Stocking a trip first aid kit is always a crapshoot. 80 percent of the time you never even open them up, but talk to a doctor or a wilderness first responder, and you'd think you need everything from sutures to a Stokes litter for an overnight trip. And it's changeable – if you've got young kids, you'll need twice as many band-aids for the inevitable owies. So yeah, it's a moving target with some tradeoffs. And don't forget, you can add/delete items to meet circumstances. I tend to throw in an eye patch, for example, and sometimes a small dental pick.

That said, Adventure Medical Kits offers a medley of first aid packages to suit a range of needs from a suitcase-sized portable wilderness hospital ($400) to a pocket-sized kit ($7) you can stuff in your shirt pocket. Waterproof kits are particularly attractive for boaters, and AMK sells a range of compact and waterproof products.

I tested the Ultralight/Watertight .9 Medical Kit on a week-long paddle in southern Utah. I particularly liked the waterproof packaging, and was relieved to find the compactness wasn't achieved by micro-cramming gear into a tight little bag. Most important, I thought the kit achieved a great balance between comprehensive bandages, targeted medications, and a few tools. You can always come up with what-if scenarios you won't be prepared for, but AMK anticipates the common round of backcountry medical mishaps and puts remedies together in an easy-to-use, stay-dry package. As it turned out, I used one band-aid and the Splinter Picker during my Utah week – covered!

Intel: Ultralight/Watertight .9 Medical Kit; $36; 8.4 oz.;

–Read more GEAR REVIEWS from C&K.