Intro: Disaster Preparedness; Medical Kit *Photos Updated 9/5/15
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor an E.M.T. nor a first responder. I am quite simply a guy who cares about his well being, and the well being of his family enough to have taken the time to bone up on the basics and put together kit enough to handle most of the minor scuffs, scrapes and general maladies that could accumulate to otherwise ruin your day.
Now that that's said, what's stopping you for going ahead and purchasing a pre-made first aid kit? Absolutely nothing! If that's your prerogative, by all means... But I take it that's not your interest if your reading this instructable.
Step 1: A Port in a Storm...
Before we go digging into the contents lets take a look at the container, or rather containers as it were.
The dry bag; Bright & red, it stands out like an oasis in the desert. It's important your medical kit stands out. Camo yourself from head to toe; but if you're looking to keep both, you don't want to have to hunt down your IFAK amongst the other rabble of you pack.
*IFAK: Army slang for Individual first aid kit*
It also keeps the contents dry, hence the name. Bog water does not a sterile environment make.
Pro tip: Because this bag is water tight it can be used inversely as a container. This particular bag holds a smidgen under a liter, making it viable for any number of chemical treatment methods.
*Spoiler alert; Two are contained in this kit, Stay tuned!*
The second bag is principally for organizational purposes. A dump pouch should not be used as a medical bag. Organization is drastically important in any medical kit. You don't want to go groping around in the dark for items you may desperately need in a hurry. "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
Pro Tip: Putting a kit together yourself means you know where everything is. Pack it, then unpack it and pack it again! Practice makes perfect.
Step 2: Respect Your Limits...
Just because you know how to sew doesn't mean you know how to suture. Just because you're a snappy dresser, doesn't mean you know how to properly dress a wound. Everything contained in my kit I know I can use. It may have been years ago but I've training or experience with each and every component of my kit.
Not knowing how to use something isn't a crime. There are tons of medical items and otherwise I've no clue how to use. Know what that means? I don't include them in my kit.
Sure, you can tote around a full blown surgicial kit on the off chance that someone you might happen across knows how to use the items contained there in; but why bother? Just how many people do you know that can properly apply a tourniquet? Keep that in mind while packing your kit. Use you own knowledge as a base and expound from there.
Remember; knowledge weighs nothing... With the exception of a small basic first aid manual of course. Just because you may know something, doesn't mean the person hovering over you with gauze, gloves and iodine does... Having a first aid kit and the knowledge to use it is one thing, having a first aid manual besides is insurance for your own well being.
Step 3: As a Trickle Becomes a Storm
I'm watched dozens of YouTube videos and have read hundreds of posts from so called experts about the contents of their "Bug Out Bags" and have always been amazed at either how much or how little people concern themselves with basic medical supplies. I think with any sort of wilderness/Urban survival kit you have to walk the razor's edge between trauma and the mundane.
In a true disaster, cuts and scrapes can be just as deadly as breaks and severe lacerations. The threat of sepsis and bacteriological infection loom large in the aftermath of any type of natural disaster or, one of a more nefarious origin...
This is where the band-aids fall in, in that popular prepper phrase, "Beans, Bullets & Band-aids."
Having the little things covered and covered properly greatly increase the odds they'll not escalate from mere nuisance to gangrenous nightmare.
After all they're called "basic" medical supplies for a reason. They're the foundation of any solid medical kit. Make sure you've got different sizes for different needs as necessary.
Step 4: Cleanliness, It's Next to Godliness... or 4 You Atheists Just a Good Idea.
Since Hypocrites first denoted that aliments were natural and not maladies imposed on us by the Gods. We've been in constant struggle with the unseen phalanx of bacterium and parasitic bastards who would see us undone.
Enter: Soap & the like. In this kit I carry a number of single use packets;
Castle soap: For those not in the know: castle soap is made from vegetable oils, not animal fats. Typically less harsh on the skin, it should also last longer then tallow based soaps.
Alcohol prep pads: These are one of those ubiquitous items I see in tons of medical kits. Though seldomly do people use them correctly. Alcohol prep pads are intended to clean tools and the area around wounds prior to dressing them. They're also great for use in fire starting!
Iodine prep pads: Iodine can safely be used as an antiseptic/disinfectant for small wounds and larger scrapes without damaging tissues there by impeding the healing process (while this has been debated, use your own judgment.) Another great use of these pads: they can be used in a pinch for water purification.
Triple antibiotic ointment: From clean to keeping it clean. Some people scoff at having triple antibiotic ointment in their kits as it's probably the most over used wound treatment salve... Personally, that's what I had so that's what I used. I also like that it's petroleum based so it can be used as a fire extender.
Antiseptic towelletes: These bad boys are for when you need things clean quick and dirty. They're just large enough to get the job done.
Step 5: A Battle Won Does Not a Victory Make.
Once your dam's been breached not only are your vital fluids on their way out, but the outside environment is on it's way in. We're talking about your skin ya'll!
Patching holes is one thing, stopping blood flow another. But with those two battles won the next step is making sure that you're able to keep your wounds clean and sterile as possible. When it comes to cleanliness and wound care management you really cannot beat pre-packaged sterile gauze rolls, pads and non-adherent pads.
The unfortunate reality is that you can never have enough gauze. With this kit I have two individually packaged 3 inch by 5 yard rolls and one 1 inch by 3 yard roll. Could I have more? Absolutely! Should I have more? Absolutely!
Typically I reserve roll gauze for large scrapes or really awkwardly positioned cuts. It's all about your skill and comfort level.
I try to use non-adherent pads and surgical tape where and whenever possible. As such, I pack sizes ranging the gambit from 2X2 through 5X5 and generally four or five of each, giving me plenty of options for cover and changing out dressings as needed. I would have more of these if I had the space, but again, you can't pack everything.
For when things are a little beyond Band-Aids and gauze but but fall short of minor surgery (sutures) there's always the tried and true steri-strips or butterfly bandages! These little guys can hold wound closed allowing you to properly bandage them.
Step 6: The 11th C of Survival. Chemicals!
Chemicals and pharmaceuticals weren't the type of thing's fur trapper's toted around in their pack a couple hundred years ago; at least, not in any abundance. Probably because they weren't nearly as refined as they are today. Thankfully we've got a few hundred years on them and the wonders or modern industry and medicine at our disposal, use them!
When it comes to chemicals you really need to know your ratios and what can and can't be done. I don't go crazy with chemicals, a little dihydrogen monoxide (H20) and I'm fine. But if I'm going out into the wilderness with nothing but my pack on my back and a song in my heart I'd like to have a few tricks up my sleeves for life's bleachable moments.
*Disclamer: Do your research! Make sure that it's legal to purchase and possess any of the items below.*
Tincture of Iodine 2%: Great for wound care and water purification as well. I'd reserve this bottle for once I've burnt through all of my single use packets, as once it's been opened it starts to lose potency. I've got it sealed with electrical tape and contained in a modified pill bottle to give it a little extra rigidity as I keep my medical kit on the outside of my pack and I'm not exactly ginger with my gear.
Potassium permanganate: This is one of the single best chemicals to have on hand in a survival situation as it's useful across the board; Wound care, Water purification, Fungicide, Fire starting. It's your one stop shop for survival and then there's the shelf life, pretty much indefinite so long as you keep it dry.
Celox clotting agent: This is an absorbable agent designed to promote clotting when direct pressure simply won't cut it. The keyword here is absorbable. There are other clotting agents on the market and some gauzes and bandages laced with proprietary clotting agents. However a great many of these are designed for temporary use with the forethought that a hospital visit will soon follow. Should it not, some of these clotting agents can cause more harm then good. As with anything use good judgment.
Petroleum jelly: Doesn't have to be the brand name stuff either. Just so happens my local dollar store carried the Vaseline brand. This stuff's great for either keeping your lips moist or for keeping larger cuts and scrapes "covered," without being covered. You can also use it to help start a fire a la petroleum laced cotton balls.
Talk to ten different "Preppers" or "survival experts," in all likelihood you going to get ten different laundry lists of meds to take along with ya to the end of the world... Bottom line, take what you need. I've got allergies; I take antihistamines. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of death in third world countries so I carry anti-diarrheals. I get achs and pains so I carry meds to mitigate them. Gather up what ya need, what you feel like you might need, and bottle em up! I've used a watertight crush proof container with a little cotton batting to keep them all intact and dry.
Pro Tip; Be wary of gel capsules in high temperature areas and cotton balls are a great way to ensure that pills don't get all banged up while they're in you pack (they pack them into pill containers for a reason!) *Plus that's a little extra tinder.
One cool item that I've come across in my travels that I would absolutely recommend are these individually packaged Goody's powders, which are aspirin/acetaminophen/caffeine powders meant to dissolve either sublingually or in a glass of water. I love these guys for when your sick but don't have the fortitude to shallow pills.
Another simple thing that used to be in everyones kit which you don't see too often nowadays;
Ammonia inhalants. These guys are tops in reviving consciousness or good for a quick mental alertness aid. Didn't really know weather to list these as chemical or pharmaceutical so here they are bringing up the rear. I keep them expedition ready by packing them along side some single use super glues in an old Nintendo gameboy case.
Step 7: You Wouldn't Shave With a Kitchen Knife
Flint-knapping and the interweaving of plant fibers is absolutely a viable way to live. That's why "bush-crafting" persists into the modern era. However when seconds count, having the right tools on hand makes time less of a liability. Besides, taking a porous river rock that you've just festooned into a make-shift scalpel, wiping it down with an alcohol prep pad and going to work, probably not the best of ideas...
Disclaimer: The items described below are tools. There's no substitute for training. I do not advocate nor indorse their possession or use unless absolutely necessary
Of course in contradiction to the aforementioned I really can't think of to many instances where I might use a scalpel; fewer still for which I'd be qualified... Still, it's a cutting tool and designed for extremely fine detail work (It'd have to be) so I included one in this kit. It's disposable, sterile and pre-packed to stay that way.
I've also included some absorbable and non-absorbable sutures. These are a bit tricky to procure. Most of what's available are designed for veterinary use. Whether you choose to use them on yourself or your loved ones... life is full of choices. These can be used to patch holes in your gear or you. If you've got to ask what i mean by: absorbable and non-absorbable, they've got no business in your kit, move on.
Pro Tip; Super glue can "suture," in a pinch and works faster then other methods of wound closure in cold environments that's why I keep a few single use tubes on hand. Single use tubes are preferable to larger tubes which have a tendency to dry out while your not looking.
Another of the more interesting item's contained in this kit, a 3cc hypodermic needle, again prepackaged and sterile. I don't carry any injectables in my kit as you might have noticed. This would be used for wound irrigation. Your body is not a purse, no need to go sewing up rocks and such inside ya.
Tweezers and nail clippers, a couple of "those" items... They can be the holy grail of civilization when your looking for them and you've got em or the bane of one's existence once you've been denied. It's because of this I've included them in my kit. Not exactly "survival gear" per say but hey neithers toilet paper. Standards...
Vintage thermometer: Yes we're talking the M-word... Use your own discretion. This little bad boy was exceptionally difficult to come by but they can still be had with a little effort and some google-fu. Just be mindful of the tip. There are the rounded ones (anal) and the oblong ones (oral.) If their vintage.... Personally I managed to pick up a few as N.O.S. *New Old Stock* so I knew when buying what I was getting myself into. They also manufacture glass thermometers with some red chemical in them that are supposed to work just as well. I work with what I know.
Photon Micro light; I sort of designed this kit as a last ditch grab bag so I wanted to make sure that there was something with which to extent the "day" in the event we had to high tail it in the waning hours of the day and needed to treat someone on the fly. You never know
Step 8: Coulda Used Duct Tape and Bubble Gum I Guess...
Of course in any type of disaster scenario not only will there be the potential of cuts and scrapes; but bumps and bruises as well. Take a tumble rough enough you'll have sprains and breaks to contend with too.
So what are ya gonna do, short of carrying along five to ten pounds plaster of paris and another 100-150 yards of roll gauze, that is? Well, the next best thing I've found is a Sam Splint. For those not in the know. These things are great! They come either rolled or flat and in a variety or colors for those of you looking to look fashionable at the end of the world. Basically it's a malleable metal plate covered in foam. These things are incredible when it comes to immobilization in a hurry. Paired with the elastic bandage also contained in this kit the two form a powerful reusable combo that I'd not dare leave the house without!
That's it! NO more items in my bag of tricks. If you're interested in what items I've chosen to exclude, check out the following step. Thanks for looking!
Step 9: The Kitchen Sink
With all the items contained in this kit there are an awful lot of items I have chosen to omit for one reason or another. Two of which I'm sure to catch flack for. But let me remind you, you don't have to live with my decisions, I do...
Those two items; A CAT Tourniquet & medical gloves... Why no Tourniquet? Quite simply because there an immumerable amount of ways I could improvise a tourniquet with the Items I'm wearing right now with the cloths on my back as I write this post (I happen to be wearing pants)! Would I lose time in their deployment? Absolutly. Fact of the matter is that I've never needed one so I don't own one.
As for the gloves... You've got me there, I probably should have at least a few pairs But I've never had cause to purchase any and as such the remain absent from this kit. Maybe one of these days...
Forceps; Though I do own some, I didn't include them in this kit. I've got a multi tool in my main pack which suites my needs. Figured I'd drop the extra weight.
Eye drops: I did have these in my kit for a spell but decided against them as I couldn't adequately harden the vial for travel to my standards. The last thing I need is wet kit. Also finding the right kind of drops can be a bit of a challenge for the monetarily impaired. Most over the counter eye drops are either simple saline or vasoconstrictors (we get red eyes for a reason.)
Mirror: As I'm writing this thinking about the various components I keep as part of my main medical kit I only now realize I'm missing a small mirror. Not only good for checking yourself out prior to that apocalyptic hook up but also good for signaling or picking barbs or splinters out of hard your hard to spot bits. Good bit of kit.
Trauma Scissors: These too were at one time contained in this kit but they were too awkward and huge to fit. Besides there's a small set on my multi-tool should the need arise and I always carry a pocket knife I like to keep razor sharp.
Muslin triangular bandage; Not knocking these at all but for what they are I've got tons of material I can use for slings and what not. Everything else is gravy.
Check out the full kit here: