Make it Home

First Aid

GOAL: Ensure you can physically make it home.

All the parts in this series:

So far you have the means to navigate home and you’ve let your family know you’re okay and on your way. But nothing else matters if you get injured on the way and can’t take care of it or if you get caught outdoors on a 37-degree night in cargo shorts and flip-flops.

We’re going to admit up front that the topic of first aid is extremely confusing, owing to an infinitude of both items and alleged experts. The online flame wars between proponents of different tourniquets or types of pressure bandages can make Ford vs. Chevy fights seem tame.

We are not medical experts, alleged or otherwise. But for our get-home bag we have done what we advise each of you to do: Think through your most likely needs, ensure you have the appropriate items with you, and get trained on how to use them. So review our recommendations and reasoning and, as always, modify to suit YOUR needs.

A few notes before we get to the recommendations.

  • We split our medical kit into two groups: a boo-boo kit and a trauma kit. This is because you’ll need adhesive bandages a heck of a lot more often than a tourniquet so there’s no need to fish through everything just to patch up a paper cut.
  • The trauma kit may strike some as heavily “tactical,” but when you think about what would really stop you in a get-home situation, it’s going to be something severe. It doesn’t matter if a piece of glass slices your thigh open or if a bullet does. You need to stop the bleed.
  • That we put quantities on such things as adhesive bandages is not silly or random. It’s impossible to know exactly how many gauze pads you’ll need next Wednesday after the tornado, but it’s somewhere between zero and the 250 that come in a box. More important than the quantities is that you take a moment, think and decide how many of each you need.
  • It is tempting just to buy the first aid kit hanging by the REI checkout. This is not a bad idea! We have bought kits many times in the past when we were starting from scratch for a given situation. Just know that it will have stuff you don’t need and lack items you do.
  • Related to the last point, you don’t always have to buy new stuff. Use what you have, if it fits the bill. So feel free to grab the Neosporin from the medicine cabinet instead of buying a new tube.
  • Even more important than having all this in your truck bag is getting trained! We know, the myriad of first aid courses is daunting. A good place to start is to look for wilderness or hunter first aid courses, which tend to cover more potentialities than a “Beginner First Aid” class at the local YMCA. (That being said, if that YMCA class is your most convenient option, take it!) Look at Wilderness Medical Associates or the NOLS courses or go straight to REI if there’s one near you, since they host NOLS Wilderness First Aid classes. Incredibly valuable are classes focusing on trauma response, like those offered by Fieldcraft Survival.
For all your boo-boo needs. Add other items specific to the needs of you and your family.

Boo-boo kit:

  • 15 adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • 5 cotton swabs (useful in so many ways)
  • 5-10 alcohol or disinfecting wipes/pads
  • 5 2x2 gauze pads (excellent for scrapes)
  • Small roll of medical tape (Eleven 10 Frog Tape is flat and packs easily, or just smush a regular roll as flat as you can)
  • 1 tube of Neosporin
  • Tweezers (splinters hurt!)
  • Nail clippers (folding clippers like the Swiss Army Nail Clipper saves space, or get the Swiss Army Nail Clip 582, which comes with their classic mini tweezers, which are still the best tweezers we’ve ever found, even if they are a bit small)
  • Anything specific to your medical needs or those with whom you typically travel (e.g., glucose, EpiPen, gummy bears for the kids)
Essentially a basic hemorrhage kit to stop the bleed. Augment to the level of your training and/or paranoia.

Trauma kit:

If you don’t have a bunch of this stuff already, you can get a start with a first aid kit that comes with at least the items above for your boo-boo kit, and the Elite First Aid Patrol Trauma Kit for your trauma kit.

You need a first aid bag or pouch to put all this stuff in. If you don’t have one already, something like LA Police Gear’s Medical Pouch is a good, cheap option. Whatever you go with, we recommend something brightly colored, like red, orange or yellow. If you’re in an emergency and need to tell someone to grab your kit, “Grab the bright red bag in my backpack” is a lot more effective than, “Grab the sort of khaki, coyote brown with a subtle camo pattern bag out of my backpack.”

"Grab the red bag and the tourniquet and get over here!"

We’ll get into this more when we discuss how to load your backpack, but put your boo-boo items in a ziplock inside your medical pouch for easy access, or in a separate bag in your backpack. Also, your tourniquet should be easily accessible, meaning not buried in your bag or inside the first aid kit. There are a number of ways to hold and mount the tourniquet, which we'll get into in the article about building out your bag.

On to Part 5, Survival!



We participate in Amazon's Associates Program, along with some others, which means that we may receive a small commission when you click on and buy any of our recommendations (at no extra charge to you). That being said, we don't really care if you decide to buy something we recommend or not, because our goal is to help you get prepared for anything. The reasons for our recommendations are spelled out in the articles, but they all boil down to one thing: this is what we think is currently the best option. Sometimes that means you'll buy it, sometimes not, that's fine. Just know that our recommendation was honest, unbiased and (hopefully) of value to you.

Apr 22, 2022

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