Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit List: What You Need

Of all the things I chose for my Bug Out Bag, the items for the first aid kit were the hardest.

Bug Out Bag packing is tricky 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 be able to flee with it.

In other words, you aren’t 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 exactly. Instead, 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 what will happen in a SHTF Bug Out situation, but we can look at examples of past disasters to get an idea.

Trauma Injuries

In emergencies such as natural disasters, warfare, terrorist attacks, or mass rioting, you end up with a lot of glass and rubble in the streets. As a result, trauma injuries are very common. Let’s hope you don’t have to deal with a gunshot wound, but this is also possible. See our guide to trauma kits and IFAKs

Burn Injuries

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. Fires can also be widespread in disasters like earthquakes where gas mains break. So, I want to ensure 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 is when you’ve got minor cuts and are in unsanitary conditions.

For example, many people had to be hospitalized after Hurricanes Katrina because of skin infections. They got minor cuts which were exposed to the dirty flood water. This led to infections. To prevent this, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a way to protect and disinfect those small wounds.

Mobility Injuries

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 will be tough to bug out when you can barely walk! So, your first aid kit must factor in how you’d treat these mobility injuries.

Mobility injuries also include more minor wounds like blisters. I’ve got an extra pair of socks in my Bug Out Bag to prevent blisters, but I’m also packing some moleskin in case of blisters. It seems trivial, but a blister can slow you down.

Disease and Infection

No one likes to discuss this aspect of disaster planning, but disasters bring horrible hygiene issues.

You should have an emergency water purification method in your Bug Out Bag, but you don’t have to drink dirty water to be infected. Walking through contaminated water, for example, can lead to infections if it gets into 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 Survival First Aid Kit

*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 Tourniquet – see best tourniquets for your medical kit
  • 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 another 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 painkillers (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 people with diabetes or for treating Hypothermia)

What I Did NOT Pack in My Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit

As I said before, packing my Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit was tricky because I wanted to ensure I had enough of each item for the situation but wanted 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 there is no need to put this in the BOB
  • Triangle Bandage: While triangle bandages are useful for making a sling or as a broad-fold bandage, you can just use your shirt. I’ve got a bandana in my BOB, so there’s no need for me to include a triangle bandage. Read more about triangle bandages.
  • Scissors: I’ve got scissors in my multitool, 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 using an IV kit, so I won’t bring one.
  • 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: I am still not 100% sure of this one. It would be beneficial and possibly life-saving for cleaning wounds, but it also doesn’t seem necessary 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:

Did you build your Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit yet? Let us know in the comments

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  1. Does anyone know whether phials of saline for nebulisers can be used to clean/flush wounds? I also carry 2 lighters (a mechanical BIC and a Piezo one, both disposable) to sterilise metal (needles/blades etc)

    • Yes, they absolutely can! They are pretty small though, so you won’t be able to flush a large or very dirty wound.

  2. An irrigation syringe is absolutely necessary. It is a focused stream of water that dislodge is dirt and debris and that is why you need it. Also you need it to backwash your water filter if you are going to be using it for more than three days, which in a disaster you might. I also noticed that you did not include chest seals and trauma dressings, but you did mention gunshot wound’s. Is there a reason you didn’t include those? Do you figure you wouldn’t survive long enough anyways if you were using a chest seal or did you just forget those? You also didn’t put anything in there to sanitize your hands. And if this is for two people, I think you need more than for alcohol prep pads. If this is for three days and you got an injury on the first day, and you needed to change the dressing once a day, you would need six although you might be counting on the fact that both people won’t get injured at the same time. It will be more expensive, but I think it would be better to have a roll of Quick clock gauze instead of the pads because you can actually use it to pack the wound. Also, it’s surprisingly easy to get a skin infection so you are right. That is no joke. I have had one before and I don’t know how I got it. I wasn’t aware that I had a cut or injury but I got one somehow and had to have antibiotics for it. This was in a non-emergency situation and I shower and care about my hygiene.

  3. Four things I have added to my kit are:
    1) Dermabond (surgical glue). Not only does it hold a wound shut, but also seals out foreign material. The tubes I carry are about the size of a pen, but I have seen smaller sizes. I’m not sure if they are of the same quality.
    2) Iodine prep pads. I use iodine for wounds and alcohol for equipment. Iodine is more effective at killing microbes and its’ disinfectant properties last longer than alcohol wipes. You could pack bottled iodine (iodine tincture) instead which could also be used for water purification.
    3) Benadryl and Zyrtec. You never know when and where you will be and having allergies while bugging out isn’t fun.
    4) Lip balm. I like the squeeze tubes. You can put a little on your finger then apply it to your lips. This allows you to share the tube as long as you don’t “double dip” the same finger on the tube.

    • Instead of lip balm, I have a nice beeswax and propolis balm that comes in a tube. It is good for chapped lips, dry skin, and also on burns and minor wounds. I definitely agree that the squeeze tubes are better!

  4. I’m not going to list my cred…the ‘net is full of enough troll bots as is. You did miss the filtration straw. The irrigation and other H2O uses make no sense with dirty / contaminated H2O; and, you will die of dehydration before hunger.

    • I would consider a water filter and/or purifier as a general BOB item, not a first aid item. We’ve definitely talked about the importance of water in those posts! *I personally hate straw-type filters. They only work for sucking water but don’t allow you to carry water with you or use it for things like cold-soaking dehydrated meals. The Sawyer Mini beats the LifeStraw any day!

  5. I know this post is a couple of years old, however I thought I would weigh in as an ER doc on the matter of wound irrigation, primarily for future readers. When discussing/teaching wound irrigation in the emergency setting, three topics are nearly always touched on: 1) Solution used for irrigation 2) Irrigation Pressure 3) Volume/duration of irrigation

    1) Tap Water Is Safe. This has been decently well studied and there is a plethora of anecdotal experience. The actual studies show very similar rates of wound infection when using tap water versus sterile saline. The basic idea here is that most infections will be caused by bacteria from your skin or that introduced to the wound during injury rather than anything introduced from your solution (assuming your not using contaminated water, etc). Caveats: Studies did not look at patients with old wounds (eg > 8 hours), very deep wounds, puncture wounds.

    2) You should have an irrigation pressure of at least 7-8 PSI. Note that you will get this with the majority of syringes out there as long as you are applying sufficient pressure to the syringe during irrigation. This is not as well studied but is accepted as dogma in wound care and often considered the most important part of irrigation. The basic idea here is that you need enough pressure to displace bacteria introduced into the wound. I would personally place more emphasis on this in deeper wounds including puncture wounds.

    3) More is better. Numbers aren’t as important or universally accepted, though some will use the 60cc (mL) per centimeter of wound rule. In a pinch where water stores are low, I would favor capturing irrigation solution as you go and reusing it if necessary rather than not appropriately irrigating the wound.

    Also 1000% agree with the tourniquet. Still used by EMS, ER docs, military personnel daily and is probably the most important component of this kit (IMHO). Minimal downsides. If space permits then I would even recommend carrying two tourniquets (first tourniquet does not always achieve hemostasis and better to leave the first be and place a second).

  6. They say you can bleed out in 3-5 minutes. A tourniquet is definitely a must. Training is pretty basic. I would consider a packet of quick clot gauze for trunk wounds. These items are light and not to costly. Get a good name tourniquet like NAR. Tourniquets can be left on for a pretty long period of time without fear of losing a limb. I would carry it in such a manner that its readily available in a high stress situation. Always think about access when stowing it. You could be using your non-dominant hand to retrieve it due to injury.

  7. In SHTF, I believe a tourniquet is a must. When you need it, you need it immediately. If carried you need to know how to use it. I wouldn’t want to wast time with para cord and making sure I did it right.

  8. Hey just wanted to pass along a good tip on wound irrigation. The saline flush syringes can work but I have found that a bottle of contact solution works better. You get a smaller stream of higher pressure saline. Hope this helps somebody.

  9. I have a couple of Wound Irrigation Syringes in my bob cause one of the worst things to happen is to get an infection from some type of cut. You would want to use sterile water by boiling water or by some other means.

  10. With regards to the wound irrigation syringe; I would suggest using the (sterilized) backflush syringe from your sawyer filter if you have one. Additionally I would suggest that folk who do have a sawyer trade out the syringe for something smaller, since you’re probably not gonna be cleaning your filter unless you’re somewhere secure enough that the extra time with a smaller syringe shouldn’t matter. On another note, as silly as it sounds, the choice of crowbar is kind of important. I picked a Stanley 55-818 17-Inch Ripping Bar since it doesn’t have a “gooseneck” on it, so it can be driven farther into a doorframe, it also has a nail puller hole you can lash through for carrying (use a quicklink, it’s sharp) and the chisel end is offset, so you’ll always be able to get underneath it to grasp it when levering. Also, since it has a greater than 90 degree angle on the curved end it’s easier to unstick from things you bash with it, as well as making it a functional pickaxe.The octagonal (hex? IDK) shaft means it gives a better grip for bashing and hammering as well. Stay away from flat bars. Although they’re lighter, the functionality is very limited.

  11. Great article! There is lots of good information here both in items to include and things to think about. So many “first aid kits” are designed to treat paper cuts and neglect truly life threatening issues. Thanx


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