Tips from the Paddler

Tip 4. The Ouch Pouch

I’ve been playing around some with ways to reorganize my on-water first aid supplies and kit. Most of the times I’ve needed first aid supplies on the river, they have been occasions where minor cuts and scrapes needed attention more from an excess of caution and for the convenience/comfort of the injured paddler.

First aid kits can get pretty voluminous and it can be quite an operation to get it out, open it up and decompress its contents on shore. I wanted a more convenient option to treat those more common, less serious incidents. The “Ouch Pouch” was my solution.

My goals for the kit were:

  • Compact
  • Waterproof
  • Readily accessible
  • Readily expendable
  • Ability to dry a wound area
  • Ability to disinfect a wound area
  • Ability to cover/dress a wound area
  • Ability to secure (tape) the dressing on long enough to make it through the run.

In this kit are:

  • A square of microfiber towel (~$1 for 2 at the dollar store that are then cut into 4 sections each) for drying the wound and bandaged areas.
  • An antibacterial wipe for disinfection
  • A povidone iodine pad (can be used to disinfect wound AND used to disinfect water for irrigating the wound if you decide not to just use drinking water on-hand)
  • A couple of bandaids/gauze pad/butterfly strips for wound covering (I’m making/carrying two different pouches with large and small sized bandaids/dressings)
  • A length of Coban cohesive bandage that sticks to itself even when wet to cover and retain the primary bandage. (This has been a proven performer and in many cases may prove to be the only covering needed to get off the river).
  • A new experiment (on my part) of using kinesiology tape (green, above) that is supposed to be very adhesive and persistent under wet conditions to hold it all in place.

Sealing it all up, I’m using the paddler’s best friend: a vacuum meal sealer to make these great, small waterproof pouches that hold up to a beating and soaking; pretty much indefinitely.

I’ll reiterate that my goal here is not so much to create a lasting sterile dressing for a wound so much as it is to provide some very preliminary cleaning and covering of the wound to help stop immediate bleeding and provide some degree of comfort for the paddler in being able to get themselves off the river. I know we’ve all probably whipped out the duct tape (you carry duct tape on the river, right?) and quickly wrapped a wound up, but even that simple solution has some drawbacks of adhesion and flexibility and in many cases, won’t do much for a bleeding wound. For more serious wounds, I’d break out the full first aid kit and deal with them as well as possible with supplies on hand including even possibly occlusive dressings and portaging off the river without re-immersing the wound(s). These little pouches are great for this end. I can pull one out and many times just hand it over to the injured paddler for self-treatment. I’m thinking ahead to other evolutions of the idea including possibly a tincture of benzoin ampule to enhance adhesion of the covering tapes and maybe some specialization of the bandage types since the use-cases of this idea are usually finger and/or knuckle cuts and scrapes.

You could obviously make enough pouches for many uses or for several people to carry from one batch of supplies.    –Microfiber towel

Bonus thought on supplies: If you’re ever looking for a variety of single-serving or travel-size supplies, check out

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