I use a probabilistic risk assessment model for my first aid kits.  I keep track of my injuries and illnesses during my trips, and then start to determine what illness and injury I’m likely to face, what things I need to handle those situations, and what the outcome would be if I could not handle the situation.

For example, on a short hike, blisters are unlikely for me.  I will be using well worn in boots, carrying very little weight comparatively, and covering only a short distance.  Thus, I don’t carry blister care items as I deem them unnecessary.

As the trip increases in duration, my pack gets heavier, the mileage increases, and the probability of getting blisters goes up.  In addition, the need to change bandaging arises as the length of the trip increases.  All of this creates a need for blister care items, and increases the quantity necessary.

To summarize the method then, I know that blisters are common as trip length increases.  The impact of a blister is minimal unless it becomes complicated by infection.  This is a high probability – low impact situation most of the time but could be high probability – high impact.  So, in my case, it makes sense to carry the items necessary to handle this situation.

To give another example, I do not get motion sickness.  I certainly have never experienced motion sickness while backpacking or climbing.  Even if I did get motion sickness, I suspect the impact would be minimal and not prevent me from doing whatever needs to be done.  This is a low probability – low impact situation, and as such, I carry no supplies to deal with it.

A final example is a sprained ankle.  I have strong ankles and do not seem to sprain them, even after missteps occur.  However, I am often in areas where rescue could be extremely unlikely or prolonged quite a bit.  This makes self rescue a very real necessity.  In my case, a sprained ankle is a low probability – high impact type of event.  I carry supplies to handle it so that I can self rescue if necessary.

In using this type of model, I find that I can create streamlined, minimalistic first aid kits for my trips that still inspire the confidence that I can handle the situations I could face.  You will need to determine the probabilities and impacts for yourself based on your needs and your types of trips.

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