If you’re into combat sports, hunting, shooting, camping, hiking, or just about any similar outdoor activity, you NEED a good first aid kit as part of your gear.
Particularly if you’re dealing with firearms, in which case, you’ve already got one, right…?
Either way, this guide is going to show you the essentials of a tactical first aid kit list – what you need, what you don’t, how to carry it, and more.
Often called an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) Even if you have one, you might learn something new.
Don’t cut corners here – it could save somebody’s life.
Quick disclaimer – we’re not medical professionals at Riflepal – which is why we encourage you to take an appropriate first-aid course. This guide contains well-researched and experienced suggestions, only.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on RiflePal. For more information, read full disclosure here.
- Tactical First Aid Kit Checklist – The Short Version
- Types of First Aid Kits
- What Should Be in a Tactical First Aid Kit?
- Cost and Weight
- First-Aid Courses
Tactical First Aid Kit Checklist – The Short Version
Although I highly recommend you read the article to the end for the best advice on assembling your tactical first aid kit, here’s the at-a-glance guide if you’re in a rush.
At the very least, your kit should contain:
- A tourniquet.
- PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
- Trauma dressings.
- Bandages/Israeli bandages.
- Sterile gauze.
- Airway kit.
- Clotting/combat gauze.
- Chest seals.
- Mylar thermal blanket.
- Trauma scissors.
- Surgical/medical tape.
That’s the bare-bones of what you need to be carrying in a compact tactical first-aid-kit designed for emergencies.
Or course, there’s a lot more you can include, and you might be wondering why so many things have been missed off.
I would encourage you to finish this article to find out, as well as to discover more useful information on your tactical first-aid-kit setup.
Types of First Aid Kits
How much experience do you have when it comes to first aid?
Have you put together your own kit? Perhaps you’ve taken a course for work? Maybe you’ve even administered it following an accident?
You might be aware, then, that there are different types of first aid kits for different situations, scenarios, and/or occupations.
A survival first aid kit checklist might be different to that of a woodworker’s, which in turn is going to be different from a laboratory medical box.
And why is that? Why not use the same kit for any situation? Surely that would make things easier?
If I’m handling dangerous chemicals, I’m going to need first aid items that can help with burns, and flushing nasty liquids.
If I’m using power tools and saw blades, I’m going to need dressings to help with cuts and lacerations.
If I’m out alone in the backwoods, I might need a kit with heat blankets, topical bite creams, and an EpiPen for allergic reactions.
And if I’m putting together an army medic bag packing list – I’m definitely going to need supplies that can handle gunshot trauma.
The primary rule for building a usable first aid kit is to suit it to your chosen activity.
You’d be amazed at the number of occasions when, in the event of a serious accident, the first aid kit has been opened, only to discover an old, single bandage, a handful of band-aids, and a rusty safety-pin.
Tactical first aid kits tend to contain supplies that are necessary for the treatment of injuries and wounds that one might sustain in combat – which is what we’re focussing on here.
And for more information about tactical gear and what sets it apart, head on over to this article, which explains it all.
Storage Bags and Pouches
Even the most well-put-together first aid kit on the planet isn’t going to be any good without something to put it in, so you should make sure to choose a quality hold-all for these items.
While most ready-made kits will come with a pouch, box, or similar, if you’re building your own custom kit from scratch, you’ll have to use your own bag, or purchase something separately.
I use this empty first aid bag, for example, for a kit I keep in the house. For emergency use, I would use a more compact, portable pouch.
But where do you then keep that?
Well, for one, a tactical kit for first aid is an essential addition to your range bag – and you should follow that link for more pro-tips and suggestions on what to carry with you for a day’s shooting.
But you might also carry it in one of these awesome tactical messenger bags – which can be ideal for use as a carry-on for weekend trips away.
Alternatively, choose a tactical duffel bag if you really need to stash more stuff, and you have a lot of gear and equipment to carry.
And these tactical backpacks are perfect if you’re on the go, such as for hiking and camping.
Either way, many of these tactical bags share a similar feature – the iconic MOLLE system (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment). Perfect for holding MOLLE first-aid kits like this one.
Having said all that, when you’re in the field, and you need your tactical first aid kit close to hand, you should be using either a battle-belt, chest rig, or plate carrier. Follow those links for more information.
A first-aid-kit stuffed at the bottom of a bag isn’t of practical use to anyone, and could well lose you valuable seconds in an emergency situation.
What Should Be in a Tactical First Aid Kit?
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive checklist of all the things you should include in a well-stocked first-aid kit for emergencies.
For your convenience, it has been divided into two sections – the first is non-negotiable essentials – the kind of gear you shouldn’t leave home without.
The second is a selection of useful items if you have the space, and/or you should carry with you – but perhaps not in an emergency aid pouch.
Commonly known as a “boo-boo” kit, it contains useful medical items that aren’t designed to help gunshot trauma, but more for the everyday bumps, cuts, and scrapes you might get when you’re in the field.
Essential Tactical First Aid Kit Items
- Tourniquet – army medics carry more than one – that’s how important they are. You should be able to use it one-handed. Vital for stopping the flow of blood from a limb, artery, or other extremities – which is one of the main causes of loss of life in such an emergency. Make sure it’s just as easy to reach as your sidearm.
- PPE – Mask, gloves, apron, and eye protection. Also, include a CPR mask or shield. The last thing you want is to become a victim when administering aid. Granted, in the heat of the moment, you might not always be able to reach for them when time is of the essence, but they need to be there, regardless. Non-latex gloves are the better choice.
- Trauma dressings – of various sizes, used to stop bleeding, and other uses. Israeli dressings are ideal, (so-called because they were invented by an Israeli soldier). One should be enough.
- Extra bandages – to help apply pressure and/or support.
- Sterile gauze – for keeping wounds clean and dry, and soaking up blood.
- Airway kit – essential if you need to keep a patient’s airway open. Learn how to use it, first.
- Clotting/Combat gauze – an ingenious item that stops bleeding faster than a standard gauze or dressing. Don’t use clotting powder – hemostatic pads are more efficient.
- Two chest seals – large dressings to help prevent excessive blood loss from sizable wounds. Creates a barrier and helps plug holes.
- Needle catheter – or decompression needle. Offers multiple uses, but is essential for the treatment of tension pneumothorax/chest decompression. Again, you should be trained in its use if you carry it.
- Mylar thermal blanket – capable of reflecting up to 90% of the wearer’s body heat back, this can be a lifesaver when it comes to hypothermia and/or massive blood loss.
- EpiPen – for dealing with allergies and allergic reactions – such as for snake bites and bee stings, for example. Vital for avoiding anaphylactic shock.
- Trauma scissors – essential for cutting bandages, as well as getting access to wounds quickly by helping to tear away clothing. Note – these are blunt-tipped, so you don’t risk jabbing the patient. Your regular paper scissors won’t cut it.
- Surgical tape – handy for strapping things up. Duct tape can also be useful if you really want to lock it down, and it’s much tougher than medical tape, anyway.
Useful Tactical/Boo-boo First Aid Kit Items
- Band-aids – Yes, even in a trauma kit, you’ll probably use more of these than just about anything else. Boo-boos are thankfully more common than gunshot wounds. Carry a stack of ‘em in different sizes – because folks will love you for it.
- Triangular bandages – broken bones are a thing.
- Antibacterial wipes/ointment – handy for cleaning wounds and disinfecting surfaces/items, as well as keeping germs at bay.
- Burn creams/treatment – Guns can get hot, and burns can and do happen often at the range. Pack in some burn dressings or topical ointment just in case.
- Iodine/alcohol prep pads – essential for preventing infection in open wounds and sores.
- Lubricant – you never know when it might come in handy (for first aid purposes, obviously).
- Ibuprofen – or similar painkiller. Essential or not? You decide, but I bet my bottom dollar someone’s going to want them sooner or later. Aspirin is also useful because it can be vital in the event of a heart attack.
- Insect bite cream – not regarded as an emergency item, but I still highly recommend that they be found somewhere on your person whenever you’re in the great outdoors.
- Sunburn relief – Likewise, sunblock and sunburn treatment shouldn’t really be taking up space in an emergency kit, but keep it handy, nonetheless. A tactical sling bag makes a great place to store it on a hot day. And don’t forget a sunblock lip balm – your lips are a super-sensitive part of your face, and sunburn on the kissers isn’t a pleasant experience.
- Antihistamines – very useful to stop sneezing your head off and your eyes streaming like you’ve cut an onion (or watched Marley and Me, again).
- Prescription meds/antibiotics – anything you personally might need when you’re in the field. Again, not essential for clogging up your emergency kit, but should definitely be on hand, anyway, depending on your circumstances.
- Diarrhea meds/antacid tablets – if you’re worried about problems with the plumbing – particularly if you’re in the wilderness/a foreign country.
- Finger splints – broken fingers are extremely common, especially if you’re running around over challenging terrain like a headless chicken.
- Hand sanitizer – yes, you should be using gloves, but having a high-alcohol hand sanitizer will give you (and the patient) some extra peace of mind.
- Electrolytes/vitamin sachets – I live off these (don’t tell my doctor). Great to help pick you up in the absence of proper sustenance.
- A small knife – you never know when they might come in handy. Check out these compact folding knives for some excellent suggestions.
Cost and Weight
Some folks (most noticeably rookie airsofters and “tacticool” guys) commonly think that more is more, and try to pack in and carry as much gear and equipment as they possibly can.
We all know who they are.
The same can be said for their first aid kits, which are often crammed with unnecessary stuff – and will raise the profile of the kit, and the overall weight.
And when it comes to tactical situations, you want to be traveling as light as possible. A decent IPAK that contains all the essentials doesn’t need to weigh much more than 17-20 ounces.
But what about the cost?
Good-quality, medically-approved items aren’t cheap, and IPAKS can get expensive.
But if you’re spending a small fortune on guns and ammo, then you can afford to funnel a hefty chunk of those funds into something that could save your life.
Of course, all that useful stuff isn’t actually going to be useful at all if you’ve no idea how to use it.
While many of us know how to do basic first aid (call for help first, ABC, apply pressure, keep the victim warm…etc.), some of the more complex treatments will require training.
Now, we’re not saying you need to know everything a first responder or army medic does, but it pays to at least understand how to treat the wounds you might encounter when using guns and/or knives.
Some first-aid kits come with a first-aid guide, such as a laminated notebook, or cue cards to help you administer the right kind of help.
But to be honest, for tactical purposes, they are all but useless, and take up much-needed room in your kit. If you’re going to carry this stuff, you need to already KNOW HOW TO USE IT, especially at the range.
That’s why a combat-specific first aid course is going to be essential, and not just something that covers the work cafeteria.
I highly recommend you look into taking a TCCC first aid course (Tactical Combat Casualty Care), which is specifically designed for anyone using firearms.
You never know when this knowledge could save a life when you’re in a tactical situation – perhaps even yours, or a member of your family.
Do I need a tactical first-aid kit?
Yes! If you enjoy any kind of activity that involves shooting, then you need a first-aid kit capable of being used for gunshot trauma.
And you can always adapt your kit for less serious situations, such as sprained ankles, bumps, and scrapes when playing airsoft.
While the military and law enforcement will have their own dedicated medics, every operator will have what’s called an IFAK – an Individual First Aid Kit.
Negligent discharge happens all the time, and even if your shooting range has a comprehensive medical station, for example, you might not be anywhere near it when things go south.
A personal kit can buy life-saving time and can make the difference between the hospital and the morgue.
Do I need to make my own first-aid-kit?
No – there are plenty of ready-made kits available. However, the vast majority of them are garbage.
Cheaply-made basic kits have flooded the market, and are mostly filled with crap that you either don’t need, or aren’t actually of any use in a genuine emergency.
As such, it’s highly recommended you spend some time putting together your own version.
Not only will you be able to customize it to your personal needs, but you’ll be able to add quality, useful items, too.
What is an AFAK?
While IFAK stands for Individual First Aid Kit, AFAK stands for Advanced First Aid Kit.
This is something you might put together if you need more items than a basic tactical trauma pouch and will contain medical supplies that allow for further and more extensive treatment, rather than just first aid.
For more information, take a look at the video below as a general guide to tactical first aid kits, as well as advanced pouches.
You should now be able to put together your own tactical first aid kit list, and you can be ready to help in the event of an emergency situation. Also, take a look at some of the best GPS’s for hiking & backpacking which could come in handy in some emergency situations.
But I sincerely hope that you never have to use it.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything out, or if you have any words of first-aid experience you’d like to share with the community.
Check those targets, and stay safe out there!