Of all of the things that I chose for my Bug Out Bag, the items for the first aid kit were the hardest. Bug Out Bag packing is tough because you want to make sure that you have every single item you’d need in a SHTF survival situation – but you also want to make sure that the BOB is light enough that you’d actually be able to flee with it.
In other words, you aren’t going to be packing your entire home first aid kit in your Bug Out Bag!
There is no one “best” way to pack a Bug Out Bag first aid kit. What you choose for your kit is going to vary depending on factors like:
- How many people are in your group
- The health of each person in the group
- Your medical knowledge
- Your knowledge of natural remedies
- Whether you will be going through an urban environment or not
Here is how I built my Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit. Again, I don’t expect you to copy this list exactly. Rather, I hope it will help you assess your needs so you can pack the right items.
What Are the Most Likely Injuries That You Will Face When Bugging Out?
We can’t predict for certain what will happen in a SHTF Bug Out situation, but we can look at examples of past disasters to get an idea.
In emergency situations such as natural disasters, warfare, terrorist attacks, or when mass rioting occurs, you end up with a lot of glass and rubble in the streets. You can count on some serious trauma injuries like deep cuts. Let’s hope that you don’t have to deal with a gunshot wound, but this is also a possibility.
One scenario which particularly scares me is the idea of fire everywhere. Rioters often set fires in the street and citizens end up with severe burns. In disasters like earthquakes where gas mains break, fires can also be widespread. So, I want to make sure I am prepared to treat burn injuries.
Scrapes and Minor Wounds
There are sure to be a lot of minor injuries when bugging out, but I wouldn’t worry about them too much. What does become a concern though is when you’ve got small cuts and are in unsanitary conditions.
For example, after Hurricanes Katrina, many people had to be hospitalized because of skin infections. They got small cuts which were exposed to the dirty flood water. This led to infections. To prevent this, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a way to protect those small wounds and disinfect them.
Have you ever tried climbing over the rubble of a demolished building or running through streets filled with debris? No matter how careful you are, there is a good chance you could twist your ankle and end up with a bad sprain or torn ligament.
As someone who hikes a lot, I can tell you that these injuries really suck. It is going to be very difficult to bug out when you can barely walk! So, your first aid kit needs to factor in how you’d treat these mobility injuries.
Mobility injuries also include smaller wounds like blisters. I’ve got an extra pair of socks in my Bug Out Bag (keeping your feet dry is important!) to prevent blisters, but I’m also packing some moleskin in case of blisters. It seems trivial, but a blister can really slow you down.
Disease and Infection
No one likes to talk about this aspect of disaster planning, but disasters bring out horrible hygiene issues.
You should have a method of purifying water in your Bug Out Bag, but you don’t have to drink dirty water to be infected by it. Walking through dirty water, for example, can lead to infections if it gets in to your body through cuts or scrapes. Likewise, you might touch your mouth or eyes after coming in contact with dirty water. You better be able to treat the diarrhea, vomiting, and fever which could occur!
Shock and Hypothermia are also medical concerns when bugging out. So, make sure your Bug Out Bag first aid kit is packed accordingly.
Personal Medical Needs
This one should be obvious, but your Bug Out Bag first aid kit needs to include any personal medical items you need. Talk to your doctor and ask if you can get “just in case” backups of your medications. Just be warned that meds can expire quickly – especially if they are in warm humid places like the trunk of your car (I keep one Bug Out Bag in my car).
Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit Checklist
*Item quantities are listed for 2 people. Remember that this is just a guideline to be used for inspiration. Adjust the items and quantities based on your needs!
- 1 Waterproof pouch
- 2-3 pairs of medical gloves
- 5 8”x10” sterile heavy gauze (combine dressings)
- 3-5 Trauma pads with blood clotting agent
- 1 Roller bandage
- 4-inch butterfly closure strips, suture kit, wound stapler, or other method of closing larger wounds
- 1 Blood clotting agent
- 1 Antiseptic burn salve
- 1 small tube of antibiotic wound ointment
- 4 Alcohol prep pads
- 3-5 Q-tips and cotton balls
- 1 Mylar blanket
- 1 Ace bandage
- 1 Roll of medical tape
- 1 Moleskin pack
- 1 Snake bite kit (depending on where you will be bugging out)
- 2 N95 respirator mask (read about how to choose a respirator mask here)
- 2-5 Oral rehydration salts
- 3 Days’ worth of antidiarrheal medications
- 3 Days’ worth of pain killers (OTC or prescription, depending on what you have access to)
- 2 Courses of Antibiotics (Read this post about fish antibiotics)
- 2 Safety pins or needles
- 1 Multitool with tweezers and scissors
- Personal medications
- EpiPen (For people with allergies; remember that these expire quickly!)
- Potassium iodide (If you live near a nuclear plant, you want this in your BOB kit!)
- Honey packets (Good for diabetics or for treating hypothermia)
What I Did NOT Pack in My Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit
Like I said before, packing my Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit was really tricky because I wanted to make sure I have enough of each item for the situation, but want to keep the BOB as light as possible.
So, I left out any items which weren’t absolutely necessary or could be easily replaced with a found item. These include:
- Splint: I could easily make a splint with a branch, so no need to put this in the BOB
- Triangle Bandage: While triangle bandages are useful things like making a sling or as a broad-fold bandage, you can also just use your shirt. I’ve got a bandana in my BOB (protect my balding head from the sun!), so there’s no need for me to include a triangle bandage.
- Scissors: I’ve got scissors in my multi-tool, so I’m not packing special medical scissors.
- Magnifying Glass: This is useful for cleaning wounds and could also be used as an emergency firestarter. However, it is bulky and the glass could easily break so I left it out.
- IV Kit: I saw that some preppers recommend packing an IV kit. This only makes sense if you are a trained medical professional. I am not confident with using an IV kit, so won’t bring one.
- Tourniquet: This can be made out of the paracord in my BOB, so no need for it in the First Aid Kit too.
- Bandaids: When hiking, I just put a piece of medical tape over small wounds to keep out debris. In a Bug Out situation, I’d do the same.
- Wound Irrigation Syringe: This one I am still not 100% sure of. It would be very useful and possibly life-saving for cleaning wounds, but it also doesn’t seem like an absolute necessity since I could use water/cotton balls/tweezers to clean wounds. Let me know if you have an opinion on this!
Want to learn more about packing a Bug Out Bag? Read:
- 3 Day Bug Out Bag Checklist
- How to Pack a Family Bug Out Bag
- 50+ Bug Out Bag Food Ideas
- Real-Life Examples of Bug Out Bag Contents