First Aid Kits

Wow, it’s been a WHILE. I’ll post more on that later.

Right now, a conversation I was having with some medieval recreation folks had me searching my FaceBook history for a post I made back after Hurricane Harvey for the list of things I would put in a first aid kit. Having FINALLY found it, I promised to post it in a more public venue.

Caveat: I’m not an expert or anything. I have some experience as a Paramedic and an ER nurse. I also volunteer as a medic for a local roller derby league. I’ve had to render aid a few times at motor vehicle accidents. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’d need in a SHTF situation. This list is what I came up with. It’s probably not the complete list for you, but it’s a place to start. Feedback is welcome.

I’m also making a couple of edits with some things I’ve learned since making this post. (And I ought to set up an affiliate thing with Amazon, really… LOL)

ETA: (OMG I keep adding to this idiot post) If money is no object (or just a case of you have more money than time) I *can* recommend two vendors who *do* pack good first aid kits.

  • MyMedic https://mymedic.com/ has GREAT kits with fantastic quality, and they know what they’re doing. They also have some really innovative elements you can buy separately that I’m very impressed with. I’ve bought a small personal FAK from them, and they’re top quality.
  • Dark Angel Medical https://darkangelmedical.com/ specifically makes 2 items I REALLY am impressed with: the D.A.R.K. Trauma Kit and the EDC Trauma Kit. These are specific to trauma and are not comprehensive first aid kits, so keep that in mind, but for incredibly compact but OMG the RIGHT STUFF for immediate trauma response, they look to be GREAT. I haven’t personally ordered from Dark Angel because I don’t do any activities where I might need something so trauma-focused, but I’m impressed with what I see.

ETA: Someone pointed out the Good Samaritan laws, and I am not qualified to speak to it in depth. HOWEVER, I suggest that if you intend to prepare to render aid that you understand the laws of the state or jurisdiction you will be in when you might have cause to. ESPECIALLY if you are a certified/licensed medical provider, because the laws affect you differently (standard of care), and you may have a different responsibility to someone you have initiated care for (such as not removing your care until you hand off responsibility to a higher/more appropriate level of care).

While I wouldn’t normally recommend Wikipedia, it’s a good start in this case to research your state’s or other jurisdiction’s laws: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Samaritan_law

(facebook post September 4, 2017)

In the wake of Harvey, I’ve been fielding questions about what I would put in a first aid kit/medic bag, and since I’ve now typed it out or cut/pasted it more than 2x, I’m going to make a public post for anyone who wants my spare change on the matter.

(For anyone who’s been referred to this link and doesn’t know me personally… I was a paramedic when I was a young adult, and have worked as an RN in ICU and ER. I volunteer my medic services for roller derby, and after I graduate from grad school plan to volunteer with some sort of disaster services.)

There are plenty of places you can get a pre-packaged first aid kit, and they’re fine for most people. I personally find the selections and quantities provided to be crap, though. So I always pack my own, or at least beef up a pre-packaged kit. The 1/4″ medical tape is probably the thing that gripes me the most. That is freakin’ useless, people. Throw it away and put in a decent roll of athletic tape if you do nothing else to a pre-packaged kit. Oh, and those vinyl gloves? Worthless, and you need more than one freakin’ pair. I could go on, but I won’t. 😉

So here’s my basic first aid kit list. There’s a lot of discussion at the bottom about how to carry the stuff, and links to my Amazon first aid supplies list. Feel free to ask questions and such, I’ll give whatever advice/thoughts I can.

    • Nitrile Gloves – however many you think you need, multiply by at least 2 and preferably 3.
    • Face Mask (pref. N95 but anything that will block droplet is good enough) – pack at least 2
    • Goggles
    • Alcohol Gel
    • Alcohol pads
    • CPR mask
    • Bandaids (assorted sizes)
    • Bacitracin Neosporin (I prefer single use pouches) EDIT 12/2021 – someone rightly pointed out that this should be bacitracin due to potential allergic reactions to Neosporin from those with sulfa allergies.
    • Coflex wrap (AKA Coban, Vet Wrap)
    • Wound irrigation (saline works, can use squeeze bottles or things like sinus irrigator cans)
    • Wound cleaning wipes (optional but VERY useful)
    • Tweezers (splinter removal kit is always good)
    • Eye irrigation kit (optional, you can use other stuff if needed)
    • Bandage scissors (optional if you have good trauma shears)
    • Blister pads (optional, bandaids/duct tape can be used)
    • 2-4 chemical ice packs
    • 2-4 ACE wraps (4″ are the best generic, 6″ are best for knees, 2″ are best for hand/wrist)
    • Bite/sting ointment or spray (optional, alcohol preps and hydrocortisone are usually as good)
    • Burn gel (an alternative is NON-menthol shaving cream, but the new burn gel formulations are best)
    • Hydrocortisone ointment
    • Benadryl
    • Ibuprofen
    • Tylenol
    • Aspirin (only use for suspect heart attacks or those who cannot tolerate tylenol/ibuprofen)
    • Antacid Tablets
    • Immodium
    • Glucose Gel
    • Oral rehydration salts/tablets (I like SaltStick tabs) (edit 12/2021: these also now come in powders like DripDrop and ORS to mix with water)
    • Sunscreen
    • Aloe vera gel
    • Bug repellant
    • Duct tape (can do flat rolls)
    • Trash bags (small ones can also be used for ice packs)
    • Lip balm/vaseline
    • Liquid hand soap/ wet wipes
    • Emergency mylar blanket
    • Tampons
    • A good bright small LED flashlight (I like one on a lanyard)
    • Emesis bags (added 12/2021) – As a spoonie I’ve found out first hand how ESSENTIAL these things are

I have been playing with using packing cubes in a duffel bag to keep items together that are needed together – like for sprains/breaks or wound care. It works well, but I’m finding the packing cubes to be too soft-sided for practicality. You can use gallon zip lock bags as well. Or anything really, but it’s important to keep it organized enough (and well labeled) so you can find what you need. I recently found these that look good …

http://gearbags.com/store/shop/lxmbp4/ I’ll be trying them out and will let you know what I think.
(EDIT 12/21/2021 – THESE ARE FANTASTIC – 1000% better than packing cubes – the packing cubes don’t have rigid sides and collapse – they’re not as helpful as I’d hoped. These are great, and for anything that doesn’t fit, you can separate in gallon Ziploc bags. I’ve also found them on Amazon… https://smile.amazon.com/Pouches-Dressing-Separate-Supplies-Transparent/dp/B087J1WB6F/ref=sr_1_16?crid=2X45TUCTBR5PJ&keywords=gear+bags+color+coded&qid=1640104900&sprefix=gearbags+color+coded%2Caps%2C86&sr=8-16)

Backpack vs. duffel is personal preference combined with what kind of activity you’ll need to carry the bag with. If you have a place to just leave it, I find a duffel works better. If you need to carry it with you, a backpack is more practical. There are thousands of options on the internet from inexpensive to oh-my-god spendy. You can get milspec if you want/need, but generally whatever you can find that holds what you need is good enough.

Also, a friend of mine turned me on to the concept of a “boo boo bag”. This is a pair of gloves, several 4×4 gauze pads, some alcohol wipes or wound cleansing wipes, a single use packet of neosporin, and a couple of bandaids… put in a ziplock sandwich bag. That lets you grab what you need for a small wound easily without opening up your big wound bag and potentially dripping blood or gunk all in your big wound/bleed bag. I pack a dozen or so of these for derby, you probably only need a few if you’re not manning a med station. Keep in an outside pocket of your bag for easy access.

If you’re needing a super minimalist pack to keep on a belt or something… gloves, Israeli battle dressing, quickclot (not needed if the battle dressing is impregnated already), a few bandaids and neosporin packets, a few 4×4’s and a roll of tape.

I have created a list on Amazon with most of the supplies I use. I try to find the best deal on a given item, and sometimes that means buying in bulk. If you don’t need 2 dozen of something, you can usually find smaller packages for less total money. If you know me IRL, you can also let me know what you need and I can split a pack with you of something I buy in bulk. I don’t go much for name brands on pretty much anything, I’ve learned that the non-brand stuff is generally just as good as anything else. So if I’ve linked a name brand something, it’s either the best deal I could find (rare) or it’s an item where I really think the money’s worth it. My Amazon list: http://a.co/eyeBgBF

If you want to buy single use packets of something but only want one-zies and two-zies I highly recommend http://www.minimus.biz/

Of course, every med kit needs to be customized for the target need. I have a different kit when I volunteer as a medic for sports teams than the one I carry in my car or have prepped as a BOB. For medic volunteering, I stock a lot of supplies for the minor injuries – cuts/scrapes/sprains and enough supplies for the more serious injuries to manage between 2 and 4 instances. I don’t want to be in a situation where I use all of my splinting supplies on a break and have nothing the rest of the night.

REMEMBER – 2 is 1, and 1 is none. SERIOUSLY. Even things like my trauma shears, I have SOMETHING else in the pack or in my every day carry that I can use if they are lost or break. A knife, a smaller set of bandage scissors, etc.

And only pack what you know how to use, or can reasonably expect someone in your party knows how to use. A tourniquet is almost never needed, especially if you pack Israeli battle dressings. If I had to choose, I’d pack a battle dressing. I can always fashion a tourniquet out of other crap from my pack. Even for a SHTF situation, if you don’t know how to suture, don’t bother carrying suture equipment. Most of the time you can make do with good butterfly dressings or even duct tape if you know what you’re doing.

The only exception to this rule is a CPR mask. Carry a good one, even if you don’t know how to do CPR. The little shield things you can put on your key ring are better than nothing, but the one I’ve linked in my list is the one I carry. There’s one in my med bag, and one in my glove box. If you have to do CPR on someone, you do NOT want the crap that’s going to come out of their mouth in yours. Just sayin’. (EDIT 12/2021 this is becoming less of a “thing” with the recent changes to CPR based on data that emphasizes compressions over ventilation. Always do compressions regardless of ventilation, turns out the compressions cause a minimal exchange of air on their own, and layman CPR no longer even teaches to give breaths. Provider CPR still teaches ventilation, and I’ll keep doing it, but for a first aid kit this isn’t as important as it used to be.)

It can be quite expensive to pack out a good medical kit, especially when looking at all of the OTC meds that are a good idea to carry. You can buy OTC meds in large bottles for less, but that’s a lot of bulk. You can use small pill pouches like these (https://www.amazon.com/…/dp/B001FVG5QQ/ref=sr_1_2_a_it…) to put small counts in a carry pack. I do NOT recommend this for use for anyone beyond yourself and your immediate family. If you choose to do this, LABEL the packets VERY well, including expiration dates for the meds. If you’re doing something like I do and volunteering as a medic, it’s *best* to have the pre-made individual packets that are properly labeled by the manufacturer and sealed. Second best is to just have bottles of the meds (see legal note).

Also, remember that it can be legally problematic to give someone else medications. I always have the OTC meds available, but the person (adults only) help themselves. That way I am not administering medication without a legal medical order.

Whether you’re packing a kit just for yourself/family, or planning to volunteer your services or to be a resource in a SHTF scenario, you need to be familiar with your kit, and keep it up. Know where stuff is in your pack, and practice with it.

My first couple of nights volunteering as a medic for roller derby, I hadn’t practiced with my pack, and stuff was falling out like crazy when I’d take it out to the floor to attend someone, or I couldn’t quickly find the item I needed. I’ve modified my setup accordingly, but I looked like a moron to start with. Don’t be me. LOL.

Also, I opened up the kit that had been in my car the other day, and every medication in it was a good 10 years expired. Generally speaking, expiration dates are not a hard-and-fast rule. HOWEVER, med kits are generally not kept in an environment with stable temperatures and humidity. Rotate the meds in your pack and don’t let them get too far out of date.

I hope this helps someone. 🙂
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Comments/ thoughts/ suggestions/ etc. are welcome, but keep the discussion on topic and civil, please.