A Guide to Setting Up Your Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
There are a ton of good IFAK pouch setups, and this list is far from comprehensive, but here is some essential information regarding setting up your IFAK. Like with everything else, use your own judgment when making a kit choice.
Here are a few good quality IFAK pouches to consider:
– LBT 9022BT
– BFG Trauma Kit Now!
– ATS tear-off IFAK, all variants
– CTOMS Slimline, all variants
– FS Emergency Response Kit
– SSO Tear Away
– HSGI Bleeder/Blowout Pouch
– Anything that holds the contents you need in a convenient place.
Placement of the IFAK on your gear is a primary consideration. An IFAK should be placed somewhere it can be accessed quickly. Placing it as close to the center of the side of your chest rig/plate carrier as possible (3 o’clock or 9’o clock) is a common placement, but lately a common method has been placing the IFAK on the small of the back (6 o clock). This was made popular by Navy SEALs with their use and placement of the LBT 9022B.
There are also people advocating the use of a fanny pack as an IFAK. This allows the IFAK to be placed on the center of the body at the front (12 o’clock), allowing for easy access with both hands. However, the fanny pack does come with a few disadvantages like excessive flopping, opening and kit access issues, and a general inability to effectively organize fanny pack IFAK contents.
A tourniquet is a device used to restrict blood flow. They are used when gauze and bandages cannot effectively stop a would from bleeding, or when a wound is clearly bleeding profusely. They are commonly used in tactical applications where wounds are severe and proper aid can take a long time to arrive. When applied, a tourniquet should be wrapped and cinched down proximal to the wound, or in other words, between the wound and the center of the body.
As for carrying your tourniquets, if you choose to carry them exposed allowing for faster access, dirt and debris will get into your tourniquet, or clog your tourniquet’s velcro if it has it. This will degrade the tourniquet much faster and greatly reduce their safety and usability.
The CAT and SOF-TT tourniquets are the professional choice here. Both have been found to be highly effective tourniquets, while being wide enough to not cause intense agony in the patient. On a special note, shy away from the RATS tourniquet, as it has not been clinically tested.
Pressure bandages are specialized bandages used to apply pressure to the wound, thus stemming bleeding by collapsing veins. They are normally used in serious bleeding cases not critical enough to warrant a tourniquet or a hemostatic agent. A quick way to test if one is needed is by simply applying pressure to the wound by hand: if the bleeding stops with enough force, a pressure bandage will be enough.
The Israeli bandage and TacMed OLAES bandages are recommended. The TacMed BLAST is also worth consideration, being able to cover a large area if needed, which is a common need with shrapnel related wounds, and in general combat wounds, as they very rarely come alone.
Hemostats are agents used to stem bleeding on a molecular level, causing blood to clot. Hemostatic agents come in many different forms, most commonly impregnated in gauze or powder. However, at the end of the day, they all work just fine. Hemostats are used in conjunction with tourniquets and pressure bandages, depending on the severity of the wound. Loose hemostat is discouraged as it is a nightmare for trauma surgeons.
Celox and QuikClot are the leading choices on the market. Very old, first gen QuikClot used to cause severe burns to the patient due to how it worked, but it has since been rectified. No QuikClot on the market causes burns any more.
A chest seal is a dressing applied to chest wounds that have pierced the victim’s lung. The chest seal prevents air from getting into the chest cavity and collapsing the lung, while allowing air to go out. As most bullet wounds tend to have an exit wound, chest seals should be applied in pairs – a seal for both ends.
The HALO chest seal is the best chest seal on the market, and comes packaged in pairs.
Chest Decompression Needles
“A sucking chest wound is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.”
-Murphy’s Laws of Combat #2
Sometimes, a chest wound will allow air to go inside the chest cavity while inhaling, while not allowing air to go out when exhaling. This causes air to begin building up in the chest cavity, deflating and collapsing the lung – a severe condition requiring immediate attention. Relieving it is done by the means of punching a suitable needle through the patient’s chest, thus allowing the pressurized air to be relieved.
The TyTek decompression needle is the recommended one here, but any suitably thick needle will do in a pinch.
Nasal and Oral Airways
Airway adjuncts are manual bypasses of the natural airways. Easiest to keep in your kit is an oral and/or nasal adjunct.
A space blanket, a simple foil-lined blanket is useful for keeping your patient warm even when undressed, or when forced to stay still in the cold. Often used when the patient is going into shock, in conjunction with elevating the legs.
A bandage, a simple roll of gauze, is surprisingly useful for covering wounds, but also has other uses. For example, with the help of some sticks and bandages, one can make a rudimentary splint. While pressure bandages are bandages too, having a normal one at hand allows you to save the specialized one, if you just need it for utility.
Splints are used to prevent movement, to allow proper healing of bones or open wounds on joints that cannot be kept still. While usually they can be improvised from sticks, sometimes, a purpose built splint can be useful. Plastic splints take a lot of room, so if you want to add one to your IFAK, a rolled splint (SAM splint) is recommended.
Non latex surgical gloves protect you from your patients blood borne diseases like aids.
You know the first time you went down on your girlfriend, got lost, and started eating the wrong hole but didn’t say anything because she was enjoying it? Disinfectants prevent that, except instead of giving your partner a rusty trombone, you prevent them from getting their wound infected. Triple Antibiotic Ointment is a popular, multi-use ointment used for burns and cuts. Alcohol Prep pads are on almost every ambulance, they’re amazing also.
Shears are useful for quickly undressing your patient for examination, and shredding his ultra-rare +2000$ worth Seal issued AOR1 Cryes. While they all work just fine, you might want to consider ripshears – shears that come with a ripper on the side.
Writing stuff always comes in handy, but there is an actual need related to tactical medicine too: Whenever a tourniquet is applied, the time of application should be marked down on the tourniquet itself. This allows whoever later takes the patient into their care, to take appropriate action.
Tape is very useful for various utility purposes – taping an airway in place being a common use in medical context, but in general, it tends to see a lot of use, without taking much space. Can also be carried outside the IFAK, if you’re running out of space.
Your IFAK should be based on what you need – what is the most likely use for your IFAK? In general, an IFAK being a small kit, mostly used for stabilizing the patient while waiting for more advanced aid, you don’t need to carry an entire platoon’s worth of supplies on your own. Keep in mind however – in combat, your IFAK is being carried for the sake of your treatment! This means, you don’t absolutely need to know how to use everything it contains, because you carry your supplies so someone else can use them on you.
That being said, seek out training regardless – being able to stabilize yourself is always a major plus, especially if it turns out that there is nobody else around to treat you, or if it turns out that you are the one that needs to help your buddy.
The suggested IFAKs here are based on three different needs, however, you should use your own head and figure out what you specifically need.
If your kit is large enough to accommodate such, do not be afraid to add ibeprofin, zofran, or gum. These can be life savers when you need them most.
This IFAK build is from the viewpoint of warfare – be it fighting in the ranks of an insurrectionist force in the Second American Civil War, or just in a standing legit military (in which case you should know this all already). As such, said kit mostly focuses on supplies needed for saving lives from various combat-oriented critical wounds, at the expense of other supplies. What it should contain is:
– Two or three tourniquets
– Pressure bandage
– Hemostatic agent
– Pair of chest seals
– Decompression needle
– Nasal/oral airway
– Alcohol Pads
Shooting Range IFAK
This kit takes less of an SHTF attitude towards it’s contents, and as such, is less geared towards fixing multiple grievous traumas with no fucks given about smaller wounds. It is mostly built from the viewpoint of possible mishaps on a shooting range, or in general, cases where you will not be intentionally shot up, and emergency services are available on call. However, it can also be applied towards combat, due to it containing many items in the combat IFAK. As such, said kit should contain at least the following:
– A tourniquet or two
– Pressure bandage
– Pair of chest seals
– Regular bandages
– Saline (for cleaning wounds and eyes)
The idea of this kit is to be a simple kit built for general innawoods activities, and injuries that may occur. As such, focus is on equipment one should need if there is no other help available, and one has to also get out of the woods.
– Pressure bandages
– Regular bandages (at least three for securing a splint in place)
– SAM splint
– Space blanket
– Over-the-counter painkillers (Ibuprofen works well without promoting bleeding, unlike Aspirin)
– Diarrhea medicine (Imodium & Zofran)
– Activated Charcoal is optional, and is a contested subject in the civilian sector.
Thanks to my finnbro medical NCO friend Grey for assisting in the creation of this guide.