Use your head — duct tape and first-aid essentials can prevent a minor cut or equipment blow-out from becoming a major epic.
Packing essentials into a helmet kit
Climbers like to travel light and fast. A bit of food and water, light raingear, and a headlamp make up the average kit for a one-day rock climb. The first-aid supplies, however, are almost always left in the climbing pack at the base of the route, and even if you take a pack on a route it’s a good idea for each climber to have a small stash of emergency supplies. This is especially true if one pack is shared by both climbers. The question, therefore, is where do you realistically stash the bare essentials? The increasing popularity of climbing helmets, a healthy trend in and of itself, offers a possible answer. The small space between a helmet’s suspension and outer shell can often accommodate a bare-bones emergency kit. However, not all helmets offer this improvised “storage” space. Foam helmets while a good choice in many respects, generally have no vacant cavity. Suspension helmets, such as the Edelrid Ultralight or Petzl Ecrin, are better suited to carrying a helmet kit.
A helmet kit can up your safety margin — as long as you stash it properly.
Regardless of what type of helmet you use, space will be limited. Hence, you should be very selective about the items in your helmet kit. Consider which small first-aid items are most necessary, and hardest to improvise. A good starting kit should be composed of latex exam gloves, a few 4-x-4 sterile gauze pads, a small, flattened roll of half-inch tape, and some pain medication. Stow these items in a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag and include an empty Ziploc for litter and biohazards. Insert the kit between the suspension and the shell of your helmet. Don’t overstuff the kit or include any items (e.g. hard or sharp objects like a knife or scissors) that might compromise the protective qualities of your helmet. Of course, your helmet kit need not be limited to first-aid supplies. You could just as easily carry a couple packets of energy gel, a topo for the tricky descent, a silk-weight balaclava, an emergency heat blanket, or whatever else safely fits. You can also attach a few 6-inch strips of duct tape to the outside of your helmet for emergency rigging/repairs or to back up your headlamp clip. While the helmet kit certainly isn’t up to the challenge of a major accident, having a few necessities close at hand may buy you the time to get back down to your pack.