I've been getting geeky lately about first aid and trauma management. While I'm still no expert, I've been surrounding myself with a lot of EMT, Medic, and Corpsman experts recently as well as consuming a lot more training content and courses.
One thing I've been considering lately is the value of having a kit that is purpose-built for my activity. The Trauma kit I take to the gun range, for example, should have different components than the first aid kit I have at home for bumps, cuts, and bruises. Ideally, we would all have backpack size medkits designed to have anything for any situation readily available to us on each level of the home, each vehicle, and in our outdoor gear etc, but space and budgets restrict that objective for most of us.
That leads us to build kits comprising the components we are most likely to need based on the circumstances or activity we are engaged in. With all the wonderful weather and the current pandemic driving me to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air, I've been pondering the best components to include in my “sportsman” medkit.
At the time of writing this, I couldn't find a kit that contained everything I wanted. Since my original writing, however, MountainManMedical.com has released their Wind River kit which I think is spot on for my outdoorsman activities!
Here is what I will be including and recommend you include also:
Major bleeding can happen in the outdoors without too much effort on our part. Being prepared to stop blood flow to an arm or leg is important. Different from an urban environment where EMS is only 10 minutes away, in the outdoors I'm more likely to need to transport the injured party and generally keep them alive longer until help arrives.
So first I think it is important to have more than one tourniquet. If one starts to fail I can apply a second one. If there is more than one injured appendage I may need a second tourniquet, anyway.
For my kit I like to have BOTH a C-A-T tourniquet and a SWAT-T tourniquet. The CAT is, in my opinion, the most universally accepted and most effective tourniquet on the planet. It has been the TQ of choice by US military forces for over a decade and of the various TCCC recommended TQs it is the easiest to self-apply.
I like to have the SWAT-T also because it takes up less space and acts as a good medical multi-tool. In addition, to use as a TQ it can also be used to fashion a sling, used in part as a pressure dressing, or to secure a splint. While it's generally not as awesome of a tourniquet, it is often considered preferable when applying a tourniquet to a small child or an animal. So I figure it's a good second or backup TQ to have in my kit.
Pressure Bandage / Dressing
When the bleeding isn't severe enough to warrant using a Tourniquet to completely stop blood flow I'm likely to need a good pressure dressing. Of all the options on the market, I'm most confident in a good Israeli Bandage. In a compact trauma kit I might keep in my range bag or use for EDC, an Israeli Bandage tends to get left out due to its somewhat bulky nature, but for my outdoorsman kit I use a larger pouch and the Israeli Style bandage will fit.
Most companies that make Israeli style bandages make a 4″ and 6″ version and I prefer the 4″. My preferred Israeli Style bandage is the “High Strength Pressure Bandage” from Dynarex. Dynarex is a very reliable US brand with more than 50 years of track record and their Israeli style bandage is very affordable.
As a backup and in order to have multiple options I also stock the North American Rescue 4″ Mini ETD or the H&H Mini Compression Bandage. Both are comparable compact pressure bandages that take up less space in my kit but are also quality options for a pressure dressing. The NAR ETD is a little bulkier, but also a little less expensive.
Nitrile Gloves & Shears
In my EDC medkits, I generally have 1 or 2 pairs of Nitrile gloves due to space constraints but my outdoorsman kit is larger and gloves take up very little space. And while I'm sure I can do a good backpacking trip without gloves, they can come in handy sometimes in non-medical situations. So I keep 4 pairs stocked in my kit. I stock the Mountain Man Medical gloves which are pre-rolled into a compact package. The gloves themselves are sourced from Dynarex which as previously mentioned is a very reliable US supplier.
Any medkit should include a pair of medical shears but I don't have any reason to want more than 1.
Punctures can come from a lot of sources like a rough tree branch etc. A tension pneumothorax (sucking chest wound) is a low-risk concern in most urban environments because it generally takes more time to develop than it does for EMS to arrive.
In the outdoors, it is a different game and the odds of a puncture creating a sucking chest wound before you can get the injured party to professional medical care are much greater.
Due to cost and their reliable track record, I'm partial to the Hyfin Chest seals from North American Rescue. My specific preference is the Compact Twin Chest seals. You get two chest seals individually packaged and they are 4.75 inches square which makes them big enough to handle a large percentage of chest wounds while also being compact enough to fit in any medkit bag.
A rescue blanket (often referred to as a survival or Mylar blanket) is a low-weight compact solution to reduce heat loss in the body. It's great to counter hypothermia and can be used for a number of other survival applications such as signaling, building shelter, or fashioning it into a sling, bandage or tourniquet. These are a dime a dozen and you can get them at about any big box store. We also sell them.
Gauze and Elastic Bandage(s)
In my kit, I have two packets of QuikClot (same product as Combat Gauze used by the military). It is a hemostatic dressing that is impregnated with kaolin, a clotting agent. It is widely recognized as the most proven product of its kind and it would be my first choice for a serious bleed that doesn't warrant a tourniquet. Pack the wound with QuikClot and then either secure it with some sort of elastic bandage or perhaps a pressure dressing.
Elastic bandages are very good multi-purpose items. I really don't like the traditional ones that come with metal clips so I use the Dynarex bandage with Self-Closure (hook/loop) on both ends.
I also stock a few other simple gauze options.
Most of my trauma kits do not include a splint because I figure I can keep an injured person still long enough to wait for EMS. In the outdoors, however, the odds of needing to splint a broken bone or something similar in order to transport the injured person are much higher.
The SAM Splint is a moldable splint that has aluminum at its core and is covered in a soft, foam-like material. SAM Splint is a name brand product. As Kleenex is to facial tissue, SAM Splint is to a moldable splint. I don't have any reason to pay more for the name brand product in this case. I stock the flat-folded Mountain Man Splint.
Cravat / Triangular Bandage
A triangular bandage is a simple bandage in the shape of a triangle that is most commonly used as a sling but can also be used for splinting, as a pressure dressing or to hold dressings in place. They come individually packaged and include 2 safety pins which could be handy for other various survival uses.
Again I use a Dynarex product which is an affordable, high-quality item.
Some Basic Medicine / Pills
I include in my kit 3 different medicines: Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and Diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is basically Benadryl without the price tag and is handy if you suffer from allergies or are with people who do.
Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) are both pain relievers. They come with different side effects and some people have a preference or could be allergic to one or the other.
Mountain Medical stocks and sells these individually or as a bundle.
Of course, my kit has other basic first aid related products like band-aids, tweezers, burn cream, Neosporin (or some generic antibiotic ointment), and alcohol wipes. I also like to include Super Glue, sting wipes, moleskin, a marker, and a dedicated headlamp.
If you have to transport an injured person out of the woods, it will help to have a portable litter or have the ability and resources to improvise one as well.
What do you think I have missed or what questions do you have about packing a trauma / first-aid kit for your next outdoor adventure? Let me know in the comments below!