While reading supply lists for preppers, it seems like one item that gets glossed over pretty often is your medical kit. Every list which is worth its salt mentions you should have a first aid kit, but oftentimes, no further details are offered. What does that actually mean? That you should walk into a department store and simply purchase a generic first aid kit? Or should you make one yourself?
Well, I am going to go ahead and answer this for you. You should definitely make one yourself, and I am going to help you figure out how to do it.
There are several reasons I think it is a smart idea to build your own medical kit from scratch:
- Most first aid kits you find for sale at department stores are designed for simple home emergencies and/or backpacking emergencies, not for long-term survival situations. They simply do not offer everything you need.
- There are always going to be some custom needs to take care of. This is not something I am going to go into in this article—I will be telling you about more broadly applicable supplies that everyone should have. But you need to structure your kit to your needs, incorporating supplies for health conditions specific to you and your party. You might also want to stock extra supplies to deal with specific threats in your environment (i.e. snakes native to your area).
- You need to learn as much as you possibly can about this stuff. Believe it or not, I have actually seen some preppers argue that a full medical kit is useless if you do not know how to use it. Well, that is not a reason not to build a medical kit—that is a reason to build one and learn how to use everything in it. That is what being prepared is all about.
The bottom line is this: if you are in a survival situation, by definition, your physical well-being is going to be in danger. That means that sickness and injury are two things you are likely to have to contend with. Being prepared for that is absolutely vital if you want to make it.
So I have put together a comprehensive list of what you need to put in your survival medical kit. But first things first—you need a way to store and carry all those supplies.
You Need a High-Quality Bag
What you use to carry your medical supplies is up to you, but there are a few important considerations:
- A bag is good (as opposed to a box), because you can sling it over your shoulder and take it with you on the run, leaving your hands free.
- Your bag should have a lot of compartments which are logically organized and easy to reach.
- The bag should be made of rugged, sturdy materials.
*Check this out: How to Create a Bug Out Bag.
The quality of the bag is essential, and may even be a matter of life and death. Think about it—if you have seconds to grab the right supply, do you really want to be digging through a mess of supplies? Or do you want to be able to go right to an easy-to-reach individual compartment to grab exactly what you need?
Types of Medical Supplies You Need for Prepping
Supplies for Closing Open Wounds and Staunching Bleeding
Some of the most common scenarios you are likely to encounter involve open wounds. If you have a freely bleeding wound, your first priority is to stop the bleeding. Here are some basic supplies which can help you do so quickly and effectively.
1. Butterfly sutures
These adhesive strips can be applied in a jiffy and can help to hold a wound closed. They are like stitches, without the need to stitch.
These are both inexpensive, high-quality products. They are versatile enough that they can hold wounds closed in locations where traditional sutures or staples might not work.
2. Duct tape
This one might sound weird, but in a pinch, it works. You can apply duct tape just like the butterfly sutures. Just pull it across and let it hold the wound shut until you can find a more suitable replacement.
3. Gauze or Sponge Pads
Gauze pads are not only great for staunching bleeding and protecting wounds, they also can be used to clean wounds, pad them, and more.
It is smart to purchase a variety of sizes. Why? The need for larger gauze pads is obvious. As to the smaller ones, you want those so you do not have to cut up the larger ones when you need smaller pads. If you cut the larger pads, you loosen the fibers, and you risk them getting in the wound. This in turn can increase the chances of infection.
As to sponge pads, they are a lot like gauze pads, except that they are more absorbent. Either gauze or sponge is fine for your kit.
This one is probably obvious, but it bears emphasizing. Band-aids may be among the most basic survival supplies, but that doesn’t make them any less essential. Make sure you buy them for your kit.
5. Medical Tape
While duct tape is great to have in your medical kit, so is some actual medical grade first-aid tape.
6. Bandage Scissors
Buying gauze pads in multiple sizes will save you from having to do unnecessary cutting, but you will still need to cut through bandages, medical tape and other supplies now and again. Make sure you are equipped to do it with a solid pair of bandage scissors.
These shears are made from Japanese surgical grade stainless steel and are equipped with precision milled serrations. They are super sharp and efficient.
7. Vet Tape Wrap
This one might sound a bit weird, but vet wrap actually is a great supply for treating your own wounds. It is just like the coban used in hospitals, and does a great job applying compression to a wound. It also is self-sticking, requiring no tape.
8. Ace Wrap
Ace wraps are awesome because they are re-usable and can be used for dressings or to support a sprained limb.
9. Celox Blood Clotting Supplies
There are going to be times when you’ve got a gushing wound where a bandage just isn’t going to cut it. Pour in the Celox coagulating agent and cover the wound right away. You do not need to clean out the Celox.
The set above includes both the coagulating agent and an applicator for fast, clean injection.
10. Halo Chest Seal
If you need to cover a wound in extreme conditions even where sweat, hair, blood or sand are in the way, a Halo Chest Seal is the way to go. These were designed for battlefield use.
Supplies for Treating Gunshot Wounds
Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you are stuck removing a bullet yourself, but if that day ever does come, you will be glad you stocked up on the right supplies. Along with the supplies listed above, you need the following items in your medical kit to ensure you can effectively treat gunshot wounds.
11. Nitrile Gloves
These are similar to latex gloves, except that they are thicker and more durable. They also are more hypoallergenic.
12. Medical Grade Tweezers
You may need a set of tweezers to remove a bullet or gunshot residue from a wound. Make sure that they are stainless steel and safe for medical use, and try to go for a pair which is extra long and includes curved tips for optimum control.
13. Hemostat Forceps
When you are removing shrapnel from a wound, you may be contending with arteries which have been punctured. You can clamp them off using a set of hemostat forceps while you work.
If you have no choice but to cut off blood supply to a severely injured limb, you are going to need a tourniquet which does an effective job and which is fast and easy to apply.
15. Sterile Scalpels
You may need to use a scalpel to help you get at the gunshot residue you are trying to extract. You can buy a bunch of disposable scalpels for cheap.
16. Nasopharyngeal Airway
Sometimes a gunshot wound will disrupt breathing. You can use a nasopharyngeal airway to provide an adjunct. While an oropharyngeal airway can be used as well, a nasopharyngeal airway bypasses problems involving gag reflex. It also tends to stay more secure during transport.
Supplies to Prevent or Treat Infections
While treating gunshot wounds, cuts, burns, and other injuries, it is vital to clean the wound site to prevent infection. The following supplies will help you do this.
17. Irrigation Plunger
Use an irrigation plunger to flush a wound with a sterile solution such as saline. This is especially important with gunshot wounds, punctures, and deep cuts.
Here are a couple of options for irrigation plungers. The first one is actually a dental supply, and can be used for dental work as well.
18. Saline Wound Wash
This stuff is cheap, gentle and effective, and can be used to rinse out wounds, eyes, and so on. Make sure you stock up on plenty of it, because you will use it to treat a variety of different injuries.
19. Hydrogen Peroxide
Nothing fancy is needed here; you will be using hydrogen peroxide to treat medical implements and kill germs on your hands before you do your medical work. Do not put it in wounds.
20. Isopropyl Alcohol
This is just your standard rubbing alcohol. Like the saline, you need to stock up on it, because it makes a great all-around cleanser.
In fact, you will find a lot of non-medical uses for it as well. It is handy for disinfecting cooking surfaces, for example, and can also be used to make a Molotov cocktail (which is totally illegal, but if it’s Armageddon time, that isn’t going to apply anymore).
21. Silver Gel
This gel is made using silver liquid solution. It is antibacterial and is a potent ointment you can apply to a range of different wounds, rashes, and infections for powerful results. It does not sting on application like some other types of antibacterial ointments.
22. Hydrocortisone Cream
This cream works well to treat rashes and bug bites. It can also reduce the itching and pain associated with eczema and other common skin conditions. Less itching means less scratching, and less scratching means less chance of an infection.
Hibiclens is an antiseptic soap which is actually used in hospitals and clinics. It can fight germs for up to 24 hours after a single application. You can even use it to help with treating MRSA. Keep in mind it has a shelf life, and also make sure you never pour it over an open wound or get it into your eyes or ears (it can make you go deaf or blind).
With its powerful combination of Bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B, Neosporin is a classic for pain relief and infection prevention.
Pain Medications and Anesthesia
Now that we’ve covered basic wound treatment and disinfecting supplies, let’s talk about the supplies you can stock up on to help treat pain.
This NSAID does a great job at combating swelling and inflammation while reducing pain. It works well for treating pain from both injuries and illnesses as well as infections.
If you need to treat a fever, acetaminophen is an excellent choice. This also is a better option than Ibuprofen if you have someone to treat who has a fracture or who is using blood thinners.
If you need to numb an area of skin, lidocaine does a good job.
28. Cold Pack
Another easy way to numb an area is by applying a cold pack. A cold pack has the advantage of being reusable, and some cold packs can also be heated up to use as warm packs.
Asthma and Allergy Supplies
Now let’s get around to allergy and asthma supplies. Asthma is very common, and can be a life-threatening condition. As to allergies, at best they are an inconvenience, but at worst, they can put quite a damper on quality of life. Certain allergies may also be life-threatening.
This is a useful medication in managing allergy symptoms. Additionally, it can combat nausea and may also be used as a sedative.
The product above is simply liquid generic Benadryl. It can last for quite a while, and is an excellent deal. You also should get a topical antihistamine, but we have already covered that in this list with the hydrocortisone cream.
This is another name for adrenaline. You may need a prescription to get this, but for someone with severe allergies or asthma, having epinephrine around is a must. In case of anaphylaxis, antihistamines are not sufficient to relieve the potentially deadly symptoms. Epinephrine may save your life.
Supplies for Treating Snake Bites, etc.
Thousands of people are bitten by venomous snakes every year. Almost all of them survive. The vast majority of supplies which are useful in treating snake bites have already been covered—disinfectants and so on. About the only thing that I haven’t mentioned is a splint.
A splint can be created to immobile a body part, useful in case of snake bite, sprains, strains, breaks, and so on.
What about so-called “snake bite kits?” On the whole, I recommend avoiding these. They often include suction devices, tourniquets, cold packs, and so on, but doctors actually recommend against these treatment methods at this point in time.
Basically, a lot of what you grew up being told about how to treat snake bites is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
Burn Treatment Supplies
Burns are another common, painful, and dangerous type of injury which you may need to treat if you are in a survival situation.
We have already covered quite a few supplies needed for burn treatment—tweezers to remove loose fibers, silver gel to disinfect while still letting the wound breathe, etc. Here is one more supply which can help you treat burns.
32. Adaptic Dressings
Burns pose some logistical problems, because you need to protect the wounds, but you also need to make sure you do not trap moisture or place something on the wounds which will stick and cause infection and pain.
Adaptic dressings are the answer. These dressings are designed to adhere without sticking. They allow burns to breathe, preventing fluid from pooling.
Emergency Dental Supplies
For whatever reason, medical insurance never covers dental—as if your teeth and gums are not a part of your body, and caring for them is not essential to your health.
Of course, dental care is vital to your well-being and survival. So make sure you include some basic dental supplies in your emergency medical kit.
33. Baking Soda
You already have hydrogen peroxide in your kit (which by the way can work as a mouthwash). If you stock up on some baking soda, you can make toothpaste.
34. Toothbrushes and Floss
This is pretty basic, but you should always have some extra toothbrushes and floss on hand for long-term survival situations.
- Oral-B Pro-Health Clinical Pro-Flex Toothbrush
- Colgate 360 Adult Full Head Soft Toothbrush
- Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Comfort Plus Floss
35. Dental Emergency Kit
There are some dental emergency kits you can buy pre-packaged on the market. These include oral analgesics along with temporary filling mixtures. You can also simply purchase temporary fillings.
36. Clove Oil and Cotton Swabs
Clove oil is a natural dental analgesic which you can easily apply to your gums. You just need to dab on a few drops using a cotton swab. It doesn’t taste good, but it is effective.
Finally, here are a few other supplies which did not fit squarely into the other categories.
A thermometer is an essential medical supply for monitoring a patient with a fever.
38. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly has long been sold and used as a kind of “cure-all” for an array of medical issues. It really isn’t one, but it can act to protect skin, which makes it useful when treating superficial burns, wounds, rashes and so on. Incidentally, it is also a great moisturizer.
You never know when a survival situation will force you to spend a lot of time out in the hot, bright sun. If you have some sunscreen stashed in your medical kit, you won’t have to subject yourself to those UV rays.
40. Medical Guides
Hopefully you actually take some first aid classes to train up in emergency medical procedures so you know what you are doing if you ever do need to use your emergency supplies.
Enter your text here...
But in the heat of the moment, you can easily forget what to do or get confused over steps, so it is a good idea to carry some field medicine guides with you in your kit.
- Prepper’s Survival Medicine Handbook: A Lifesaving Collection of Emergency Procedures from U.S. Army Field Manuals
- Medicine for the Outdoors: The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergencies
- Prepper’s Survival Medicine Handbook: The Ultimate Prepper’s Guide to Preparing Emergency First Aid and Survival Medicine for You and Your Family
Conclusion: When SHTF, Having a Comprehensive Medical Kit for Emergencies Could Save Your Life
When we talk about prepping for survival, it is easy to get caught up in discussions about firearms, improvised weapons, security, and self defense. While these are exciting topics (and very important), knowing how to treat yourself or other members of your family or party if one of you does get wounded or sick is essential. In fact, you will probably end up getting a lot more use out of your medical kit than your guns.
So take the time to put together a full medical kit. It does take time to hunt down all these supplies and organize them, but most of them are quite inexpensive, and you will end up with a much higher quality medical kit than any which you could buy pre-made. In the end, taking that extra effort could save your life or that of a loved one!