When Every Ounce Counts

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We’ve already talked about how to make a lightweight first-aid kit, but what about an ultralight first-aid kit? What first-aid equipment should you carry when every ounce counts? Today, I’m going to show you how to build a first-aid kit that weighs less than 2 ounces, but still has solid capability. Sound impossible? I’ll prove you wrong! Let’s get into it.

1902505The first point I want to make about this specific first-aid kit is that it is designed to be a part of a backpacking setup (or even a bug-out bag). A kit this small obviously won’t make a very good stand-alone first-aid kit. If you’re looking for afirst-aid kit to keep in your vehicle for example, this isn’t going to cut it. For a good, lightweight, yet very capable first-aid kit check out the unflinchable.com Core First-Aid kit. That being said, when you’re a hardcore ultralight enthusiast and every little ounce makes a difference, you can still put together a pretty decent first-aid kit to include in your gear bag.

As a side note, remember that training is particularly important when you’re not packing much equipment. You need to know how to improvise with items from your environment, and that knowledge only comes with good training and experience!

Ready to get into the guts of an ultralight first-aid kit? When every ounce counts, here’s what you need…


 Ultralight First-Aid Kit ContentsAs you can see in the photo, there are a lot of items packed into this tiny first-aid kit! It weighs just under 2 ounces and measures about 4.5” x 3” x 1”. It is roughly the size of an Altoids tin (just a little longer). Let’s go through the items in this kit one by one:

1 Gauze Pad (4”x4”) – You can tear this up into smaller pieces to make band-aids or use it as a dressing on a larger wound. If you have an major injury, you’ll have to plan on using clothing or other items in your backpack to stop the bleeding. Obviously that won’t be as ideal as using proper gauze, but remember that every ounce counts! The ability to improvise with sub-optimal gear is a necessity when you’re only packing an ultralight first-aid kit such as this one.

1 Roll of Duct Tape (approximately 1 yd) – You can use the duct tape to hold gauze in place on a wound, or tear it up to make butterfly bandages. It is also useful when securing improvised splints.

2 Safety Pins – These have a couple of important uses. First, they can be used to secure a sling that is made out of a piece of clothing or a bandanna. Second, they can also be used to help dig out splinters. Obviously tweezers would be better, but we’re trying to keep this kit as light as possible and that means that versatile items trump “ideal” items.

2 Nitrile Gloves – You may decide to leave gloves out of your kit, but I include them because you may end up treating someone who has a disease that you don’t want to catch. They are relatively bulky however, and you could choose to leave them out.

4 Antibiotic Ointment Packets – Keeping your wounds free from infection is very important!

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1 Hydrocortisone Cream Packet – Used to treat skin irritations from insect bites as well as rashes from things like poison ivy.

3 Diphenhydramine Pills – Commonly known as Benadryl, this drug is used to treat allergic reactions. It can also be useful as a sleeping aid.

1 Packet of Meclizine (2 pills) – This drug can be used to treat nausea.

2 Packets of Aspirin (4 pills) – Aspirin is used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. It can also be used as a mild blood thinner to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

2 Loperamide Pills – This medicine can be used to treat diarrhea.

2 Ibuprofen Packets (4 pills) – Ibuprofen is used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation.


When you are making an ultralight kit, you want to focus on things like medicines rather than trauma supplies. Most trauma supplies can be improvised in a pinch (e.g. using a t-shirt to sling an injured arm), whereas you can’t realistically improvise ibuprofen or diphenhydramine. Sure, there are a lot of natural remedies out there, but depending on your environment, you may not have access to the natural resources that you need.

Altoids Tin First-Aid KitAs I said earlier, training is especially important to have when you’re only carrying a tiny first-aid kit like this. If you don’t know how to improvise a tourniquet for example, you should probably carry one! The key point to remember when packing light is that knowledge weighs nothing!

Another note about making an ultralight first-aid kit is that you should think about other things in your backpack that could be used in a first-aid application. For example, a lot of backpackers will carry something like a bandanna or a shemagh. These could both be used to stop bleeding, bandage a wound, sling an injured arm, or act as a tourniquet or pressure dressing. Having the “ideal” piece of gear is best, but you have to balance the likeliness of an injury with the weight and space that specific gear will take up.

What do you carry in your ultralight first-aid kit? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter!


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