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How To Build The Ultimate Survival Medical Kit

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Everyone Needs A Survival Medical Kit.

It will not matter where you are or what you are doing when misadventure strikes. If you are not prepared to manage a health emergency when it happens, things will get serious quickly.

Whether you are camping in the wilderness, exploring a foreign country, navigating the high seas, or simply surviving a catastrophic doomsday scenario – having a functional medical kit is essential for anyone concerned with effective survival. And any medical worker knows that really good ones, the kind that gives you peace of mind, are hard to come by.

But fear not! This article serves to solve that problem.

The following describes everything necessary to build a tactical medical survival kit. Some of these supplies will be extraneous to medical novices. But if followed verbatim, it will prepare you for nearly any acute medical problem.

Use this as a personal guide or supplement to aid your medical preparation. You’ll be grateful you did.

Survival Medical Kit List

Medical experience is an extremely helpful accessory to this project, but it’s not a skillset that everyone has. The most important part of building a  medical survival kit is an understanding of how to use what is inside.

Enroll in an EMT course at your local community college. Sign up for Wilderness First Responder training. Take a CPR class or just get your hands on something as simple as “Basic First Aid” or even “First Aid For Dummies”. Make sure to read it cover to cover.

You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes to know the basics.

The Basics

From diarrhea to headaches and inflammation, small cuts and minor infections, the basics has it covered. These basics will be the most heavily used resources in your medical survival kit. So they should be the most accessible as well. So be sure to pack extra.

Most of these supplies can be bought at drugstores or pharmacies. Places such as Walgreens and many are even available online. You should have no trouble assembling the contents for this section.


  • Tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Q-Tips
  • Large trauma shears
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel with blades
  • Stethoscope

Over-The-Counter Medications (Recommended numbers included)

  • Ibuprofen (Advil), 20+
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol), 15+
  • Aspirin, 15+
  • Anti-histamine, x10
  • Immodium/Loperamide, x10
  • Sudafed (or an equivalent), x10
  • Throat lozenges, 10+
  • Bismuth tabs, x20
  • Oral rehydration, x3
  • Cranberry extract, x10
  • Dramamine, x10
  • Stool softener (laxative), x15

Lotion and Cream Kit

  • Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin or equivalent)
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Miconazole/Anti-fungal
  • SoftSoap: For wound cleaning

Wounds and Trauma

This is where a more advanced level of medical training comes in useful.

Treating wounds is not always a simple ordeal – especially trauma – and it is often a job that is best left to the professionals. But in a survival situation, it may be your responsibility to treat these injuries to the best of your ability.

Realistically, outside of a hospital, no one is prepared for every medical emergency. Wounds can be ugly. Trauma can be horrifying. But here are some tools that will help prepare you for both:

Blister Treatments

  • Molefoam
  • Moleskin
  • 2nd skin
  • Medical tape

Wound Treatments (Recommended numbers included)

  • Nitrile gloves, 4+ pairs
  • Irrigation syringe
  • Sterile gauze pads, 5+
  • Medical tape
  • Band-Aids, 20+ (various sizes)
  • Alcohol wipes, 15+
  • Ace Bandages, x2
  • Triangle bandages, x2
  • Tegaderm, x2
  • Steri-strip or butterfly closures, 3+
  • Sam-splint moldable foam splint
  • Israeli bandage
  • Suture kit
  • Iodine
  • Tourniquet

Prescription Medication

Individuals seeking to build an advanced medical kit should consider including some prescription medications.

These drugs require an advanced understanding of medicine to administer. But if you have access to these supplies and have reason to believe you will need them in the field, prepare yourself accordingly.

  • Epinephrine 1mg: Treats severe allergic reactions.
    • 1ml small syringe with needle
  • Ciprofloxacin 500mg: Treats infections, also given to individuals exposed to anthrax.
  • Azithromycin 500mg: Treats atypical mycobacterial infections and bacterial infections of the heart valve.
  • Bactrim d.s. 160/800mg: Treats bacterial infections
  • Amoxicillin 500mg: Treats infections or stomach ulcers.
  • Flagyl 500/400mg: Treats bacterial infections.
  • Fluconazole 100mg: Prevents and treats certain fungal infections.

Miscellaneous and Personal

  • Asthma Inhalers: Albuterol is a basic prescription drug that people carry who have difficulties breathing.
  • Vitamins: Pack your favorites, or pack them all. Multivitamins are handy for saving both space and weight.
  • Epinephrine: Mentioned before in the prescription section. Epinephrine is a medication for severe allergic reactions. It usually requires a certification to administer to another person (except in the case of a life-threatening emergency).
  • Small toy or puzzle: Children can be distractions, and in medical emergencies, they can often be a danger to themselves. Keeping a small toy or puzzle to calm a child down, or to offer comfort can be as good as any medication for agitation or distress. It can sometimes even work with adults.
  • Toiletries: Just a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush, and toothpaste can make a huge difference in survival. Having extra hygiene supplies never hurts.
  • Other various personal medications
  • Purell
  • Sunblock
  • Camp soap: For hand washing.
  • Aquamira or other iodine tablets (for water purification)
  • Bug repellent
  • CPR pocket mask
  • Lighter/waterproof matches

Storage and Maintenance

Collecting the contents for a survival medical kit is only the first step in building your own. After buying the supplies, you need to pack them into something. Whether you use a bag, a box, a basket, or an entire emergency vehicle, you must store your medical kit properly, and as orderly as possible.

Which requires a meticulous approach. Take your time, and think this through.  How will you build this to best suit your needs?

Choosing The Right Container

Will you be storing your medical kit in a home or a car? Is this something you will have to move with, and carry places? How durable does your med kit need to be? How thorough?

Size, shape, weight, and intention are all important factors to consider at this point.

If you are going to be rafting down the Grand Canyon, you need a waterproof bag that can easily transport between rafts.

If you are going on a backpacking trip through South East Asia you will need something small, light and packable.

Wilderness Responders use small duffle bags or entire backpacks for their medical kits.

Choosing your container may seem like a mundane decision, but in reality, the choice carries a lot of weight. Make your survival medical kit the perfect fit – customize it so that it best serves and protects you.

Here are some examples of excellent medical kit containers:

  • Dry bags are great for medical kits because they are waterproof. Medical supplies are extremely sensitive to wet or humid environments.
  • Medical bags are great for holding medical equipment. It is literally what they are made for.
  • There are a number of medical boxes or crates out there that are highly durable and great for staying organized.
  • The military medic backpack is one of the most functional containers for a survival medical kit. The number of pockets and high durability make this an extremely functional option.

Packing Your Survival Medical Kit

Keeping an organized medical kit is equally as important as any of the contents. In a medical pinch, time is of the essence. Neither patient nor caretaker can afford to waste any time sifting through a sack full of unlabeled drugs and sterile swabs. Preparation is everything.

Divide your kit into a few general categories. There are a number of ways you might approach this, but one effective example is to separate the contents as follows:

  1. Trauma
  2. Prescription medication
  3. Over the counter medication
  4. Personal supplies

Trauma and prescription supplies are typically required in more urgent scenarios. So make sure to keep them stored in an easily accessible part of your med kit. Here are several ways to keep these categories separate and organized:

Separate The Compartments

It may be as easy as using the existing compartments of your container (like in a medic backpack or utility box) to separate your categories.

Stuff Sacks: These come in a variety of sizes and colors, which makes them ideal for color-coding and storage. Most are made from water-resistant material and are extremely durable, very light and highly packable. They are available at almost any outdoor retailer, surplus store or online.

Tupperware: This works well for those who are less concerned with the space and weight of their medical kits. These also come in different sizes, shapes, and colors for storage and color-coding. Additionally, Tupperware is relatively cheap and accessible anywhere with a grocery store.

Zip Lock Bags: These are excellent for a variety of functional purposes. They can be used for arranging and labeling drugs or different sizes of bandages. Use a sharpie to label them clearly. Zip-lock bags are also effective at containing spills so that leaky soap or iodine bottle doesn’t taint the rest of your kit. A good rule-of-thumb: if it can leak, keep it in a zip-lock bag.

Pill bottles: These bottles are great for storing medication. They are also extremely useful for keeping Band-Aids and other small components organized. They are cheap, reusable, and recyclable. 

Keeping Yout Kit Updated 

So, the contents have been acquired and organized. The container has been chosen and packed. And you are prepared to deal with a medical emergency to the best of your ability. But the work doesn’t stop there.

Much like a plant, or a pet, your medical kit needs regular attention and updates. Medicines expire, and it serves no one if everything in your survival med kit has gone bad by the time you need it.

Be sure to systematically check for expired medicine. Occasionally, container seals fail, and leakage amongst your supplies is bad. It helps to unpack and repack your entire kit once every few months to take stock and replace whatever is necessary.

Some may find it useful to create a checklist and keep it with their medical kit at all times. This can help to keep track of what you do and do not have, how much you’ve got, and when certain medications are due to expire.

Devise a system for this step. It can be a major pain to maintain a medical kit and keep it updated if you are sloppy about the process. Be scrupulous and you’ll be prepared.

Further Resources

Need More Advice?

There are an immense amount of resources out there to offer more creative and technical advice on how to build the perfect medical kit. No two medical kit guides are ever the same because there are so many opinions out there.

For diversity’s sake, here are a few more:

  • “The Anatomy of a First Aid Kit” – The American Red Cross
  • “How to Assemble the Perfect Travel First Aid Kit” – IAMAT
  • “Basic Disasters Supply Kit” – Ready

Buying Pre-Made Survival Medical Kits

High-quality medical kits can be found and, for the right price, you can get really good ones. You can purchase these and customize them by adding extras and personals. This is a very efficient and hassle-free way to build a versatile survival medical kit.

Here are just a few high quality, well made professional medical kits that would be ideal for any survival scenario:

  • North American Rescue CCRK:

A military grade kit, that includes many high-quality items like a chest seal, a tourniquet, trauma dressing, gauze, scissors, and many of the basic medical supplies ~ $295.80

  • Rescue Essential’s Medical Pack:

This well-designed pack includes a tourniquet, Israeli bandages, burn dressings, scissors, triangle bandage, gauzes, trauma pad, basic instruments, and some of the basic medications ~ $145

  • Adventure Medical Kits’ Trauma Pack With QuickcClot:

The biggest perk of this pack is the waterproof container, which comes with QuickClot, gauze, a trauma pad, triangle bandages, and more. This kit is a good price, but basic ~ $20

  • Dixiegear First Responder Trauma Kit:

This is a basic compact kit. Includes a tourniquet and an assortment of bandages ~ $40


Unfortunately, it is no cheap endeavor to prepare for a medical emergency. Whether you buy a pre-made survival medical kit, build one of your own or buy one that you improve upon it will likely cost you a pretty penny. But if things ever go bad and you need to use your survival medical kit, every cent will have been well spent.

A prepared future is a worthwhile investment.

Under the luckiest circumstances, your survival medical kit will gather dust where you store it. You hope that it remains unused (though well-updated). Emergencies are never fun, especially when there is an injured or sick person involved. And any day you need to use a tactical medical survival kit is a bad day.

The best precaution is safety, and the best way to stay safe is to stay prepared. Good luck out there.

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