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If you’ve ever been backpacking, you know that every little object you bring has to be functional and lightweight. Ultralight is key. Backpackers employ all sorts of weight-reducing techniques, including sawing off long toothbrush handles, bringing dehydrated meals, eating heavy foods first, packing aluminum cookware instead of stainless steel, and the list goes on.

On the trail, it’s important to be prepared with a first aid kit, but rather than bringing a whole bottle of antibiotic ointment, you can purchase single-use packets. But they can be expensive and hard to find. So instead, make your own.

Brian’s Backpacking Blog explains how to make single-use antibiotic ointment packets using a straw, a lighter, and needle-nose pliers. These are ideal for a small toolbox first aid kit, too — just rubber band them together with a couple Band-Aids.

Always be prepared!

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Laura Cochrane

I’m an editor at MAKE and CRAFT. I like hiking, biking, and etymology.


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Comments

  1. LostTime says:

    Heat an medication might not be a good idea together… Better be carefull!

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      It looks like the flame is far enough away for a short enough amount of time where it wouldn’t be a problem, but still, good to keep in mind. To be safe, you could increase the distance between the clamp and the flame-sealed edge (resulting in a slightly longer packet).

      1. erich says:

        Provided you use FDA approved drinking straws that will not leach plasticisers or other allergens into your medication with heating and/or storage, you should be fine…..

  2. Phil says:

    Antibiotics without prescription should be banned – too much resistencies. Shame.
    Nice packing idea, though; I’ll give it a try with other fluids.

    1. Dirk Lucas says:

      While I agree generally, I see it differently for the intended purpose. You’ll find it quite difficult to see a doctor on a serious outdoor trip.

      1. Phil says:

        Affirmative about consulting a doctor during outdoor activities. The question is: For how long do we plan to be outdoors? Someone in need for antibiotics should definitely abort outdoor activities. So the next question is: When do we need antibiotics? In general: Only when suffering from serious infection which can’t be treated otherwise. In addition, you should _always_ consume the full prescription recommendation. Usually you feel well after a short time of consume, but in most cases it takes at least a week of full consume to prevent building up resistent bacteria. In context of the shown pictures: Why not take the whole tube if you plan to be off civilization for weeks? Or did the author plan to encapsulate two dozen units?
        To me this sounds like a real bad idea, not well thought after. Everyone who has seen people suffering from resistent bacteria knows what I’m talking about. This is not about body lotion, we’re talking about a much needed tool in modern medicine. Abuse weakens these tools.

        It’s a completely different discussion when talking about _antiseptics_. You might very well need them being outdoors, and the suggested packaging sounds perfect!

        1. Wilson! says:

          I think maybe you’re misunderstanding what he’s doing… It’s not a prescription antibiotic medication, it’s over-the-counter antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes.

  3. for creams and ointments, i use heavy-duty aluminum foil in 2 inch squares.; add a dab of cream in the center, fold in half, then fold the 3 edges over twice each.; makes a sealed packet.

  4. Byron Winchell says:

    If you have a sacrificial pair of needle-nose pliers (a crappy pair you’ve already ruined by heating), you *could* heat up the pliers and then do the crimp. Want to make it a “no-tools” opening packet (I know, it’s a camping trip and you have your knife but what if)? Experiment with cutting the ends with pinking shears so you have a tear-away opening.

  5. Bill G says:

    An overriding concern may be the possibility of bacterial or fungal contamination of the antibiotic and/or tube at the time or preparation. Organisms unaffected by the particular antibiotic may then grow unhindered in the tube until it is used. Then the whole contaminated mass is introduced into a wound. Not a good idea. Do you recall a recent series of unfortunate events relating to drug repackaging in New England?
    Small wounds are best treated with simple soap and water and a sterile bandage. If the wound is large, or appears infected, you need professional attention, not home-brew pharmaceuticals.
    Repackaging drugs is a bad idea.

    1. erich says:

      Medicinal brandy for antiseptic use +/- methanol stove use starts to sound like the best option all round!!!!

  6. Alan Dove says:

    Please don’t. There’s very little evidence that antibiotic-containing ointments provide any help for wound healing, but mounting evidence that they feed the development of “superbugs.” Transferring this probably-harmful ointment into nonsterile homemade pouches won’t help. Just pack iodine and alcohol wipes, clean your wounds thoroughly, and if you’re really going to the boonies, get a prescription for oral broad-spectrum antibiotics that you can use appropriately in a dire emergency.

  7. rto says:

    I like this idea because some people dispense the ointment directly onto the wound, finger, etc.instead of the sterile bandage. Unless the original tube remains in your possession the whole time you have no idea if it’s been compromised.

    Would like to think of other substances to try it on.

  8. This seems like an interesting idea, and thanks for providing the pics and step by step instructions. I was actually thinking about doing some back packing the next time I am in North Carolina, so I might just have to try this out personally.