Medical items are the type of survival gear that the old cliché of, “it is better to have and not need, than need and not have” is true. Assembling an excellent first aid kit is not difficult nor expensive. Before you assemble a good collection of medical supplies, make sure that you also couple this with sound first aid and trauma training. For our survival and disaster readiness needs there are three primary things of consideration. This is because in these situations hospital care is likely not available or far away in terms of time and distance.
Assuming that these considerations are true. We must have supplies that will help us in these four areas:
Hygiene – We need to do all we can to keep wounds clean of debris and possible contaminants. We must also do all we can to keep our hands as clean as possible since that is the easiest way for us to transfer bacteria to ourselves and others. See items 1-2 below.
Stop Bleeding – We must have the necessary skill and medical items to stop both small and large bleeding wounds. See items 3-5 below.
Improvised Materials – Especially for long term care, we must be able to have the skill and supplies to provide medical care. Re-supply is not likely or possible at all so improvised materials must be considered. See items 6-8 below.
General Health – We must not forego taking care of our bodies and minds so that we can perform as optimally as possible under stressful conditions. See items 9-10 below.
These items make up the basis of most medical kits and are an excellent list of medical barter and trade items to store for future trade.
- Sterile Gauze – Tampons and menstrual pads are great for what they are designed for, so use them for that purpose. However, for bleeds and open wounds, sterile rolled gauze and 4×4 gauze pads are essential pieces of medical equipment. They soak up blood and can be used to cover wound sites to keep out contaminants and debris that can cause infection. For survival supplies, they can be used for starting fires as well.
- Gloves – The number one rule for first aid is the care provider is always number one.The provider should protect themselves against illness from tainted blood from a victim. At the same time, dirty hands can introduce contaminants to an injured person that can lead to infection. Carry and utilize gloves for the safety of all involved.
- Hemostatic Gauze – Hemostatic gauze, often known as the brand name Quickclot Combat Gauze is a must have for significant bleeding wounds where next level care is far away in terms of time or distance. Hemostatic agents cause a bleeding wound site to clot, so again, constant pressure is not needed at the wound site. Once a bleeding wound has stopped bleeding, this can be discarded, the wound cleansed, and a proper dressing put on to keep out debris and contaminants.
- Compression Bandage (aka Israeli bandage) – These bandages are designed to do two things, and they do them both very well. The first is to offer a gauze covering that will soak up blood and keep contaminants out. The second is to hold pressure on a bleeding wound site without the need of another hand to do so. This allows the patient to take care of a bleeding wound properly and get back to what you are doing when possible. It also allows a patient to be taken care of in such a way that someone is not needed to keep continuous pressure on the wound. This means the medical personnel can attend to others without the risk of continuing circumstances for the original patient.
- Tourniquet – While a belt, triangular bandage, and even paracord can be used an improvised tourniquet, they probably shouldn’t. The best tourniquet is an actual tourniquet. The two best currently available are the CATs or the SOFTT. Each of these has gone through rigorous testing by the manufacturer and regular use by paramedics, EMT, and many personnel on the battlefields of Iraq and Aghganistan. Be aware that knock offs exist. You should avoid them as they are of uncertain origin and may, or may not, meet your needs under the stress of actual use.
- Duct tape – In dire circumstances, you don’t want to depend upon flimsy, medical tape with questionable adhesive. Those types of tape are made specifically for short-term events. Keep some duct tape for use in first aid in long and short term events. It is durable, has good adhesive and can also be used for a multitude of survival uses.
- Veterinarian (Vet) Wrap – Where duct table fails, vet wrap steps up and takes its place.Vet Wrap is a great wrap for injuries where swelling is likely to occur. Duct tape is strong and will not allow swelling to happen, but vet wrap does. It is a stretchable tape with adequate adhesive for most jobs. Like most tape it is one and done, so don’t expect to be able to use it multiple times.
- Triangular Bandage – Triangular bandages are great for splinting broken or sprained joints, securing arms, used an improvised tourniquet, and wound covering.A Shemagh is an alternative to a dedicated triangular bandage. These equipment pieces are approximately 36″x36″ in size.
- Electrolytes – When we expend energy and sweat, water is our friend. However, water alone does not replenish electrolytes, minerals, and salt to the machine that we call our body. Keep electrolytes and hydration salts available for times when lots of energy is expended and water, in the form of sweat, is lost.
- Prescription Meds – if you or those you care about have a medical condition that requires medicine, then you need to speak to the doctor about how to obtain ample amounts for disaster. You also need to carry them with you where ever you go. Medicine such as an Epi-pen, insulin, or anti-anxiety meds should not be left in a vehicle or at home when traveling always pack what you would need, should you not return home in an expected time frame.
All survival training should be customized for each individual or group. As you read over this list, you may notice that this does not include something that you know you and your group, in your situation must have. If so, then make your list 11 pieces long. This is intended to be a list to jump-start your thinking on the matter and get you on the path of developing your mindset, skills, tactic, and gear for your particular needs as well as keeping a list of these items on hand for trade or barter.