Adventure Medical Blister Treatments
Test Series by Kurt Papke
Backpacking background: mostly in Minnesota - have hiked all of the
Hiking Trail, starting on the Border Route.
Preferred/typical backpack trip is one week. Dayhiking in
Colorado and Oregon. Mostly Spring/Fall seasons.
Comfort-weight hiker: I try to carry as few items as possible, but do
not go to extremes to reduce weight of items carried. I blister
just by looking at my hiking boots. This seems to be something
inherent in my skin, as I blister badly on my hands as well when rowing
for instance, and I've tried all the usual remedies and
preventative measures. I rarely make a fire while backpacking, so
I am unlikely to test the use of the GlacierGels on burns.
|| Kurt Papke
|| 6' 4" (193 cm)
|| 220 lb (100 kg)
|| kwpapke at gmail dot com
|City, State, Country:
|| Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
|Year of manufacture:
(unlisted items had no visible expiration dating)
|GlacierGel dressings: January 2011
|Weight as received including packaging:
||2.3 oz (66 g)
|Weight as received without
shelf packaging (includes zip bag):
|1.5 oz (42
|0.9 oz (25
|Package dimensions (measured):
|4.25 x 5.5 x
0.5 inches (10.8 x 14 x 1.3 cm)
|4.25 x 5.5 x
0.25 inches (10.8 x 14 x 0.7 cm)
||$10.00 US per package
|$9.90 US per
The BlisterMedic kit
contains pretty much everything I need to clean and dress a blister
with the possible exception of a lance tool: Moleskin (22 pads pre-cut
sizes & shapes), GlacierGel (one large, one small), antiseptic
towelettes (6) and alcohol wipes (6). The counts on the packaging
matched the contents of the kit, but the website differed stating 15
dressings and 15 wipes.
The Moleskin pads are pre-cut and come on two identical sheets, which
combined provide two large oval, four small oval, four medium toe
(kidney shaped), six small toe, and six small strips (rectangular).
The GlacierGel kit contains three large and three small dressings plus
supposedly six alcohol wipes, though my package contained only
five. The packaging and website indicates that the
dressing gel contains 50% water, but I was not able to find what the
other half is.
The packaging as seen in the above photos is high-quality plastic with
illustrative photos on the front and explanatory text on the back and
inside fold-out leaf.
packaging the various bits of the kits are contained in a small, thin
zip baggy as can be seen in the photo on the left. The bagged
kits without the shelf packaging are well-designed to be directly
stowed into a backpack with no re-bagging.
The alcohol pads in both kits contain simple solutions of 70% isopropyl
alcohol. This is a standard product for use in cleaning a skin
area in preparation for a dressing application to improve adhesion,
including those instances where antibiotic is not needed. In this
case that would be when a blister is not
The active ingredient in the antibiotic towelettes is BZK (benzalkonium
chloride), interestingly enough the same ingredient used in the
Adventure Medical Fresh Bath Travel Wipes also reviewed in this test
series. See that report for comments on this biocide.
I elected not to open any of the dressings, towelettes or wipes.
They would dry out quickly and decrease the number available for test
The "directions for use" on the back of the package and fold-out leaf
are somewhat hard to
read. A very small typeface
is used. I can hardly read the text even with my reading glasses
on. The type is set mostly in white and has
very poor contrast against the green background, making it very
difficult to read in all but the best lighting conditions. The
French directions were set in yellow type making it even harder to
decipher. One downside of putting all the directions for use on
the shelf packaging and nothing on the nice zip baggy is that I am
unlikely to take the heavy, bulky shelf package with me. This
means the directions for use stay home. The exception is the
GlacierGel packets which have very clear instructions on the packet.
The quantities in the GlacierGel kit seem well-balanced: six dressings
with six prep alcohol wipes. The BlisterMedic kit
seemed short on the antiseptic wipes and alcohol towelettes with only
six alcohol wipes and six antiseptic towelettes, but the kit contains
The Moleskin sheets fit very tightly into the zip bag width. It
was a bit
of a struggle getting them back into the bag without folding the
sheets. It was not overly difficult to perform this sitting in my
well-lit office at a desk, but doing so in the field under adverse
conditions in a state of fatigue might be trying.
Moleskins: I am
accustomed to cutting Moleskin sheets to the size and shape of my
blisters. The size, shape and quantities of the pre-stamped
pads seem appropriate.
ordinarily encourage my blisters to dry out after lancing. I look
forward to seeing how an aqueous solution held against a blister
impacts the healing time and/or additional blister growth.
plans for a week-long May trek through the Boundary Waters (Border
Trail) and a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail (about 120
miles). I will attempt to assess:
This concludes my Initial Report on Adventure Medical BlisterMedic and
- Usability: how easy is it to pack the kits on my
person or pack?
How easy is it to remove the products from their packaging and
apply? How hard is it to re-pack kit contents in the field after
dressing a blister?
- Reliability & robustness: How well do the Moleskin and
GlacierGel dressings stick and stay on my feet? The GlacierGels
claim to last for four days - I am skeptical but hopeful that will be
achieved. I have
used some similar products and they wouldn't stay on my feet more than
a few hours.
- Functionality: how effective are the Moleskin shapes and sizes -
do they fit my blisters? Does the GlacierGel promote healing,
relieve pain and
prevent additional blister growth? How effective are the alcohol
wipes at promoting dressing retention? Do the antiseptic wipes
prevent infections well? It should be noted I am not prone to
infection despite having lanced dozens and dozens of blisters without
use of any antiseptic.
- Quantity/sizing: how much of the kits do I consume on a one-week
trip? Do I run out? Do I run out of alcohol wipes and
antiseptic towelettes long before my Moleskin is gone?
- Adverse effects: do the GlacierGels inhibit blister healing by
keeping them overly moist?
During the report period I used the Adventure Medical kits during my
May Boundary Waters trip and also during a month-long Oregon
camping/backpacking journey. Boundary Waters trek: 8-day hike in
Minnesota from the end of the
Gunflint Trail, Magnetic Rock trailhead, along the Border Route to
Grand Portage, then down along the Sawtooth Mountains near the Lake
Superior shoreline on the Superior Hiking Trail to Grand Marais.
Test conditions: several of the days were quite
warm, 75 F (24 C), and several days were quite cold with a low of 23 F
(-5 C). During the month-long camping excursion to
Oregon in July, most uses were during car camping
or 1-night backpacking trips, though I did use them on some multi-day
backpacking trips to the Wallowa Mountains and to Teddy Roosevelt
National Park in North Dakota. This included several days in the
Columbia River Gorge, 2 days on the Pacific Crest Trail sections near
several days in the Coastal Range just west of Portland, and several
days on the western slopes of Mount Hood. Temperatures
ranged from a low in the mid-30's F (2 C) in the mountains where I
camped in the snow, to highs in the mid 90's F (35 C) in Teddy
Roosevelt National Park. Finally, I carried the kits with me on a
week-long trip to Isle Royale, Michigan in early September.
During my Boundary Waters trek I used a GlacierGel pad on a large
developed on the ball of my right foot. I put the pad on,
following the directions and using one of
the alcohol wipes to clean the area, before I
began hiking in the morning and received immediate relief from
the pain this blister was causing me. As I walked that morning my
foot felt good for the first few hours, but then began to hurt and
I suspected the pad had slipped. When I took off my shoes and
at noon I found that the pad had come off my skin and dirt had impaired
the adhesive's ability to keep the pad on my foot so I removed
it. My feet do sweat a lot, and it may be that my heavy sweating
impairs the ability of the adhesive to keep the patches on.
I used another pad during my Oregon trip on a blister that developed on
the tip of one of my smaller toes:
Blister in a tough spot to apply a pad
Pad applied as best I could
This admittedly is a tough spot to get the pad applied and to keep it
on. I put it on after using one of the antiseptic towelettes to
clean the wound before I went to bed and slept with it on all night,
and removed it in the morning. Once again, the pad did a great
job of making my blister feel better. I had some reservations
that the pad might prevent the blister from drying out and healing, but
these fears turned out to be unfounded. The blister healed up
quite quickly after the hike was over.
I used two of the moleskin pads during the test period, in both cases
the large ovals. These were applied to the balls of my feet,
unfortunately after a blister had begun to form. The moleskin
pads were easy to use, and I appreciated not having to cut them to
size. They adhered well and stayed on my feet all day.
During my trip to Isle Royale I developed a blister almost identical to
the one pictured above on the tip of my toe. I tried to apply one
of the moleskin patches, but could not get it to stay in place for any
length of time, even with an application of athletic tape over the
top. My hiking partner on the trip developed a nasty blister on
his little toe, in between the toes. I gave him my remaining
GlacierGel pad to ease his pain; it stayed on until about
lunchtime. It did however provide some relief.
Unfortunately, most of my foot blisters during the test period were on
the tips of my toes, similar to those shown in the photo above.
seems to be my curse lately: I get blisters primarily in places where
any kind of
pad simply won't be of much help to me. This however is
the limits of this type of pad: they are only effective in on certain
spots on the body.
The Adventure Medical GlacierGel and BlisterMedic kits were effective
products for me only in limited circumstances. They were helpful
in cases where blisters were
forming on large, flat areas where the pads were straightforward to
apply and did not suffer excessive sheer stresses that might cause them
to come off.
- Compact, complete kits: I liked having the pads and swabs
packaged together so I had everything I needed to treat a wound with no
- Effective: I was impressed with how much pain relief I received
from the GlacierGels.
- Individual packages: I liked being able to pack just 1-2 pads and
towelettes for a hike instead of carrying a whole pack.
- A smaller pad might have
fit better on the tip of my toe. The two sizes of the GlacierGel are
both quite large.
- Perhaps a better adhesive or other improvement for those of us
with sweaty feet to keep the pads adhered.
- My blisters occur in pretty predictable spots. I ended up
tearing off just a few of the moleskin pads that I knew I might use,
and leaving behind the ones that I didn't think I'd need. There
might be some way to make this more obvious or easier, through
documentation or perhaps by placing the pre-cut moleskins on the pad to
facilitate removal before a trip.
- My blisters seem to occur in places where pads don't want to stay
on. It would be great if a product could be designed so that it
could be "painted" on those hard-to-apply spots.
Many thanks to Adventure Medical
Kits and BackpackGearTest.org for the
test this product.
Read more reviews of Adventure Medical Kits gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke