Intro to Med Kits

Originally posted on Carryology

Many outdoor enthusiasts are keen to get the best of what of the market has to offer.  I’m just as guilty, trading a perfectly good bag for something lighter, more spacious, and more versatile.  It’s a shame we all aren’t as excited about first aid kits as we are about packs!  Our personal wellbeing is paramount to getting out and doing what it is that we love, so why not get hyped about first aid?  For one it’s not very glamorous, and if you’re new to first aid, putting a kit together can be a bit overwhelming.  But we’re not the crowd to be intimidated by something new… we’re the crowd that has the EDC to handle whatever the day throws at us.  That’s why we’re covering a basic list of what to include in your kit and what you should consider when selecting a container.

 Firstly though, we should make clear that a first aid kit is not something that hangs on the wall in a glass container.  It’s dynamic and versatile. Your kit should constantly be changing to address the potential issues you might face.  For example, if I’m going rock climbing with friends, I’m taking an extra SAM splint, or if we are kayaking, a CPR mask.  Your activity should dictate to some degree what you pack.

The season and location, too, should influence what you are including. When I’m in the mountains, I carry a small candle and a Mylar blanket as part of an emergency hypothermia kit, but if I were doing the Grand Canyon in July, those things would get swapped for a micro fan/mister combo. Lastly, think about it on a “personal needs” level: How many in your group will be wearing contact lenses? Does anyone get heartburn easily? Is anyone on any prescriptions?  Is there a diabetic in your group? It’s easy to see how the particulars of each trip will influence your load out.

Hypo kit items

 Once we’ve figured out where we are in regard to potential issues, we are going to create a supply list and really stay on top of keeping the kit up-to-date and fully stocked.  The last thing any of us wants is to arrive on scene with our kit and first aid knowledge and not have any gauze, or be in the backcountry with some uncontrollable stomach bug without any loperamide.  Yikes.

…we should make clear that a first aid kit is not something that hangs on the wall in a glass container. It’s dynamic and versatile. Your kit should constantly be changing to address the potential issues you might face.

I have a small check list of what I carry in my kit that caters to my specific needs (contact lenses, Rx heartburn meds, etc.) so to start you off, here is a Basic First Aid Supply ListPDF version of my generic contents list.  Customize it to what works for you and keep a few printed near where you store your kit and your overflow supplies.  Anytime you head out for an adventure, cross the items off the list and BOOM! Adventure in confidence.

So where do we put all this stuff? I am a huge organization freak so for me it has to be a container that allows me to compartmentalize.  Accessibility is also a huge factor in a good med kit.  If I’m going for my shears or a pressure wrap they need to be ready roll! Durability is also a huge component for me because I get a lot of days in camping and hiking.  Lastly, if it doesn’t do at least three things it doesn’t get absorbed into permanent rotation.

Accessibility is also a huge factor in a good med kit.  If I’m going for my shears or a pressure wrap they need to be ready roll!

Daily, I find a full kit to be too much to carry, so I pair down and opt for a basic trauma kit and a basic medical array, which all fits nicely into my ever-versatile Pelican 1020.  It’s been with me everywhere from the rivers of Appalachia to the peaks of the Cascades.  It’s been my survival kit, my fire kit, my phone-keys-wallet box, and day-to-day as a micro first aid kit.  It’s clearly seen better days, and the hinges are starting to wear, but it’s small enough where I don’t mind carrying it, and it keeps my equipment protected.  The 1040 is just a little larger and probably a better do-all type case. The Pelican cases are certainly lacking in the organization department, but they more than make up for it in their accessibility and durability. The 1020 has lived in the bottom of my pack for over five years and continues to get the job done.

Micro EDC first aid

List of items 

Trauma or Nitrile Gloves

Roller gauze (consider x2)

Athletic Tape

MeFix Breathable Bandage Tape

Pressure wrap

Misc. Pre-prepared Band-Aids

Pain Relievers (specifically Aspirin in the event of heart attack)


Topical Antibiotic

 When I do need to carry a full kit, I grab the Kifaru 1000D Organizer, one of the few products to make it into my “frequent use closet.” The capacity lets me carry everything I might need in a backcountry emergency medical situation in a clean robust package. If I could tell you anything about the pouch, it would be that it is extremely well made.  The stitching in this is incredible.

Kifaru doesn’t skimp on anything.  Their reputation for constructing carry solutions for our military and the most rugged back country hunters is clearly present in this little 9’’x7.5’’ pouch.  Excellent choices of 1000D polyurethane coated nylon, the smoothest 8mm coil zips, stitches per inch, and interior mesh.

When I first got my hands on this, I was overwhelmed at how well built the pouch is. The only part of it that isn’t at least double stitched and reinforced is the nylon webbing Kifaru used to finish off the raw edges on the interior, and those in turn add rigidity and structure to the corners.  This thing is solid and it’s made in the USA.

I fit a full load out in the organizer minus the SAM Splint (which I carry as a stiffener in the back panel of my pack) and still have room for a field medicine guide, Mylar blanket, small candle, headlamp, and writing tools.  As a bonus, when it isn’t serving me as a first aid kit, it works amazingly well as a navigation kit for my hand held, topo, compass, headlamp, flashlight, and other administrative tools that I may need in the backcountry.

– List of items


Trauma or Nitrile Gloves: for your protection and the patients

CPR mask: more effective than mouth to mouth when delivering rescue breaths and provides protection to the user from the patient’s fluids

Wound Management:

Shears: in emergencies you’ll need to do a blood check and may need to cut clothing to gain access to wounds

Forceps & Tweezers: tools used in wound cleaning and removal of debris/splinters

Scalpel/Razor: removing dead tissue

Irrigation Syringe: 35-60cc for pressure cleaning wounds

Roller gauze: I like roller gauze over pre-cut because I can cut what I need and get a better fitting bandage

Pressure wrap: either ACE wrap or similar, some are self-adhesive

Tape: breathable tape for custom bandages (MeFix brand is great), athletic tape for blister control and general use, and Duct tape for blister control.  Don’t take a whole roll of tape unless you need it—roll off what you need and then repackage in a way that works for you—I carry Duct tape around a pencil.

Misc. Bandages: Precut, prepackaged bandages, Band-Aids

Non-Adherent bandages: create a “second skin,” work great for road rash and burns

Musculoskeletal Injuries:

            Sam Splint: or aluminum foam splint

Pressure wrap: Ace wrap or similar—you can improvise one out of a t-shirt in an emergency

Liquids and medications:

            Soap: clean skin, hands, etc

Povidone Iodine: clean skin, wounds, sterilize tools, and treat water in an emergency

Topical antibiotic: clean surface wounds, pretreatment for small bandages

Antihistamines: diphenhydramine, Epi with Rx

Pain relievers: Lots of options—be aware of their side effects

Gastro-intestinal: anti-acids, charcoal pills, loperamide

Sugar: honey packets or sugary drink mixes for low glucose

 Regardless of what container you choose, the most important thing is that you have the items on you and that you know how to use them.  Go out and get some training: take a WFA, and if you can, a WFR.  [Admin Essentials]

For more medical resources and courses check with Wilderness Medical Associates

International and the Wilderness Medicine Training Center.

Admin essentials

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