Whether I’m going on a week-long trip or just heading out for a day hike, there are several pieces of gear that I always make sure to bring along. My knife, a paracord bracelet, a compass, and plenty of water are just a few items that are always with me on the trail. A first aid kit is another. First aid kits are crucial items in any outdoorsman’s gear and should be brought along on any excursion, no matter the trail length or number of individuals involved. Today we’ll explore a bit of first aid kit basics, in order to get everyone into the habit of keeping one nearby on the trail.

While you can certainly assemble your own first aid kit with various items, you can pick up preassembled kits at any outdoor retailer. These kits—which come in different sizes to accommodate varying trip lengths or number of travelers—come in convenient, water resistant packages and include essential, commonly used first aid items. They can also be easily replenished if you happen to run out of anything.

When considering what you’ll need in your first aid kit, it’s important to include supplies that match your trip plans. For instance, you’ll need to think about how many people will be relying on your first aid kit, as well as the potential risks in the region or along your planned route, how far you’ll be from the nearest medical assistance, and whether or not anyone in your group has particular medical needs. Planning ahead for these factors when preparing your first aid kit can solve potential issues before get out of hand.

Every first aid kit should contain a collection of basic items, which should include the following: a comprehensive first aid manual, bandages (adhesives, athletic tape, etc), basic drugs (aspirin, antibiotic ointment, antacids, sunscreen, etc), and tools (tweezers, small mirror, small knife, etc). If you have the room, you can also add extra items, such as a sling, ACE bandage, thermometer, instant ice pack, or a snake bite kit, to name a few. It’s important to cover the basic items first, though, and then add more if you have the room or the potential need.

I strongly encourage every outdoorsman to take first aid classes, which are offered at several outdoor retailers year-round. Any number of injuries—minor or otherwise—can occur without warning in the outdoors, so being prepared with a first aid kit is important. Being prepared, in this sense, means not only having the necessary items to handle such situations, but also familiarizing yourself with how to use them. Take the tips outlined above to heart and be safe out there, folks!