Bug Out First Aid Kit Ideas and Checklist

Bug Out First Aid KitA bug out first aid kit is one of the most important essential items to consider for your BOB or evacuation kit.

Having a well-stocked first aid kit will help you overcome injuries to keep you moving to safety when time is critical. As it is prohibitive to carry an entire hospital’s worth of emergency medical supplies it’s important to assess what injuries are most likely to occur and how you can effectively treat them while executing your bug out plan.

We suggest focusing on two areas when building your bug out first aid kit: Trauma and Mobility.

Assessing Your Bug Out First Aid Needs

As we discussed in our Every Day Carry Guide it is important to properly assess the threats you will likely be facing when considering developing a bug out plan or assessing what gear to include in your preparations. When it comes to First Aid, we will look at medium to high probability threats that have medium to high impact to address what we need in our bug out first aid kit.

Trauma Injuries

While it is highly likely that you may scrape your knee or cut your hands while in a bug out situation these minor injuries probably will not affect your ability to effectively move to safety. They are high likelihood/low impact problems. When planning a bug out first aid kit we will want to address medical emergencies that are of higher impact such as trauma injuries. These will be lower probability but far higher consequence than a knee scrape or simple cut and may be debilitating or life-threatening.

Traumatic injuries can include:

  • Burns
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Broken bones
  • Arterial bleeding
  • Falls from heights
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Knife Wounds
  • Blunt impact injuries

Treating trauma injuries should be a focal point of your bug out first aid kit. This will allow you to address the worst of problems and keep you alive and moving when time is critical.

Mobility Injuries

A mobility injury is anything that prevents you from moving efficiently or at your intended pace. They have a wide range in terms of severity. In the risk assessment scale are generally medium probability and high impact. The manner in which one is affected by a mobility injury is that they will lose their ability to move to safety, which is a major problem in a bug out situation.

Mobility injuries include:

  • Blisters
  • Ankle sprains
  • Knee injuries
  • Torn ligaments
  • Frostbitten extremities
  • Broken bones

As you can see there is a wide range of mobility injuries. While some of them may not be life threatening by themselves they can lead an injured person to be unable to evacuate a dangerous area which can lead to further injury or death. Being able to effectively treat mobility injuries with your bug out first aid kit will help you deal with this type of injury and keep you moving when it counts.

Your First Aid Kit: Buy or Build?

When adding a first aid kit to your bug out bag you are faced with two paths of how to get this done. You can either buy a premade first aid kit from a sporting goods store or online or you can purchase the items you want individually for a custom kit. Both choices have their various advantages and disadvantages and ultimately you have to decide what is best for you.

Premade First Aid Kits

Premade kits are the easier choice as they will come prepacked in a neat bag that can simply be added to your BOB. The items are picked for you and this is a plug and play option. However, as with premade bug out bags, premade first aid kits are generally costlier than DIY kits and the quality of medical supplies within them can range greatly.

If you choose to go this route be sure to get a quality kit as you generally get what you pay for and First Aid is not an area to skimp on.

A popular option is to buy a premade First Aid kit and then add a few extra items that don’t usually come with premade First Aid kits, such as a tourniquet or moleskins, which allows you take advantage of someone else doing the grunt work of finding basic items while tailoring the bag to suit your own needs and requirements.

There are good quality premade bug out first aid kits out there and we will recommend a few here for your reference:

Building your own Custom First Aid Kit

Although building your own bug out first aid kit can be time consuming, there are a few advantages to this approach:

  1. Get exactly the items you want – don’t pay for useless things that don’t solve the problems you anticipate
  2. You control the quality of items – no cheap medical supplies that will let you down when you need them
  3. Cost is generally lower – shop around for the best price for the survival first aid items that you need
  4. Get the bag that you want – select a container for your medical supplies based on your own criteria for size, features, and quality

Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit

There are a seemingly endless number of first aid items to choose from out there. Let’s take a look at some of the most important items to have in a first aid kit designed for disaster management.

Trauma First Aid Items

Blood clotting agent

This is a substance designed to encourage clotting within a wound to stop bleeding. They were designed by the military to treat shrapnel and gunshot wounds and have recently been made available for civilian purchase. A blood clotting agent, such as WoundSeal Powder, can be effective for stopping life-threatening blood loss that may occur in a bug out situation.

Burn salve

Burns can come from many threats in a bug out situation. A burn salve, such as J.R. Watkins Medicated First Aid Salve, provides relief from heat-related injuries, discourages infection, and promotes healing. Burn salves are generally small and lightweight, fitting easily in a bug out first aid kit.

Tourniquet

A tourniquet, such as the SWAT-T Tourniquet, is a last line of defense against blood loss. Using one after other first aid methods (pressure, elevation, clotting agents, etc) have been applied will usually stop bleeding but it can do so to a degree that the limb is sacrificed. Additionally, they can only be used on arms and legs and are useless for abdominal or head wounds. The blood clotting agents are a better choice but it can mean the difference between life and death in the right situation to have a tourniquet in your bug out first aid kit.

Heavy Gauze

This is used to apply pressure to wounds, absorb blood, and prevent infection. It is a basic first aid item that belongs in any trauma first aid kit. Plan on packing multiple rolls in a well-stocked bug out first aid kit. Check out Gerber’s Heavyweight Gauze Prefolds.

Skin Closure Kit

Some people recommend a suture kit to close large wounds/cuts but if you don’t have any medical training you will likely cause more harm than good. Instead, pack some 3M Steri Strip Skin Closures for an effective and safe way to close wounds.

Chest Seal

This is designed to create an airtight seal on chest wounds to prevent lung collapse. It is typically used to treat penetrating chest wounds caused by gunshots, stabbing, or shrapnel.  They are sold in pairs to cover the possibility of needing to seal both an entry and exit wound in the torso. The HALO Chest Seal is a highly-praised option.

Trauma Pad

A trauma pad is a large, sterile dressing used to treat large sized wounds. They are frequently impregnated with clotting agents to minimize blood loss. This is ideal for treating trauma injuries in a pre-hospital situation.

Mobility First Aid Items

Moleskin

Taking care of your feet is one of the most important maintenance tasks involved in a bug out situation. If you have to suddenly hike for miles on end to reach your bug out destination, you are likely to develop blisters on the way. Moleskin is designed to provide cushioning around these sore spots to prevent chafing and allow you to keep moving to safety. The good choice for a First Aid kit is Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin Roll.

Triangle Bandages

The Swiss Army knife of first aid kits. Triangle bandages, such as Dynarex Triangle Bandages, can be used for many medical purposes including packing wounds, keep ice packs in place, applying pressure to lacerations, make a sling for an injured limb, and tying on splints.

Splint

Although a splint can be fashioned out of scavenged materials it is good practice to have a good one, like the SAM Splint, in your bug out first aid kit in the event that you do not have time to go looking for splinting materials.

Ace Bandage

These are good for wrapping rolled ankles or twisted knees to provide the support you need to keep moving to safety. They can also be used for wound dressing and bandage application in a pinch. Consider Ace Elastic Bandage with Clips for an easy-to-use ace bandage.

General First Aid Items

Choosing a Bag for Your First Aid Kit

When picking a bag for your bug out first aid kit you will want one that meets your individual needs and has the features you require to be compact, functional, and accessible.

Another important factor to consider is size. Depending on if this is an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) or if you are responsible for your whole family, the amount of supplies you need will vary, therefore you need to choose an appropriately sized bag.

The Maxpedition FR-1 Pouch is a compact bag that can carry a deceptively large amount of supplies. You can’t go wrong with this bag.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see there are many options for planning an effective bug out first aid kit. With some simple organization you can either build your own from the ground up, buy a premade medical kit, or combine the two approaches to maximize effort expended and customization options for this essential survival item. Once you have a bug out first aid kit be sure to review it as a part of your periodic BOB Reviews to make sure the items within are still usable.

Do you have an item that you would add to your bug out first aid kit?  Do you have first aid skills or advice that you would like to share?  Let us know in the Comments section below.

22 comments on “Bug Out First Aid Kit Ideas and Checklist

  1. Chris, this is an EXCELLENT post! As a very OCD person when it comes to being prepared, this has really clarified a lot of questions for me about the foundational items I should have in my kit.
    I’m curious though…could you explain what’s the deal with Israeli bandages? Is that just a callsign for a particular type of bandage, or are they bandages actually produced by the Israelis? What’s so special about them and why would I need them?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Tinkicker,
      Glad you liked my article, thank you!
      An israeli bandage is also commonly called an emergency bandage. It was invented by an israeli military medic but is manufactured and used by militaries and police forces all over the world.
      They are specifically designed to be used one handed to stop hemorrhaging wounds such as those caused by shrapnel or gunshot wounds. Check this out for more info:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_Bandage

  2. This is a very good artificial for trauma and is very important. but i would like to see an artificial that addresses the immediate things you would face in a bugout situation, such as stomach problems caused by varied diets, infections due to minor cuts and scrapes, dehydration due to lack of water source or not being able to stop, which leads me to weakness, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. i am an E.M.T basic level, but do not have all the answers outside the hospital settings. all additional advise will be highly appreciated.

    1. You make a good point. I think the best way of avoiding these dangers is to get to know your local area and practice your foraging and scavenging skills. This can help stay off malnutrition and thirst.

  3. One thing I would add is a wound stapler. If you are by yourself and gash your right arm and you are right handed, how will you stitch it up. Even if it is a wound on another body part, you may pass out trying to suture yourself. However a wound stapler can be done quickly aND could be used fairly easily with your non dominant hand. And they are fairly cheap on amazon and at gun shows.

  4. Really good article, I would highly recommend adding an instant icepack. These are useful not just for sprains but keeping swelling down after fractures.

    1. While instant icepacks are a good thing to have, they suffer from a couple of problems. First off, they have a smaller bag inside them holding water, which could break if not packed well, making your icepack useless when you desperately need it. Second, over time, the ammonium nitrate in the pack will clump together and lose it’s effectiveness. If you want to have these packs, I recommend getting a few of them, cutting them open and dumping the ammonium nitrate into Ziploc bags (I recommend the freezer bags as they are stronger, and spend the money to get the best there is. This is not a place to pinch pennies). Then all you have to do is add water, shake, and Viola!!! Instant cold pack. Not to mention it takes up much less space and weight in your pack.

  5. I pack a waterproof marker in a separate plastic bag in my med kit. That way I can document dates, times, dosages, reactions etc directly to patient. I write info on med tape just above the patient’s bare (on the skin) wrist or on forearm-its one of the first places responders look to check vitals. Saves time on questions.

  6. Although they don’t seem like items that should go in a first-aid kit, I would recommend having a natural first-aid component to your kit. Most items in this part of the kit can be used externally and internally, keep well for a long time if left undisturbed in an ideal part of your bag (usually cool, dark, and dry), weigh little or nothing, and ideally can serve as a great back-up to many of your main kit items should you run out. Since it’s not likely that you’ll have time to wildcraft them as you’re bugging out, it’s important to learn how to use them prior to SHTF/TEOWAWKI and carry them already as part of your kit.

  7. Concerning “Blood Clotting Agent–3.1.1 Yes this was developed by the military for extreme situations in combat. Just took a CERT class and was told by one of the guest instructors that they use bandages with blood clotting agents in the bandages only. Not powdered clotting agents. Researched this and found out reason why the powdered clotting agents are shunned. Using powdered clotting agents will harden up later there may be more damage when cutting it off. Some think there have been heart problems at later date even years because clotting agent released from wound area that was not removed in the beginning. I suggest you recommend that your readers research “clotting agents” before they buy. Remember clotting agents were for combat where saving a life was the most important thing regardless of later blowback. It is a percentage game in combat.

    1. William,
      AWESOME info, thank you for sharing. We always really appreciate real-world knowledge being shared and it sounds like you got some valuable info from your course.

      Thanks,
      Chris

  8. It should also be remembered that the blood clotting agents should not be used anywhere on the abdomen. They are strictly for appendages.

  9. Great article. Exceptionally informational and guiding. Even though I live almost on the other side of the world with less access to many prepping items, this makes good sense. Thanks.

  10. A lot of great information on this page. I’m new to the Prepping/Being Prepared group.Thanks for the handy info. There were a few things on this list that I didn’t think to put in my first aid kit, And just wanted to say Thank You. -Becca

  11. A lot depends on exactly “what” you think you are prepping for. Zombie apocalypse or a couple days out of power or a few days lost in the woods. (I use “zombie apocalypse” as the cover-all for any really long-term event.)

    One thing I never see on any list is salt. Most people, for a few days lost in the woods, it probably doesn’t matter. But I have naturally low salt and sweat it out quick. I’ve dropped out in 100F heat because of it, so a couple salt tabs are pretty much mandatory. And that leads to basically “know your PERSONAL medical needs and remember to pack some.”

    REI has bottles to little single packs of chewable electrolyte tabs. If you are prepping for the big one… best get yourself a salt block at least. The human body needs “some” to survive.

  12. There are a couple of items that I keep in all of my first aid kits that are not listed here. I buy the tiny bags made for individual pill doses and label them with the content and dosage. Since I often have small children with me I make sure to have chewable dosages of the basics, Benedryl, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and pepto-bismol. I also ALWAYS keep UNSEASONED MEAT TENDERIZER in every kit( i put a teaspoon in a small zipper bag) just add water to make a paste and put a bandaid over it to hold it there. An enzyme in the tenderizer help with almost every type of sting or bite that I have come in contact with. I have not tried on venomous snake bites so I wouldn’t go that far. However I have used it for bee, wasp, & yellow jacket stings as well assassin bug and brown recluse bites. Very effective!

  13. Pens & Paper
    A few suggestions about pens & paper.
    A notebook & pencil are in most first aid kits but you can update that a little.
    There are many “waterproof paper” notebooks such as “Rite in the Rain” which will not be affected by moisture or rain. A quick search for waterproof paper notebooks on eBay showed more than a dozen manufacturers’.
    If you wish to use a pen instead a pencil then I suggest that you get the Fisher Space Pen. You don’t have to use Fisher Pens – you can get the refills to fit a wide range of pens so you can use whatever pens you wish.
    The reason for Space Pen Refills is because they never dry out so they will ready for use when you want them. The refill is really a high-tech system. The special ink in a sealed cartridge pressurised with nitrogen, a perfectly round carbide sphere for the ball point, makes for a pen that will write in almost any condition. The Space pen refill writes at -30 degrees F or -34 degrees C to +250 degrees F or 121 degrees C, underwater, & at any angle, even upside down. It comes in several thicknesses & many colours.
    Lastly, a note about marking pens if you want them for your kit. Some of the Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent Markers will not dry out even if the cap is left off for several days. I have only started to use these in the past few months so I cannot really comment on that feature, but I have found that they keep writing if you have them open for quite some time while most others need recapping for a while before continuing to use them.
    I think that the “dry safe” Staedtler Lumocolor should last longer in storage without drying out & they are not any more expensive than many other pens.
    Regards,
    Brian

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