A first aid kit should be an essential part of your outdoor gear. While you hope it never happens, the possibility of sliding down a rock face or even falling on a broken branch could result in a serious puncture wound and life or death consequences. Estimates place the time to "bleed out" at 10-15 minutes when a major artery is hit. If you can slow the bleeding, the time frame for survival is significantly expanded. Look at this graphic video of a femoral blowout and notice how quickly is bleeds out:
Most of us are smart enough to carry a first aid kit on outdoor adventures. The problem is, we tend to over pack and focus on non life threatening and insignificant injuries. Take a look at your kit. I will bet there's plenty of band aids, Neosporin, aspirin, and other comfort items. The truth is, these minor injuries can be addressed later. While there is nothing wrong with being over prepared, these all inclusive first aid kits can add significant weight to your pack, reducing your ability to stay mobile and fast in tough environments.
When I took a look at my own gear, I decided to pare it down and reduce the items that I carry. I set a personal goal to be as minimalist as I could, aiming to reduce carry fatigue so that I could explore longer and be more nimble. The spot I noticed the biggest chance to reduce items was in my first aid kit. So I began to do a lot of research on first aid, and thought about what medical situations I would face in off grid endeavors. I knew I could "man up" and make it back to civilization in time to treat a bee sting or minor abrasion. So I decided to remove those comfort items like I mentioned above. My real concern was how to respond to and treat major injuries: a gun shot wound, puncture wounds if I fell on a broken branch, or even some of the grisly broken bones I have seen where the bone actually broke through the skin leading to heavy bleeding.
That's when I decided on a two piece trauma response kit. The two items are an Israeli Bandage and a pack of Quikclot. If you are an outdoorsman you have probably heard of both. According to this site, one of the most preventable causes of deaths in non-fatally wounded people has been the inability to quickly and effectively stop bleeding. The Israeli bandage addresses this issue in a small and inexpensive package.
The website gives a little more information on the wound dressing:
"(an Israeli Bandage) is an elasticized bandage with a non-adhesive bandage pad sewn in. The bandage has a built-in pressure bar, which allows the soldier to twist the bandage around the wound once, and then change the direction of the bandage, wrapping it around the limb or body part, to create pressure on the wound. Aside from this, the pressure bar also makes bandaging easier. A closure bar at the end of the bandage means that it clips neatly into place and will not slip.
The pressure bar also enables a soldier to use the bandage on complicated injuries like the groin and head, which require wrapping in different directions.
The bandage can be put on with one hand, ... “It’s a very versatile bandage,” he says. “It can be applied quickly and easily by an injured soldier or non-medical personnel for immediate hemorrhage control. It saves time in an emergency situation where every second is crucial.”
Certainly the US military thinks so. Last year, the US Army purchased nearly 200,000 bandages for its troops. This year, the US Army purchased 800,000".
The second item in our trauma kit is a package of Quikclot. Available in several forms, the powdered version is mostly discontinued now, the clotting sponge is readily available through retailers such as REI. For those who wanting to carry a different form, a gauze is sold under the name Combat Gauze but tends to be more expensive and harder to find since it is sold to the military market.
Quikclot does have downsides, as this website points out, but I believe the benefits out weigh the risks in a survival scenario. Newer incarnations of Quikclot have eliminated many of those downsides as well. The original formulation contained an active ingredient called zeolite to promote blood clotting. The zeolite reaction with blood was exothermic, meaning it released heat during the clotting process and sometimes caused second degree burns. The newer formulation uses a different mineral, kaolin, which is inert and therefore doesn't produce an exothermic reaction, to activate the coagulation cascade. Quikclot application is simple, as this video shows:
Some would argue that a tourniquet should be included in a survival first aid kit, but incorrect application can have serious consequences. Considerable evidence to supports the negative effects of inappropriate or prolonged use of tourniquets, including nerve damage, tissue death and blood clots. That is because unless you have used one, they tend to be over tightened and left on for too long. If one has been trained on the proper application, then it makes sense to make your survival first aid kit a three piece one, but otherwise I wouldn't carry a tourniquet. A belt can be used in dire circumstances, but this too requires some knowledge and experience.
I think the two piece kit I have suggested will prepare you for most emergency scenarios you would experience off the grid. Of course, these items do not replace first responder training, and the knowledge and experience gained through practice. I firmly believe a first responder or emergency first aid class is worth its costs in gold, and should be sought by any one who spends time off grid. Purchase Quikclot and an Israeli Bandage on Amazon.
Comment below and tell us what you think of our two piece survival first aid kit.