Whats goes in an IFAK?

What you carry in your Individual First Aid Kit should be just that: individual. Both in terms of how much you carry, the aim of an IFAK is to cover your individual requirements and carrying too much just means that it’s less likely that you’ll carry it (One exception to this rule is for parents and pet owners, you might want to carry a little extra for your dependents).

Plus it should be tailored to your individual requirements – if you work in an office in a city, you probably don’t need much, but if you work in the country away from your vehicle then you’ll likely require more. I’ll cover what I carry day-to-day in this post, but I should note that I carry a little more when I’m out on the hills. I also carry a different kit in my vehicle.

An IFAK case laid next to a few example items that you might consider putting in your IFAK, from just a few simple plasters to a trauma bandage, a tourniquet, and ChitoGauze.
An IFAK case laid next to a few example items that you might consider putting in your IFAK, from just a few simple plasters to a trauma bandage, a tourniquet, and ChitoGauze.

Since 99% of the time I carry a shoulder bag with me, I carry a little more in my IFAK than you might decide to. If you’re seriously short on pocket space or you’re restricted to what you can fit on a belt – you might just carry a small trauma bandage and a blister pack of pain killers.

The first rule of packing your IFAK is that you should not carry anything that you are not trained to use. That doesn’t mean you need to be limited though, there are plenty of decent first aid training courses out there – get trained.

If you’re new to First Aid and just trying your best, then consider grabbing an Aide Memoire or a training reference booklet that you can review to keep things free in your mind.

When choosing the kit for your IFAK, consider two types of risk: high impact and high likelihood. High impact risks encompass life-threatening situations like a massive bleed. Whereas, high likelihood events, while not as serious, may occur frequently enough to be frustrating and inconvinient. In such cases, it’s advisable to include specific items in your IFAK to address both of these situations.

I personally limit the items that I carry to things that I can self-administer, that’s why I don’t carry airway support like an NP airway. Since the average person on the street is not trained in their use and I’m unlikely to be able to make use of the item myself – it doesn’t go in my IFAK. If I need airway support, I’m personally reliant on either an ambulance (or my partner being close by with the VFAK!) You might think differently however, if you’re heading out to the mountains and you’re going in a group, then carrying enough equipment across your group to deal with a more complex situation will likely be a good idea, but I’ll cover that scenario in a different post.

For high likelihood issues, I’m carrying a few plasters and some pain killers, plus some prescription medication that I have to take daily. Plasters and pain killers aren’t going to deal with a lot, but they’re going to deal with issues that are frustrating and they might be enough to keep me going to so I don’t have to disrupt my day to deal with a small but common injury. As for carrying my prescription meds, I could leave them at home and just take them when I first wake – but since I travel a lot with work, if they live at home I’m more likely to leave home without them, so I keep them in my IFAK.

For high impact issues, I’m personally focused on a major bleed. Something that likely can’t wait for secondary support like an ambulance but that is still an issue that I can address myself. For major bleeds, you’ve got a few options: trauma bandages, haemostatic gauze, haemostatic powder, and tourniquets.

Again, you should not be carrying equipment that you not know how to use. Don’t carry a tourniquet or an antihemorrhagic agent without training.

For me, the most likely high impact issue that I’m going to face is a severe cut that leads to a major bleed, likely from slipping with a knife or other tool whilst working. Therefore the most useful tool for me is going to be a trauma bandage. It’ll handle most issues that I’m likely to face, including a pretty significant bleed, plus with training and practice they can be self-administered.

Consider carrying another essential item, especially if you engage in activities with potential penetrating wounds like gunshot wounds or if you are on blood thinners that may lead to blood clotting issues. A haemostatic agent, such as ChitoGauze or Celox Granules, can prove invaluable in managing such situations effectively.

Another item to consider carrying, especially if you engage in activities that have the potential to result in penetrating wounds such as gunshot wounds, or you’re on blood thinners that can lead to issues with blood clotting, is a haemostatic agent, such as ChitoGauze or Celox Granules. You might also want to consider including a chest seal to deal with puncture woulds to the chest. Both of these types of products are small and extremely lightweight.

Personally, I don’t carry a chest seal in my IFAK. That’s in part due to the fact that both firearm homicides and knife homicides are virtually unheard of here – that may not be the case in the territory where you live, so your IFAK should be appropriate for your needs. I do however carry haemostatic guaze.

You might also want to consider carrying a burn dressing, but personally, there isn’t one in my kit.

Finally, there’s the good old tourniquet. I carried one when I deployed, so I have one in my civilian kit too, but I think that’s partly nostalgia or maybe the feeling that’s it’s not a “true” IFAK without one. Remember, if you’re carrying a tourniquet, then you need to carry a Sharpie too, to mark it.

What’s in my IFAK?

Things to consider adding to your IFAK

All of that said, the best IFAK is the one that you carry. If you pack too much kit, you’re less likely to carry it with you. When you’re walking through town, a trauma bandage stuffed into a pocket is better than a fully-packed IFAK left at home.