If you are going to be the medical caregiver for your family or community in times of trouble, you will, hopefully, have accumulated a significant number of medical supplies. You’ll find many recommendations about what materials to put into a medical bag, but little about the bag itself. Many choose to buy kits already packed (often in China) and accept whatever bag in which they happen to come, regardless of quality.
Choosing a medic’s bag, however, should be part of your process when deciding on medical supplies. Without a place to organize these items, they’ll probably be strewn about in a way that prevents you from accessing the stuff you need when an emergency arises. This wastes precious time when someone’s life may hang in the balance. Organization is key; if you’re disorganized, you’re not going to provide aid quickly and effectively when most needed.
Having said that, even those who have shelves full of supplies color-coded and categorized alphabetically may not have a good bag that they can take at a moment’s notice to help someone in the field. Even if the bulk of your storage isn’t mobile, you should a separate medical kit packed and ready to go just like the rest of your, well, “go bag” items.
One important aspect of choosing a bag that fits your needs is size. Size matters; you should assess your needs to determine which size bag is right for you. The factors that go into this decision include:
Are you staying in place or on the move?
How many people are you responsible for?
How long will you be the medical resource for your family or group?
Are you in an area that is potentially dangerous?
What climate should you be prepared for?
What medical issues will you be most likely to encounter?
Can you depend on clean water?
How much are you comfortable carrying?
The medic’s bag should be substantial (but manageable) in size, but every member of your family will benefit if they carry some supplies in case you get separated. In the military, certain medical supplies are carried by every infantryman. The combat medic carries the more advanced items in a larger bag. This strategy would work well for a family on the move.
The best medic bags are sturdy with lots of loops and clear or mesh pockets. These bags have everything you’ll need in an emergency in plain sight if packed right, and will avoid the question you never want to ask yourself if someone’s injured: “Where’d I put the tourniquet?” or “Where’d I put the burn dressings?” Closed pouches in the bag could be used for non-emergency items, like certain medicines, water filters, etc.
A good idea is to place your items in modules based on the type of injury, but the important thing is to have things organized in a way that makes sense to you personally. This might mean taking a kit already packed with supplies (even one of our USA-packed kits) and moving things around so the arrangement seems natural to the medic.
Where we put items in our kits seems intuitive to us, but it’s much more important that it does so to you. Don’t just buy a kit, put it in the back of a closet somewhere, and say you’re medically prepared. Open it up, take things out and figure out which materials you know how to use, and work to learn how to use the rest.
A medical bag doesn’t have to be commercially produced, by the way; a toolbox or other item that sets up your supplies in an organized way may be all that is needed. If it must travel with you, however, so do some hiking while carrying the kit to see how it feels.
Joe Alton MD
Hey, you can check out our entire line of medical kits (packed in solid Voodoo Tactical bags right here in the USA) by going to store.doomandbloom.net. And don’t forget, the greatly expanded and revised 4th EDITION of the award-winning Survival Medicine Handbook: The Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way is available for preorder at our store, and soon, at Amazon.com. More news to come!