Selecting a Boating Medical Kit

By Tom Burden, Last Updated: 5/4/2021

Orion emergency medical kit

We offer a variety of medical kits that include everything you need to care for your crew on short or extended trips.

Boating is one of the last opportunities for a truly self-sufficient experience in our always-connected world, and this includes the possibility of handling medical problems. While medical attention may only be a few hours away, it becomes the responsibility of someone onboard to administer appropriate first aid. Boaters who face an onboard medical emergency need the appropriate tools, not only because a medical or first aid kit could save a life but also avoid an expensive visit to a hospital in a remote location. A little preparation and planning could make all the difference.

First Aid Kits vs. Medical Kits

Do you need a first aid kit that can treat the basics like abrasions, sunburn, minor cuts and sprains? Should you invest in a more elaborate collection that can help deal with significant illnesses or injuries at sea? There’s no standard medical kit that’s right for every boat, so be sure to pick one based on the length of your trip and the number of people in the crew. Basic medical kits designed for four or fewer people on a two-day trip and a reasonably-equipped first aid kit for the same number of folks on a day trip are very cost effective. More comprehensive marine medical kits can cover up to 14 people for a month on an offshore voyage. With many options in between, you can consider the following questions to help define your needs. The list could continue in even more detail, and those planning for serious offshore cruising or racing need to explore all these topics and more. 

Questions to Ask

  • What is your boating style? Are you primarily an angler, a watersports junkie, daysailor, coastal cruiser, racer or long-distance voyager? How long are you likely to be completely self-reliant? Hours? Days? Weeks?
  • How about your crew? Who are your passengers? Will there be children aboard? Do members of your crew have specific health problems to consider, like heart problems or diabetes? Does anyone regularly require prescription medicines? What are their ages and general health status?
  • What communication gear will you have aboard? VHF radio, SSB, a satellite phone, just a cell phone?
  • Do members of your crew have special skills? Like first aid or CPR training or a medical/nursing background? Are you an improviser? Could you easily use leeboards and duct tape to build a traction splint for a broken leg?
  • Custom-made vs. off-the-shelf kits? Do you have the time, skills, energy and interest to custom-build your own kit from scratch, or are you looking for an “off-the-shelf” kit to meet your needs, perhaps with a little customization?