A Hiker’s Ultimate Guide To First Aid

Did you know that the Outback comprises 70% of Australia? It means there are plenty of places to get lost or stranded with too few essentials.

A hiker who ventures into the Outback unprepared will face heat and dehydration, if not snakes and spiders. After all, Australia is—half-jokingly—the place where everything can and will kill.

Because of the inherent dangers of Australia’s great outdoors, knowing basic first aid is imperative. Everything from packing the right medical items to learning how to apply pressure to a wound is a matter of life and death.

While not a substitute for more specialized medical care, first aid helps make injuries and diseases far more manageable.

For the avid trekker looking to conquer Australia’s many hiking trails, this ultimate guide to first aid is a must-read before anything else. Be informed about what to do when you need to do it.

Training is the first step

No amount of first aid items will make you prepared if you have no idea how to use them and when.

A tourniquet, for instance, helps reduce blood loss by limiting the blood flow toward the wound or injury.

But if not removed on time, the lack of blood flow can result in tissue necrosis, forcing an amputation to remove the decaying limb. (1)

Getting first aid training is a must, no questions asked. There are two places where you can get it—the Australian Red Cross and accredited training services.

For the former option, visit the official website and look into its plethora of courses, complete with schedules and locations.

Accredited medical training providers like australiawidefirstaid.com.au offer courses, whether you’re a first responder or a civilian, at a discount.

Also, you won’t have to worry about availability, as they provide services in all the states and territories they cover.

Make sure you train with a Nationally Recognised Training team so you learn lifesaving techniques from the best.

A woman has sprained her ankle while hiking, her friend uses the first aid kit to tend to the injury

Build your first aid kit

While there are plenty of first aid kits available commercially, experts recommend building your own.

The kits on the shelves might not carry everything you’ll need to counter the dangers of the trail. Imagine getting a major cut only to realize your kit doesn’t have enough gauze on hand.

Nevertheless, whether off-the-shelf or custom, the American Red Cross advises that your first aid kit must at least include the following items (based on a family of four):

  • Compress dressings
  • Bandages and cloth tapes
  • Antiseptic ointment packets
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Aspirin and other painkillers
  • Emergency blanket
  • Breathing barriers
  • Cold compress packs
  • Non-latex gloves
  • Hydrocortisone packets
  • Gauze bandages
  • Roller bandages
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Non-mercury or non-glass thermometers
  • Triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid manual (2)

As for the quantity and any additional items, your kit will depend on where you’ll go and if you or anyone in your group has a pre-existing condition.

For example, you may need to bring syrup medication for children who can’t swallow tablets or capsules yet. Non-medical items such as single-use raincoats and glowsticks can also go into these kits. (3)

First aid ABCs

A fundamental lesson in most basic first aid courses is the ABC, which stands for ‘Airway, Breathing, and Circulation’. Although there’s still a fourth step, which is D, or ‘Deadly Bleeding or Defibrillation’.

But this is usually left to EMS personnel. Here’s a rundown of the ABC:

  • Airway Make sure the victim has enough room to breathe.
  • Breathing – Confirm that the victim can breathe; if not, perform rescue breathing.
  • Circulation – This step applies when initial rescue breathing doesn’t work, involving chest compressions and CPR. If the victim isn’t at risk of death, confirm their pulse. (4)

In more dangerous situations, two more steps precede the actual ABC—danger, and response. Here’s what you should do:

  • Danger – Clear the area of any dangerous situations as best you can. If not, stand clear and contact first responders to the scene.
  • Response – Assuming the situation is deemed safe, call the victim to determine if they can still speak. Confirm if they can still feel your touch.

While you have an obligation to your buddy who’s too hurt to move, you’re also responsible for your own safety. Avoid making the situation more dangerous than it already is.

Nature photographer on a hiking trip at the Australian outback between dome of rocks with blue sky at the morning light


Exploring the great outdoors shouldn’t come at the cost of a gaping wound or an animal bite. First aid training ensures you get to enjoy the Outback’s sights and return to tell the tale. The enrolment cost of a first aid course is a small price to pay for making sure hiking is a safe activity for everyone.


  1. “Simple measures to reduce tourniquet related deaths include: increased availability, proper training on correct use, dispelling amputation fears and simple but economic redesign”, https://medcraveonline.com/HTIJ/simple-measures-to-reduce-tourniquet-related-deaths-include-increased-availability-proper-training-on-correct-use-dispelling-amputation-fears-and-simple-but-economic-redesign.html
  2. “Make a First Aid Kit”, https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit.html
  3. “First aid kits,” https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/first-aid-kits
  4. “First aid, the recovery position, and CPR”, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153849

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