What’s Missing from Your First Aid Kit?

August 18, 2013 by | 10 Comments

Ask any prepper what their most important piece of gear is and you’ll hear a variety of answers, but the least common answer will be a first aid kit. To make matters worse, the kits that most people do have are so poorly equipped they are almost useless.

You are far more likely to find yourself in a situation where you must administer first aid than in a self-defense situation, yet hardly anyone in our community would consider leaving home unarmed—so what logical reason could you have for not carrying a properly equipped first aid kit?

Israeli Battle Dressing Bandage

Your daughter might think Hello Kitty band-aids are cute, but you need something more effective. You can get by, as people have done for decades, with gauze pads and a strip of cloth, also known as a pressure bandage, but you can’t beat an Israeli Battle Dressing for wounds with heavy bleeding.


QuikClot gauze is used by law enforcement, paramedics, and military. This is not standard gauze though; it’s designed for severe wounds that won’t stop bleeding with pressure alone, like deep lacerations or gun shot wounds. You pack this specialized gauze, which contains a clotting agent, into the wound and then apply a pressure bandage. It’s important to inform emergency personnel  that you used QuickClot, because doctors will have to take certain precautions when removing it to properly treat the victim, otherwise, they could cause additional damage.


Gauze pads are handy in a variety of first aid situations—especially when used with a pressure bandage, but after suffering several serious wounds over the years, I’ve developed a special appreciation for the non-stick type because it makes changing the dressing much less painful. Toss about 20 pads into your kit in a Ziplock bag and you should be prepared for most scenarios.


Tourniquets have gotten a bad rap but the last decade of combat in Afghanistan has taught us that reputation is undeserved. Eventually, every wound will stop bleeding; the only question is whether that happens before or after the victim is dead. Extreme injuries, such as severed arteries, or even limbs often require a tourniquet; without one, the victim can bleed out in a matter of minutes.

Nasopharyngeal Airway

An unconscious victim may be unable to breathe because their tongue and throat muscles relax and obstruct their airway. A nasal airway device (which includes lubrication) is inserted to provide a semi-rigid airway, aiding continued breathing. This isn’t a buy and forget type of item though, its use requires training and practice.

Nitrile gloves

Nitrile gloves are like an armor-plated version of latex gloves that will aid in keeping additional contaminants out of the wound while protecting you from bio-hazards. You’ll never have a completely sterile environment in the field, but these gloves will help you come as close as possible.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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  • rosco says:

    Good advice, as always. Two items that have multiple uses (which make sense for a BOB or kit) are a GOOD pair of tweezers and a GOOD, multiple lens magnifying glass. Metal shavings, splinters, cactus spines etc. can lead to infections. More humans have been killed by bacteria than bullets. Not to mention how annoying a splinter or metal burr is. Tweezers can help clean a wound where just washing and wiping won’t.

  • Will says:

    It might just be a semantics thing for me, but I label a kit with the above listed items a bit differently. In my mind (largely influenced from my civilian training and experience as a Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic) a First Aid Kit is more for minor injuries, so it would contain bandaids, gauze pads, gauze rolls, tape, some OTC meds, burn and abx cream/gel, and the like. What I think of above is a Blow Out Kit, or BOK, (largely known as an IFAK, or Individual First Aid Kit) meant for GSW’s or stabbing, life-threat wounds. But in those cases that would be “first aid.” It’s really just a labeling thing I hang up on. I keep my BOK and First Aid Kit in separate containers, that way I don’t have to dig through the “small” stuff to get to the “big” stuff.

    Good thoughts though! Definitely something that MUST be addressed. So many people only have the “small” stuff without any regard to something for GSW’s, stab wounds, slash wounds, or ANY airway devices.

    I would also add some sort of device for a sucking chest wound (Ascherman Chest Seal, Bolin Chest Seal, etc), Compressed Gauze Roll(s) (H&H), and trauma shears. Just my personal preferences though. Good looking out Jeremy!

  • Timothy says:

    Rather than a collection of loose items, I pre-package treatment kits using ziplock bags. One bag contains gauze, bandage, butterflies, prep pads, and tape. Everything to treat one moderate sized wound. Then I put all the pre-packs in one layer of my trauma daypack for quick access. I can, in a single toss to a fellow rescuer, pass everything they need to treat a soft tissue injury.

    I got the idea from my ER time where I saw suture kits, eye lits and other pre-packaged, sterile kits that had everything one needed for one task.

  • John Franco says:

    My wife is an RN. We have three children and thoughts of reactions to things are always coming up. For instance, I am allergic to bees. Carrying a Epipen is commonplace for the short term. But what about longer events. Allergy issues, blood pressure, insulin etc etc. I guess that falls under herbal medicine, chewing on willow branch for aspirin to use as blood thinner and pain relief. More information on setting bone splints, how to tell a fracture from a sprain without an xray, or make a good guess anyway. Treatment for shock etc.

  • Nan says:

    The best all-round bandage is a thin (or thick) sanitary napkin. Think about it, they are small, individually wrapped, have a plastic backing, INEXPENSIVE… We used these in our kits when we did medical rescue.

  • Sharon says:

    Crazy glue! (Krazy glue) There are packages with one-use tubes. Sometimes it’s more practical than sutures. Also, really sharp shears to get clothing out of the way fast.

    • teotwawkiandifeelfine says:

      Hi Sharon. Gotta be careful with Krazy Glue – the regular stuff is poisonous especially in a wound. I understand that it is used only in mid-grade lacerations. Stitches/staples for heavy, butterfly, gauze and bandages for light. Also, no punctures – punctures get infected wayyyy too easily so it ends up sealing all that gunk up behind a wall of flesh and stupid glue (what we call it when I use it.) The bacteria and pus and … have nowhere to go but back into the body, poisoning the body again. If you want to use the ‘krazy glue’ type glue, use VetBond. it’s made to reduce the poison in the subject’s body by the glue.

      Sharp shears = big yes.

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