First Aid and Survival Kit Inspection

Raining, humid, gross – too nasty to do anything outside, especially since I need to be on a ladder and there’s lightning out there. Time to find productive inside work.

So I pulled the first aid kit out of the family truckster for review. I built this kit some years ago, before my awakening, and I’ve added to it over the years to fit a multitude of missions. It’s primarily intended for family first aid, but also has supplies intended to help us in a situation where we’re forced overland, or if we need to shelter in place in the vehicle.

IMG_0511First, a word about the pack itself. It’s an A5 Softwear fanny pack, which is damn near bulletproof. A5 made serious climbing gear back in the 80s and 90s, but they’re out of business now. My brother used to work there, and he actually sewed this pack for me as a gift. One of the best things I ever got. It probably retailed for more than $100 at the time. It’s got a big main compartment, seriously heavy duty zippers, and an array of bar-tacked nylon compression straps that can easily carry extra gear on an overland journey. It may not have that tacticool look – no MOLLE goodness – but it’s more than up to the job.

IMG_0512The main compartment has most of the stuff. Everything is in heavy-guage Ziploc bags for water resistance, and I’ve labeled the bags for quick identification under stressful situations.

The upper level has the stuff I need quick access to – the stuff to stop bleeding: a pack of 4×4 gauze sponges with a folded sheet of aluminum foil, and a bag with tape, Kling wrap and Ace bandages. These can be used to cover up moderately severe bleeding, and the Ace bandages can serve as pressure dressings. Also on this level are facemasks and supplies for cleaning and dressing wounds – soap, wet wipes, alcohol preps, triple-antibiotic ointment, and hydrocortisone cream. I even have a digital oral thermometer for some reason.

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The next level down starts getting into the survival supplies. I’ve got a hank of cheap cordage – I won’t dignify it by calling it paracord, but it should still be useful. In that bag are also light sticks and a waterproof match container. I’ve also got a couple of those Mylar survival blankets – good for so many things it’s hard to overestimate their usefulness. Too bad there are only three, and we’ve got five in the family.

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I’ve also got a little kit of doo-dads that may prove useful. Small gauze and bandages, butterfly closures, dental floss, scissors, a scalpel, Chapstick and Tums, plus some toothpicks. Under that is tincture of iodine, Q-Tips, Vaseline, more Bandaids, a bottle of water purification tablets, and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste.

Also on this level are feminine hygiene items. Again, there are so many uses for maxipads and tampons beyond their intended purpose that the mind boggles. Maxipads make excellent field-expedient pressure dressings, and tampons are perfect for packing major wounds. I’ve also got a bag with bigger bandages for scraped knees and barked shins, plus a couple of packages of moleskin, to pad the inevitable hotspots that would occur if we’re forced to hoof it in street shoes.

IMG_0518The front compartment has a few more tidbits geared more toward the survival end of the spectrum. Insect repellent towelettes, a multitool, a mini Maglite that amazingly still works, and spare batteries. I also threw in a CPR shield for some reason. The chance of me doing CPR on a stranger is approximately zero, but it’s in there just the same. I suppose for family or friend CPR, it’s a good barf-blocker at least. (For those of you that don’t know, the chance of artificial respiration resulting in projectile vomiting from the victim into the rescuer’s mouth is about 100%. Hence the no-strangers rule.)

Not a bad kit, especially when augmented with the other supplies in the car at all times. There are a few noticeable absences, though. Chief among these are a decent blow-out kit (BOK). I recently took a tactical first aid class that stressed the prompt application of a combat tourniquet for almost any extremity bleed, and we also learned how to apply Israeli combat dressings and their more-capable cousins, the Olaes bandage. We also practiced wound packing and the use of hemostatic agents like Celox and Quickclot. I really need to make those purchases and throw them in the kit, along with some more occlusive dressings and nasopharyngeal airways. Definitely not to be used on strangers – none of the BOK contents is covered under Good Samaritan laws, not that they protect you from civil actions anyway. But I don’t intend to waste supplies on anyone not within my inner circle. Harsh, perhaps, but that’s the way things work.

The other glaring absence in this kit – cross-training. I’m a former EMT and I’ve had some advanced training, but if I’m the one with holes in me, I’d really like someone else to be able to stop the leaks. My wife and older daughter have had basic first-aid training, but my other two kids have not, and nobody has learned how to manage a serious blowout. That’s going to be a priority this fall, and a challenge – how to share my training without freaking anyone out. I’m used to being elbow-deep in blood and guts, and I kind of dig it, to be honest – as long as it’s a stranger’s blood and guts, and not a kid’s. But getting everyone in the family up to speed is going to be an interesting exercise.

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