By Suzanne Glover
courtesy of Between the Spokes
Many people traveling with a smaller mode of transportation are forced to travel light, and so are stuck cutting out many things. One of the things that inevitably ends up cut is the first-aid kit. With 15 years of cumulative experience in the field and the hospital as a paramedic and 14 years backpacking, I know how important it is to have a kit on hand. Let’s go over what you REALLY need for everyday travel on your motorcycle.
Start with Band-Aids and 4×4 gauze pads, which will cover the basics from cuts to large scrapes. Add some athletic tape to secure the 4x4s or anything else. You can also use duct tape for this, but it shouldn’t be used for long periods of time. In backpacking, duct tape is used as a quick fix for blisters, but it is wise to later replace it with moleskin. Duct tape will usually rip off a layer of skin when removed, so be prepared for that.
I recommend a Swiss Army knife, as it carries a very useful tool – tweezers – and more so you have all your tiny tool bases covered. Pack some Bacitracin ointment for minor burns and Aquaphor (or some variation, such as Bag Balm) for chapped lips – or chapped anything, for that matter. Bring uncoated aspirin, not necessarily for pain, but for any cardiac-related needs that pop up. For pain, pack any type of NSAID. I prefer ibuprofen but naproxen is fine, or something else from that same group. Load up a little Benadryl for any possible allergic reactions and some of those little alcohol pad packets – the simplest disinfectant out there.
Stuff in a few pairs of non-latex gloves. You can get these at any grocery or auto parts store and they’re handy for many things, like fixing your motorcycle without getting your hands dirty while on the way to work. They also prevent you from contaminating a wound as well as prevent you from getting cooties from somebody – and yes, cooties is a technical term. If you’re going to go all out to avoid cross-contamination, you’ll want a pocket mask/face shield. In the event you need to perform rescue breathing or CPR, you really don’t want to be swapping spit with the person you’re trying to save. When situations like these go down, they can be messy, and the last thing you want to think of is getting an infectious disease, especially if you don’t know the other person.
These 12 items – which I consider the absolute bare essentials – should all fit in a small pouch or case. You can personalize your own list by adding things that are specific to you, such as an EpiPen, if you’re so prescribed. Women can add items such as Pamprin or Midol. Anything else can pretty much be MacGyvered, such as making tourniquets out of t-shirts or crafting splints from tree branches. You get the picture. I’m sure some reader is already contemplating a surgical use for a ballpoint pen! Add at your discretion, but heed my recommendation not to skip anything on the list.
Additionally, you may want to take a first-aid class. This can be highly beneficial in that you would understand the mechanics of injuries and be able to treat them appropriately with whatever you had on hand. It would also help you decide if you wanted additional items in your kit. Knowledge can be the best tool in your first-aid kit, and better still, knowledge easily fits into any small space!
As a final note, I would like to point out that the list would change slightly for a longer road trip. In this case, you would want to add things such as an extra prescription of your medication in case you lose your bottle of blood pressure pills, and definitely a copy of your eyeglasses prescription for those of us who are myopic. This is a lifesaver when you lose a lens at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or step on your glasses leaving a bar in Myrtle Beach during Bike Week. I would also, in this case, bulk up on the 4x4s and add some roll gauze to the package. Your mini-pharmacy should also include Imodium AD, Tums, Zantac (also great for allergic reactions in conjunction with Benadryl) and Pepto-Bismol for any tummy troubles.
Lastly, good luck, drive safely and drive happy!
Suzanne Glover is a former Prince William County EMT and current nurse in Fairfax County. This article first appeared in and is courtesy of Between the Spokes, the monthly magazine of the BMW Bikers of Metropolitan Washington, a social motorcycle riding club. More information is available at www.bmwbmw.org.