Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cheap Car FAK

Since school is out for the year around here, a couple of my younger friends decided to go camping for a week. They're 17 and 18 years old, and asked for my help getting things together for a week in the woods. I found them a place to stay that has shelter available in case their tent wasn't enough for the rain we've been getting (the hail storm on the first night made them move to the shelter), and got them settled in.

One of them has camped before, the other has never slept outside of a city. We went over the basics like food, water, clothes, and bug spray but neither one of them brought a first aid kit (FAK). Since they're stationary and don't have to carry everything around, I grabbed a spare FAK out of my truck bag, it's slightly smaller than the FAK that stays in the truck and stays in the get home bag (GHB) that rides behind the seat. I can fall back on the truck FAK until I get the smaller one back in a week, and I don't want them playing in the woods without at least a basic FAK.

The FAK I keep in my GHB is a military surplus vehicle FAK. I got mine from a supply sergeant that was cleaning out his supply room; the hard plastic case had gotten cracked and it was no longer fit for duty. These are expendable items, so replacing it was simple for him and it would have gone into the trash if I hadn't taken it.

Amazon doesn't sell this particular kit, but I have found them at a few surplus stores and online at Duluth Trading for between $30 and $40.

The hard plastic case is roughly 3” tall making it easy to slide under a car seat, and 5.5” x 7.5” wide and long. It has a hinged lid and a waterproof rubber seal to keep the contents safe (mine had a crack in the bottom that I sealed up with epoxy) and some versions have a carrying handle with mounting holes on the back. Inside you'll find:

  • 1 small roll of 1” surgical tape
  • 1 small bottle of iodine solution (disinfectant) or 10 iodine swabs in the newer kits
  • 1 small pair of bandage scissors, the type with a rounded tip on one jaw to slide under bandages
  • 1 surgical blade, basically a sterile X-acto blade for making incisions
  • 1 eye dressing, basically a sterile eye patch for covering a wound to the eye
  • 1 2” x 12' elastic bandage
  • 1 field compress, a compression bandage with ties attached
  • 1 triangular bandage, probably the most versatile part of the kit
  • 3 field dressings, compressed gauze pads for stopping bleeding
  • 2 3” x 18' gauze wraps
  • 18 3/4” band-aids for minor injuries
  • 3 3” x 36” petrolatum-soaked gauze bandages for burns. *
  • 4 latex gloves
* The petrolatum-soaked gauze is a questionable burn treatment. If advanced care is close, most places teach covering burns with a clean, dry cloth to keep debris and infection out. The military uses petrolatum (Vaseline) coated gauze to create a more waterproof seal around a burn, which makes sense if your hospital is quite a distance away. The Vaseline will add a step or two to the treatment once a doctor is available and will keep the burnt skin more pliable until you get to the hospital.

I've modified the contents of my kit a bit, adding more band-aids, changing the latex gloves out for vinyl to prevent latex allergic reactions, and stuffing a few other things into the corners. I don't have the kit with me right now or I'd have a better list. Everything fits, but the case is packed quite full and I usually have to take most of the contents out to get to what I want.

For a general purpose FAK, it lives up to its name and serves its purpose quite well. You should find one like it in every military vehicle (they're supposed to be issued to everything that moves) and they're common at surplus shops and gun shows. I like my regular vehicle kits that I have assembled over the years, but it's nice to have something like this that I can hand off if I need to.

I've checked in on my young friends a few times. I don't want to bother them, but I do need to make sure they're all right. Other than having to go up and show them how to start a campfire after the first night (they're city kids), they seem to be enjoying the fresh air and lack of distractions. They have plenty of food and water, and have learned that it gets cold at night out in the woods. They also weren't ready for the birds waking them up before sunrise. I'm hoping the rain lets up enough for at least one cloudless night so they can experience a true night sky, as it will be the first for one of them.

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