IFAK VS FIRST AID KIT: Medical Preparedness

We are often asked about producing an IFAK or First Aid Kit. We don’t sell them for a variety of reasons including financial outlay, liability and regulations, but mostly because every  situation is  different there really is no “one size fits all” solution to your short term and survival medical needs.

When thinking about “first aid” one must think of “layers” of capability and requirements. IFAKs (at least as far as military grade ones go) and first aid kits are not the same thing.  In my opinion, medical emergencies fall into four broad categories:

⁃ Trauma (airway and blood loss)
⁃ Serious (broken bones, burns and lacerations)
⁃ Routine (cuts, bites, bruises)
⁃ Institutional/Chronic (surgery/cancer etc)

I am going to focus on IFAKs and First Aid Kits in this post, but we’ll clarify what we mean by Institutional/Chronic Care.

The top layer and most complex is layer INSTITUTIONAL/CHRONIC CARE is care requiring specialized knowledge of a medical professional or long term treatment with medications and procedures to address the issue and prevent eventual  loss of life, eyesight or bodily function. You may be able to treat symptoms, but you cannot treat the cause yourself and you need to have a plan to access it, so I’ll leave that one for you to sort out.

The next three “layers” of medicine you CAN address and should have the training and resources required to do so, whether this is a survival situation or just daily living.

The first is TRAUMA. This is what and IFAK is designed to do. Trauma exists across the spectrum, but military grade IFAKs are designed and resourced to do ONLY TWO THINGS…

Stop Blood Loss -and- Open an airway to maintain breathing. That is it.

IFAK technically stands for Individual First Aid Kit, but they are specifically built to get a victim through the “golden hour” and to medical treatment for what wound otherwise be a life ending injury. I’ll add a list at the end for items to include in an IFAK. If you’re using an IFAK, evacuation to higher levels of medical care is almost universally required. Plan for this.

The second is SERIOUS. These include, but are not limited to, thing s like broken bones, sprains, burns and lacerations. These may further be divided into issues you may be able treat yourself (simple sprains for example) or that you need to seek additional medical care (most bone breaks, deep lacerations). This is where a robust first aid kit comes into play. I’ll list some examples for consideration at the end as well.

Last in the medical treatment layers is ROUTINE. Routine injuries and illness are things like a simple cut, non-venomous bug bite, headache or sunburn. These are the things usually treated from your medicine cabinet at home. You can treat this out of your large first aid kit, or you may have a smaller, easy to carry kit that is part of your EDC (Every Day Carry). There are many examples of this at your local pharmacy or grocery stores.  Look for a good case or kit (I like a soft case that I can put in a backpack or other carry bag).

I’ll write a focused blog post on an IFAK, First said Kit and EDC First Aid Pouch in the subsequent posts.

To recap, medical and first aid preparedness is something that cannot be bought online, put in a closet and left until needed. It required a “layered” approach, planning, adaption and most of all, easy access to all of above.

Example IFAK Items:
1. Two Combat Application Tourniquet
2. Six Inch Israeli Pressure Bandage
3. Gauze Bandage
4. Surgical Tape
5. Nasopharyngeal Airway Tube
6. Gloves
7. Tactical Combat Casualty Card:
8. Sharpie Pen
9. An Eye Shield
10. Chest Seals
11. A Strap Cutter

A well provisioned IFAK will cost in the $90-120 range.

Example First Aid Kits: A good place to start looking are Off Share Sailing, paddling and Expedition/Excursion First Aid Kits. The case or bag and organization of these is a critical feature, so shoo and select based on your requirements. These usually give you the ability to conduct sone limited telemedicine or “by the book” simple medical procedures that may otherwise be done by medical personnel. These are not endorsements, but they will give you a place to start looking and comparing. These Dan range from $100-600 plus. Shop and research wisely.

Some examples include:

⁃ NRS Comprehensive Medical Kit
⁃ The Marine 2000 Medical Kit
⁃ Adventure Medical Kits

Example EDC First Aid Kit: There are literally dozens of these available. I recommend finding the one with the best pouch and stocking it’s with additional items such as allergy medicine, band aids, etc that do no cone with it or needs to be routinely replenished. These should range between $15-50 depending on size, features and components.

Some examples include:

⁃ First Aid Only All-Purpose Essentials Soft-Sided First Aid Kit
⁃ Deftget 163 Pieces First Aid Kit
⁃ Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit


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