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Packing a first aid kit, IFAK discussion

After reading the First Aid Kit Article, my first thought was, “How the heck does that all fit in there?”

IFAK first aid kit list

There are a few comments beneath the article asking the same question. Rather than wait on a guide, I figured I’d throw a kit together to see how it turned out. Most of this kit was purchased and assembled in September and October of 2019. The pictures I took last week. The kit is not finished, I’m still missing a few things, and I’m likely to make more changes as time goes on.

Full Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. There are people here with a lifetime more experience than me. Comments and criticism on the components and layout are welcome.

The bag itself was purchased from Amazon, it is an Orca Tactical MOLLE Rip-Away pouch. Nominal bag dimensions are 8″x6″x3.5″. Different bags will pack differently, but I wanted something roughly this size as my own proof of concept for a level 3ish kit.

I may have screwed up the embedded images below, but it’s late, I’m tired, and all the links should be there regardless.

Full post: https://imgur.com/a/oP3vZkv

Full kit laid out: https://imgur.com/7vpFMH4

IFAK packed, open: https://imgur.com/MRyyxRU

Left side, packed: https://imgur.com/r19DIcr

Left side, large items: Shears, Tourniquet, Elastic Compression Wrap, Rolled Gauze: https://imgur.com/NCtnz3Y

Packed flat in the large pocket in the back of the bag. From top to bottom: Emergency blanket, Moleskin, Abdominal Pad (x2), Gauze Sponge (x2), Chest Seal, Steri-strips: https://imgur.com/rlQgiuR

Middle section, on top: Gloves (x2), Coban, Medical Tape, Silk Tape, Z-Fold Gauze. Bottom: Pressure Dressing: https://imgur.com/a4H97ne

Middle section, packed below: Hydrocortisone cream, Petroleum Jelly, Cravat: https://imgur.com/ikPqEct

Right pouch: Tweezers, Syringe w/ 18ga tip, Band-aids (x10), Butterfly Bandages, Alcohol Prep Pads, Non-Stick Pad, Nasopharyngeal airway: https://imgur.com/jOzjDCz

Inner mesh bag: Immodium, Pepto-Bismol, Advil, Benadryl, Tylenol: https://imgur.com/UUe7WuJ

I was surprised that everything so far ended up fitting. The bag is still closing easily. I’m unsure of the long term quality of the bag, but I haven’t noticed any splitting, or stitching coming undone around the zipper. The current weight is about 2.4lbs. (I have a terrible scale, and I’m not sure how accurate that number is.) Everything has stayed strapped in place, but I haven’t tried punting the bag down the stairs yet to test just how secure things are.

IFAK Measurements: https://i.imgur.com/xwaYs34

Here’s the breakdown of items from the level 1, 2 and 3 first aid kits in the IFAK guide, along with what I’m missing.

Level 1

  • Tourniquet
  • Pressure Dressing
  • Z-Fold Gauze
  • Coban Roll
  • Trauma Shears
  • Acetomihophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Benadryl
  • Imodium
  • Band-Aids
  • Chest Seals

Level 2

  • Tweezers
  • Irrigation Syringe
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Needle and Thread in Alcohol – MISSING
  • Silk Medical Tape
  • Moleskin
  • Rolled Gauze
  • Gauze Pads
  • Plastic Cling Wrap – MISSING
  • Cravat
  • Butterfly Bandages
  • Safety Pins – MISSING
  • Elastic Wrap / ACE
  • Aluminum Splint – MISSING

Level 3

  • Emergency Blanket
  • Gloves
  • Saline Eye Drops – MISSING
  • Abdominal Pad
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway
  • Aspirin – MISSING
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Caffeine – MISSING
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Miconazole – MISSING
  • Doxycycline – MISSING

 

With regards to the missing items

  • Needle and Thread in Alcohol: I haven’t found a small bottle I like that I also don’t need to order two dozen of that I also trust to seal tightly. I realize this is a pretty dumb reason not to have this item sorted out, since I do have needle, thread and alcohol on hand.
  • Plastic Cling Wrap – I don’t have a lot of first aid training, so I’m not sure when it would be appropriate to MacGyver something out of cling wrap. This is easy enough to add, it’s in my kitchen now.
  • Safety Pins – Dumb oversight I’m realizing now.
  • Aluminum Splint – I threw this in my car bag rather than the FAK. I might try bending it differently to get it to fit, especially if I move the tourniquet and shears to the outside of the bag.
  • Saline Eye Drops – I was looking at some sterile single use ampoules. Otherwise the smallest bottle I found was 4oz. I also don’t recognize all of the brands for this stuff, which makes me a bit hesitant to squirt it in my eyes. I also have concerns on these freezing if left in my car during the winter.
  • Aspirin – I need to buy some pill pouches for these since I don’t have any of the single dose packets.
  • Caffeine – I bought some NoDoz recently that I could throw in a pill pouch, but I don’t think I’ll ever use them. I’ve only tried a caffeine pill once, years ago, and I hated it. I can drink a litre of coffee without issue, but one pill got me all kinds of jacked up.
  • Miconazole – Still need to buy this. Not a high priority for me, though it does have other uses.
  • Doxycycline – I still need to talk with my doctor about this. I’ve done some travelling in South America in the past, and got prescribed Cipro as a “just-in-case” antibiotic. I want a better understanding of side effects and stuff before adding this or really any broad spectrum antibiotic.

Other comments

  • The bag strikes me as a little “Tacticool” which I’m not a big fan of. I also bought some of those black Talon gloves, and snark aside, they do feel pretty good and I like how they come packaged.
  • The tourniquet could be attached to the outside for easier and faster access, while freeing up room inside. Same goes for the shears. I was unsure of how to do this securely using rubber bands or elastics.
  • I left this kit in my car over most of the winter, so it was below freezing for days or weeks at a time. On returning to room temperature, I couldn’t find any issue with the petroleum jelly or the hydrocortisone cream. They also didn’t burst or leak in the bag, which was nice.
  • Immodium – My general rule while traveling is take double the amount any reasonable person would bring with them, especially if in a group. Someone always forgets it, and someone always needs it. This is morale insurance too. No one has ever been upset they brought too little with them. I think I’m going to add more to my kit.
  • I should have labeled the images with numbers next to each item, corresponding them to the level 1, 2 or 3 lists for reference. I might go back and do this.
  • I’ve thrown in some things that aren’t on the “official” list, but I have some extra and I’ve found them useful in the past. Steri-strips, non-stick pads, woven gauze and alcohol prep pads.

So there it is. I’m still figuring this out. I’m planning on making level 1 and level 2 kits at some point as well, but I’m looking for the right bags or pouches.

Cheers

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  • Best Replies

  • Comments (17)

    • 5

      I have a similar set-up. Mine includes Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing (First Aid Compression Bandage) and KTTAPE (for blisters and muscle support, both of which can be found on Amazon.

      Depending on the situation, one of these EMS cases by Pelican can be really handy to have around -whether stored at a bugout location or buried. Granted, not as portable… https://www.pelican.com/us/en/product/cases/ems-case/air/1465ems

      • 2

        @Matt Black – a few questions:  1) Isn’t an Israeli bandage the same as the NARS Pressure Dressing that’s in there?  I thought just have different pressure generating components. 2) How much KTTAPE do you include?  Currently I only have 2 8″ segments.  I’m also debating between the stretchable KT TAPE and non-stretch version of Luekotape. KTTAPE comes pre-segmented and with backing which makes it easier than Leukotape – but I’m seeking better here.  3) Any thoughts on which is better?

    • 5

      I’m also kitting out my IFAK. The fancy orange bag Tom used is out of stock, so I ordered a Marine Corps. IFAK pouch from eBay, which includes a tourniquet and some other standard equipment. I’ll be kitting it out in the coming weeks.

    • 5

      Just some quick n dirty thoughts…

      Chest seals (for sucking chest wounds): you can improvise this with a plastic id card and tape, FYI.

      Liquid bandage is useful for small cuts, scrapes. Portability is good.

      I’m not sure (please, someone correct me if I’m wrong!), but is superglue viable for deeper (non-life-threatening) cuts?

       

      • 5

        You can absolutely improvise a chest seal!  However, you will not be able to easily improvise the one-way valves, nor the amazing adhesives commercial ones use to stick through blood, sweat, hair, and dirt.  Plus they are cheap and small enough that commercial variants are a good choice for most people.

        As far as wound closure, industrial super glues are not a great choice.  We cover the reasons why in our post about wound closures (glue is at the bottom): https://theprepared.com/survival-skills/guides/close-wound/.  You can do it in a pinch, but it is not the preferred method, nor material.

         

      • 5

        Oh, absolutely agreed!

        I should have probably specified beforehand for clarity (apologies!), but I was speaking in terms of a “last resort” -type scenario.

      • 3

        Please do not take this as medical advice, but I have used super glue to successful close up some pretty gnarly wounds in the past. When I recently sliced my finger open with a straight razor, one application stopped the bleeding, and then a second the morning after sealed up the cut. It healed perfectly.

    • 5

      This is a great topic, thank you for starting it!  Also, good job with the pics and the descriptions.

      As far as the tourniquet and shears, I put both of those on the outside:

      • the shears just slide in some of the PALS webbing (and you can use dummy cord if you are worried about losing them)
      • the TQ is rubber-banded.  It is pretty easy–just feed a rubberband under one of the PALS grids (so you have a loop coming out the top and the bottom).  Then you put the TQ over it and pull the top loop of the rubber band over the top of the TW.  Repeat for the bottom.

      I always carry meds in a hard box (like a Pelican) to keep protected from moisture and damage.  And totally appropriate to adjust to your needs.  This is always meant as a “best practice” for most people.  We are not dogmatic.  Modify to suit your conditions and needs.  And 100% agree on the Imodium.

      You should be able to find the alcohol in a small bottle already–I just use these and put the needle and thread inside: https://theprepared.com/pick/g-ifak-isopropyl-alcohol-pump-spray-2oz-amzn/ (though they can be harder to find right now because of COVID).

      The little single-serving eye drops are totally fine as a format–and you are right to watch the ingredients.

      Plastic wrap is super versatile and can be used for bandaging purposes, allowing for a see-through material that won’t stick to wounds (that is our main purpose for inclusion).  But it can be used for so many other things…

      The Aluminum Splint is always tricky, but yes, the key is folding it to fit the bag.  I put mine in the large pocket in the rear of the bag (for the Fox Tactical).

      Yeah, the bag tends to be a little tactical-ish with all of the webbing.  There are definitely other bags out there.  I mean, you can fit it all into a gallon-sized Ziploc if needed.  I’ve been experimenting with a couple of other bags lately, but they all seem to have that core look to them.

      Hopefully, this IFAK article gave you a good starting base and helped point out a few things that could be useful!

      • 5

        The IFAK article was a huge help for getting started and showing me what to prioritize. Up until now I’ve just tossed whatever I had on hand into a ziploc bag for camping or hiking trips. It might still use a plastic bag in the future, just for water proofing, but I’ll definitely be a bit more intentional about what I’m putting in there.

        I’ll look into a small hard case for the meds, and I might pick up that Fox Tactical pouch if I decide to put together a second bag, thanks.

      • 3

        The Pelican 1040 box seems to be about the right size for the personal meds in the IFAK List.  I’ve got mine extra stuffed and may go with a larger box–the trade off is the additional volume also takes up more room in the pack.

      • 2
      • 2

        OMG!  I actually own that container and didn’t consider it for the BOB.  Thanks for sharing this!

      • 2

        I purchased a waterproof set that isn’t as sturdy as a pelican but also doesn’t take up as much space.  It only fits the medications, not the topicals.  Plano Small waterproof boxes  

    • 4

      Packing an IFAK is definitely a skill, which I feel I have not entirerely mastered. But I stand with Tom Rader on this: tourniquet and shears would be better outside, where they are quickly accessible. Right now my tourniquet is strapped onto my belt, and the shears on the outside of the IFAK bag.

    • 2

      It’s as if you read my mind!  Thank you for starting this topic.  I’ve been outfitting my FAK and it’s like 4 lbs.  But then I’ve over done it – cold packs and such.  Planning for that to be in the office/car so I don’t have to carry it far.    Additional thanks to all for the comments.

    • 2

      What a great walkthrough on packing this pack…just what I needed, thank you!

      I too struggled with the alcohol and needle container. I ended up repurposing a travel pill bottle (like this: https://www.amazon.com/Advil-Reliever-Reducer-Ibuprofen-Temporary/dp/B01EFT7ADQ/). It’s the perfect size and does not seem to leak at all.

      Cheers

    • 2

      My FAK is nearly completed (NAR cravat is on backorder)  and tried a few different bag options.  The recommended Fox was not in stock, so I tried a few that others had.  I ended up with the Vanquest Large FatPack.  This was long enough that I didn’t need to re-fold the splint.  Not quite a s heavy due to no quick remove velcro additional back.  It holds everything (including topicals and some additional items like Hydrocolloidal dressing suggested here) except the shears and tourniquet but has a clear spot on the outside for them both.  It’s as not as deep as some others with rounded edges so it fit into the shove pocket on the outside of my pack.  I think it holds only a bit more  in a broader longer, shallower footprint.  It’s not perfect as the long narrow side pockets would be more useful if they had access about half way down for smaller flatish items and I want 2 strips of their cleverly designed elastic elastic loops to keep items stable (but this is possibly user error – @Tom Rader would be a better judge here with his superior skills).  I used a 0.5 oz spray bottle from ebay for my alcohol/needle bottle that keeps wanting to slide free.  I also recall reading somewhere on TP site to aim for 24 doses of meds which takes a bit of space but they fit in the Plano Small Box set that makes them able to fit in the bottom of the shove pocket (don’t think a pelican would fit down there).