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Ranking the best first aid kits of 2020

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A first aid kit is possibly the most important part of any survival kit. When you find yourself in a survival situation, your number one priority is to address any immediate medical needs.

It’s not hard to imagine how you could sustain cuts, gashes, abrasions, bug bites, stings, splinters, or broken bones during a natural disaster or civil unrest—a good first aid kit should have all the materials necessary for treating these injuries.

You’ll also want some basic medications to take care of conditions that might emerge during the course of a survival situation, like fevers, migraines, or inflammation.

Our research team scoured the market for the best first aid kits of the year. Our final picks are well-situated for use in a home survival kit or as a key component in your bug-out bag. 

The big picture

In a survival situation, help may not be immediately at hand. You need a first aid kit that’s well-stocked to be able to handle pressing medical emergencies.

The best option on the market right now is the SURVIVAL Work/Home First Aid Kit: It’s fully stocked for treating even severe injuries, and to top it off, it’s incredibly well-organized and easy to use. 

Rankings

1. SURVIVAL Work/Home First Aid Kit

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SURVIVAL Work/Home First Aid Kit has a great range of supplies in their first aid kit for disaster situations, and they’re all incredibly well-organized.

Their newly redesigned kit is roomier and comes with additional compartments for storage. You’ll find key components in this kit that are rare in many other commercially-available first aid kits. 

Why we like it: With sterile saline solution, a combat-grade tourniquet, and eye pads, SURVIVAL’s first aid kit comes ready for just about anything. Their checklist of components shows they are on top of all of the recommended first aid supplies for disaster preparedness in the 21st century—hemostatic bandages and tourniquets can stop people from bleeding out after gunshot wounds and stabbings. Not many other kits offer supplies that prepare you for such a broad range of medical threats. 

Flaws: The only real downside for a kit like this is its size: it won’t fit in the glove compartment of your car, for example. But that’s a small price to pay for such a comprehensive, well-organized kit. 

2. Surviveware First Aid Kit

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Survivewear makes a first aid kit that looks small at first glance, but packs a surprising amount of key components into a tough, water-resistant package. 

Why we like it: The organization is great, with individual mesh pockets that even have stitched labels on them showing you which components are stored where.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a basic kit for cuts and scrapes—you’ll find heavy duty shears for cutting clothing away from a serious wound, compressive dressings to stop bleeding, and a triangular bandage for broken bones. This small but mighty first aid kit is great for your car, truck, or RV. 

Flaws: The small size precludes inclusion of duplicates, so if you do have to use this first aid kit, you’ll want to resupply whatever you used in short order.

It’s also not the best if you’re looking for a comprehensive kit to keep in your home and provide first aid for longer periods of time for your whole family. It’s also short on some of the key medications you’d want included in a first aid kit, so you’ll have to add these yourself if you want a fully equipped kit. 

Flaws: Because of the inclusion of all the additional survival gear, this kit is a lot heavier and more crowded than it otherwise would be. It doesn’t have some non-trauma gear either, like fever medication, and you’ll likely want to swap out some of the survival gear with your own higher quality equipment (especially the knife and the flashlight). 

3. CURAPLEX Stop the Bleed Kit

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While it’s not a stand-alone first aid kit, the official Stop the Bleed kit has some modern innovations that should be in any real survival-ready first aid kit: a tourniquet and kaolin-treated hemostatic wound dressing. 

Why we like it: Military research has found that many gunshot, knife, and shrapnel wounds are survivable if the initial bleeding can be stopped. Once combat medics were outfitted with tourniquets and special gauze to induce rapid clotting, deaths from bleeding out on the battlefield dropped precipitously.

Bleeding kits are on track to become the new CPR mask: something that was once the purview of doctors and EMTs, but is now usable by regular citizens to save lives. If you want to be ready for serious accidents, active aggressor situations, and civil unrest, a Stop the Bleed kit absolutely needs to be a part of your first aid supplies. 

Flaws: A Stop the Bleed kit on its own isn’t going to fulfil your needs for comprehensive first aid treatment, so you’ll want to supplement your kit with another one from our list. 

4. EVERLIT 250 Piece Survival First Aid Kit

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EVERLIT has a first aid kit that’s definitely engineered to appeal to the survivalist crowd. It includes first aid basics alongside survival essentials like a folding knife, glow sticks, a firestarter, and paracord. 

Why we like it: This first aid kit does dual-duty as a basic survival kit, which makes it a good fit for keeping in your vehicle. It also features some nice extras you don’t find in basic first aid kits, like butterfly bandages and burn dressings. 

Flaws: Because of the inclusion of all the additional survival gear, this kit is a lot heavier and more crowded than it otherwise would be. It doesn’t have some non-trauma gear either, like fever medication, and you’ll likely want to swap out some of the survival gear with your own higher quality equipment (especially the knife and the flashlight). 

5. Swiss Safe First Aid Kit

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Swiss Safe First Aid Kit comes with a pretty impressive range of first aid supplies, as well as a few token survival components, like a compass, a whistle, and glow sticks. 

Why we like it: The two-in-one design means you get a larger, more comprehensive range of supplies in the main carrying case, which is pretty well organized. Additionally, you get a mini kit that comes in a zipper pouch and can be tossed in your backpack when you are on the go. 

Flaws: Like many general purpose first aid kits, this kit lacks some of the more substantial trauma gear for more significant injuries.

It’s short on medicine, too, which hurts its survival applications. Finally, things like a compass and whistle likely belong in your survival kit, not in your first aid kit: they take up space and add weight here. 

6. Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight

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Adventure Medical Kits mades an outdoor-focused first aid kit that’s great for stashing in your glove compartment, as it has just the basics for survival situations and comes in a watertight carrying case.

Why we like it: Waterproof cases are surprisingly hard to find, and the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight comes with a lot of basic medications that are lacking in other first aid kits.

With after bite wipes, antihistamines, aspirin, loperamide, and ibuprofen, you are well-prepared for slower-moving but still serious medical problems that can occur in survival situations when help is a long ways off. 

Flaws: Due to the small size, the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight skimps a bit on more serious trauma gear.

Notably missing are larger compressive dressings and sturdy shears for cutting away clothing from sites of injury. Extras like moleskin are nice for blisters, but take up precious space that could be used for more urgent supplies. 

7. DeftGet First Aid Kit

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For a tiny, portable kit that you can keep at the office, in your glove compartment, or in your backpack, DeftGet is a good choice. Its water-resistant case is rigid to protect the supplies inside, and for such a small kit, it has a surprising range of supplies. 

Why we like it: If you want to be ready to treat basic injuries anywhere you go, or if you want a kit you can toss in your glove compartment and forget about until you need it, DeftGet is hard to beat when it comes to being lightweight and portable. 

Flaws: With any small first aid kit, there are bound to be important components missing, and DeftGet is no exception. The tiny case also means that using the supplies can get a bit disorganized: this kit doesn’t have the same kind of convenient mesh pockets you’ll find in bigger kits.

There are also a few questionable inclusions, like a plastic, low-intensity flashlight, which take up precious space and weight.

8. Rapid Care First Aid Wall-Mountable First Aid Kit

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If you want to stock your basement, interior closet, or other designated shelter area with a permanent first aid kit, the Rapid Care First Aid Wall-Mountable First Aid Kit is a great choice. 

Why we like it: This first aid kit comes in a rigid and well-organized shelf-style container, and has ample supplies of the basics, like bandages, band-aids, and antiseptics. It’s designed to meet OSHA recommendations for providing care for workplace injuries, so you can be confident it supplies the basics. 

Flaws: While there’s plenty of band-aids and bandages, this kit is lacking in some more advanced survival-oriented supplies, like some medications and more serious trauma gear.

It doesn’t do too well if it isn’t mounted on a wall, as the shelf organization system only works if the kit is vertical. As such, it’s a poor fit for an all-purpose kit that can stay at home or travel with you on the road. 

9. MFASCO First Aid Kit

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The MFASCO First Aid Kit is specially designed for disaster and trauma response. It has more advanced supplies, like glucose gel and a blood pressure cuff, to treat and assess the status of people who are injured in the aftermath of a disaster. 

Why we like it: For people who have advanced training in first aid, there are few commercially available kits that suit their needs. This MFASCO kit is one of them. For the kinds of injuries you’ll see in the aftermath of a natural disaster, it’s hard to beat the range of tools at your disposal for treating them. 

Flaws: For people who don’t have advanced training, many of the components in this first aid kit (like the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff) are more likely to be dead weight that just take up space. Using these and other components in this kit is no easy task without extensive training, especially under the pressure you’ll face in an emergency situation. 

10. Protect Life First Aid Kit

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This first aid kit is small, portable, and simple. Toss this in the back of your car and you’ll be ready for many mild to moderate injuries that might crop up when your out and about.

Why we like it: This kit has a surprisingly large amount of components for such a small package. The carrying case, while not waterproof, is fairly durable as well. 

Flaws: The zipper pouch means that this kit gets disorganized very quickly. It’s also missing some important medicines, as well as larger survival-oriented components like trauma gear. Since there are few duplicates of individual components, you’ll need to replenish it pretty much every time you use it. 

Who should buy a first aid kit?

If you don’t have a first aid kit in your home and your car, there’s no other way to put it—you’re unprepared. Even if you don’t expect to find yourself in a long-term survival situation anytime soon, it’s quite likely that you or someone you care about is going to sustain some kind of injury that requires first aid.

Properly applied first aid can make a big difference when it comes to wound healing, and with the plethora of pre-arranged first aid kits on the market, it couldn’t be easier to be prepared. The best plan is to have a well-stocked first aid kit in your home, hopefully centrally located and next to your other survival supplies, like purified water and long-term food storage.

Additionally, you should also have a smaller, travel-sized first aid kit with just the essentials stored in your car (perhaps as a part of your bug-out bag, or kept at hand in your glove compartment).

That way, if you get caught away from home, you’ll be able to apply first aid to yourself or anyone else you come across—and you’re quite likely to encounter people in the aftermath of a disaster or civil unrest who need first aid precisely when advanced medical care is a long ways off. 

Many people hesitate from buying a first aid kit because they don’t have advanced training in medical treatment. But you don’t need to be an EMT or a Boy Scout to get a benefit from a first aid kit—using gauze to wrap a deep cut, or treating a superficial cut with an antibiotic cream, doesn’t take any training at all, yet makes a big difference, especially if you won’t be able to see a doctor for several hours.

Many other components of a first aid kit take only a marginal amount of training to use—it’s very easy to learn to use nitrile or latex gloves to protect yourself from bodily fluids, and even administering CPR has been considerably simplified from what you’re probably familiar with from movies or TV.

So, not being trained in first aid is not an excuse for not having a first aid kit (though getting trained, especially in skills like CPR and stopping major bleeding, is definitely something to put on your to-do list). 

How we ranked

Our research team’s procedure for ranking first aid kits started with making a list of common injuries and medical conditions that might require treatment in case of a natural disaster, civil unrest, or other potential survival situations.

We prioritized things that need prompt treatment, like cuts, abrasions, and gashes, especially if failing to apply treatment could lead to infections or other longer-lasting problems that could impair your ability to function in a survival situation.

This list included burns, deep cuts and lacerations, large abrasions, joint injuries like knee or ankle sprains, and blunt trauma injuries like broken bones.

We also took note of minor injuries that could lead to infections, or that could limit your mobility and functional capacity, like minor cuts and scrapes, blisters, fevers, bug bites, and severe sunburn. 

We used this list to inform our choices of which first aid kits to include in our rankings. We eliminated many consumer-grade kits that are made mostly for treating minor cuts and scrapes—in almost all cases, these were eliminated because they did not provide a sufficient amount of large gauze pads, tape, and rolls that can be used to treat larger cuts and more serious injuries.

We also had to eliminate kits that were only designed around acute skin breaks, and included no supplies like anti-inflammatories for sprains and other sources of inflammation, and no antipyretics for treating fevers.

We strongly preferred kits that had all of these ingredients, and hopefully other useful materials like ankle splints, or at least some type of athletic tape for securing an injured ankle.

We also looked for personal protective equipment, like a CPR mask and especially latex or nitrile gloves, which keep you safe from the bodily fluids of the person you are treating. This kind of personal protective gear is the only way to ensure you’re not exposed to bloodborne pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. 

Once we determined which first aid kits had the necessary ingredients for survival-grade first aid, we looked at the physical layout of the kit. When administering first aid, you need to know exactly where to find your supplies.

Just as importantly, you should be able to pack everything back up with ease after you’re done treating an injury. Keeping this in mind, we rated first aid kits more highly if they were well-laid out, well-organized, and easy to reuse. Kits that had all their supplies stuffed into one big compartment with no individual pockets or pouches scored lower, or got eliminated completely. 

With regards to the layout, we also considered the overall size of the first aid kits on our list. The larger ones were better suited for home use, where you can keep them in a cupboard or storage closet. At home, it pays to err on the side of more supplies.

That way, you won’t have to resupply your first aid kit after every time you use it. In contrast, smaller first aid kits are best for when you are traveling light: Smaller kits are excellent for keeping in your car, or as a key component of your bug-out bag.

While you’ll have to resupply them more often (perhaps even after every use), it’s far better to have a first aid kit at the ready anytime you need it. 

Finally, we considered any extra perks offered by a given first aid kit, like general-purpose survival supplies, or a waterproof case. While you shouldn’t be relying on or expecting a first aid kit to fill all your survival needs, these little extras are good to have. 

After scoring all the remaining products per our criteria, we ranked them according to their overall rating, giving us our final list of the best first aid kits on the market.

Benefits

If you have a medical condition, make sure you add specific supplies to your first aid kit to treat it. No commercially available first aid kits are going to have prescription-only supplies, but you can augment a kit with your prescription if you have a medical condition that requires you to take medication on a regular basis, such as diabetes.

If you have severe allergies to bee stings, certain foods, or other allergens, you can even get an extra epi-pen to keep in your first aid kit. All you have to do is talk to your doctor to get an extra prescription filled—most doctors are more than willing to help you out, as they are also interested in making sure you get your medication on a regular basis, even in the aftermath of a disaster.

Make sure you keep these medications clearly labeled—and in their original prescription bottles or containers if you keep them in your car. The last thing you need is to get hassled about unmarked containers full of pills kept in the back of your car! 

Don’t neglect personal protective equipment in your first aid kit. When most people think of the essential components in a first aid kit, they think of bandages, band-aids, gauze, and antiseptic—all the supplies that are going on the person being treated.

However, a good first aid kit also needs equipment for you, the person administering first aid. That means, primarily, latex or nitrile gloves to protect you from bloodborne pathogens. When treating injuries, especially in the context of a survival situation, you’re bound to be exposed to bodily fluids like blood, vomit, or saliva.

If you’re not careful, you can get exposed to bloodborne pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. These are spread through contact with bodily fluids, and since they are viral infections, can’t be cured. You need to prevent these fluids from getting access to your body, so covering your hands with gloves when administering first aid is one of the first things you’ll learn if you take a first aid course.

Your first aid kit should have multiple pairs of gloves so you can treat, dispose of, and re-apply gloves on multiple occasions. Taking off protective gloves without getting blood or other fluids on your hands also takes some practice—it’s worth trying a few times before you actually need to do it.

A mask for CPR and artificial respiration is another piece of personal protective equipment that can protect you from bodily fluids, and comes standard in many high-quality first aid kits. 

Keeping a checklist of the components in your first aid kit can help you resupply it on a regular basis. There’s no way to predict which supplies you’ll go through, but after a few uses of your first aid kit, it can be very hard to keep track of what you’ve used, and what’s left. When you are applying first aid, keeping track of exactly how many bandages and gauze pads you’ve used is not at the top of your mind, to say the least.

A better solution is to keep a checklist of all the supplies in your first aid kit, and schedule a day (maybe once per year) to take the time to go through your first aid kit, check what’s missing, and resupply it. That’s far better than going to use your first aid kit and realizing that you’re completely out of band-aids, antibiotic cream, or latex gloves.

Going through your first aid kit on an annual or semiannual basis is also a good opportunity to make sure all your supplies are well-organized, and to make sure that you know where to find everything in the kit. That will prevent you from digging through your entire first aid kit to find the tweezers when you need to remove a splinter. 

FAQ

Q: What items are found in a first aid kit? 

A: Broadly speaking, a first aid kit is going to contain supplies for treating minor to moderate injuries and acute conditions like cuts, burns, gouges, sprains, strains, and fevers.

These are all conditions that can be treated, or at least stabilized, at home, so applying first aid is the first course of treatment. More advanced first aid kits will have some supplies for treating more serious conditions, such as a CPR mask or splints for broken bones.

You’ll still need emergency medical attention, but first aid can help stabilize someone until help arrives. Primarily, though, the most common items in a first aid kit are going to be simple supplies: band-aids, gauze, bandages, and antiseptic. 

Q: Is there a standard list of supplies you should have in a first aid kit? 

A: Several reliable sources have produced lists of first aid kit essentials. The American Red Cross, which works on disaster response and preparedness, recommends the following items: Large absorbent compressive dressings, several sizes of band-aids, adhesive tape, gauze rolls, antibiotic ointment or cream, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, an emergency blanket, a breathing barrier or CPR mask, an instant cold press, a thermometer, tweezers, a triangular bandage or sling, and protective gloves (1).

A guide for providing emergency first aid can accompany these items to provide instructions on their use, which is especially important if you do not have specialized training in emergency medical aid.

The Mayo Clinic has similar recommendations, (2) additionally recommending an eye pad, butterfly bandages, super glue, a finger splint duct tape, safety pins, eye wash solution, laxatives, anti-diarrhea medication, antihistamines, and aloe vera gel.

These additional supplies are great for survival situations where it might be longer than usual before you can get any specialized medical care. Our research team used lists like these to inform our rankings of first aid kits.

Q: How do you use a first aid kit? 

A: The best way to use a first aid kit is to make sure you know which components are most effective for which types of injuries. For example, while it’s certainly possible to use a large gauze pad and tape to close up a deep gouge, it’ll be far more effective to apply a butterfly bandage first—this will help hold closed a deep but small wound far more effectively.

Some items in a first aid kit, like a triangular bandage, require some practice to be able to use correctly. A guide for first aid is the easiest way to figure out how to use all of the separate components in your kit; many good commercially available first aid kits come with brief guides on how to use all of the components.

Q: How big should your first aid kit be? 

A: Generally it’s best to choose one of two strategies for sizing your first aid kit: either aim for a large, comprehensive kit with all of the supplies needed, even for more rare but serious situations (for example, everything recommended in the more comprehensive Mayo Clinic checklist), or a smaller first aid kit that has just the bare essentials.

Smaller, basic first aid kits are best for keeping in your car or at your office, for situations where you’re far from home when disaster strikes. These can tide you over until you can make it to medical care, or make it home and have access to your full survival kit, including your larger home first aid kit. 

Q: How do you make your own first aid kit? 

A: The best way to make your own first aid kit is to start with a checklist of essential first aid supplies from a reputable organization like the American Red Cross or the Mayo Clinic.

Then, aggregate your supplies, making sure you keep them in a tough durable container that is conducive to being in rough environments while still keeping your first aid supplies well-organized. Since you have a checklist already, you should pack your checklist into your first aid kit.

That way, you can schedule an annual or semi-annual resupply where you go through your kit, replenish any of the items you’ve used, and check to make sure all the medications are not expired. Always make sure you store your first aid kit in a memorable and easily accessible location, whether you are storing it at home or in your car. 

Q: What is the most important thing in a first aid kit? 

A: Though a first aid kit is designed to be able to treat a broad range of medical conditions, arguably the most important components are the supplies designed to stop rapid bleeding: compressive dressings and their associated gauze and adhesive tape that is used to stabilize them.

Deep cuts and lacerations can cause dangerous amounts of blood loss in short order if you don’t treat them. So, if you have nothing else on hand, make sure your first aid kit has the supplies necessary to quickly stop bleeding from a deep cut or puncture.

Applying this kind of first aid is so important that the American College of Surgeons has started a new campaign called Stop the Bleed, modeled after the success of Stop, Drop, and Roll, to train ordinary citizens to stop severe bleeding quickly (3). 

Q: What special things should be in a first aid kit for survival? 

A: In a survival situation, you need to be ready to supply first aid and treat medical conditions over a longer timeframe. Most consumer-grade first aid kits are only for minor cuts and scrapes—normally, for anything more serious you’d just go to the emergency room or the hospital.

In contrast, in survival situations, you need to be prepared for more serious medical emergencies when you won’t be able to get treatment for at least a few hours—or perhaps even longer. These include deep cuts and lacerations, burns, insect bites, broken bones, and slower moving but still serious problems like diarrhea and fevers. 

Recap

Providing first aid is the very first thing you need to do in a survival situation. Before you plan out any travel back home, and before you worry about water, shelter, or food, you need to take care of any medical situation that crops up.

That’s why a first aid kit is the very first thing you should put in a survival kit. The best plan is to have a good first aid kit that is well-stocked that you keep at home, and a smaller travel-sized first aid kit with just the essentials that you keep in your car, if you have one. That way, you won’t be caught unprepared for any situation. 

For SurvivalAtHome’s #1 first aid kit recommendation, click here.

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