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8/29/12

Prepping on $40 a week: Budget IFAK

Contents of an IFAK - clockwise from the top: NPA, TK4 tourniquet in the middle, combat gauze, gloves, H&H gauze
and an Isreali bandage.
Tactical Combat Casualty Care has been pivotal in reducing preventable deaths in combat. A central part of TCCC is the individual first aid kit (IFAK). An IFAK is not a boo boo kit full of bandaids and cough drops. Instead, it contains critical equipment for addressing preventable death from wounds sustained in combat.

For a survivor, having these same supplies and the knowledge on how to use 'em can be a life saver.

You can buy very nice and capable IFAKs, premade and ready to go. But, they will run you around a hundred bucks, outside our budget. Never fear, you can put together a similar kit for within our $40 budget--yep, really.

How? We'll walk you through it - click below!

The spendy part of most of these pre-made kits is the QuikClot combat gauze, which runs $40 or $50 retail alone. Do you need QuikClot? It's a "good to have." Combat gauze is gauze impregnated with an agent that promotes clotting, so it'll do a better job at stopping bleeding than plain old gauze. But, plain old gauze will work too, a heck of a lot better than your t-shirt or whatever else you can scrounge up. Not AS well, but its 3-4 bucks instead of $40.

Another option is buying your Combat Gauze on the secondary market. eBay and gun shows are full of perfectly good, new in package QuikClot at steep discounts -- $12 to $20 a pop is not uncommon. I just bought 5 for $60 a few weeks back. Check the expiration dates, though the stuff will still work after that date. This is the cheapest way to go and still have Combat Gauze in your kit.

For plain ol' gauze, I like H&H compressed. It's quite tiny packed, yet has 4.5 yards of gauze. Pretty much the standard. Amazon has it for $4 shipped, which is about as much as I'd pay.

The most critical part of an IFAK is perhaps the tourniquet. For scary, spurting blood, a tourniquet is what you should reach for. The TK 4 is inexpensive, light and small. It's not the best (I like the SOF-TT and many like the C-A-T), but we're working on a budget here. Amazon has 'em for around $9, though I got 5 for $13 on eBay not too long ago (yes, FIVE, new in package). Check eBay and your gun show for SOF-TTs and C-A-Ts too, you can often find them for around $10-$15 new in packaging--and I wouldn't buy anything not new in packaging. I would upgrade to one of these for your go-to tourniquet at some point down the road.

A 4" Israeli bandage is another standard issue IFAK item; the best deal I found was $5 at a gun show. Amazon has 'em for around $6-$7. There's several sellers on eBay that are charging like $2 a pop, but they ship from Israel and I haven't taken the the chance on 'em.

Many military IFAKs contain a chest seal/occlusive dressing for sucking chest wounds, but one can be improvised with plastic and duct tape. Add a flat pack of duct tape to your IFAK. Military kits also contain a decompression needle, but I would hold off on one until you had taken training. Chest decompression requires shoving a long needle into the lung, so it's not something I would recommend without the proper training. After you get the training, you can add a decompression needle to your kit.

The final item in our kit is a Nasopharyngeal Airway, commonly known as an NPA or a nasal trumpet if you're feeling frisky. This goes up the old nose if the mouth/airway is compromised. Around $4 to $7 bucks. You probably don't need lubricating goop to use it in a battlefield situation, but if it comes with it for free, that's groovy. Amazon has the best price I've seen at under $5 shipped, with lube.

If you're clever enough, you can get some gloves for free. Many sellers of this stuff will throw in a pair of gloves - potential idea. If you buy 'em, you generally have to buy a big box, which is overkill for a handful of kits. I bought a $20 box of nice nitrile gloves a while back, and I still have most of 'em.

So, let's tally up the components here:
  • TK-4 Tourniquet - $9
  • QuikClot Combat Gauze sourced on the secondary market  We'll say you can find some for $15. Or you can skip this and double up on the H&H.
  • H&H gauze - $4
  • 4" Israeli Bandage - $6
  • NPA - $5
  • Flat pack of duct/gorilla tape (wrap it around an old card) - basically free
  • Gloves - free
That puts us at $39 bucks.

Put it all in a heavy duty freezer bag (the 1 Quart sizes are what I use). You can see the contents and the bag plus your tape can be used for a chest seal. You can upgrade to something more tactical than Ziploc down the road.

Of course, none of this stuff will do you any good if you don't have a clue how to use it. Check out our medical tag for related videos (scroll down a bit) and the TCCC home page. We're talking about real life traumatic wounds, so expect graphic injuries, especially at the TCCC site. I will be posting links to more related videos in our "tip of the week" entry for this week. YouTube has a plethora of manufacturer's videos on this stuff.

With this kit and some basic training, you're prepared to render lifesaving first aid for a serious, life threatening traumatic injury-- like a gun shot wound or amputation. Note that it's military doctrine to NOT use your IFAK on someone else - you use their IFAK, saving yours in case you get injured too. As a civilian, you may not have that option unless others are carrying similar kits--so outfit your group/friends/family with similar kits.

Finally, avoid packing your IFAK with boo boo stuff like bandaids, Neosporin, etc. You don't want that crap getting in your way if you have to use the contents in an emergency.

Cost: $39 bucks. 
Bank: Your prices will vary a bit - you can do it for more or for less depending on the deals you can find. Because of this, we're not going to bank anything extra this week.

Already got an IFAK?
Get more! Do you have one in each vehicle? In your EDC bag? Range bag? Fighting load? Bug out bags? You get the picture. You can generally get better deals when buying in bulk, too.

10 comments :

  1. Here is another pre-made kit I found:

    ITK (Individual Trauma Kit) The Individual Trauma Kit is intended to treat life threatening traumatic injuries. Such as amputations, punctures, deep cuts, and abrasions. It is a compact kit that can easily be stowed in the glove box of a vehicle, or anywhere in the home or jobsite. It is a great kit to supplement a preexisting jobsite or home first aid kit with EMS level trauma, and bleeding control tools. Contents: Israeli Bandage 4" Celox (small) Gloves Chem-Light 4.5" x 4.1 yards Kerlix 2.25" x 3.0 yards Kerlix (2 Rolls) Dermacea Ab Pad (5" x 9" , Sterile) Elastic Bandage 3"

    $42 also fairly decent package

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    1. Where did you find this ITK? Was it amazon?

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  2. I recently attended the TCCC course (Excellent Training. You do need to get proper training before attempting to use most of these items.
    When trying topiece together your own IFAK or kit avoid the older Powder or granule QuikClot. It was discovered to cause skin burns on the wounded area. (and hurts like hell) Look for the Quikclot Combat guaze, which is impregnated cotton guaze.
    Another item you can use for wounds is feminine pads and tampons. (designed to absorb blood) They are very cheap, sterile, and easy to find. Great for wound packing or as outer bandage.
    Ask your local EMS, Paramedic for some items. Most are more than happy to help you out.
    On the "nose hose" or Nasopharyngeal Airway tube, dont worry about getting the lubrication, its messy, and takes too long. Use the victims blood or saliva if its needed. (im sure the victim wont care)
    Lastly, Practice, practice, practice. These are Perishable skills

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  3. I have heard that Kaolin is the active ingredient on the QuikClot gauze. Why not get bulk Kaolin ($.49/oz) and add to wound prior to dressing? Not very convenient for a bug out scenario, but for bug in prepping it seems like a cheap alternative. What do you think?

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    1. We are talking about life threatening wounds here...spend a few extra bucks instead of experimenting while someone's life is on the line. Not an area I would DIY to save a few.

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  4. Not a bad idea on trying the Kaolin. However its ne more step you have to take when trying to admnistr aid. You main blood stopping tool is the tourniquet. Its an awesome tool for stopping massive bleeding and can even be self administered (which may be your only option if yuare alone or under fire).The rules for tourniquets have changed dramatically from when I was in the military. It used to be a last resort and should only be used in 15-30 min incriments, now (after attending TCCC) soldiers are being taught to use them immediatley and they can be left on for hours. An example was given that surgeons are using tourniquets durng major operations for up to 8 hours at a time, taking a break, releasing it and then reaplying for another 8 hours.

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  5. These pretty much mirror the kits I recently put together though I did include the needles (for chest decompression). If you are fighting cost skip the quick clot(or order it later) the consensus of most folks better educated on the matter than I am is that it is not absolutely necessary.

    I ordered from Chinook Medical. The costs were lower than I could find on amazon. Regardless try to just pay shipping for one package instead of a bunch. This is definitely important as shipping costs could get out of control with a bunch of small items.

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    1. I think everything I link to has free or at least minimal shipping.

      I have ordered from Chinook in the past and remember some steep shipping. Fine if you are buying bulk, but when you are buying a small quantity it can eat up any cost savings.

      I agree that you can get buy without combat gauze, but it is everywhere for not a lot of money - under 20 is easy. So why not?

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    2. What I was getting at for shipping is being able to do it all in one shot. The shipping from Chinook seemed fair though I did buy in relative bulk. Mostly the benefit was that they have everything I wanted in 1 place. Spend 6 bucks on shipping here and 8 there and 7 another place to order 40 bucks in stuff and the cost is out of control.

      As to the Combat Gauze. If you can afford to add another $20 to the kit then by all means toss in the Combat Gauze (I did). However I wouldn't stress it if my IFAK didn't have it.

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