Carrying Your First Aid Supplies

Repost from MDSA

Over the years there has been a lot of thought put into how troops can conveniently carry their personal, team, and platoon level first aid gear. It would behoove the Survivalist to take a lesson from the military when it comes to carrying this type emergency gear.

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Both the left and center pouches are the same compass/field dressing pouch. The left has a lensatic compass, and the middle has two field dressings (old style, non “Israeli” dressing ) shoved into it.

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Old style field dressing on the far right. A military style magnesium fire starter on the far left for scale.

Starting with the lowest level, you have the basic First Aid/Compass pouch that we all used in the military to carry an “Old School” field dressing or a compass. this is the minimum you should carry for a trauma/gunshot injury. Although most of us think it is too spartan, it will cover the basics (literally).

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“Airborne” First Aid kit. Note it has one field dressing right side, center.

Next up is the “Airborne” First Aid kit. This is what a lot of us used in addition to the field dressing pouch we talked about above. It is a convenient (if you can still find them) way to carry and protect your supplies, especially since the heavy duty plastic box will protect things like crushable ampules better than a soft pouch will. I carry my “Boo boo” first aid kit supplies in one of these in my buttpack.

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The standard issue IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) is shown here right below the holstered pistol.  This is where everyone within the Company was required to carry it regardless of whether you were left or right handed.

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My issue IFAK has a 4′ and 6′ “Israeli” field dressing, a roll of first aid tape, rubber gloves, a CAT tourniquet, and a needle to reduce a tension pneumothorax type injury. I keep it in a Spec-Ops X-6 pouch.

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If you want to go with a smaller pouch (maybe only one field dressing with the other supplies), you can use the X4 pouch from Spec Ops.

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Here is another type of IFAK carrier. This one is a “tear away” type, and it is made by Condor. The advantage to this pouch is that it can be easily removed from the side of the patient, and laid out flat for more convenient access to different items.

The standard issue IFAK is a pretty squared away, compact unit. It is designed to treat trauma, not regular boo boos (I keep the “boo boo” kit in my buttpack, since you generally don’t need quick access to it to treat those kinds of minor injuries).

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Here are two “Swamp Fox” rigs from UW Gear. Note both have the IFAK in the same location.

Something to keep in mind if you have a group that carries a fighting load is that everyone should carry their IFAK in the same general location on their gear. This is done so that the individual that will be treating you (with your kit), can readily find it, even in the dark. It doesn’t matter if your high speed, low drag kit is marked by red tape, or a first aid cross if it isn’t readily observable by the person treating you.  How are they gonna tell if it’s red tape. a red strap or a red cross if you’re using a red lens flashlight (or some other color) as you should under fire?

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The “Combat Lifesaver” (CLS) bag used in the US Army. One of the things a qualified Combat Lifesaver carried (not anymore) in this was equipment for giving an IV in the field.

Next up would be team level first aid/trauma gear carriers. In Combat Arms, we usually had at least one guy carrying a “Combat Lifesaver” bag per team (more if we had qualified guys). It can carry a number of trauma related supplies, and bridges the gap between the individual’s IFAK, and the M17 Medic Kit or STOMP bag used by platoon medics (M17 is smaller and lighter).

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The M17 Combat Medic Kit

The M17 Combat Medic bag is good for carrying a lot of supplies for your group if you have to move and can’t conveniently carry something like a footlocker (what we store the majority of our first aid supplies in) with you.

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As you can see, the M17 Combat Medic bag can carry a lot of medical gear, but the decision you have to make is, “Do we need to carry that many med supplies?” That large a bag (in the Survivalist oriented arena) is for a “Bugout” of your area, not for a “presence” or “combat” patrol. The “Combat Lifesaver” bag is designed for typical patrols.

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The CLS bag uses just a general purpose military carrying strap, while the M17 Med bag uses Alice pack straps.

Last but not least is the first aid bag I use in my vehicles. It is a Condor Tactical Response Bag. It is perfect for carrying trauma and regular first aid “Boo boo” type supplies, and the pockets are laid out for ease of use. It is easy to organize, and the cost won’t break the bank.

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That’s it for my recommendations on first aid gear carriers. Hopefully, this will help you organize your levels of first aid response gear into something that makes sense, includes all the necessities, but doesn’t include the kitchen sink when it’s not needed.



11 thoughts on “Carrying Your First Aid Supplies

  1. Lots of new stuff. It’s easy to get carried away by such things.

    We all had (highly customized) “Airborne” FAKs. Boo-boo bag was tucked between the plastic box and the carrier, plus a “cut-down” and IV kit and a Ringers bag and OB tampons to stuff wounds with.

    But here is something to think about. What do hard bitten militia do with their wounded? Call 911?

  2. Pingback: MDT: First Aid Gear & Carrying It | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  3. If there has ever been a worse piece of equipment than the M17 bag, I haven’t seen it. Its a totally shapeless disorganized mess, when you might need things in a hurry. Plus they’re poorly made of lightweight, easily abraded nylon.

    But even if you have all of this, then what? It’s called first aid, not definitive medical care and treatment. What are the plans for dealing with a casualty once the immediate, life-preserving first aid has been administered?

    How are you going to get the casualty moved? Where are you moving him to? Who will be providing the definitive, long-term care and rehab that will be needed? The military has an entire system for moving casualties to care, and treating them, that just starts with self and buddy care, and a CLS and a medic.

    Lots of preppers think that because they’ve got their CLS bag (or even M17 POS) full of dressings they’re good to go. That makes as much sense as thinking because you have a canteen, your water issues are dealt with.

    • So your belief is that because I was talking about ways to carry first aid supplies, it was also a post about all the things to carry in the CLS or M17 bag, and what to do (treatment), post incident, for the patient? Great, your experienced opinion is that the M17 is a POS, good for you. That’s not my experience for the detail I have used it for. Sure, it is lightweight, and easily abraded nylon, and cordura would easily weight twice as much and be bulkier (You can easily strap the M17 to the top of a ruck). Shapeless? Sure, till you fill it with something. Disorganized? Well yeah, till you organize it by pocket (labels anyone?). I’m trying to figure out how your reading comprehension led you to believe that this was a post about what to carry (beyond the basics for gunshot/penetrating/severe laceration wounds), and what to do “post incident”. The title is “Carrying Your First Aid Supplies”, and I specifically did not talk about what I’m carrying in anything beyond the CLS bag, because that’s not my “Lane”, and I have my own ideas of what I need based on my experience, and that of experienced individuals that I’ve worked with.

  4. Colemans surplus in Pennsylvania has a British multicam bag that is a very good size for squad/CLS. I’ve replaced my old US Army CLS bag with it. Made to last it is.

  5. Is there a GOOD reason why CLSs no longer give (or are expected to give) I.V.s in the field? Or did I misunderstand you? What are your thoughts on the skill in an austere/NPT scenario?

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