Say I'm hiking outdoors and I get a scrape. I've forgotten my first aid pack, or already used up the appropriate supplies. Is there anything in the wilderness I can use to sterilize and perhaps cover it?

4 Answers 4


There are many folk and wild remedies you could learn, depending on what you're carrying & where you're hiking. Some examples:

Honey will protect from infection.

Spider webs will stop bleeding (for small cuts).

Common plantain soothes burns, scrapes, etc. Chew it up to make a salve.

  • 1
    interesting. didnt know that spider webs stoped small cuts from bleeding...
    – mjrider
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 19:16
  • I don't know about you guys but the thought of putting a spider's web -- and potentially its eggs! -- in an open wound seems a little terrifying to me. Sounds like the beginning of a bad horror movie. Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:59
  • Spiders eggs are generally very obvious. It is easy to grab a chunk of web and stretch it over a small cut to pull the edges together.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 22:59
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    Downvote for honey. Although there are some cautiously optimistic reports that honey has topical anti-bacterial properties, the special requirements for keeping wounds clean in the wilderness make it hard enough to manage infection without adding potential sources of infection - or potential traps for infection since it may be difficult to thoroughly clean and sterilize the wound in the first place. Recommending people squirt a honey-bear in their wounds in a back-country setting is potentially dangerous. Best is to irrigate with clean water and try to keep the wound protected / clean.
    – Lost
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 3:51
  • @LBell: You may be right, and I can't authoritatively argue with you. If you need medical science to tell you what remedies to use, then go look at their results. If you are interested in these and other folk or wild remedies, I recommend doing further research, especially studying with local alternative healers, herbalists, and nature nuts.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 6:58

Wilderness medicine protocols taught by the major Wilderness First Aid / First Responder training companies (and subsequently adopted by most outdoor organizations) are fairly standard and quite clear about wound management in the back-country.

The standard accepted practice for treating a wound is:

  • stop the bleeding - usually possible via direct pressure
  • clean the wound as best as possible through high-pressure irrigation with clean (ie drinking safe) water using an irrigating syringe or a squeeze bottle
  • remove any small bits of debris (assuming you are dealing with a scrape - removing impaled objects is not in the scope of this question or answer (hint: don't unless indicated otherwise))
  • prevent more dirt / potential sources for infection from entering the wound.

Simple, straight forward. And you can do it without any specialized medical kit.

All bandages provide you is a sterile method for doing the last - but in lieu of sterile dressing, any clean barrier from dirt will do. (ie, a clean shirt)

Adding any kind of substance (ie, honey, plant poultice) is generally frowned upon in wilderness settings as these can introduce sources of infection, become breeding grounds for bacteria, or at the very least make it difficult to monitor what is going on with the wound.

If you are far enough away from higher care that infection is a concern, then these "home remedies" are generally considered more risky than helpful, and add one more thing you have to clean out of the wound later.

  • 5
    +1 for straightforward, practical advice. Lots of answers on here seem to lean towards random and surprising (honey! spider webs!) but they're usually not actually practical or useful in a real world situation. Good to see things that are simple and straight to the point. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:42
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    Great advice here Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 20:35

I keep a few wet naps (like you get to wipe your fingers at a chicken & ribs joint) mainly to wash my hands (do you know how hard it is to wash your hands in the bush?), and have used them to wipe some pretty serious scratched (they are also excellent fire starters). Hand sanitizer would be another option.


As yucky as it sounds, if you dont have ANY water or anything to clean the wound, assuming your healthy and dont have any "plumbing problems"(instructions from an ER doctor / paramedic) urine is 100% clean right out of the body.

These are the words straight from the doctor: "pee on it."

Might be a good idea to re-wash it out as soon as you can.

But urine works nicely.....

  • 1
    +1, but worth pointing out that in certain (arguably obvious) cases such as urinary tract infections then it wouldn't be such a good idea!
    – berry120
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 19:05
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    VERRY true. didn't think about that
    – mjrider
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 19:16
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    Interesting idea - do you have any documentation aside from a doctor's testimonial?
    – Lost
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 4:02
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    All I find relating to potential for wounds in that article is this: "being a waste product, it does contain compounds undesirable to the body and can be irritating to skin and eyes" which doesn't seem promising. Did I miss it? Not to be harsh,but I'm down-voting this answer as potentially dangerous as well without confirmed sound medical documentation. Wound care is too important in the back-country for hearsay.
    – Lost
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:17
  • 1
    @mjrider that is exactly my point - it is not clear that urinating on an open wound is better than doing nothing in a back-country setting. At best it is a sterile skin irritant, at worst it can introduce bacteria from your urethra... Don't get me wrong, I personally want this answer to be true (uber cool) but without supporting documentation (and I've looked) it seems more risky than helpful.
    – Lost
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 23:58

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