Winter downtime: now is the season for dry-docked boats and trailer maintenance, but it’s also an ideal opportunity to review your first aid kit and/or the emergency items you bring for a day on the water.
The ACE Basin NERR recently hosted Longleaf Wilderness Medicine for a two-day introduction to wilderness first aid, which a number of SCDNR biologists and staff attended. Instructors Katie and Jason defined “wilderness” as anywhere remote enough that emergency medical care would take an hour or more to reach you. By that definition, many of South Carolina’s barrier islands and SCDNR-managed properties where our staff work are wilderness. But regardless of how far from civilization you like to boat, fish, or explore, everyone can benefit from bringing the right supplies into the outdoors.
Every boat in South Carolina is legally required to carry life jackets, a fire extinguisher, navigation lights, flares, and bells/whistle. These items are mandated for good reason, as all are life-saving under emergency circumstances.
Consider the below a list of the non-required essentials – some of the top items our biologists and educators rely on when they head into the field for a day netting fish, counting sea turtle nests or managing properties.
- Sunscreen: Sun protection is one of the most critical components for outdoor lovers to consider on our coast. Now is a good time to check the expiration dates on your sunscreen.
- Sunglasses/hat/buff: See above – provide extra protection to your sensitive face and neck.
- Extra water: Dehydration is a major concern under the summer sun.
- Extra snacks: Hangry-ness can lead to poor decisions. It takes no effort to throw an extra energy bar in your bag, but you’ll be glad you did it if you end up waylaid in a tidal creek.
- Dry bag/case: Stash your valuables in a safe place.
- Non-latex gloves: You never know what kind of substance – human, animal, or environmental in origin – you might encounter in the field. As wilderness first aid instructors teach, the first step in responding to an emergency situation is to protect yourself. Glove provide a barrier between you and blood, fish slime, harmful algae, etc.
- Adhesive bandages: A variety of bandage sizes will allow you to easily respond to minor cuts and scrapes.
- Pain relief: Aspirin and ibuprofen can be invaluable for treating headaches, stubbed toes, and other aches and pains that pop up throughout the day. We’d recommend thinking about the medicine you use the most – be it motion sickness tablets, antacids, or antihistamines – and pack extras for a comfortable day in the outdoors.
- Tide table: In many places along the coast, knowing the tides can spell the different between an enjoyable day on the water and spending eight hours stranded on a sandbar. Tide charts are widely available online, but paper copies are even better for boaters.
- Utility knife or shears: Something that cuts rope, cloth, vegetation, etc. – ‘nuff said. Many anglers and biologists also swear by a set of nail clippers in the tackle box.
- Bonus! Extra pair of socks: Wet socks can be a real day-ruiner. Many SCDNR staff stash an extra pair in their bags.
While a good place to start, this list is by no means comprehensive – the right emergency kit will look different for each individual or group. If you spend long days chasing grouper fifty miles offshore, multiple means of communication are non-negotiable on your boat. If your child has a severe allergy to certain insect bites, you know to travel with two Epipens and Benadryl. If you harvest oysters, sturdy back-up gloves and boots will be your preventative measures to avoid oyster shell cuts (but you should also carry wound care items!).
Longleaf Wilderness Medicine has an instructive blog post about some factors to consider when putting your first aid kit together. Many people like to start with a commercially available kit and add on or customize as they go.
What do you bring when you head outdoors?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.