Common First Aid Treatments Needed by Hikers

First aid treatments 1

By Stephanie McHugh

Hiking is a robust activity that frequently results in injuries. A wide range of injuries are common among hikers. Anyone going on a lengthy hike could benefit from packing basic first aid supplies for the journey. Carry your first aid hiking equipment in a clear plastic bag, to minimize the added weight.

By keeping a handy first aid kit packed and ready to go on your hiking excursions, you don’t have to worry about forgetting something important that could lead to a painful outcome.


First aid treatmentsSunburn avoidance is an important consideration when preparing for a hike. Include sunscreen in your first-aid kit, to protect against painful sunburn. There is more to good sunburn prevention for hikers than wearing a reliable sunscreen, however.

A hat that provides shade for the ears, neck, and face is standard for many hikers. Sunglasses can also be important, depending on where you are hiking and the level of sun exposure on your trail. Clothing provides added protection. Clothes created just for hikers often include UV blockage. Simply wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt can accomplish the same goal.

In case of sunburn, pack burn ointment in your first-aid hiking kit.

Bug Bites

First aid treatments 3Dealing with pesky insects such as gnats, mosquitos, and wasps is a normal part of hiking. If stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, remove the stinger. A cold pack, anti-itch creams, and pain relievers can help with insect bites.

In the event of a severe reaction, such as difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.


First aid treatments 4Painful blisters are commonly suffered by hikers. Moleskin bandages are very effective at helping to prevent blisters and protecting blisters that have developed. Moleskin is a heavy, durable cotton fabric that provides a cushion against painful rubbing. Your first aid kit should include a pin or small knife, to prick the blister. Use an alcohol swab or flame to sterilize the point or edge.

Carefully massage the blister to drain the fluids, keeping the overlying skin cover in place. Apply antibiotic cream before putting on a moleskin bandage. Adding an additional layer of protection with athletic tape is also helpful.

Twisted Ankle

First aid treatments 5The terrain on hikes can become challenging, which is why it’s important to wear hiking boots that protect the ankles. Even with the added support, however, a wrong step can result in a twisted or sprained ankle. If there is swelling or discoloration, immediate first aid treatment is needed.

First, elevate the ankle to at least the height of the chest. Rest for as long as possible. Do not put stress or weight on the ankle. Include an ankle wrap in your first aid kit, to supply pain-relieving stability.

If walking to get medical treatment is unavoidable, create a makeshift splint that supports and protects the ankle. This can be done using the injured person’s hiking boot. Remove the laces from the boot but keep the sprained ankle inside of it. Use the laces but tie them above the boot. In case of this type of injury, it’s also good to pack Aspirin or some other type of pain reliever in your first aid kit.

Exposure to Poisonous Plants

Poisonous Plants - Stinging Nettle
Stinging Nettle

There are often poisonous plants on hiking trails, such as poison ivy and stinging nettles. Prevention is best. Become familiar with the types of poisonous plants you could encounter on your hike.

If you become exposed, wash off the affected area within 10 minutes or as soon as possible, but do not use warm or hot water for rinsing. If water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or alcohol wipe. Clothing, shoes, and anything else that comes into contact with poisonous plants should be washed because it can cause further exposure.

Calamine lotion usually provides relief for the severe redness and itching that can develop. Emergen-C tablets can provide topical relief if applied to the affected area because they contain ascorbic acid.

For more information on identifying poisonous plants, check out a more in-depth article by clicking here. 

Snake Bite

If a snake bites you while on the hiking trail, do not try any of the treatments for snake bite that are widely represented on television. It has been proven, for example, that it is of no help to try to suck out poison, to apply a tourniquet, or to use a suction device. You could make things worse by applying a cold pack.

According to experts, the only effective treatment is a dose of antivenin.

First clean the wound with antiseptic wipes or soap and water and then bring the victim for medical treatment as quickly as possible. If unable to be carried out, have the victim walk slowly without the burden of a pack. Every 15 minutes, mark the edge of swollen areas with an ink pen, which will help a doctor determine the extent of envenomation.


If you suffer scrapes or other types of abrasions on the hiking trail, remove debris as soon as possible by scrubbing the affected area with soap and a gauze pad. This could be painful.

After rinsing, apply antibiotic ointment and a gauze pad held in place with medical tape.


List of First Aid Supplies

This list of first aid items isn’t very long, but bringing recommended supplies can make a huge difference on a hike.

  • Sunscreen
  • Burn ointment
  • Cold pack
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Pain reliever, such as aspirin
  • Moleskin bandages
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Straight pin or small knife
  • Ankle wrap
  • Calamine lotion
  • Emergen-C tablets
  • Ink pen
  • Gauze pad
  • Medical tape
  • Antibiotic Cream
  • Athletic tape

You never know when one of the common hiking injuries will require first aid treatment. Get your first-aid kit packed and ready for your future hikes. Chances are, you’ll be very glad you did.

You can also get your very own copy of Camping for Women’s Camping First Aid Guide which has more in-depth information covering many more scenarios in nature. Check it out by clicking here or on the image below.

Camping First Aid Guide Cover



Multiple Contributor | Website

Stephanie McHugh went on camping vacations every summer when she was growing up in Southeast Texas. The camping bug stuck. Her own family camps each year, and hiking is enjoyed year-round. The Texas Hill Country on the Frio River is one of many favorite destinations. Stephanie is already living the dream of writing for a living, as her newspaper-editor lover-of-camping dad did. The next dream is to live closer to scenic, hilly hiking trails. She currently lives in the flatlands of Houston, Texas.

12 thoughts on “Common First Aid Treatments Needed by Hikers

  • June 12, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Very well detailed. These are indeed some common pitfalls of a hiker. The twisted ankle is always such a pain, almost every hike – some one ends up getting it. My biggest fear is snake bites. Sunburns – I have just gotten used to them. No matter how hard I try, I come back with a peeled nose.

  • June 10, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    These tips are so effective and useful for hiking. As someone who loves to go hiking in Africa, you have to take precautions. I dread bug bites and twisted ankles, the pain will be unbearable.

  • June 10, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I love that one of the first tips is to carry supplies in a clear plastic bag to eliminate weight. I tend to get sucked into cute bags for various items and the weight does add up quick. Blisters are the worst! I wasn’t aware of the advantages of Moleskin bandages and I’m adding them to my packing list. Also great advice to cover it with athletic tape

  • June 10, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Now that we can locally travel again around Victoria, which includes hiking, fishing, etc., we can start prepping for our gear and include basic first aid kits. Thanks for your recommendations and the list. It is better to be prepared than sorry.

  • June 9, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Twisted ankle reminded me of a business trip way back for two weeks to the Southern part of India. On the first day I twisted my ankle and then was at a loss whether to continue or come back to my hometown, it was sheer determination that I continued limping all the way. But when on a hike or a holiday also anything can happen. So it is always desirable to be prepared. This is a great list to ensure that we are prepared for the worst.

  • June 9, 2020 at 5:39 am

    A very relevant article, I am particularly happy that I came across the suggestion of moleskin bandages for I often suffer from blisters in my hikes. Hats, as mentioned by you, are also a must to prevent the sun from burning the neck and face. I think I will take up your suggestion of antivenin as well.

  • June 8, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    This is a good post about things to keep in your first aid kit. When hiking or travelling. Good tip about planning for “after bite” cream. Moleskin has helped me several times to keep going when I am out and can’t change shoes. We have been lucky to miss snakes when we travelled. I did not know that you could make bites worse with a cold pack! I like to be prepared. So would want to have a fully stocked first aid kit … just in case!

  • June 8, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    I have a tendency to twist my ankle a lot, so I always make sure to carry a painkiller and a crepe bandage in case of emergencies. I should make it a point to carry sunscreen, but I tend to forget it often :(. Great tips!

  • June 8, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    I’m a newbie hiker, so I appreciate the advice in this post. I always get blisters on long walks, so it’s good to know about using moleskin. Scary to think about potential snake bites, but of course it’s possible depending on where you hike!

  • October 2, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    So important! Good tips!

    The only time I needed first aid was when I was hiking Enchanted Rock with my husband about ten years ago. We’d never done that hike before and I underestimated how long of a hike it would be.

    I do this cute thing where if I don’t eat often enough I get really weak. On our way down I took a step wrong and stumbled a little bit, cutting my ankle and wrist. The stumble was a bad combination with my lack of food and I passed out on the side of the Rock. Fortunately there was another group of hikers within hearing distance that had a granola bar for me to eat.

    So, while it may not seen like a first aid item, high protein snacks are a must for me when I hike!

    • October 2, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing that story Noel. It certainly doesn’t take much for things to go wrong and it’s lucky you had other people nearby to help.


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