An IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) is something all of us need to carry – if we don’t already. Most people have a small first aid kit with some band aids, antibiotic ointment and perhaps some 2×2 gauze with any variety of other small pieces of kit which are great for dealing with minor cuts and scrapes. The IFAK I’m talking about is one we should be carrying in the post 911 world – one which can deal with a mass casualty situation. Many first responders, police and certainly all military personnel have begun carrying an IFAK which has advanced life saving gear in it. As civilians, we need something which will bridge the gap between band aids and advanced life support. One such item commonly found in a military IFAK is a decompression needle – this is one item I would not recommend an untrained individual to carry.
Here is a list of items I would recommend people carry. It should be contained in a pouch small enough to either be carried in your EDC (Every Day Carry) bag, or even on your belt. The list of items are:
1. Gloves – A must for dealing with anyone who would actually require you to use this gear on. If you’re using this gear it means these’s blood and a lot of it – if you’re like me you probably always have small cuts and abrasions on your hands so protecting yourself is a pretty important first step.
2. EMT Shears – Sometimes these are called Penny Shears because they will actually cut a penny in half. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get good quality a pair of these can be found for under $10 and will perform outstanding. If there’s an accident you’ll need to cut away any clothing, belts, gear and having a good pair of shears is important.
There are some pretty trick versions out there such as these made by Leatherman, but in the end paying over $100 for something you won’t use every day probably isn’t worth it.
3. Israeli Bandage – The Israeli bandage was invented in Israel and is a great thing to carry, It has a plastic pressure applicator which allows the bandage to be wrapped around it and torqued back increasing the amount of pressure which would have been able to be applied simply by wrapping the bandage. It’s a great tool for getting a lot of pressure on a wound quickly.
4. Tourniquet – There are two types of tourniquets I would recommend. One is the SOF-T, it’s a little larger and bulkier, but it is more widely accepted by the medical community. It has a buckle with flat webbing material and a cam which increases the tension. The cam is able to be twisted further after the tourniquet has been applied so in case more pressure needs to be added this unit is capable of doing that. There is also a vital TIME marker on there which is the reason you should have your sharpie in your kit.
The second type of tourniquet is the SWAT (Stretch, Wrap and Tuck). It was designed by a special operations medic who was looking for something easier to use and lighter weight. This is pretty simple to use, for one you don’t have to try to feed the device over the severed limb, you simply wrap above the wound and then stretch it till the design distorts from ovals to circles then tuck it under. The drawback is it can not be additionally tightened later.
5. Cellox – Cellox is one item I would carry anywhere, it is a cellulose granular material which creates clotting within the wound. It’s fast and doesn’t create heat like another brand does. I have seen demonstrations using this product and it’s pretty remarkable. One of its attributes is that it can be abused after applying. Remember if you use this material, after pouring it into the wound you still should wrap the wound with a bandage, In the bandage include the packaging of the product. This way, when the patient gets to the hospital the caregiver will know exactly what this strange stuff is which has been poured into the wound.
6. Sharpie – It’s important to keep this little guy in your kit – it’ll serve a 1,000 uses and weighs nothing.
7. Roll of Medical Tape – Keep your gloves tucked into the roll of tape, you’re going to need the tape for all sorts of things if you’re rendering aid.
There are two medical companies I deal with, Chinook Medical and North American Rescue. They both have quality gear and extremely advanced life saving equipment which requires the proper licensing to purchase. The gear listed above should be able to be purchased through either of these companies as a civilian. I would strongly recommend getting training in how to use the gear properly because in the end, if you fuck some one other than yourself up, you are responsible. There are strict laws against using medical equipment and performing medical procedures on someone with out the proper licensing. Having said that – there are no laws against you going to any length to use this gear on yourself, and in the end – this kit is an Individual First Aid Kit… For you, as an individual. Now in the end if someone is bleeding out on the side of the highway after getting their arm torn off in an accident would I use this gear on them? Yes. Will I deal with the consequences later – yes.
Here is an IFAK I like from Chinook Medical.
I like it, because it is small and opens easily with the items I may need quickly. It goes for $160 and has the following Items:
(2) Nitrile Glove
(1) SOF Tactical Tourniquet, Wide
(1) Compressed Gauze
(1) Israeli Emergency Bandage, 4”
(1) Bolin Chest Seal
(1) Decompression Needle, 14G x 3.25”
(1) Nasopharyngeal Airway w/ Lube, 28 Fr
(1) Aluminum Eye Shield
(1) EMT Shears, 5.5”
(1) Permanent Marker
(1) Flat Duct Tape, 1.89”x2 yd, OD
(1) Tactical Combat Casualty Care Card
Some of these items you do not need if you are not trained properly so, you might want to opt for building your own kit and utilizing a pouch you already have.
Here is a micro IFAK from NARESCUE, it retails for about $109.
I have a LifeStraw I keep in my 72 Hour Bag and I’ve written about it in the past, but there’s one issue with the LifeStraw I don’t think you can ignore. Below are some pictures I found which show off the LifeStraws ability to allow its owner to drink from a literal cesspool and not only live but actually be completely unaffected by the little nasties living in there. As you can see from the pictures below the LifeStraw is an amazing water filter which has a great design, allowing it to filter 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water and weighs only 2 oz.
The commonality in all the photos above are that the people have water. The major issue I have with the LifeStraw is that you must have access to water and drink it at the source to make it worth it’s light weight feature. The fact that it is a straw makes it difficult to hook up to a hydration bladder and make use of it’s water filtering ability. As seen in the photo below, if you live in an area with access to water then it’s probably not much of a concern.
However, if you live in an arid area where water is scarce and you’re going to need to collect your water and take it with you then you must take further steps and not rely solely on the LifeStraw. You can’t just throw this item in your 72 Hour Bag and go blindly forward thinking you’ll sort it out when the time arises. Figure out how you’re going to collect water and take it with you. Something as simple as two gallon zip lock baggies may be enough for you to double bag a gallon of water and go. I’m not saying this is the answer I would choose, but for some simplicity is the key… I assure you there are going to be complications with the zip lock baggies, but at least it’s a back up plan. A good quality dry bag can be used backwards and used to carry water as well, old Gatorade bottles are some of my favorites because they are pretty strong, last a long time, carry a good quantity of water and have a wide mouth so filling is easier than a regular plastic water bottle.
With all these limitations of the LifeStraw I still carry it in my 72 Hour Bag but I keep it as my backup. My primary water filtration system is the Sawyer Mini. Remember: “One is none, and two is one.” Out of the box it’s pretty much exactly like the LifeStraw with it’s capabilities. Yeah, yeah, it ain’t exactly the same and the LifeStraw surpasses it’s filtration by a squeak, but at that level of filtration I don’t think it is really going to make all that much difference. Here’s the Mini:
Here is the comparison chart between the two filters:
Out of the box it’s designed to attach to a water pouch which you squeeze to get the water to flow through and into your mouth, but with some very simple steps you can cut the hose on your hydration bladder, add a couple little zip ties and you have an in line water filter stowed and ready to go in the 72 Hour Bag.
I take this filter system from my 72 Hour Bag and use it for all my backpacking trips. The ability to take my hydration bladder to a stream, fill it up and not have to take any time to process the water is invaluable and one less bit of work I have to do or stress about when trying to enjoy the outdoors. The fact that the Sawyer Mini will filter out 100,000 gallons of water makes it a much better bang for the buck, is 1/3 the length and it weighs exactly the same amount. I’ve attached mine to the Platypus Big Zip and find is the best bladder on the market, it’s zip lock opening make it a cinch to refill and clean and it’s got an antibacterial coating to stop nasty things from building up over time. Here’s what the Big Zip looks like:
In the end, the LifeStraw goes for about $20. The Sawyer Mini goes for about $25. For the extra $5 I think the Mini is a much better way to go especially seeing how you can filter out 378 times the amount of water!
As we were driving to dinner last night my daughter, who is six, had an emergency need for a band aid. There had been some type of trauma to her finger the other day and it was in need of immediate medical assistance. Even though there was no evidence of anything needing a band aid, but she had to have one immediately. Luckily for us I realized I have three first aid kits in my car, one in the glove box which is a small pedestrian med kit, one in my 72 Hour Bag which has more advanced items like wound closure items and antibiotics, then there’s my trauma kit I keep in a ready to access position on my tail gate.
Do you really need this many med kits? Well no, but I have realized after last night that each child you are traveling with should have their own first aid kit stocked with the things kids will use most this way when they have one of their “emergencies” they can tend to themselves and not rifle through the emergency kit with dirty hands disrupting and compromising the sanitation of items which may be needed when a real emergency happens.
Their kit should include:
Kid sized bandages
antibacterial spray – they have this model which is easy for kids to apply to themselves.
Tweezers & Magnifying glass – If you have a kid like my daughter, they will never let anyone near a splinter so she does it herself and she’s actually pretty good at splinter removal. We’re hoping to parlay that into medical school.
Aquaphor is a great addition because even in the heat of summer it won’t melt like some chapped lip tubes. Aquifer can also be used on dry skin anywhere on the body.
hand sanitizer both a travel sized bottle and some hand wipes if they’ll fit in the first aid kit bag.
100% Aloevera Gel is probably the best thing I’ve ever used for sun burns, even a kid will actually use this stuff if they get a sunburn because if feels so good when you apply it, so I’d throw a tube of that in there too.
As a final note on the kids’ kit, if you buy a pre bought kit to build off of, I’d take out any medications just to be on the safe side, you don’t want a kid self medicating with advil thinking they look like tic tacs.
Some other items you shouldn’t forget to put in the Family first aid kit are:
Gauze Pads & Rolls
First Aid Tape
Alchohol (not bourbon)