An IFAK is an Individual First Aid Kit.
An Individual First Aid Kit is intended to be used by an individual for self-aid or to render aid to a buddy (such as for TCCC – Tactical Combat Casualty Care), as opposed to a more full featured medical kit that might be carried by a combat medic.
A typical IFAK might contain:
- Burn ointment
- Antibiotic ointment
- Water purification tablets
- Gauze of some type – including special “quick clotting” combat gauze.
A writing instrument like a sharpie or mini-sharpie marker is also commonly carried – in case any notes have to be made (anywhere or on anything.)
Here’s the items we will review in this article.
IFAKs are really military first aid kits.
In the US Army, IFAK stands for Improved First Aid Kit. This refers to a very specific issued item, but the purpose is the same. The US Air Force and Marine Corp refer to IFAK as Individual First Aid Kit.
You will also hear of something called a trauma kit.
A trauma kit is a medical kit intended to be used for emergency, immediate response to major injuries – such as gunshot wounds or serious industrial accidents.
A trauma kit will normally contain items such as:
- Tourniquets – A tourniquet is used for stopping the flow of blood through a vein or artery, by compressing the limb with a tightly fit cord or bandage. This is used to stop traumatic bleeding until such time that the victim can be relocated for medical assistance.
Please note that for larger limbed individuals (especially around the thigh) two tourniquets may be needed. It’s also not a bad idea to have one as a backup to the first.
- Chest Seals – A chest seal is used to stop a sucking chest wound. This is a puncture or gunshot injury such that air is escaping from the lungs via the wound – this is obviously a serious, life threatening injury as it prevents proper breathing. A vented chest seal is considered the best option. Look for a kit with 2 chest seals, so an entry and exit wound could be treated.
- Combat Gauze – Combat Gauze is not regular gauze. It is a soft, white, sterile, non-woven gauze impregnated with kaolin (a mineral). Kaolin accelerates the body’s natural clotting ability. It is used as a hemostatic agent and through compression can stop bleeding fast. Look for the QuickClot brand, which is combat proven and the type used by all 5 branches of the US military.
- Pressure Dressings – A pressure dressing is a non-adherent bandage that is used to apply pressure to stop bleeding. The most popular model is the so-called Israeli bandage. They include a pressure bar that is an essential part of it’s operation.
- EMT Shears – Shears for rapidly removing clothing and equipment to allow for medical attention.
- Nitrile Gloves – Medical grade synthetic rubber gloves – that allow for a fine tactile touch.
A trauma kit may even contain a full rescue litter – which you would use to transport a severely injured person.
But, the two main ingredients of a trauma kit are: something to stop massive life-threatening hemorrhage (a tourniquet) and some form of hemostatic gauze.
Sometimes an IFAK can also contain an NPA – Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA). An NPA is a tube that is designed to be inserted into the nasal passageway to secure an open airway.
Lastly, some refer to an IFAK as a BOK – Blow Out Kit.
Different name, but same principle – have medical supplies on hand to be able to treat major trauma, quickly.
The Importance of First Aid Kits and Trauma Kits
There are many people who put their lives on the line as part of their profession or job.
They understand the value of having a complete IFAK or Trauma Kit within easy reach at all times.
But, these kits are also valuable for every day life. Given active shooters, terrorism, and other scenarios that have become a fact of modern life we think it’s best to be prepared for the worst.
A “GSW” (Gun Shot Wound) situation may be more likely than you think.
Better to have it and not need it, then not have it when you do need it.
NOTE: We fully believe you should be TRAINED in the use of your trauma kit. You shouldn’t be reading the directions for applying a tourniquet at the time it’s needed. Get the kit, and get the training.
Who needs a trauma kit within easy reach? Anyone who works with firearms – whether at the shooting range, hunting, or elsewhere.
If you are military, LEO, or a shooting enthusiast; having a gun range first aid kit is just a smart idea.
Let’s face it – they will let ANYONE into the indoor gun range.
We’ll look at some full kits and kit items here.
Lightning X Products Premium Nylon MOLLE Emergency Kit
- HIGH-QUALITY NYLON: Our IFAK kits are made of high-quality nylon material and are built to last even in demanding environments. Our kits are ideal for tactical medics, police, military, outdoor enthusiasts and more
- MOLLE COMPATIBLE: Our emergency kits are compatible with MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) gear, so our MOLLE pouch will fit right in with the rest of your gear
- GENUINE NAR GEAR: Our first aid kit includes genuine NAR (North American Rescue) items including a Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT), Burntec Dressing and Hyfin Chest Seal
- EFFICIENT STORAGE SOLUTION: This military first aid kit features 8 elastic storage loops to fit all of the included kit pieces or any additional gear you're looking to add into the bag
- FEATURES FOR THE FIELD: Designed for use in the field, this tactical trauma kit features a drainage grommet and a drawstring cording platform that holds the pouch open at a 90-degree angle for easy access
The Lightning X Products Premium Nylon MOLLE Emergency Kit (Buy on Amazon) has all of the components we’d recommend for a good IFAK.
For example, it includes the North America Rescue (NAR) brand chest seal, tourniquet, and burn dressing. Additionally it contains an Israeli pressure bandage – which are what we consider essentials for a trauma kit.
It also includes the QuikClot product – for stopping bleeding.
The pouch itself is compatible with MOLLE webbing – which means it’ll be easy to mount this on a battle belt, plate carrier, chest rig or rucksack. The pouch has a hook and loop (aka velcro) area where you can affix a patch to clearly identify this as an IFAK or medical kit.
It also has a drawstring cording platform that holds the pouch open at a 90-degree angle for easy access.
This is a pretty complete kit, and the reviews are good.
Lightning X Products Premium Nylon MOLLE Emergency Kit
- FULL KIT CONTENTS LISTED IN DESCRIPTION BELOW:
- Quick access design disassembles completely flat
- Laser cut MOLLE with loop material on front flap
- Elastic drawstring loops run entire length of inside flap
- Double loops, double pockets & double layer construction
The next step up from Lightning X is the Lightning X Products Premium Nylon MOLLE Emergency Kit (Buy on Amazon).
This kit is even larger and contains a more complete collection for first aid and trauma kit needs.
- North American Rescue (NAR) Hyfin Vent Chest Seal Twin Pack Compact,
- NAR C-A-T (Combat Application Tourniquet) Gen 7,
- Black Nitrile Tactical Gloves (2 pairs),
- Israeli Military Pressure Bandage 4″,
- Compressed Krinkle Gauze,
- 4″ x 4″ Burn Dressing,
- 5″ x 9″ ABD Pad – (Designed for use where high absorbency is needed to manage heavy draining wounds),
- Nasal Airway 28FR,
- QuickClot Comb Gauze Z-Folded LE 3″ x 4yd,
- 7.5″ Emergency Trauma Shears,
- Emergency Survival Foil Blanket,
- 2″ Woven Elastic Bandage w/ Clips,
- 2″ Tactical Black Self-Adherent Gauze,
- 2″, 3″, and 4″ Conforming Stretch Roll Gauze.
Two is one, and one is none
If you want spares, or additional items for your IFAK, check out these.
Having two tourniquets in easy reach is a good plan, in case one malfunctions.
And in some cases, it is advised to have two of certain critical items – such as chest seals for entry and exit wounds.
QuikClot Advanced Clotting Gauze with Kaolin
- 2 pieces of 3x24 inch QuikClot gauze come in 1 resealable pouch that easily fits in any trauma kit
- Nonallergenic first aid gauze accelerates natural blood clotting and stops bleeding within minutes
- Used by hospitals, EMS/first responders, military, law enforcement, general public & outdoorsman
- Fits perfectly in any first aid kit, suture kit, medical kit, iFAK pouch, EDC pouch & survival kits
- Travel safely with QuikClot in your car first aid kit, camping essentials & backpack emergency kit
The QuikClot Advanced Clotting Gauze with Kaolin (Buy on Amazon) is the hemostatic gauze in use by all 5 branches of the US military.
These are used along with direct pressure to stop bleeding up to 5 times faster than regular gauze.
In some cases more than one gauze may be needed, so ensure your IFAK is appropriately stocked.
CAT Combat Application Tourniquet – GEN 7
- Official Tourniquet of the U.S. Army.
- Dimensions: Packaged: L 6.5 in. x W 2.4 in. x D 1.5 in. Open Length: 37.5 in. Weight: 2.7 oz.
- Reinforced windlass clip & highly visible security tab includes a writeable area to record the time of application.
- U.S. Patent Nos. 7,842,067 and 7,892,253.
The CAT Combat Application Tourniquet - GEN 7 (Buy on Amazon) is the tourniquet used in the US Army IFAK.
This is a one handed tourniquet – made for individual use.
From the manufacturer:
“The patented C-A-T is a one-handed tourniquet. Tests proved that the C-A-T completely occluded blood flow of an extremity in the event of a traumatic wound with significant hemorrhage. The C-A-T utilizes a durable windlass system with a patented free-moving internal band providing true circumferential pressure to the extremity. Once adequately tightened, bleeding will cease and the windlass is locked into place. A hook and loop windlass retention strap is then applied, securing the windlass to maintain pressure during casualty evacuation. The C-A-T’s unique dual securing system avoids the use of screws and clips which can become difficult to operate under survival stress or where fine motor skills are compromised. The patented Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) features the red tip design and the mechanical advantage of a band within a band.”
Here’s a video, from the manufacturer.
North American Rescue Hyfin Vent Chest Seal
- Rescue essentials is pleased to introduce the new hyfin vent chest seal Twin pack from North American Rescue, this product sets the standard for the treatment of penetrating injuries to the chest
- Two separately packaged vented chest seals are offered in one unique package for treatment of both entry/exit or multiple penetrating injuries to the chest
- 3-Vent Channels that prevent airflow into the chest cavity during inspiration while allowing air to escape through the vent Channels during exhalation
- Country of origin is United States
Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing First Aid Compression Bandage
- Vacuum-sealed, low-cube packaging; quick and easy self-application
- Israeli battle dressing (IBD) - size 6 inch wide and 70 inch long
- Hemorrhage control compression bandage
The Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing First Aid Compression Bandage (Buy on Amazon) is the type of compression bandage preferred by most.
The bandage has a pressure bar built in. This can be used to more easily apply the bandage, but more importantly it can be used to twist the bandage around the wound once, and then change the direction of the bandage, wrapping it around the limb or body part, to create pressure on the wound.
- Elastic Bandage
- Wound Pad
- 3 meters of sterile 6 ply gauze
- Plastic sheeting to act as an occlusive dressing
- A pressure bar that focuses pressure on the wound site
Here’s another item you should consider, the Tac Med Solutions Olaes Modular Bandage (Buy on Amazon).
This is a do-it-all multi-purpose bandage that includes a pressure cup.
Many are considering this to be the successor to the Israeli bandage.
It has the same pad as an Israeli Bandage, but can be unpacked for stuffing an open wound like gauze. It also comes with a plastic pressure cup to place directly over a wound to serve as a pressure bandage for arterial bleeds.
The packaging material can be used to seal sucking chest wounds.
What is a Tear Away IFAK or Rip-Away medical kit?
You may also hear of a tear away blowout kit or rip-away medical kit.
What is this?
It’s an IFAK that can be quickly disconnected – and given to whomever needs it.
The base of a “tear away” IFAK is usually hook and loop (aka Velcro).
The IFAK pouch has the hook, and the base has the loop.
The base is normally MOLLE attached to a plate carrier, war belt, or chest rig.
The Maxpedition F.I.G.H.T Medical Pouch (Buy on Amazon) is a good example of a tear away medical pouch.
This is a MOLLE Compatible tear-away pouch so it can be pulled away from its MOLLE-compatible base. The idea being to allow for quick removal, especially if the casualty is wearing it.
Here’s the front:
And here’s the back – you can see the MOLLE that you can use to attach to anything with MOLLE webbing.
Maxpedition makes top quality gear – check the reviews.
You can find far cheaper tear-away pouches – but do you really want to cut corners on your IFAK?
By the way, for attaching that MOLLE – we’d recommend the Tactical Tailor Fight Light Malice Clips (4 packs) (Buy on Amazon).
These provide a super-secure MOLLE connection.
Once attached, they require a tool – like a screwdriver, knife blade, or car keys to disconnect.
The “Fight Light” line are the lightest weight gear made by Tactical Tailor – but in this case we don’t care so much about the weight savings – but these minimalist MOLLE clips are much easier to weave through webbing, as compared to the regular Malice clips.
Here’s one more tear-away option for your IFAK.
The Rothco Drop Leg Medical Pouch (Buy on Amazon) lets you carry your IFAK out of the way, and still provide for easy tear-away if needed.
Use this pouch with a riggers belt, web belt, or war belt.
Where to Mount or Carry your IFAK
IFAKs can be mounted in a variety of places, thanks to MOLLE.
They can go on a web belt, battle belt/war belt, plate carrier, etc.
Check with your unit’s or team’s SOPs – but the general recommendation is your first line IFAK should be reachable by you – for self application of medical aid.
A second line IFAK should be on your plate carrier or war belt on the back for access by the team medic, corpsman or other personnel.
Lastly, consider if you should keep a NAR CAT tourniquet within immediate reach – maybe by using a dedicated MOLLE tourniquet holder.
This is often a need for LEOs.
We said carrying two tourniquets is a good idea.
Keep one in your IFAK – and one on your plate carrier, duty belt, or war belt.
And even if you only carry one – you should keep it in an easy to access location.
After all, speed can be the most important thing when it comes to using a tourniquet.
There are a variety of tourniquet holders (TQ Holders) you can use for this purpose.
Let’s take a look at a few options.
For fast access Blue Force Gear (BFG) makes the Tourniquet Now! Strap (Buy on Amazon).
Need a MOLLE compatible TQ Holder?
The NAR CAT TQ Holder (Multicam) (Buy on Amazon) is MOLLE compatible.
This works great on the front of a plate carrier – or on a battle belt.
It is clearly labeled “TQ” – which means it will be immediately obvious to someone else (like your battle buddy) where the tourniquet is.
Need a LEO option that doesn’t look quite so “tactical”?
The Tactical Tourniquet Holder Pouch (Buy on Amazon) will work with duty and utility belts.
It has a replaceable MOLLE clip.
But perhaps more importantly – it’s black.
Here’s the reverse side.
This will work with the NAR CAT.
Here’s our last option for a tourniquet holder.
The TourniQuick Rapid Tourniquet Deployment Pouch (Buy on Amazon) from ITS Tactical has 3 things going for it.
First of all, it’s a full pouch – so it offers excellent protection of the tourniquet.
But, it is still a rapid deployment option. You can have quick access to the TQ – and keep it safe and secure until you need it.
Lastly, it is available in black, multicam, or coyote brown – so it matches the uniform most will need.
It includes a MALICE clip for attaching to MOLLE, and has a PVC Tourniquet identifier patch.
IFAK – In Summary
An IFAK – Individual First Aid Kit – is a basic piece of gear everyone should have.
There’s a wide variety of useful items you can carry in an IFAK – ranging from basic first aid, to serious live-saving trauma gear.
We recommend every serious Bug Out Bag or Get Home Bag have an IFAK.
- Chest Seals – How and When to Use Them
- What is Z-Medica’s QuikClot Hemostatic Agent?
- Emergency Bandage
- DHA Tactical Combat Casualty Care Web Site – Lots of good info
Last update on 2020-08-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API