If you travel much beyond city limits, you probably have a checklist, like this Unrepentant Curmudgeon. It might be on paper, on your phone, or maybe just imprinted in your mind. Regardless, it lists those items that are essential to the enjoyment of your trips. I’m not going to discuss my entire list because first, this is not a primer for new travelers, and second, most of our lists show the same items.

Instead, I’m moving this discussion to the medical side. As is well-known, shit happens – or in this case, accidents happen – and on a motorcycle, those occurrences often include pain and injury. So in addition to my usual list of “must carry” items, I have an emergency kit that includes some essentials.

Unrepentant Curmudgeon August 2023 Medical Dog Tag
A medical “dog tag” provides critical information for first responders.

Medical Info

First responders to an accident need to know – as quickly as possible – if they are dealing with conditions that dictate modified treatment. They need to know, for example, if you are allergic to any drugs, your blood type, and if there is any metal in the body, such as a pacemaker, bone implants, etc. If you are conscious, no problem, you can tell them this info. If you are unconscious, they still need to know, as your life could depend on it.

The three most popular ways to inform them are a medical info card in your wallet, a wrist bracelet, or a “dog tag” worn around the neck. I have a cochlear implant on the right side of my head (I’m deaf in that ear without it). As the name implies, it is a quarter-size metal disc inserted under the skin. If I need an MRI, specific medical protocols have to be followed. If they’re not, that metal disc will heat up and do serious damage. Hence, I wear a dog tag that notes my implant and lists my emergency contact and blood type.

Pressure Bandage

Medical professionals will tell you that controlling blood loss is usually the first action in an emergency. A severe puncture wound can cause blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels, and you can “bleed out.” Normal bandaging won’t be effective with a deep puncture wound. 

Unrepentant Curmudgeon August 2023 Space Blanket
A “space blanket” is easily packable and can save you from hypothermia if stranded in a desolate location.

Pressure bandages, however, are specifically designed to apply pressure directly to a cut or puncture to stop blood flow. Years ago, a friend riding an off‑­road motorcycle slid out in a turn. As he hit the ground, his bike landed on him, and a footpeg punched into his calf, causing blood to spurt out, the sign of an artery puncture. His riding partner used a pressure bandage to stem the hemorrhaging, and this quick action quite possibly saved his life.

Space Blanket

I recently rode across Nevada on U.S. Route 50, the “Loneliest Road in America.” It’s not quite as desolate as it once was but still enough so that you question every sound your motor makes, and checking your gas becomes an obsession. You don’t want to break down out there. 

Find more Unrepentant Curmudgeon columns here

I carry water, energy bars, and a “space blanket.” This thin 4.5×7‑­foot sheet of aluminum‑­laminated polyethylene reflects and retains body heat. If you become stranded, wrapping yourself in one of these could save your life.

We don’t set out on rides expecting to deal with a medical emergency, but being prepared for one could mean the difference between life and death. 

Got thoughts for this Unrepentant Curmudgeon? Let me know what you think at fogpirate@gmail.com.


  1. Reg,
    In addition to your list, I would also highly encourage every rider to carry a RATS tourniquet. It’s easy to use by following the included instructions. Can even be applied to yourself. It’s versatile in that it can be used for more than just a tourniquet. It can be used to help splint a break or used to apply pressure on a bandage.
    Stay safe


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