending on your specific hunt scenario and location and if you are going to carry a backpack, such as the Camelbak for hydration, the following items may be of use in the bush. As an example, say you are 10 miles from the truck tracking a wounded buffalo in the late aternoon and your PH gets gored or shot and sustains serious traumatic injury... Assuming you have done your best to stabilise the injured person with your Israeli bandage and Quikclot and called for help, you could be in for a quite a long wait in the dark. You will need to turn your attention to light, warmth and protection of your group with some basic survival items.
Though this list looks scarily long, all these items are lightweight and compact.
This pouch could be left in the hunting truck or back at camp, depending on your hunt plan for the day. The items are useful for injuries but not crucial to save a life if you've deployed your Israeli bandage and/or Quikclot correctly.
A couple of packets of H&H Compressed Gauze which expand to 4"x12' and is lightweight, strong and sterile. It can be used to pack a wound or wrap round a wound as a bandage for absorption and compression.
The compressed Military Cravat Triangular Muslin Bandage can be used as a sling, to secure a splint, as a pressure dressing, tourniquet or chest bandage. It comes with 2 heavy duty safety pins.
Burn injuries are not uncommon in a hunting camp, especially wilderness camps that use fires to heat drums of hot water for showers.
The Water-Jel Military Burn Dressing is designed to seal a burn from further contamination, cool the burn site and relieve pain by heat transfer into the gel. The fluids on the burn site cannot soak into the dressing nor can they evaporate through them. Three sizes available to cover different size body areas.
Antibacterial Moist Wipes are good for cleaning your hands at any time but especially when used before you attend to a wound on yourself or anyone else.
A good pair of first aid tweezers can be used to remove debris from wounds such as splinters, glass and dirt. They can also be used to remove bee stings and ticks.
Rather than tweezers, you could use a tick removal tool such as Tick Key which handles ticks of all sizes. Put the opening over the body of tick, slide it up to the head and lift. The entire tick is removed, including the head. The idea is to lift not twist the tick off.
Take a few Alcohol Swabs to clean and prevent infection in minor cuts and scrapes, as well as cleaning an injection site. Despite sealed packaging, these pads can dry out, so get some new ones for each safari.
Rather than take a few blister pads to cover them, learn more about blister prevention with the right footwear and low friction patches and tape.
Steri-Strip Reinforced Skin Closures are a must-have for cuts which look like they need stitching. They are placed over a cut, drawing the edges together. They do not adhere too well if there is a lot of bleeding, so dry the sides of the wound before applying the steri-strips at right-angles to the cut.
More than anything, relieving debilitating tooth pain is the priority. Along with taking simple pain killers like Ibuprofen, the DenTek Instant Oral Pain Relief Kit comes with a bottle of benzocaine and 50 applicators to reach the painful tooth area which is then numbed giving temporary pain relief. Do not use this product if you are allergic any of the ingredients of benzocaine and check first with your doctor if you are on any other medication which may interact with it.
If you need to temporarily fix a broken crown or lost filling, you may the Adventure Dental Medic Kit (2 Pack) which contains amongst other things, dental cavity material and dental wax which you can apply to the cavity.
With any luck you will not need to use most of these emergency first aid items on your African hunts. So as you pack for your next hunt, always check the expiry dates and whether the packages of sterile items are still intact.