Sentinel Handbook

Tips for security, safety, and crime prevention volunteers

8 Things to Look For When Buying a Medical Kit

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By Becky Blanton

Your average medical emergency, whether you’re hunting, fishing, hiking or living off-grid, is going to require more than that  $12 first aid kit you bought at your local pharmacy. Real medical emergencies typically involve amputations, serious gashes and cuts that are going to require surgery, or at least more stitches than you have fingers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a law enforcement officer, a prepper, a mom, an EMT in training or a doctor, your medical bag and equipment could one day be the only thing standing in between you and dying.  Police and federal agencies buy medical kits from police supply sites like  or They buy high-end medical kits because they’re more likely to be tending to shootings, stabbings and traumatic amputations.

Soccer moms buy first aid kits at places like CVS or Wal-Mart. They consist primarily of Band-Aids, wound seal and gauze, but nothing for serious injuries.

Hunters, campers, day hikers and fishermen go to places like Cabella’s Or Bass Pro for a little more advanced, but still not basic life support supplies. Take your time and surf the web to see the wide range of medical kits out there. Prices will range from $9.99 at big box retail stores, to $500 or even $1,500 and up for professional kits made for EMTs, police and military medics.

No matter who you are or what you’re buying for, here are eight things to look for when you’re buying a medical kit. It will be worth ten times its weight in gold when you really need it if you buy the right kit. If you have several jobs, hobbies or places you’ll need medical care, then buy several kits if you have to. But buy smart. Look for:

  1. Waterproof or water-resistant bags or kits. Medical kits get thrown in car trunks, backpacks and tossed into tents and boats. A lot of the equipment inside is useless if it gets wet or even damp. Tape won’t stick, pads won’t absorb and all kinds of things will rust, mold or become unsterile. Look for a back with a waterproof bottom or boot, and that has a waterproof or water resistant zipper.
  2. Lots of pockets, preferably ones that open and close with Velcro or big sturdy zippers. Since the tendency most of us have is to pick up an open bag in a medical emergency and move it to a better spot, bags with open pockets will spill all those sterile supplies right onto the ground. Make sure that any bag you get has some means of securing (elastic bands, ties, mesh bags, zippers or Velcro, pockets etc.) your gear when the bag is open and picked up by one end.
  3. Make sure the pockets are large enough to fit the supplies you’ll be using. Not all medical supplies are the size of a golf ball or pack of matches. There are pads, scissors, suture kits, flashlights, splints, tape, bandages and things that just won’t fit into tiny pouches. Determine what supplies you’ll be carrying and then pick a medical kit based on whether those supplies will fit snuggly and safely and without being crushed in the pockets and pouches the kit has.
  4. MOLLE systems rule. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment. It’s a system derived from PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System), which consists of webbing stitched into rows of heavy-duty nylon on vests, packs and bags. The system allows users to attach various sizes and configurations of various MOLLE-compatible pouches and accessories. It makes whatever kit you have more versatile.
  5. Get a color consistent with what you’ll be using it for. If you’re a doomsday prepper who wants to blend into the woods, then camouflage is a good color for you. If you’re a snow patrol member, or hunter, maybe bright orange is a better choice. If you’re a member of law enforcement, brown, black or navy blue or red or orange is a good choice. Color is important because it will help you identify the medical kit quickly, which can save lives.
  6. Pick a medical bag or kit for your specific medical needs. If you’re a soccer mom and the worst thing you’ll be dealing with are skinned knees and elbows and maybe a broken or sprained ankle or two, your needs are different than a hunter who plans on being in the back country around a lot of people with hunting rifles and large angry animals. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my, can do a lot of damage and require hard-core medical kits to repair or stabilize a medical emergency.
  7. Consider your group size. Everyone should carry a personal medical kit unique to their own needs — insulin needles, aspirin, Band-Aids for scrapes, lip balm, asthma inhalers, diabetes supplies etc. but if you’re going to be using the kit with a group, get one specific enough to treat everyone’s potential needs. Make sure it will last for as long as you’ll need it. Is this a home medical kit for a family of four, or a medical kit for a Scout troop of 10 to 15 boys and four adult leaders? Make sure you take into account the amount of supplies you’ll need to pack and for how long you’ll need them.  Most kits come prepacked with supplies for a specific number of days and people so it’s not too hard to figure out.
  8. Know how to use the supplies that come with the kit. If you plan to carry it, you should know how to use it. Many people create or buy excellent medical kits, but have absolutely no idea how to use the supplies inside. When buying a medical kit make sure you know what all those supplies are, and how and when to use them. Better yet, take some First Aid classes and learn how to actually perform basic to advanced first aid and then buy a kit based on your skill set and ability to use the items in the kit.

Medical kits can be expensive. And the truth is, they may never be used. Err on the side of being prepared rather than not. The life that kit saves may be yours.


This month’s entry is from a special guest blogger, and dear friend, Becky Blanton. Becky is a ghostwriter, TED Global speaker and a former police officer and police academy graduate. She ghost writes ebooks and books about survival prepping, camping, gear and a variety of topics. This is her first guest blog for this site.


Written by Silver Sentinel

March 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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