Thursday, July 12, 2018

Tim's $30 IFAK Challenge

This is my take on an inexpensive IFAK. You may notice that each of us have slightly different choices in our kits; this is because we all have differing levels of training and
we carry what we know how to use.

The Bag to Hold It All

I found a soft-sided cooler designed to carry six cans of beverage (with ice) that has a zippered compartment in the “lid”. The larger supplies fit into the waterproof base easily, and the smaller pieces don't quite fill the zippered compartment. There is room to add to this kit, which will probably happen after I finish writing this article. It has a carry handle on top and it's small enough to fit behind, or under, the seat of my truck. It looks like a lunch box and won't draw the extra attention that a large red cross would.

Bandages and Gauze

Gauze squares (pads) are used to clean wounds and absorb blood. They're what you grab when you need to put pressure on a wound to stop the bleeding. I bought the most common sizes, 2”x2” and 3”x3”. The boxes contained 10 of each, for $1.00 and $1.99 respectively.

Non-stick pads are used to cover a wound once the bleeding has stopped. They will protect the wound from debris and dirt and most will absorb any minor bleeding or other seepage from a wound. The 3”x4” size will cover small to medium sized wounds. $2.19.

Rolled gauze is used to secure the pads in place once the bleeding has stopped, as well as general binding together of things like splints and slings. 3”x 2.5Yd roll, $1.00.

Adhesive bandages (Band-Aid is a brand name, but that's what most people call them) are handy for covering small cuts and wounds. I bought two boxes, one of clear waterproof standard bandages in two sizes (3/4” and 1” wide) and one of knuckle and fingertip bandages. $2.19 per box.

Bandannas because I couldn't find triangular bandages, which have been a staple in my first aid kits for as long as I can remember. These 20”x20” bandannas will work if folded in half (they're thin, so folding them is best) as slings, bindings, emergency head cover, water pre-filters, and a host of other uses. I put two of them in the top compartment. $1.00 each.

Other Supplies

Vinyl gloves. Take a class on blood-borne pathogens and you'll keep gloves in every kit you own. I choose vinyl or nitrile gloves because I have too many friends who are sensitive to natural latex. These one-size-fits-most vinyl gloves were in the hardware aisle, near the paint supplies. 8 gloves, so 4 pair for $1.00.

Tape. I found several types of tape for about the same price, but I chose the clear “surgical” tape. It tears easily enough that you don't need scissors while still being strong enough to hold bandages together or to skin. The adhesive is fairly waterproof and holds up to minor stretching and motion on joints. 1”x10 Yd roll, $1.59.

Self-sticking tape. The common brand name is Coban, which is a 3M trademark. Make sure you look at the packaging and buy the latex-free versions. This is the duct tape of a first aid kit, it sticks to itself but not to skin or hair, and is stronger than you would expect. Handy for general binding and securing bandages, it comes in a variety of colors and sizes. I chose a generic brand 3” x 4 Yd roll because it fit nicely in the bag. $2.99.

Hand sanitizer. I found a one ounce bottle of Purell, which is gelled alcohol. It has an indefinate shelf-life and will disinfect wounds just as well as it does hands. It's also a handy fire starting aid, but that's not strictly first-aid related. $1.00.

Super glue. Generic super glue works wonders for closing small cuts. It stings a bit, but if applied over the top of a cut that is being held closed, it bonds the skin almost immediately (if you've ever glued your fingers together, you know how fast it sets). 2 tiny tubes for $1.00.

Emergency blanket. One of the cheap “Space blankets” found in the camping supplies aisle. This one wasn't as cheap as some I've bought, but they're all aluminum-covered Mylar and they all do the same job. Reflecting up to 80% of body heat, these little blankets are useful for treating and preventing shock. $1.99.

Flashlight. I have more flashlights than I know what to do with, but I always keep one in my first aid kit. Checking pupil dilation requires a light source (training required) and I have often needed extra light when trying to find or treat an injury. This one is a throw-away LED light, I can replace it easily and it is stored with the batteries out of the light. $1.00.

Everything laid out... 

.. and when packed in the bag

Things Which Eluded Me

I was unable to find a pair of EMT shears in either of the dollar stores that I shopped at, but I have spares so one will go into the kit. EMT shears are right up there with rolled gauze and triangular bandages in utility. There's not much you can't cut with them, as I used to show the Cub Scouts by cutting pennies in half. They make short work of seat belts, clothing, and light metal, and the rounded nose keeps you from inflicting damage (most of the time). They can be found on Amazon or picked up at an actual pharmacy/health care supply store for a few dollars.

Tourniquets are a specialty item, so I didn't expect to find them in a dollar store. Give me a stick and one of the bandannas and I'll make a field-expedient tourniquet. I can think of several ways to make one, so the lack of one doesn't bother me as much as some (tactical) folks think it should. 

With the recent (2016) changes in CPR training, they now emphasize rapid compressions and breathing is secondary, I'm finding it harder to locate CPR shields to protect the aid-giver from contact with potentially dangerous bodily fluids. I can get them online, so they're on my shopping list. Get CPR training through the Red Cross or American Heart Association, it's cheap and a lot of businesses will pay for their employees' training.


Supplies totaled up to $23.13, but the bag was $8.00 and that puts me at $31.13, slightly over the $30 limit. 

To remedy this, I also picked up a plastic container with a latching lid. Made of hard plastic and thinner than the bag, the 11”x”x6”x2” box held everything once I got rid of all the extra packaging. It only cost $2.75, dropping my total to $25.88.

I think I'll stick with the bag for convenience, durability, and the extra room to add to the kit later.

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