11 First Aid Tips For The Real World

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Words and pics by Sanny

So you’re out on the trail and experiencing that zen like state of oneness as you waft down the trail following the ebb and flow of that perfect piece of singletrack. All is good with the world until a deceptively stationary tree body checks you into next week and as you lie there in a state of dazed confusion, you notice the blood trickling from an open wound on your arm. Your mates are staring at you in that “should we tell him how bad it looks or will he just guess by our collective blowing of chunks?”, no-one knowing what to do. Face it, if you ride, you or your mates will have an off at some point. Having a first aid kit can mean the difference between a walk back to the car or a call to Mountain Rescue. Here are some ideas of how to plan for the inevitable.

1st aid first sanny singletrack magazine

1: Get Trained Up

First Aid kits are of limited use if you don’t have the knowledge how to use them safely. Do a search online and you will find all manner of courses are available for not a lot of money. Look for a course that focuses on First Aid in an outdoor environment. While workplace courses are available, they often assume a level of kit being available that you simply won’t have out on the trail. A good first aid course will teach you to assess a situation and empower you to make informed decisions to ensure that you or your mates get appropriate help quickly and safely. You’re not a medic nor are you expected to be one.

2: Carry a pencil and waterproof paper.

Why? As the first person on the scene, you can gather vital information that may be of help to the emergency services further down the line. Assuming the casualty is conscious, you can take a note of whether they have any allergies, are they on any form of medication, do they have any pre-existing medical condition, what are their Next of Kin details, when did the incident occur, what happened (leave out the hyperbole of shredding to the power of gnarr before scorpion face-planting, that’s one for the pub later!), when did they last eat, have they taken any pain relief in the meantime.

3: Take cling film

Seriously? You’re kidding right? Err, no actually. Cling film has a number of properties that make it suitable for use I the field. Being airtight and waterproof, it doesn’t soak up blood but keeps moisture in which means it is particularly suitable for burns. While not sterile, it is as good as you are likely to get out on the trail. For awkward areas such as knees, the flex in it means that you can get an effective seal where you might otherwise struggle with a bandage. Another advantage is that you are able to monitor the wound without having to remove it. The only downside is the need to cut a foot long roll in half. An ultra-fine hacksaw is probably best. Wrap the cling film in a freezer bag as this stops it getting damaged while in your bag.

4: Carry a couple of tampons

1st aid tampon singletrack magazine

Stop sniggering, Pike and start paying attention! I’m being serious here. Your little white friend has many uses other than the obvious. Don’t believe me? Read on and I will enlighten you.

Being highly absorbent, an open tampon makes for a useful field dressing. Being sterile while still in the package, it is just as effective as a normal first aid kit dressing. If you have a deep wound, the design means that you can soak up the blood without being invasive with your fingers thus reducing the risk of infection. If you want to go all Bear Ghrylls, the cotton fibres make for great kindling while as a last resort, you can fashion a very basic water filter by jamming the cotton wool between the two sections of plastic and sucking the water. While you are only removing large particles, as an option of last resort, it is better than nothing.

5: Gorilla Tape

gorilla tape 1st aid singletrack magazine

I sometimes feel that this is the cure for everything! As a means of affixing a dressing or cling film, this wundertape is hard to beat. Light, strong and super sticky, it can even be used to fix a puncture!

6: Keep it clean – part one

If you ever have to clean a wound, your aim is to avoid cross contamination. While your hands might look clean, they are a breeding ground for all manner of nasties. Do yourself and your patient / victim a favour and have a couple of pairs of nitrile gloves stashed in your pack in a sandwich bag to keep them clean.  Soft and supple to wear, they are stronger than latex and are more resistant to oil and chemical permeation which also makes them ideal when you are fixing a  broken chain out on the trail as well as being Dr Kildare attending. You could steal a set of Marigolds from the kitchen cupboard – just make sure they are clean. If you don’t know what Marigolds are, they are what the toilet fairy uses to clean your crapper when you find that your “piss chisel” no longer cuts the mustard!

7: Keep it clean – part two

Getting a piece of dirt or worse in your eye can be a wholly unpleasant experience. Carrying a small bottle of eye drops gives you the means to squirt the irritant out using a sterile solution.

8: Keep it clean – part three

1st aid singletrack magazine sanitiser gel

Next time you are in Aldi standing at the till marvelling at the chainsaw you have just acquired from the “Aisle of Surprises”, pick up a small bottle of hand sanitizer gel. They cost less than a quid, weigh nothing and do a great job of cleaning your mucky paws.

9: Don’t be ticked off

I ricinus

Nothing gives you that post ride sinking feeling when you discover a tick somewhere on your person (I’ll ignore the tick in the box joke for now!). Taking a match to it is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Lyme disease can be bloody serious so invest in a tick puller from your local outdoor emporium.

10: Keep it clean – part four


Drinking water safe in the knowledge that it is clean is something that we take for granted. Just turn on a tap and you are laughing. However, out on the trail when your mouth is dryer than an Arabian sandal and you are out of water, your options are limited. Not being one for one’s own “aqua vitae”, chances are that you will seek out a stream to drink from. Why not take chance out of the equation and invest in a water bottle filter that removes all the waterborne nasties so that you won’t end up feeling like you are being turned inside out.

Now watch and be amazed as Sanny is underwhelmed when he tries to turn Coke into water like some crazy Scottish deity.

Can’t see the video? Click here

11: Squirts are for losers


There is little to compare to the feeling of impending despair when caught short with the squirts. At best, it is uncomfortable, at worst, life threatening. Having a pack of Imodium stashed away in your bag along with a couple of rehydration sachets can feel like a bit of a lifesaver. Your riding buddies will thank you for it if nothing else!

So there you go. While not intended to be a comprehensive guide, hopefully these tips will help you when you or your friends decide to do their best Josh Bender impersonation.

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