Kit Construction Philosophy:
Ok, in this part we'll discuss things to think about before starting to assemble our kits. In my way of thinking kits should have a specific design around them based on what the requirements and potential injuries can be. For example, a medic in the Army will carry quite a bit of gear to deal with things like gunshot wounds, traumatic amputations, etc. Things we are unlikely, and hopefully not going to see when we are out on our bikes. You can't carry everything so it's important to try to carry the most pertinent items. Let's dive in.Important Considerations:
To help plot out our kit there are a few starting questions you need to consider: where will you be?, what will you be doing?, who will you be with?, can you carry it?Where Will You Be?:
The question itself is simple but coming up with the answer can be more complicated than it first appears. It's best illustrated with a couple examples. I live a few hundred yards from a regional trauma center that includes a life flight helicopter unit. When I am out riding around town I have to drive past it to get out of my neighborhood. I would say odds are good that at any given intersection there are a number of doctors and nurses waiting in their cars at the lights going to and from work, and quite often there is an ambulance. DRGrifter goes and rides Baja. He's in a foreign country and has reported incidents where they have been six hours from the nearest anything.
Given those two examples, what are the odds DRGrifter needs a more extensive medical kit in Baja than I do riding around town? Do I need a way to stitch up a wound riding around town? Nope. Would a clotting agent, suture kit or a skin stapler be something DRGrifter might be interested in? Yep.
When looking at where you will be, the main point is "How far from professional medical treatment will I be and how long is the response time until help arrives?" This is critical. The further out from civilization you go, and the longer the predicted response time (note I said predicted - nothing is guaranteed - emergency services are delivered best effort
) , the more extensive your kit will need to be.
Not just for trauma items, but boo boos and everything else. The further out you are the more serious any injury or condition becomes. Having a couple days diarrhea and the flu at your house is annoying and bothersome but at least you have your comfy couch and your TV to occupy yourself between bathroom runs. Maybe your mom will stop by to check on you and bring you soup. Having the same thing happen to you 300 miles into the wilderness with limited supplies, a crappy foam mat to lay on and not so great drinking water takes on a new level of seriousness. In other words, everything starts to ratchet up the degree of difficulty it will cause you and the likelihood that something will get worse and not better. Non-fatal injuries and conditions can start to veer into life threatening.
You might be so far out in the bush that you will need to do what's called a "self rescue" for yourself or your buddy. Basically it means that help is not
on the way, and the only way you're getting it is to make it out of wherever you are on your own and find it. But It's also important to note that being far away from help doesn't necessarily depend on distance. Other factors to consider are terrain and communications.
Maybe you are riding two hours outside of town but the terrain or trail you are on would be impassable for an ambulance. If you're 20 miles down the trail and one of the riders in your group gets badly injured what's your plan? Will you call for help? Okay, but what if you don't have cell reception? Do you have a backup method of summoning help like a Spot or In-Reach? That might be something to consider getting if your adventures routinely take you off the beaten path. Being far away from help could have little to nothing to do with distance and everything to do with the fact that you are without a cell signal at the worst possible moment.
Here in the United States and most Western nations medical services are top notch and rescue services are well organized. However that might not be the case when traveling outside of such areas. If you're doing a big trip investigate what the conditions are for such things.
Also consider that rescue services might be busy when you need them. You call in reporting a rider down but unfortunately there was an accident on the highway involving a bus full of passengers. All of the resources are tied up right now. They'll get to you when they can, but until then you have to be prepared to hold your own.
A small rural community will have fewer responders available than a major city but odds are they aren't as busy. If you call them, unless something else is going on, all of them will come to get in on the action.
In a major city it's a bit if a toss up. Someone will come, sooner or later. Generally speaking, your best responses are going to come from the suburbs and medium sized towns with their own hospitals. Which may or may not play into the equation depending on where you are. So as stated, don't plan on a five minute response. Always plan for and assume it might be some time before you see the flashing lights approaching.
Finally, in the equation of where you will be, take account of environmental dangers such as weather, terrain type and nasty critters big and small that you should be wary of. Note that predators also come on two legs so take appropriate precautions to avoid trouble. Also research plants that might be a hazard to you or your bike. Out West they have thorns that will go through your tire. Poison ivy, or its equivalent in other regions, etc. can spoil your trip. Someone might be severely allergic to bee stings. Heat injuries might be a concern or hypothermia. Find out. What Will You Be Doing?
Well obviously you'll be riding a motorcycle for a large portion of the time but what else? Will you also be camping? Maybe when you get to camp you plan to go on a hike or fishing and filet the catch and cook over an open fire. Whatever combination of activities you will be doing, take them into consideration when planning your kit. As stated, you can't carry everything in the world or have the paramedics follow you around in their truck so you're going to have to winnow it down at some point. Especially on a motorcycle with space limitations.
You'll want to do some research on injuries common to the activities you will be engaged in and use that to help you select supplies for your kit. Now a few that come to mind with motorcycling would be things such as a broken arm or shin. Abrasion injuries (road rash). Delving into more serious things, a punctured lung from a broken rib, a head injury, a compound fracture with heavy bleeding. Give consideration to what common injuries and boo boos are for the activities you'll be doing and what is required to treat or stabilize them until professional help can be obtained.
Always being mindful of point number one, where will you be? The supplies needed to stabilize an injury for ten minutes until an ambulance arrives are are a lot less than if you are trying to stabilize the same injury for a three hour wait while the forest rangers locate you.
But don't forget camp. What's something most people do at camp? Play with knives and fire of course! So you'll need to account for minor burns and minor to severe cuts as well. Plus hangovers. (Hint: 2 bags of Pedialyte rehydration powdered drink mix in 1 liter of water.) Who Will You Be With?
There's safety in numbers. Whether walking around New Orleans at 3:00 AM or riding or hiking out in the wilds, the more people you have along the safer you will be as there are more hands to deal with a situation. Now I talked in post one about training, so I'll just reiterate that trained hands are better prepared to be helping hands, but even untrained hands are better than none.
The worst scenario that you can be in, no matter what you are doing, is to be injured and alone. Throw in no supplies or being immobile or separated from them, no communications and a bad injury can become a fatal one. The buddy system. Use it. If nothing else, always let someone know where you're are going and what time you can be expected back if you are off on an adventure. If riding solo I would suggest to you that you keep a cellphone and a small medical kit directly on your person in case you take a tumble and become separated from the bike or are unable to reach it.
So let's say you've got a buddy or two that you're riding with. Great! You need to have a talk before you set out, and preferably not in the driveway two minutes before leaving on the big trip. You need to know what training people have. Do they have a severe allergy or medical condition? Do they take a medication that could be a problem or that a responding medic might need to know about? Where do they keep it? Is there anything you need to know about using it if you have to? Do they have a first aid kit?
Ideally you and your riding buddies should coordinate the exchange of such information well before your ride. If you need to call in for help it would be really beneficial to be able to tell the responding medics that the patient is a diabetic, or that they are allergic to penicillin. Hopefully you've also discussed what you'll generally do in an emergency based on where you will be and what you will be doing. Let everyone in your group know where everyone keeps their medical supplies. It wouldn't hurt to do a little show and tell and review the kit contents with each other.
The time to figure this out is not on the trail when someone dumps it and breaks their leg. Do your homework. Have a plan. If someone invited me to go on a trip with them that involved wildeness or off-road but couldn't be bothered to spend 15-30 minutes going over this stuff, I probably wouldn't go. I'd have to assume things like food, water and fuel were also outside the scope of their concerns or planning capabilities.
Obviously if there is a group of guys or gals that you regularly ride with you can spend more time on this and plan together. This would be especially key on any long term ride or adventure. If you happen to meet up with an impromptu group on the trail and decide to ride together at least point out to the others that you have a first aid kit and where it is.
While we're on the topic of information I'd encourage you to consider doing the following: Print out some emergency info cards and have them laminated. Place one in the pocket of each of your riding jackets and your camp jacket, one more in the tank bag. That way you won't have to bother remembering which jacket it's in or to switch it. If you travel outside English speaking regions print a few in the native language of where you will travel. It could also be useful to print a card with some phrases you can say or point to such as:
I need a doctor.
I need a pharmacy.
Your women. How much for the women?
On the card list the following information:
1. Your Name.
2. Your SSN or National ID Number.
3. Date of Birth.
4. Your Address and Phone Number.
5. Emergency Contact Name and Number. Two is better. Usually a relative who is familiar with your medical history is best.
6. Your Blood Type. If you don't know it you can have your doctor order a test. It's better to know it.
7. Any Existing Conditions You Have. What medications you take for them, dosage and times.
8. Any Allergies, especially to medications. If you have none put the abbreviation NKDA on the card. (No Known Drug Allergies)
9. Name of Your Medical Insurer.
Okay, moving on...Can You Carry It?
It would be nice to have all the supplies to be found in an Advanced Life Support response vehicle, but we can't carry all that. If you're going somewhere with vehicle support then your options are a lot less limited. However on a motorcycle things like C-Collars and Back Boards are probably out of the question. Unless you're on a BMW and can fit them in with your other household goods.
So as we work through these things you want to keep in mind that you are size and weight constrained. In upcoming posts I will go over some motorcycle friendly bags and things but you'll need to begin considering how you might transport your supplies, where you will put them (quick access is key) and how much of your carry capacity you can devote to medical supplies. It's a world of compromises and there is no perfect answer. It can help to sort things into must haves and nice to haves. For example, in my mind a tourniquet is a must have, an air splint is a nice to have, and so on.
If you're using the buddy system or traveling with a group you can certainly split up the supplies between you but if doing so be very careful about how you go about it. In such a scenario I would recommend a small personal trauma kit that always stays with each man. In the event it is needed you use that man's kit to treat him first. If he gets evacced out you still have your personal kit for you should you need it.
You'll also need to decide how you'll split up the supplies. If there is little to no chance that you will be separated then it's probably okay to just split the kit up evenly for the most part. If there is a chance you will be separated for any period then it might be better to setup each man's main kit as independently functional as possible. Keep in mind that any item that requires another item to function should always stay together. A mundane example would be a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. Having the cuff will do you no good if the stethoscope is on the other side of the mountain with your buddy.
Also, when we're talking about splitting up kits, we're talking about a very extensive amount of supplies for multiple people on a multi-day scenario. Under ordinary circumstances don't split up a kit that you use for day riding or a weekend camp out, unless of course due to where you will be and what you will be doing you will have that much gear.
Pro Tip: In an emergency, if someone has to go run for help, make sure that they drop the kit or their part of it with the people staying with the injured person. Easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Don't forget. That is bad.
So now let's talk a little about injuries, or injury classification...Injury Classification:
Classification will help you to begin to sort out what supplies you might need and to organize them when you get them. Supplies for one category should never be mixed in with another, unless they are kept in their own sub-container and clearly labeled. You do not want to be digging through a pile of antacid tablets when you need to find a tourniquet. The way that I classify injuries/conditions is to divide them into three main categories, while taking into account the scope of where we will be, what we will be doing and who we will be with:Existing Conditions:
this is any medical condition you have for which you require medications or other supplies. If you have high blood pressure and take medication for it, or perhaps are a diabetic and need to monitor your insulin, those items fall into this category. These supplies should be kept in their own container and clearly labeled.
One tip here is take twice as much. Say you are planning a three day ride and camp, and you take a daily medication. Bring a weeks worth and keep in two spots. You might drop a pill down the sink, you might lose one bottle, etc.
Please don't travel around with all of your pills loose in a ziplock bag. The police, they don't like that, especially if one of your medications is highly regulated. You can visit your pharmacy and they will print a label for your current prescription and put it on a bottle for you to use for travel. Make sure you keep the info on the travel bottle current as it can tell others what it is and your dosage in case they need to retrieve it for you. Boo Boos:
this is any injury or condition that merely causes discomfort or which does not require any immediate professional medical attention. In other words, non life threatening injuries or conditions. Some examples of boo boos might be an upset stomach, a minor cut sustained while doing something at the camp site, or a sprained ankle. Supplies for dealing with boo boos should be kept in their own container, or in a sub-container if in the main medical kit and clearly labeled. Bear in mind what we discussed earlier, the farther out from help you are, the greater the likelihood that a boo boo can shift to the trauma category.Trauma:
for our purposes trauma is defined as any injury or condition for which you require professional medical attention. Trauma supplies should be in their own container and clearly labeled. When you need these items you need them fast. It pays to further organize the trauma supplies into sub-sections and label them. To that end within the trauma category I would further subdivide things into a few key areas:
Breathing: supplies for restoring and maintaining patient breathing. Such as a CPR mask, or a nasal or oral airway.
Bleeding: supplies for dealing with major bleeding wounds or any wound that would require stitches until such time as you can get to a facility.
Broken: supplies for dealing with broken bones.
Shock: supplies for monitoring patient vitals and to deal with symptoms of shock.
Head and Neck: supplies for dealing with head and neck injuries.
Temperature Injuries: Hyperthermia (heat stroke), Hypothermia (freezing to death). They can kill you.
Disease: this is more for you world travelers and deep wilderness explorers, but if you will be in a region where you can contract a debilitating or life threatening disease/fever, wound infection or parasitic infection, consider it trauma.
Now that all sounds like a lot of gear required, and it might be, but that depends on the factors we first discussed. By way of example, if I'm going camping overnight by myself I have a trauma bag that's about 6x9x4 and a small boo boo bag. They both go in a labeled red dry-bag. I'm at a state park, I have cellphone coverage and there are park rangers and other people about 24/7. I don't need a 25 pound portable hospital backpack.
If I'm riding around town all I really need is a cellphone and breath mints in case I run into any cute nurses. If you told me "Hey pack your bags we're headed to the desert for two weeks!" I'm taking a lot more supplies.
The above listed trauma areas could mean lots of different things depending on what we are doing. Referring to the earlier example of the combat medic, breathing supplies might include items to deal with a sucking chest wound and to perform an emergency tracheotomy. Those items are not likely to be on our list of must haves when motorcycling. When I go to my shooting club I do take supplies with me to deal with a sucking chest wound and a gunshot in case someone has an accident or an unfortunate intersection of lack of common sense combined with inept handling of a firearm. Darwin.Summing Up
This is a lot of information to digest and hopefully it gets you thinking about your needs. Keep in mind that all of the above can change on any given ride or adventure. It always comes back to those first few questions in order to determine more precisely what your medical loadout will be. However, I do think you'll find that there are common items/staples that are generally the core in every kit and which will form the basis for extending your capabilities depending on changing requirements.
Until next time...