Sprained ankle, headache, allergies. You slipped and cut yourself on a rock ledge. You broke your leg and your rescuers are a half mile out, but can’t quite find you laying in the ravine as your voice gave out hours ago, and it’s getting dark.

First Aid Kit (FAK), the backpacker’s bread and butter.

I’ve been fascinated with gear for as long as I can remember. I’ve often considered how the New Orleans hurricane (or, insert disaster here) would have went if everyone had a first aid kit, some days of longterm food storage, water treatment, and emergency plans.

This can quickly become a slippery slope, and there’s a whole “prepper” culture, and accompanying market out there to facilitate the speedy acquisition of your hard earned money. Have you ever known someone who went fishing with a hook and some fishing line? Your buddy ever snare an animal with their 2 lb of Paracord they pack with them?

How much time could someone waste with these arguably unnecessary tools, when setting up a signaling fire would have led rescuers to them before they starved, never have built the skillsets to use these tools?

These are the questions I ask myself when choosing the equipment I carry in my FAK. In engineering, restraints are a beautiful thing. Restraints keep your kit paired down to what you’ll likely use, and save weight, space, and hard earned income on things that you don’t need.

These are my ideas, and I strongly recommend you spend time thinking about what you carry and personalize your gear.

Adventure Medical Kits. I’m a longtime fan. Pictured is the First Aid 2.0 kit, which is rated for 1-4 people. This should cover your FAK needs with a single affordable purchase. Throw one in your glovebox, take one biking. Get the First Aid 1.0 if it’s just you and one other person, or need a smaller, lighter kit. They even have Ultralight/Watertight kits. Find a kit that works for you.

The danger of such kits, and I’ve done this myself, is that buying a kit off the shelf leads to someone never opening it until it’s needed. This can lead to improper use of the kit, missing necessary items for your use case, and generally being unprepared.

I strongly recommend that anyone who carries a FAK to tear it down and reorganize it piece by piece. Not only will you become familiar with the contents of the kit, you’ll quickly discover missing items you’d prefer to carry with you.

Missing from my kit were several crucial items that I can’t do without for basic safety. I’ve added:

  • Signaling mirror
  • Firesteel (that has a crappy whistle and a workable compass)
  • Space Blanket for warmth and emergency shelter
  • Duct Tape
  • Safety Pins
  • Tinder
  • Water Purification Tablets (the Iodine ones, they never expire)
  • Tongue Depressors (tinder, finger splint)
  • Hand Warmers (it’s Winter here)
  • Pepto Bismuth
  • Tums
  • and finally..

  • Emergency Cigarette

I don’t smoke, but this is by far my favorite item in my FAK. I found it in an abandoned house years ago, and serves as a morale booster, and conversation starter. It’ll be my go-to incase of zombie apocalypse or nuclear war; I’ll go out in style.

One could easily add some anti-diarrheal in case of dehydration, or bad water – but I’ll get by on my pepto, I think. Then one can add electrolytes, multivitamins, all sorts of stuff. See? It’s easy to bloat kit quickly. Keep it essential, keep it useful, and keep it light enough that you’ll actually want to carry with you. Then, put one together for your car, home, work, and you’re in good company; customizing your loadout for each use case.

I did pickup some paracord called “Survivorcord”.

I need to make some lanyards for my Axe, phone and some other stuff. Why not combine a good quality cord with some additional features?

I have no affiliation with any of these companies, just stuff I like.

Stay safe out there!


Bonus Content:
REI’s FAK Checklist

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