Emergency Medical Kit

Emergency Medical Kit: Surprisingly Life and Death is 9 Items

Our blog has covered basic gear, survival, fire making, safe drinking water and so on. Even a bit of medical. Now it’s time to dive in a LOT deeper. Unequivocally, the emergency medical kit is one of the most important posts I’ll ever write.

We all carry a first aid kit in our pack when heading into the woods, right? Every single gear load out video on YouTube has one, even from the guys that dole out the wrong information. It’s that little kit most people toss in their pack or the car. It’s on the list as basic kit ANYWHERE you look. But do you know what’s in yours? Do you replenish items you use? Do you replace expired components?

Discloure: Posts may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through our links result in a small commission to us at no charge to you. We only recommend products that meet our brand standards based on testing and first hand use by our authors.

First Aid Kit vs Trauma or Emergency Medical Kit

While I’m drilling you on your first aid kit, this post isn’t even about that. A first aid kit as we all know it is great for minor injuries like cuts, scrapes, blisters and so on. We don’t even need to talk about technique – if you don’t know how to apply a band aid, stop reading my blog right now and NEVER head into the woods! The store bought first aid kits are pretty self explanatory and often include instructions.

Today, you are going to learn about some army ranger or EMT gear and how and when to use these items. In other words, we are dealing with trauma or major injuries and for that we need an emergency medical kit. If I am being honest, it’s a subject that scares the crap out of me and most other people for that matter. The good news is the sooner you learn it and get it out of the way, the sooner you can save yourself or a loved one.

What if I Know Nothing About Emergency Medical?

Relax, I’m not a doctor either! To become a doctor requires a bachelors degree, preferably in science just to qualify for admission to medical school. It’s then another 4 years of pure medical training! Obviously, in a 15 minute read we can’t convert you into a doctor. What we can do is arm you with some basic gear (and knowledge) to take that cute and cuddly first aid kit and beef it up for serious injuries. Why? For no other reason than to buy you enough time to get you to a doctor when faced with life threatening injuries!

Major Injuries and Trauma

Guns are a hot topic lately. In context to the blog, here’s a simple reminder that in the right hands, it’s just a tool! So is a knife, axe, chainsaw and so on. These are all items we commonly and safely use in the bush. But they do carry inherent dangers.

While guns can be “scary” to some who haven’t been exposed to them, they quickly forget about the dangers of common household items like a Chainsaw – and they are far deadlier than people think. In fact, chainsaw accidents are absolutely horrific and I’ve even seen a semi-major one on someone. They usually take out limbs and for those that don’t know, areas like your legs have major arteries. By the time 9/11 gets your address and dispatches an ambulance, you’ll have already bled to death. The emergency medical kit I’m about to show you will prevent that.

I shouldn’t have to mention vehicles. Force = mass x acceleration. A 5,000 lb car doing 120 km an hour contains a LOT of energy. We’ve all seen car crashes and without going into details of vehicular accidents, the emergency medical kit helps in this area as well.

Infinite Applications of the Emergency Medical Kit

Whether on a hike, canoeing or out for an ATV ride, this kit really applies to whatever you are doing. We’ve covered scary things like guns and chainsaws, or the inevitable car accident. What opened my eyes was an incident where an ATV troop was passing through the trails. A side by side member of the group drove over a thick branch that was lying on the trail. Standard practice is to drive over it but this one bounced up and came right through the firewall. It then went right into the passenger seat like a spear! If someone had been sitting there, they would be in big trouble if not dead. I immediately checked my side by side which I bought for the safety of my family only to find the firewall was thin plastic.

It’s time to get into the contents of the kit without describing all the different ways we can get seriously injured. The point here is not to create fear nor deter us from activities we love – activities that are generally safe. Since danger lurks in just about every single thing we do, let’s take a lesson from how a bank makes a financial decision: Risk will never be eradicated, but it can be managed. What that means here is simple: be careful, get some medical gear and learn some medical skills!

CAT Tourniquet

Emergency Medical Kit - CAT Tourniquet

The CAT or “Combat Application Tourniquet” is step 1 in the emergency medical kit. It’s purpose is to stop the bleeding of an extremity (leg or arm). I carry one with me at all times and make sure it’s easily accessible in my pack. CAT Tourniquets are put to use when the bleed is so bad, you literally have no time to waste.

The process is very simple, strap it around your arm or leg as high up as you can and then tighten the wand until the bleeding stops. It has a means to lock in place and DOES NOT need to be held once it’s secure. That means if someone were to pass out while someone else is rushing them to a hospital, the wound is still protected by pressure!

It’s also by design that one person can deploy it on themselves and apply enough pressure to stop the bleed. Once applied, mark the time of application on the tourniquet with a sharpie. When in the hands of medical assistance, they will need this information.

When to Use a Tourniquet?

The best way to answer this is: You’ll know! When bleeding is so severe there is a risk of bleeding out, it becomes pretty clear. The average human has 5 litres of blood and it’s not too difficult to tell when losing it is happening all too fast.

One misconception is if the bleeding stops, the tourniquet can be removed which is wrong. NEVER remove a CAT Tourniquet. As blood pools, clots and nasties can form and opening the tourniquet may release that back into the body. If it was applied in the first place, it was for good reason and you certainly don’t want to risk losing any more blood. Yes, there is a risk of losing a limb but tourniquets are deployed when the situation is more about losing a life than a limb.

Where Can I Buy A CAT Tourniquet?

In our Budget Bug Out Bag post, we did a review of an affordable, well thought out bug out bag as put together by S&J Hardware in Belleville, Ontario. We teamed up with them for this post and all the items for the post came from them.

I first learned about tourniquets years ago watching ex special forces guys on YouTube. They are all into bushcraft now, mainly as instructors. But EVERY last one them still carry a tourniquet to this day! In other words, it’s a permanent part of their basic or “standard” medical kit. The problem is trying to find one. Most stores do not sell advanced medical items, in fact it took me years to walk into a store and actually find a tourniquet which happened to be S&J Hardware.

I’ve talked about military items in the past, they just work and quality is guaranteed. The military CAT Tourniquet is the best in the world and while knocked off by many, its never been replicated properly. The CAT Tourniquet at S&J Hardware has an NSN number – or Nato Stock Number. It’s not “military spec” as you’ll commonly see on so many items – it is the real deal, genuine military issue!!

Disclosure: There is NO commission to BushLife for any items on this page that link to S&J Hardware. While we are on this topic, I am an outdoorsman that blogs and not a part of the medical profession in any manner. As such, nothing in the post should be considered medical advice.

A Brief on Cost and Availability

A tourniquet is generally not cheap. But all we have to do is adjust our perception and put costs into perspective. I have no fear of getting shot, it’s highly unlikely in Canada! What I do worry about is the extremely rare and unlikely case of my own gun blowing up while I’m shooting. The tourniquet costs less than the price of a box of bullets. It’s also a small fraction of the $1,000 it costs to buy a nice shiny new rifle. So spend a little extra and get yourself a tourniquet so you’ll be around to enjoy that new gun.

Like many people, I also chainsaw regularly. A big can of gas will set me back the cost of a tourniquet. Point being, the tourniquet is cheap insurance to protect my life from some freak accident. I surely hope that ensuring your life, to keep your life, is worth a lot more than a can of gas!

Note: While this kit can be pieced together over time, if someone is on a budget the tourniquet is a good place to start. It’s also available right now which is a very big deal considering the active war in Ukraine. Couple that with all the other wars brewing and the fact that governments are “readying” more and more troops, a tourniquet may soon be non-existant in the civilian market.

CTOMS CAT Tourniquet
NSN Number 6515-01-521-7976
Buy at S&J Hardware

4″ Modular Bandage

Emergency Medical Kit - Modular Bandage

Unlike a tourniquet which is extreme, we also need to deal with more moderate bleeds. As commonly known, pressure is your friend in terms of bleeding. A wrap-able bandage will provide plenty of pressure, in fact you can control your level of pressure with how tight you wind the wrap. The idea here is to NOT over tighten either as this time, we don’t want to loose a limb.

For any wound with a cavity, we also need to pack that wound. There are some fancy products on the market that are in powder from and work amazingly well in packing and clotting. In fact S&J Hardware even carries some of these products but we are now talking about $60 or so.

For the context of this post, we are putting together a kit for a situation we hope we never have to encounter. We can achieve the job of packing wounds with simple, old school gauze. The OLAES 4″ Modular Bandage, contains the wrap and gauze in an all in one package for less than $20. Once again it has an NSN number and we are dealing with a military item.

Modular Bandage Application

Here’s where the OLAES bandage really shines. When applying the wrap, there is a pressure bar that is placed over top of the wound. This helps apply pressure where it belongs. It also clearly indicates the location of the wound which aids greatly when handing someone off to another medical provider.

The wrap also contain velcro strips that hold the bandage in position right after the first wrap and periodically along the length of the wrap. This dramatically aids in properly wrapping the the bandage as everything is always held in place as you go. At the very end of the bandage are 2 plastic clips on both ends which is the final security in maintaining the wrap in place.

Here’s a short video from Prometheus Medical that shows what I’ve described above:

OLAES 4″ Modular Bandage
NSN Number 6510-01-631-7893
Buy at S&J Hardware

6″ Israeli Bandage

Emergency Medical Kit - Israeli Bandage

The Israeli Bandage (also known as The Emergency Bandage) is similar to the OLAES. The same general idea applies of wrapping to stop bleeding. Once again, the specific product we are looking at is military. In fact it’s made in Israel and supplied to the US Military in addition to most of the world’s elite militaries.

This particular bandage has a 6″ x 9″ non-adherent pad. The non-adherent aspect of the pad greatly reduces pain when removing the bandage! The sterile packaging can act as an improvised chest seal and if you just had a huh?? moment, don’t worry, we cover chest seals farther below.

This bandage can apply 30-40+ lbs of pressure to the wound and even act as an improvised tourniquet. Most importantly, it’s designed to be self-explanatory and easy to apply even for non-medical people.

Note: The manufacturer of the bandage pulled stats that show the average first responder time in the US is 8 minutes. Most people will bleed to death within 6. The number one priority of any emergency medical is to STOP THE BLEEDING.

How to Apply an Israeli Bandage

To demonstrate the simplicity of this item, I’ll simply quote what’s right on the package:

  1. Place pad on wound & wrap the elastic bandage around limb or body part.
  2. Insert elastic bandage into pressure applicator.
  3. Tighten elastic bandage and…
  4. … pull back, forcing pressure down onto pad
  5. Wrap elastic bandage tightly over pressure applicator. Wrap over all edges of pad.
  6. Secure hooking ends of closure bar into elastic bandage.
  7. To remove emergency bandage, free hooking ends from elastic bandage.

What you’ll find with any Israeli bandage is the pressure bar has a loop on top. When dealing with steps 2, 3, 4 this is what they are talking about. Generally you weave the wrap into the loop and then back in the direction it came from.

What’s missing here are the photos that are also part of the instructions right on the back of the packaging! While this is not something you want to learn when using the product, it’s reassuring the instructions are all there for when you need it. When an average non-medical Joe is dealing with saving a loved one in shock, quite often they are in shock themselves.

Some things are just so much easier to explain on video. Here’s a video that’s literally a minute long straight from the manufacturer.

Persys Medical FCP-02
The Emergency Bandage (Israeli Bandage)
6″ Hemorrhage Control Bandage
NSN Number 6510-01-492-2275
Buy at S&J Hardware

Chest Seal

Chest Seal

Chest seals are designed to address penetrations or open wounds to the chest. By chest we are referring from neck to navel and that includes front, back and sides. While there’s a million things that can cause this problem, a good example of a chest wound is a gunshot wound or knife stabbing.

The chest seal by no means is there to address internal bleeding. What it does do is prevent air from entering into the chest cavity. Coming from someone who has had a lung collapse or “spontaneous pneumothorax”, I can tell you from experience that it’s one of the most painful things a person can go through. Couple that with whatever caused the trauma in the first place and I can only imagine the pain. I had a lung collapse on my left lung, which renders it useless. But if someone were to have it happen to both lungs, well, let’s not go there…

What I do know or have learned years ago from my own experience is that the lung simply “sits” in a vacuum. The moment you introduce air, the lung collapses making it very difficult to take in air as you breathe.

Vented vs Non-Vented Chest Seal

This seems pretty self explanatory, a vented chest seal has a vent. But what does that mean exactly?

If there is an open wound to the chest and if in doubt, put a chest seal on. If the blood around the wound is bubbling, it’s a telltale sign a chest seal is required. The vent of a vented chest seal is a one way vent. Venting air OUT of the chest and not letting any back in. In other words, if applying the chest seal to a cavity with air in it, the vent is there to allow the air to escape.

The SAM Chest Seal we are looking at today is a combo kit. 2 chest seals: 1 vented and 1 non. This gives you an option as to which one to use. Keep in mind with issues such as a gunshot wound, there is generally an entry and an exit…

Applying a Chest Seal

Chest seal application is VERY straightforward. In fact let me repeat the manufacturers instructions right here:

  1. Clean area
  2. Grip tab and remove clear liner
  3. Place dressing, adhesive side down, centred over wound.
  4. Press dressing firmly to ensure adhesion

It’s a bit trickier than applying a band-aid but not by much. Definitely a lot gorier but it is what it is. Again, the emergency medical kit gives us the tools to now technically become the “first responder” and our job is to simply delay life threats in order to transport someone to a hospital. In doing so properly, we also minimize any farther complications arising from the injury – in this case, a lung collapse.

Reliable Quality

Once again, we are looking at a military product. One that is made in the USA. A key feature to look at is the adhesive. The SAM Chest Seal is designed to work in extreme heat or cold and it’s also designed to stick through sweat, blood, hair and so on. It also has a large dome valve that is designed to work regardless of pressure applied to it – and is meant to minimize obstruction from blood clots and soft tissue.

I haven’t taken the time to put all the specs for these products here. That’s not the point of the post as that info can be found on S&J Hardware’s website through the links to each product. My goal is to show you what to carry, why, when and how to use it and where you can buy it. Looking up specs is something I encourage you to do if any of these products are of interest to you – but I will tell you, nothing here is of mediocre quality. These items are the best of the best, military issue products.

SAM Chest Seal – Combo (1 Valved, 1 Non)
NSN Number 6510-01-656-8718
(Out of Stock) S&J Hardware.
Buy Valved 2 Pack at S&J Hardware

Compressed Gauze

Compressed Gauze

Minor wounds can simply be covered with gauze and taped off. This is handy when the good old band-aid just isn’t big enough.

Gauze however is vital for major wounds. Cavities need to be packed in order to stop hemorrhaging. Gauze can also be used in conjunction with bigger bandages like the OLAES or Israeli.

Faratec Inc. makes a vacuum packed compressed gauze. In a tiny 2″ x 3″ (half inch thick) package. Un-compressed, we now have 4.5″ x 4.1 yards worth of gauze! It’s a high quality 6 ply cotton material, guaranteed sterile as long as the package is sealed. With tear away points on the package, you can quickly deploy the gauze and cover a large would very quickly. In other words, it’s a very might little package and worth every penny.

Faratec Inc. Compressed Gauze
NSN Number 6510-01-503-2117
Buy at S&J Hardware

Triangular Bandage

Emergency Medical Kit: Triangular Bandage

Wow, we finally reached a non military issue item. Considering it’s made in Israel, it probably is mil spec. Once again, in a small 3″ x 4″ package we find some natural woven cotton gauze material.

We’ve already learned that bandaging is an obvious use for this item. This piece also doubles as a makeshift sling or assists in immobilizing fractures.

Israeli First Aid Triangular Bandage
Buy at S&J Hardware

Trauma Shears

Emergency Medical Kit: Trauma Shears

When someone is already in a traumatic state or in pain, you may not want to move them in order to access wounds. Sometimes moving them may encourage further bleeding. This is where the trauma shears come in. With a blunt tip, it makes it safe to quickly and simply cut off any clothing that’s in the way.

Trauma shears are also excellent at cutting tough materials like seat belts, heavy fabrics and even certain wires.

Leatherman makes a wicked pair of trauma shears. While an excellent choice for professionals or gear junkies, at well over $100 it’s a bit steep for the average Joe. God only knows I’ve stared at these myself many a time but ended up buying something else I needed more.

At under $10, the EMT Trauma Shears featured in this post does the same basic job… In fact, it’s so affordable it’s smart to discard them after use. At least that’s what I would do if I was helping a non-family member and my shears got blood on them. Forget the shears, if you’re helping someone badly injured, you might even find your clothes and shoes covered in blood which you’ll be discarding as well.

EMT Trauma Shears
Buy at S&J Hardware

Emergency Blanket

Reflector Blanket

This item is almost cut and paste as it’s in my last post: Budget Bug Out Bag. I particularly really like this product!

This item is a heavily upgraded version of the typical reflective emergency blanket that seems to be in every kit, not just medical. They hardly take up any space or weight. The military even issues this type of blanket to their troops. It’s to maintain warmth even in the heat of the dessert. Why? With enough loss of blood, these blankets help maintain core body temperature.

The typical version of these are very cheap or flimsy which won’t be very useful when it tears. Many of them will not re-pack either. Today we again feature a blanket by Lifeheat. This is a very heavy grade: 3 ply, 2.5 mil to be exact. It is strong enough that two people can carry out a third using it as a makeshift stretcher! Size comes in at a whopping 72″ x 48″ yet packed it’s only 3″ x 5″ with about an inch of thickness. The weight on this item, is a mere 140 grams! It reflects up to 97% of body heat and you just can’t beat that. It makes for an outstanding piece of kit to carry. Get one while you can and if you see it’s sold out, keep checking back as it’s worth it!

Lifeheat Reflector Blanket
Buy at S&J Hardware


Like most items on the planet, I suggest you store your emergency medical kit in a cool dry location away from direct sunlight. To complicate that though, it should be stored somewhere that’s easily and immediately accessible.

Ammo Can

The ideal container for this is an ammo can. Ammo cans are cheap as dirt and they protect their contents well. The items in this kit easily fit in an ammo can and can be very quickly retrieved. Basically, you are looking for a nice deep pocket so to speak. The downside to the ammo can is weight which makes it ideal for an emergency medical kit that never leaves your home, hunt camp, car, etc.

Pistol Case

Another ideal container for the emergency medical kit is a pistol case. Usually they are hard plastic and just about the right size. Considering it’s strong enough to protect a pistol which is worth some serious coin, you can certainly trust your gauze to it! This route is more expensive than an ammo can but it’s a lighter and feasible option. Especially if you have a spare one lying around.

My Choice for the Emergency Medical Kit: A Military IFAK Bag

Emergency Medical Kit - USMC IFAK Bag

I have a USMC (US Marine Corps) IFAK bag lying around. IFAK meaning “Individual First Aid Kit”. This used to be my fire kit bag and has been lying around empty doing nothing for about a year. I was going to say how ironic it is that every item listed in the emergency medical kit fits perfectly in this bag with some room to spare. But then again, it is a medical kit bag!

Bag size filled is 7″ x 9″ with a 4″ depth. Not bad at all! With its Molle straps, it can be attached to almost anything these days. Weight with contents is also minimal. In fact it’s lighter than a typical water bottle with water in it. Everything is just a hairline snug which is fine by me, keeping things snug means it’s secure and provides a basic level of organization.

You’ll need to scour some surplus stores to find this gem – but surplus stores seem to be few and far between these days. If your one of the unlucky ones that don’t have one nearby, a quick google search and you might get lucky. More and more surplus items are moving to online. Cost was around $20 if I recall correctly which is nothing as the bag will last forever.

I Got My Emergency Medical Kit But Now What?

Emergency Medical Kit

The entire point of the Emergency Medical Kit post is to buy time when bad things happen. By buying time, it means slowing down life threats, mainly bleeding. This should help you buy enough time to get to a real doctor. In fact a doctor friend of mine reviewed this very post for accuracy and he educated me on the very medical term for this concept of buying time: it’s called temporizing.

While the items in the kit are not that difficult to learn, it’s also not the type of thing to figure out when minutes or even seconds count. We also have a reoccurring theme at the blog that gear is only as good as its user!

Stop The Bleed

S&J Hardware runs a course called Stop the Bleed. It typically runs from 9 AM to about noon and covers wound packing, tourniquet use and dealing with gunshot wounds and severe trauma. The last posted course price was $54.99 and like anything it’s subject to change. Even if it goes up, my point is it’s money very well spent. Not to mention, it’s only a few hours long which is beyond bearable.

As a bonus, included in the course price is a 10% discount on any medical products paid for at the course. If this sounds like it’s for you, search for “Stop the Bleed” at S&J Hardware’s website. If no courses are listed, you can inquire at the store’s contact page.

St. John’s Ambulance

I understand not everyone is able to make it to Belleville, Ontario for first aid training. St. John’s Ambulance has been around as far back as I can think of. With a multitude of courses, they offer training from emergency first aid and CPR all the way to mental health and even WHMIS.

Again, we are not trying to become a doctor and it’s not something you need to go overboard on. We are simply looking to further our skills in properly using our emergency medical kit. Which hopefully is never.

Emergency Medical Kit

I recently lost my grandmother. She was a wonderful woman that raised me and I am forever grateful to her. It’s also why it’s been so quiet at BushLife and my apologies to our readers for the delay in posts.

Grandma passed of natural causes, age to be exact. But it was so sudden and without warning that it came with great shock. She is my inspiration for this post as it’s bad enough to lose a loved one, it’s a lot worse when we are robbed of them before their time should be up.

Spend a few bucks, learn a little bit of medical and be prepared for the unexpected! Your adventures into the woods and even daily city life will improve with the confidence and reduced worry knowing you can take care of yourself and those you love the most.

Share This Post
Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

Articles: 52
%d bloggers like this: