Top 10 Medical Essentials for Hiking Holidays

As a Pharmacist working in travel health I think I can safely say that packing a comprehensive medical kit is not high on anyone’s list of fun things to do pre adventure of a lifetime. It is a tedious, often overlooked but crucially ESSENTIAL part of the packing process for those about to embark on a hiking holiday in any climate.

I have drawn on both my personal experience as a backpacker and my professional experience working in travel health when compiling this list.  My aim is to provide you with a comprehensive list of lightweight essentials.



Simple. Effective. Cheap. Paracetamol is not to be underestimated. This pain killer is highly effective and you will be grateful for it if you find yourself with anything from a headache to aching, sore muscles from a long day of walking.


is a pain killer with anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used in conjunction with paracetamol for moderate pain and is particularly good for sprained muscles, period pain and dental pain. Dental pain is not something you pre-empt prior to your typical hiking holiday. I know this because I was unfortunate enough to pull out a filling whilst sampling some local cuisine one evening in Asia. I was unprepared and found myself unable to source any pain killers until the next morning (ironic situation for a pharmacist) and the pain kept me up all night. It was a long night. Drawing from my experience, if you have the room or inclination, you may even want to consider taking along some temporary fillings. You never know!


The runs are almost expected if you visit a tropical climate. Combine diarrhoea with a heavy day of hiking and it’s a recipe for dehydration. As a health care professional I would always recommend you rest if you have infective diarrhoea, but I know that this advice isn’t always followed! Stay hydrated by taking small frequent sips of water mixed with Diorlayte (an oral rehydration sachet). It will help to make you feel better sooner. As dehydration can be really serious, I would go as far as to say this is the most important thing on the list! Remember to get medical help if you suspect anyone is severely dehydrated.


Imodium tablets act to temporarily halt diarrhoea and can work in up to an hour. Whether you have a day of hiking or travelling via coach ahead of you, Imodium can spare you an embarrassing situation. The Imodium Instants are good as they do not require water so you can take them discreetly any time anywhere.


This anti-fungal cream is good if you find yourself suffering from Athlete’s foot after some long hot days of hiking in your boots. Symptoms tend to be itchy, red, scaly or dry feet; particularly in between the toes. Apply the cream to the affected area 2-3 times daily and continue for at least two weeks. Remember to change your socks daily and dry between your toes after showering. This cream is good to take on a hiking holiday because it can also be used for females who suffer from thrush. Thrush is common when wearing tight clothing in hot climates and some anti-malarial tablets (doxycycline) can predispose you to the condition.


Blisters are annoying and painful and they can ruin a hiking holiday. Compeed do a comprehensive range of blister products and you should seriously consider taking some of the plasters to combat any sores.


Steri-strips are extremely useful as they can temporarily close up most minor lacerations and weigh next to nothing.


It is crucial to keep any cuts or sores clean; especially if you are in a remote area of the world. This will help to prevent infection and any subsequent nasty complications!! Savlon do a small 15g tube which is perfect for any hiker.


Protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun by regularly applying sunscreen of factor 15 and above. The higher you hike, the more harmful the sun’s rays- so stay protected.


Beat the bugs by using DEET up to concentrations of 50%. This is extremely important if you are in a malarial risk area – see our Malaria risk map for more information


The savvy hiker needs to be prepared for any accidents and a basic first aid kit containing gloves, bandages, tweezers and a sterile compress is essential. This one from Lifesystems is good because it comes in a handy bag which contains a clip which can be attached to the belt for easy access.

This blog was written by Travelpharm pharmacist Amy Lee. If you require any advice about anti-malarial tablets or travelling to remote destinations please get in touch with us!

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