The ongoing trend in the consumer market of providing small, ready-to-go, individual size packages of consumables has been a win-win for the lightweight and ultralight backpacking communities. Always looking to shave a few extra ounces or grams off of our overall pack weight, these individual servings are the perfect fit for trail snacks, drinks, condiments – you name it.
However, these nicely packaged individual servings can come at a premium. They can often be pricy or difficult to find without going online and ordering in bulk +shipping. That’s when the creative types among us come up with ingenious solutions that lets us make our own alternatives using things we usually have lying around.
Which brings me to today’s topic – individual size packages of antibiotic cream. I’ve carried a few of the Neo-to-go (Neosporin) packets with me as part of my first aid kit for quite some time. They’re small, handy and easy to use, but they have some downsides. Firstly they are expensive, secondly each packet contains way more ointment than I need for a small cut or graze – an awful lot more and once it’s been opened it shouldn’t be reused or saved.
I recently stumbled upon a really clever solution to this problem that involves a tube of antibiotic ointment (generic), a plastic drinking straw, a Bic lighter and a pair of needle-nose pliers (I use my Leatherman Squirt PS4). For the life of me I can’t find the website that I saw the original version of this on so I’m going to repeat it as best I can remember – apologies to the original author.
We’re going to make very small, single use packets of antibiotic ointment using a generic alternative to Neosporin and a clean (unused) drinking straw. If you’re like me and have kids, chances are very good that you have an open tube of antibiotic ointment in your medical cabinet. On its own it is too large to carry on a backpacking trip, so we’re going to re purpose it.
Place the straw over the opening of the ointment tube and carefully squeeze in a small amount of the ointment that is approximately one quarter of an inch in length. You’ll notice that transparent straws work best for this.
Use your fingers to squeeze the end of the straw so that it pushes the ointment further up inside the plastic straw. This will provide a clean area for sealing the end of the straw without having the ointment ooze out while you are holding it with your pliers.
Hold the end of the straw with your needle-nose pliers so that a small amount of the straw is protruding. This will be used to melt and seal the end of the straw. Take your Bic lighter and carefully melt the end of the straw so that it forms a seal. I like to quickly pinch the melted end with my pliers to ensure a good seal.
Turn the straw around and find the point where the ointment went up to inside the straw. Pinch just past that with your needle-nose pliers and cut off the excess straw with a pair of scissors making sure to leave a small amount of the straw protruding for sealing with your lighter just as you did in the first step.
Now you have a single use packet of antibiotic ointment that you can carry with you as part of your UL backpacking first aid kit. These are also perfect for EDC carry in a pocket or even your wallet.
I’ve yet to have one of these burst or fail on me. Simple, affordable, and very convenient. A great way to make use of those open tubes that are lying around with just a small amount of ointment left in them. Pretty clever idea that can be used for other purposes, what do you think?