A 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.
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:
- 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.
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:
- 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:
- Get exactly the items you want – don’t pay for useless things that don’t solve the problems you anticipate
- You control the quality of items – no cheap medical supplies that will let you down when you need them
- Cost is generally lower – shop around for the best price for the survival first aid items that you need
- Get the bag that you want – select a container for your medical supplies based on your own criteria for size, features, and quality
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- Anti-diarrheal medicine
- Medical tape
- Pain relievers
- EMT shears
- Ammonia inhalants
- Butterfly strips
- Nitrile gloves
- Antiseptic wipes
- Superglue – to close small wounds
- Antibiotics (Fish antibiotics can be used if a prescription is unavailable)
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.
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.