The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

REI Backpacker Extended Review

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Price:  $55 List
Pros:  Versatile, well-organized, durable packaging, quality components
Cons:  Limited supplies, excessive packaging weight, low quantities
Manufacturer:   REI
By Viren Perumal ⋅   ⋅  Jun 30, 2015
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80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Quality - 20% 8
  • Usefulness - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Versatility - 20% 9
  • Weight - 20% 6

Our Verdict

Discontinued
This product is no longer available. However, we have many recommendations of other first aid kits that are available.

REI has put together a quality first aid kit with many standout features that compelled us to give it our Editors' Choice award. Of all the kits we tested, the REI Backpacker Extended first aid kit has the most unique organization and packaging options for its tools and supplies. The labels are clear and easy to see, and there are several small pouches and holsters to keep your items organized. Its innovative packaging allowed us to quickly find the items we were looking for and it kept our supplies out of the dirt. REI uses high-quality medical products in this kit. This model also comes with a wallet-sized module which allows you to take some essentials out of it for a day hike while leaving the bigger bag at camp. There are some downsides to this kit; it does not come with a CPR face shield and there's only one pair of gloves, which is not enough for a group of six people for eight days (manufacturer recommended use). It does come with a well laid-out first aid reference book by a respected wilderness medicine physician. Overall, this is a great first aid kit and is sure to meet most of your wilderness or even home-based needs.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Backpacker Extended first aid kit weighs 15.0 oz (574 g) and is 8.5 x 6 x 4 inches. It comes with these items:
  • Bandage Materials — 24 adhesive bandages of various sizes, 2 gauze rolls (2" x 4.1 yards and 3" x 4.1 yards), 8 gauze pads (2" x 2" and 3" x 3"), 4 non-adherent pads (2" x 3" and 3" x 4"), 1 ABD combine pad (5" x 9"), 4 top sponges (4" x 4").
  • Bleeding Control — 2 pairs of non-latex gloves, 1 resealable waste bag.
  • Blister/Burn Treatment — 3 moleskin (3" x 4"), burn cream, aloe vera gel.
  • Fracture/Sprain — 1 elastic bandage (3" x 5 yards), 1 wire splint, 1 triangular bandage, a roll of tape (1" x 10 yards).
  • CPR — 1 face shield.
  • Instruments — scissors, forceps, 2 safety pins, an irrigation syringe.
  • Medical InformationWilderness First Aid Manual, 3 accident record sheets, 1 pencil.
  • Medications — 3 antacid tablets (calcium carbonate 420 mg/2 pack), 3 ibuprofen (200 mg/2 pack), 2 acetaminophen (500 mg/2 pack), 3 allergy-relief (diphenhydramine 25 mg) tablets, 2 anti-diarrheal (loperamide hydrochloride 2 mg), 1 electrolyte (2 pack), 2 empty pill vials with label.
  • Wound Care — 6 BZK antiseptic towelettes, 6 triple antibiotic ointment, 6 povidone iodine wipes, 1 antimicrobial hand wipe, 4 sting-relief wipes, 2 hydrocortisone cream, 5 butterfly closures.

The contents of our Editors' Choice winner. Note the removable day hike module in the foreground for times when you want to bring less items  like a day hike out of a base camp.
The contents of our Editors' Choice winner. Note the removable day hike module in the foreground for times when you want to bring less items, like a day hike out of a base camp.

Performance Comparison


Wilderness First Responder students test out this kit during a "patient" assessment.
Wilderness First Responder students test out this kit during a "patient" assessment.

Quality of Components


Our testers were impressed with the quality of the components in this kit and it received the highest score in this category. The individual components were from reputable manufacturers, such as Hart Health, a Seattle, WA based company that's been manufacturing industrial first aid materials since 1976. This kit comes with hard-sided pill vials and an ace wrap that won't tear when pulled under tension, and the 10 cc irrigation syringe creates good pressure irrigation for wound cleaning. It also comes with the Wilderness First Aid Manual, a small 75-page reference guide. This is an invaluable tool for assessing the signs and symptoms of common medical ailments and treating wilderness emergencies that you may encounter on the trail.

This kit contains the Wilderness First Aid Manual (left) which is lighter than the AMK Mountain Series Fundamentals' manual (right)  but not as comprehensive.
This kit contains the Wilderness First Aid Manual (left) which is lighter than the AMK Mountain Series Fundamentals' manual (right), but not as comprehensive.

The REI Backpacker Extended kit did have a few lower quality components, such as the latex gloves and mesh splint. Though the lightweight gloves are great for backpacking, they tend to tear while administering first aid, resulting in no "body substance isolation." The mesh wire splint is low profile and doesn't take up a lot of space in the kit, but it's not an ideal splint building material and could do more harm than good if used incorrectly to immobilize a broken bone. The Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Fundamentals comes with a far superior splint. Overall, we think REI found a nice balance between using high quality components and keeping the cost of the kit reasonable.

The wire splint found in this kit (left) is lighter and more compact than the C-Splint found in other kits and available for separate purchase  but is not as effective for splinting a broken bone.
The wire splint found in this kit (left) is lighter and more compact than the C-Splint found in other kits and available for separate purchase, but is not as effective for splinting a broken bone.

Usefulness of Components


We tested the REI Backpacker Extended kit in wilderness medicine classes during simulations, as well as on trips in the backcountry, and its components were useful for those applications. It comes with medications not found in most of the kits that we tested, such as individual topical relief products like Benzocaine 6% (minor bite and sting relief) and Hydrocortisone cream 1% (for itch relief and burns). The wound cleaning supplies include an assortment of sterile field prep tools, barrier creams and antiseptic wipes. There are enough supplies to deal with several minor cuts and scrapes or one serious mountain bike crash. The variety of medications in this kit surpassed any of the other kits that we tested. This particular model also has basic first aid supplies, like a triangle bandage and a roll of athletic tape, for taping ankles or bandaging wounds.

Viren Perumal attempting to find Julie Perumal's pain tolerance while cleaning a large avulsion on her hand during a multi-day river trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon using an irrigation syringe similar to the one found in this kit.
Viren Perumal attempting to find Julie Perumal's pain tolerance while cleaning a large avulsion on her hand during a multi-day river trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon using an irrigation syringe similar to the one found in this kit.

Durability and Design of Bag


The innovative design of the bag was one of the standout features for our testers. It has unique foldout panels, and the multiple sleeves and pouches were well laid-out and labeled, keeping the supplies well-organized. This design allowed our testers to quickly find the items they were looking for, and there is plenty of extra space to add specific products that suit your needs. There are even Velcro closures on the pouches to keep small loose items from falling out into the main compartment. The bag itself is well-made, with a thicker nylon than some other models and a high quality zipper. It also comes with REI's standard warranty policy, which covers manufacturing defects but not issues related to "ordinary wear and tear."

REI's innovated organization system lays out your first aid tools for ease of access  and it also has a removable day hike module.
REI's innovated organization system lays out your first aid tools for ease of access, and it also has a removable day hike module.

Versatility


We gave the REI Backpacker Extended kit the highest score in Versatility out of any product that we tested. The diversity of medications and quantity of wound care materials make this kit appropriate for larger groups or multiple uses. The removable day pouch allows you to pack some supplies in a smaller package for a day hike while leaving the bigger kit at camp. The reference book adds to the versatility of this kit, though we'd like a CPR mask and higher quantity and quality of gloves.

Students on a Wilderness First Responder recertification course find valuable information in the reference book included in this kit.
Students on a Wilderness First Responder recertification course find valuable information in the reference book included in this kit.

Weight and Size


This kit has a great balance between weight and usefulness. That said, it was one of the heaviest and bulkiest kits that we tested, which is a huge detractor for backcountry users. The day module is useful, but it does increase the weight without contributing directly to the quantity of first aid supplies. While we do think that the amount of useful equipment justifies the weight, the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5 or Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker are quality kits with more weight-savings.

This kit will fit in the lid of a large backpack  but is a little large for day hikes.
This kit will fit in the lid of a large backpack, but is a little large for day hikes.

Best Applications


This product is suited for most activities except where shaving ounces matters. Home use, day trips, car camping, and multi-day trips with a group size of one to four people would be well-served by this kit. However, because of the limited quantities of some items, it's not the kit you want to take on an extended expedition to a remote location.

Students on a Wilderness First Responder recertification course using some of the tape in this kit to support and stabilize an ankle.
Students on a Wilderness First Responder recertification course using some of the tape in this kit to support and stabilize an ankle.

Value


This kit is a great value for what it offers. It has as many items as kits twice as expensive have and even has some larger quantities and higher quality supplies than kits in a similar price range.

Conclusion


Though not perfect, the REI Backpacker Extended first aid kit comes pretty close. Since most first aid kits need to be stocked and customized to the user's terrain and environment, this kit gives you one of the best platforms to begin that process. It has a great balance between organization, price, and weight. This Editors' Choice winner is our favorite happy medium and it's the kit we'd take backpacking with a small group. Our main critique is that it's missing a few things, though it's easily customizable by purchasing a few extra items like additional pairs of gloves and a CPR mask. Overall, it's a high quality first aid kit and deserving of our Editors' Choice Award.


Viren Perumal