As part of our emergency preparedness preparations (and because my husband was a Boy Scout), we've been slowly beefing up our stash of emergency medical supplies. In this post we cover our recommendations for best first aid kit for different skill and preparedness levels. These are suitable for car first aid kits, travel emergency kits or home and office. You should have at least one small Basic First Aid Kit for each vehicle, and one or more in your home. We do suggest adding certain items to the First Aid Kits, which are noted below the emergency kit lists.
Remember – First Aid Kits are Not a Substitute for First Aid Training
We recommend you get basic first aid and medical training. Local organizations often offer basic first aid training, including programs targeted to teens who do babysitting. There are a lot of good videos on Youtube, such as those hosted by Dr, Bones and Nurse Amy. Get books such as First Aid Fundamentals for Survival or Where there is No Doctor. The more you know, the easier it is for your to respond to emergencies, big or small.
Even with training, a fold out first aid guide is a good addition to your home first aid kit. Some first aid kits include labeled pouches and step by step guides in the kit. These are great even for seasoned medical professionals, as the professional can hand the kit to a novice and get some level of assistance. The bad news is they don’t leave a lot of room for extra items, which we inevitably need.
How Much will a First Aid Kit Cost?
To be realistic, you are going to pay more than $20 for a truly functional first aid kit. If it is $20, the case might be okay and possibly even good. It might have band-aids, gauze and wraps, but you will need to add shears, Quikclot, tweezers, and other items on the “What is Missing?” list.
Our estimates are: The basics will be in the $80 to $250 range, a full kit will be in the $250-$500 range and an EMT equivalent kit will be $1000+ not including oxygen, a good BP cuff or surgical kits. So if you expect a full medical kit for $20 or even $50, you will be disappointed.
If you can’t afford a quality pre-made first aid kit, you can build one piece by piece as your finances permit.
How do I choose an Emergency Med Kit and Supplies?
There five factors that influence what kind of first aid items you will have in your first aid kits:
- Time – Time is life in a medical emergency. If you don't expect a paramedic to show up for an hour – your kit is going to look a lot different than a 15 minute bag. If you are planning on holding out 24 to 72 hours in an emergency, the kit needs far more supplies, and the kit is different if you need to survive a hurricane or extended disaster.
- Usage – Some people want a full surgery kit, others want enough to keep someone alive until help arrives. Do you have dangerous, snakes, ticks or spiders? Are you preparing supplies to be a midwife? Will you have trauma gear for a gunshot wound or sucking chest wound? Or gear for burns? Are you including dental supplies? Glasses repairs? What event(s) are you preparing for?
- Weight – Camping, hiking and other similar activities drive a focus on weight. If this is the issue, tiny/lightweight multi-function items are your goal and you will probably be willing to pay more to get the lighter weight.
- Funds – It is easy to spend hundreds if not thousands on medical kits, so money can be a limit. Know your need and focus on training first.
- Skills – Even if you have answers to the four items above, you still may not have the skills to appropriately use and maintain supplies.
Based on this list, we suspect no one first aid kit will meet all your needs. That said, we identify a few of the better ones, plus a few higher quality empty bags, kits, backpacks and duffel bags that would be good if you want to build your own. You could also buy a backpack and build specialty kits, such as: an every day “boo-boo kit for nicks, cuts, and scratches; a bug/snake bit kit; a trauma kit; a burn kit; a CPR kit and so on. For the more advanced responders, you could include a suture/surgery kit, an airway kit, and so on.
Our Best First Aid Kit Recommendation
Our number one recommendation is the 12 Survivors First Aid Rollup Kit. It is a 15 inch wide kit that rolls out to 33 inches long for 500 to almost 600 cubic inches of storage. There are 12 labeled pockets, 10 smaller and 2 bigger. It has a carry handle, clips, and straps to allow it to connect to a backpack, and Velcro to keep it closed. This kit can be used to support an entire family for trauma and basic emergencies. This roll out kit gives you fast, visible access, is customize-able and still fairly small.
What was in our kit: 1 Emergency blanket, 1 Poncho, 8 PBT elastic bandages, 4 Sterile non woven gauze pads, 2 Wet cleaning wipes, 4 BZK antiseptic swabs, 4 Alcohol prep pads, 1 Pair of PVC gloves, 10 Adhesive band aids, 1 Breath mask for mouth to mouth, 1 Pair of tweezers, 1 Zinc oxide adhesive plaster (tape), 1 Pairs of scissors, 1 Pair of Shears, 1 Tourniquet band, and 1 Emergency dressing.
You can customize the velcro labels on each of the mesh pockets. Each mesh pocket has the zippers along the long side (not top narrow side) which gives wider, easier access to contents. The straps are adjustable, so you can add more items to the kit and it will still close. This is the best kit currently, if you want labeling AND customization.
For the bad news: This is NOT a waterproof first aid kit. If you want to protect items from rain everything will need to be in ziplock bags inside the kit. You may want to replace a couple of the items it comes with and you will very likely add a number of items. If there was a version of this kit that had the top row of zipper pouches smaller and bottom bigger, and one of the side pouches was slightly larger – it would be perfect. Laurie was impressed with how easy it was to find things inside it.
What we added. Sharpie marker, Quik clot, 3mode LED flashlight, Pak-kit thermometer, pupil flashlight, knife, burn gel, lighter, Israel bandage, saline wash, tweezers, fingernail clipper, non-prescription medicines, and we got a First Aid Kit velcro sticker so the kits purpose was obvious and a laminated fold out first aid guide.
Runners Up: $20-$40 Stocked First Aid Kit
Northbound Train First Aid Kit 3x5x7 inches (105 cubic inches) 11 ounces. This is a good starter first aid kit but it has no labeling or guides. You will need to make your own labeled zip-lock packs. It is well rated, is extremely small, and very lightweight. There are no separate internal pouches. This kit can support an individual trauma. Best for Get Home or Bug Out Bag. Use this kit when weight and size are critical
Survival Solutions Handy First Aid Kit clamshell, 7.1 x 5.7 x 3.1 inches (125 cubic inch). Everything is labeled and color coded and there is a first aid guide “first aid in brief”. Quite small; only has room for a Quik Clot and a few of the tiny things like flashlight, meds, and it would be full. This kit can support a single trauma and basic family emergencies. Good for a basic car kit or short hikes, well stocked and labeled.
Surviveware Small First Aid Kit clamshell, 5.5 x 7.5 x 3.5 inches (144 cubic inch) 13.6 oz Excellent little, organized kit, that is very well labeled which is a advantage in an emergency. It has a built in quick CPR guide sewn right into the resuscitation pouch that has the Adult rules on the front of the flap and Child rules on the back. It's bit small, so small it might not hold everything an intermediate responder might want. Like the Survival solutions kit it would have trouble. This kit can support a single trauma and basic family emergencies. Good for a basic car first aid kit or short hikes, well stocked and labeled.Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Series Whitetail First Aid Kit 7.5 x 5.5 x 3.5 inches (144 cubic inches) 2 pounds. Good clamshell first aid kit with labeling, guides and a book. (Note: the Amazon version is slightly different than Adventure Medical Website one). This kit can support a single trauma and basic family emergencies. Good for a basic car first aid kit, well stocked and well labeled.
Dixie EMS First Responder 10 x 8 x 5 inches (400 cubic inches) Mid sized, disorganized kit. It has a decent stock, with three compartments. Has a bit of room for extra items. It has no labeling, so you will need to make your own labeled small kits using zip lock bags or smaller bags. Some complaints regarding lower quality items. This kit can support a single trauma and basic family emergencies. Good for a car and has room to add items, basic kit.
Runners Up: $60-$120 Stocked First Aid Kit
Survival Solutions Traveler First Aid Kit 3 fold, 8.7x 7.1x 3.5 (216 cubic inch). Compact organized kit. Everything is labeled and color coded and and there is a first aid guide included. This kit can support a single trauma and basic family emergencies. Good car or minimum for a home first aid kit, very well stocked, well labeled, and leaves some room for other items.
Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Fundamentals First Aid Kit 9 x 7 x 5.5 inches ; 2.3 pounds. Tri-fold kit. Well stocked organized kit. It has labeling and instructions similar to the survivor solutions. (Note: the Amazon version is slightly different than Adventure Medical Website one). This kit can support family traumas and simple emergencies. Great car or minimum for a home first aid kit, very well stocked and labeled.
Lightning X First Aid Kit duffel bag 17″ x 9″ x 11″ (1683 cubic inches) This is a very complete but disorganized kit. You will probably still need to add things. There is no labeling, so you will need to label your own sub-kits. This is nearing a First Responder/EMT type kit. Although much more complete, you need to know what you are doing to use it all. This kit can support family traumas and simple emergencies. Advanced home or car kit, extremely well stocked but you need to know your way around – no labeling.
Runner Up: $200+ Stocked First Aid Kit
Stomp First Aid Kit large backpack 10 x 14 x 19 inches (4522 cubic inches). This is a huge kit in a good backpack. It is the most complete and stocked kit. Although this is a good kit, unless you know what you are doing and have this need, we don't recommend it. For the same money you can stock your car, your house and add all the missing items noted below. This kit can support family traumas and simple emergencies. Massive, complicated, advanced home or car kit. Designed for teams or larger groups. If you run a camp or outdoor group you might need one this big.
Adventure Medical Mountain Series Expedition First Aid Kit 16″ x 10″ x 8″ Weight: 4 lbs 15 oz. Comprehensive large tri-fold kit designed for a group of people. This kit can support family traumas and simple emergencies. This kit can support family traumas and simple emergencies. Massive, organized, advanced home or car kit. Designed for teams or larger groups.
Not finding what you are looking for?
What else should be in your First Aid Kit?
Nearly every first aid kit is missing some items. Before you purchase any of the items in this list, check the current contents of the kit (or kits) you are considering, so you don't end up buying duplicate items. Some of these items are more advanced, so only buy the ones you know how to use, or ones you plan to get training on.
MUST HAVE ITEMS IN ANY FIRST AID KIT
- A Sharpie Marker – these can be used to write on nearly anything which is useful in an emergency. We have one or two Sharpie markers in every medical kit and car kit.
- Personal prescription medications
- Include an epi-pen, diabetic kit and/or emergency inhaler if you or a family member require it
- Quik Clot bandages, they are simple. Clean the wound, rip the package open and press until bleeding stops then wrap with any bandage or even duct tape to keep it in place. Note a single Quik clot package will fit inside the smaller kits with the existing items. We recommend two per vehicle and multiple at home.
- LUMINTOP Mini Worm LED flashlight fits inside the small kits.
- Regular Tweezers and needle tweezers
- Leatherman Micra multi-tool or the larger Leatherman Wingman
- A sturdy fingernail clipper
OPTIONAL FIRST AID KIT ITEMS
Note these are Optional Items that we recommend for any first aid kit. Some of these items may not fit in the smallest of the first aid kits.
- Small amount of Non-Prescription Meds. Make your own mini med bags with 2″ x 3″ zip lock bags. You can also buy a small pack of Rescue Essentials generic single use packs. Either the pre-made or zip lock bags can be kept in small separate labeled bags for the smaller kits. The links below are the single use packages, this allows you to keep a few of each without large bottles. Consider buying the zip lock bags or these pre-made packs and sharing the packages with family, neighbors or friends so everyone's first aid kit is stocked.
- Cold pack
- Warm pack
- Nexcare 3-M liquid bandage spray no sting. If you are in a pinch superglue will work (but it hurts)
- A small AAA flashlight such as:
- a penlight with pupil gauge (not LED) could fit inside the kit (the two pack is ok, as you can put one in the car kit and one in your home kit)
- LUMINTOP Mini Worm LED flashlight fits inside the small kits. This is an amazing tiny fully functional twist flashlight for the larger kits consider the 3mode aTactical NW LED flashlight (neutral color so it doesn't mess with your patient assessment)
- Scalpel #10
- BIC Lighter fire will sterilize metal instruments, cauterize a wound, melt water and about 100 other things.
- Tick Spoon
- Eye wash & Eye pad
- Safety Pins
- Mylar Space Emergency blanket, to wrap up the patient and discourage shock (we suggest the silver ones, as it will reflect sun in the summer – these have many uses.
- Couple rolls of 3M Surgical Tape get whatever width you choose (softer stuff) or Medical Tape a bit simpler paper tape
- A few 3in and 2- 4in non adherent Elastic Bandage Wrap
- triangle bandage
- Wash cloths
- Assorted Band Aid Bandages
- Wound Closure
- Non-latex gloves pack in sets of 2 in zip lock bags (extra pair)
- Ammonia inhalant (to revive the patient)
- Pac-kit Disposable Thermometer for the small kits
- Lip balm
- 1 mini CPR mask
- burn gel packet
- No Rinse Bath Wipes
OPTIONAL LARGE FIRST AID KIT ITEMS
These items are more bulky and are likely to only fit in the larger medium, large and extra large kits.
- Add the Israel 6” bandage 3pack. These are useful to wrap various wounds – put one in each vehicle, and put any extras in your home medical kit.
- Topical Treatments pack
- SAM Splint
- A VALLENN Digital Infrared Thermometer
- Flint/magnesium and steel Larger fire starter
- Tongue depressors
- Povidone Surgical Scrubs
- Polysporin recommended as it is less likely cause skin irritation and allergic reactions (medium and large kits)
- Sawyer Extractor or LIVABIT Snake Bite Kits
- Full size CPR mask
- Skin Stapler
For more information on items you might want to add to your first aid kit see “Emergency Medical Kit List – Build Your Own Custom First Aid Kit“.
Use First Aid Kits in Rotation
Whether you buy your kit or build your own, keep a First Aid Kit at home. Use up the “house” kit(s) first. When the house kits need to be replenished, take one out of a vehicle and put the “fresh one” in the vehicle.
Another rotation tip – refresh your kits when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors on daylight savings in spring and fall. Swap out batteries, check medications for expiration and replace missing items. Alternately, update the kit when you swap out your summer and winter car kits.
Random First Aid Related Tips
We don't recommend loose anti-coagulant powder. It seems like it would be good, but it can blow around and seal your eyes shut. Instead, use a Quikclot bandage. Clean the wound and press until bleeding stops, then wrap with pretty much anything until the professionals arrive.
Polysporin is better than Neosporin if you have concerns about allergies and skin irritation. You might want to put some liquid skin or superglue in your kit. Superglue is multi-function and liquid skin and superglue are good fire starters.
Sharpie markers can be used to label zip lock bags for sub-kits in your first aid kit. Sharpie markers can also be used to write critical information directly on the patient – to ensure other medical professionals get key information. Brightly colored duct tape can color code the bags into groups, and you can use the Sharpie to label the bags.
When checking a child for extremity problems/mobility. Get two pieces of chocolate or two popsicles (two of some type of treat). If both arms are operational, the child will grab one with one with one hand and the other with the 2nd. If they protect one hand/arm but still go for sweet, you can estimate where the injury is and help the child settle at the same time. This allows you to better assess if the crying is from fear or pain. We used this trick when our eldest broke his collar bone, and another time when a friend's child fell off a horse and broke an arm bone.
More Common Sense Preparedness Posts
You can see a full listing of our every day preparedness posts on the Common Sense Preparedness page. Some related articles include:
How can we help you with every day preparedness issues? As we've seen in abundance in 2017, disasters can strike anywhere, any time. It's up to us to be ready for trouble, big or small.
Originally posted in 2011, updated in 2017.