Your First-Aid Field Kit
The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to build a basic first aid kit. Most items can be purchased at your local drug store, and a complete kit can fit into a fanny pack and weigh less than a pound. Keep in mind that if you are purchasing a kit from a survival gear supplier or vendor, you may want to add or take away in order to build one that meets your particular needs and expectations. This is one reason that having your own pouch or bag is important, and a kit in a can may not be enough. Just remember that you need to know how to use everything that you put in your kit, and it’s just as important to learn skills as it is to have the right supplies.
Picking the Right Bag
It is important to choose a separate bag to contain your first aid supplies. This will help to ensure that they are always organized, kept sterile and easy to access in a moment’s notice. It should be durable but practical. It should be compact but big enough to handle your needs while giving you easy access. I recommend using a pouch that has some attachments on it so you can clip it to your belt, backpack or bug-out-bag. However, you can decide what works best for you. Just remember, you want to make sure that it will withstand the rigors that it may encounter during a survival situation.
You can get one with lots of pockets and compartments, but keep in mind that these require more space. If space is an issue, consider getting a pouch with no compartments on the inside in order to maximize storage capacity. You also want one that has a durable zipper. Buttons and snaps can break, causing you to run the risk of losing your supplies. You may also want to consider getting one that is water-resistant, but this is not necessary because your supplies should be stored in zip-lock bags anyway.
Packing the Kit
You should make sure that your kit is packed with efficiency and practicality in mind. No matter what items you include, you need to be able to access them as quickly as possible. This also means knowing where everything is. The last thing that you need in a crisis is to have to unpack the entire kit and fish around for what you need. Make sure that things are accessible and organized.
Make sure that each group of similar items are packed inside of a zip-lock bag unless they are securely packaged in air-tight plastic by the manufacturer. Things like tape, gauze and bandages are completely useless if they get wet. Baggies are you and your first aid kit’s best friend, so make sure that things are protected from getting wet. Also, keep in mind that once you open something that came pre-packaged, like a roll of gauze, then you won’t be able to pack it up again. So, the zip-lock baggie will come in handy to protect your supplies for future use as well. Finally, you don’t want to over-stuff items into your pouch either. Leave enough room so that you can access what you need without making a mess as you try to take things out or put items back.
What to Pack
As mentioned before, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what to put in your first aid kit. You should consider basic items such as bandages, antibiotic ointment, tape, band-aids, gloves, scissors, tweezers and some over-the-counter pain medication. An Ace bandage, triangular sling, surgical pads, gauze, butterfly bandages and hot and cold pads should be considered as well. Make sure to include some antiseptic wipes as well as a small container of hydrogen peroxide or betadine.
Safety pins, a scalpel, forceps, dental extraction pliers and syringe may also come in handy, but it’s up to you to choose what additional items to include in your kit. As mentioned before, you should consider your terrain and climate while choosing what things to add so that you are prepared for the unique challenges these locations create. For example, if you will be bugging-out or hunkering down in a cold climate, you may want to include a thermal blanket, some hand warmers and hot packs. If you are going to be climbing, make sure to include some Ace bandages and ice packs in case you hurt your ankle.
Use common sense and good judgment as your are packing your first aid kit, and never fall into the trap of complicating the simple. You don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars into a kit that is full of stuff that you don’t absolutely need. On the other hand, you want to make sure that you have enough basic supplies to address the immediate medical concerns of you and those you are traveling with.
Why Antiseptic and Antibiotic Ointments are so Important
Dealing with minor injuries is not going to be the biggest challenge that you will face. Controlling infections is going to be the top priority of anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they are for from appropriate medical care. Wounds can easily become infected if they are not properly cleaned. Even a deep scratch or nasty burn can lead to the potential for serious injury. I know people who were swimming and grazed their foot along some jagged rocks who received huge infections along with swelling. Others have gotten poked by a broken branch or while baiting a hook. There are a million ways that we can sustain minor injuries that can lead to major problems.
The simplest and most practical way to deal with this potential threat is to coat the wound or affected area with some antibiotic ointment, or at the very least, wipe it down with antiseptic pads. Deeper wounds should be irrigated with purified water with salt added. So, make sure that you have at least a good sized tube of ointment or a number of antibiotic ointment packs in your kit. Antiseptic wipes are also important for initially cleaning a wound. Make sure to dress the wound with the appropriate bandage, and do your best to ensure that it is properly sealed to prevent it from getting dirty or wet. Wounds heal surprisingly fast if they are properly treated and dressed.
Pack a Small First Aid Guide
Buy a small but comprehensive first aid guide that you can refer to as needed, especially if you have little experience with treating wounds that are common in survival situations. A good guide will have information and instructions, but it will also have quick reference diagrams that are easy to follow and understand.
Remember, that providing rapid and effective treatment is essential to minimizing the impact of injuries. Having the supplies is only part of the equation. You also need the tools and knowledge to get the job done without making matters worse.
Build Your Kit Around Your Needs
Finally, make sure to make the first aid kit fit your needs. Look at some examples that others provide, explore what comes in various kits that are available for sale, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to make it unique to your requirements. Also, don’t go overboard. It’s really easy to load up on medical supplies that include every item found under the sun. You will be surprised with how many injuries can be treated with a few, basic items. While having lots of supplies can always help, you don’t necessarily need them. Weigh your options as you look at your overall strategy and equipment list, and get a kit that will work just for you. Remember that space and weight are two chief concerns to consider, and your kit needs to be the right size in order for it to be a benefit and not a burden.