The IFAK

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The IFAK

Back when I was in the Army we carried the Alice load-bearing gear. This included a belt with suspenders and pouches, a fanny pack and a rucksack. As part of the load-bearing gear, we carried a “first-aid” pack on the suspenders, where it was easy for others to reach, should be become wounded.

Fortunately, the idea of the “Individual First-aid Kit” (IFAK) has progressed considerably since then. All we carried in ours was a bandage with built-in cloth straps for tying it in place. Supposedly other things were added to that in combat, but there wasn’t much space to add. Today’s IFAK is both larger and provides much more to deal with the medical emergencies that can happen on the battlefield or in a bug out.

Two intertwining keys to using these kits are that everyone has one and that you use a person’s IFAK no them, saving yours for yourself. A soldier who is wounded in combat is removed from the battlefield. Therefore, they won’t need their IFAK again. But if someone uses their own IFAK on a wounded team-member, then there might not be anything to use on them, if they get injured.

We need to apply this idea to our adaptation of the IFAK for survival uses. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about going on a day-long hike or doing a serious bug out. Everyone in our family or survival team needs to have their own IFAK. It must be clearly marked, so that other team members can identify it, without having to dig through everything, searching it out. If someone get injured, we use their IFAK to treat their wound first. If more is needed, then we get into the group first-aid kit.

For us as preppers, the IFAK can be a great core to our first-aid, ensuring that at least the basics are always with us, ready to be used. These should all be packaged together in a pouch that doesn’t contain anything else and is always readily accessible. That means putting it on our belt, strapping it on the MOLLE straps on the outside of our pack or hanging it on the shoulder straps (that’s a bit awkward).

So, just what’s in an IFAK?

  • Tourniquet (the CAT tourniquet is best)
  • Combat cravat (essentially a green bandana, used as a sling or to make a tourniquet)
  • Elastic bandage kit (can be substituted with the Israeli bandage, which combines an elastic bandage and pressure bandage in one)
  • Smaller bandages (adhesive strips & sterile pads)
  • Surgical adhesive tape
  • Nanopharynegal airway kit (a silicone tube, inserted into the nose and down to the throat, clearing the airway so they can breathe)
  • 4 surgical gloves
  • Gauze
  • Chest seal (helps ensure the lungs don’t collapse in the event of a chest injury, such as a bullet wound)
  • Chest needle decompression kit (for releasing air from outside the lungs, but inside the chest cavity)

This may seem like a lot, but it will fit in a small MOLLE pouch or belt pouch, roughly the size of a thick paperback novel. You can buy pouches that are built especially for this or co-opt another pouch that you have. I used to use a leather belt pouch that I had made, but have since upgraded.

In addition to those items, I’d add:

  • Pain reliever
  • Something for diarrhea
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips
  • Hand sanitizer