5 MUST-HAVE Items To Keep in Your IFAK Pouch

On a daily basis, the most important piece of gear an individual would need is an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK).

Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, extreme sports athletes, first responders, and military personnel can all benefit from life-saving equipment being readily available at a moment’s notice.

IFAK’s can accommodate a multitude of items to save a person’s life.

5 MUST-HAVE Items To Keep in Your Portable Medical Kit
Students in the Special Operations Combat Medic Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School react to enemy fire during field training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (U.S. Army photo illustration by K. Kassens)

In a previous shooting course I attended, we had a block of medical instruction for dealing with gunshot wounds, frag, or anything for that matter that causes traumatic bleeding.

The instructor is a former Navy SEAL and is TCCC certified. He has had his share of plugging up bullet holes in guys, administering tourniquets, and dealing with a host of other injuries wrapped around gunfighting in austere environments.

The dude knows his stuff to say the least, so I’m going to share a little of what I learned during that block of instruction.

I feel that this is an important subject these days with all the violence erupting around us. Chances are you’re going to need to use medical skills far more often than using your concealed carry pistol.

He started the block of medical instruction by covering 5 items you must carry in your IFAK pouch or portable medical kit, so that’s what I’m going to cover. Like I said I’m going off of the training he conducted. I’m in no way a medical expert or giving you advice.

What Should Be in Your IFAK?

CAT Tourniquet

It’s pretty obvious what this is for; to shut down the blood flow to an extremity. There are only 4 places to place a tourniquet (high up on either arm and high up in the pelvic crease of each leg), that’s it. Some tips and tricks for the CAT Tourniquet.

  • Preload the tourniquet with about 2 to 3 inches of the tail fed through the buckle, fold it up, and leave the white ‘time’ piece from going across the area the handle locks into.
  • When you put the tourniquet on, make sure that the tail is facing you (inward). This will place the handle on top for you to tighten the tourniquet down after securing the strap to the velcro.
  • CAT tourniquets contain no metal so they can pass through metal detectors making them ideal to travel with and have on you at all times.

You also need to be aware of how to improvise a tourniquet from a shirt, bandanna, or any piece of cloth. Another tip to know is how to create a stop-gap on someone else until you can get a tourniquet on them. Typically this involves putting your knee either high up on their arm or high up on their leg (depending on the location of the injury) to put pressure on the arteries and slow the blood flow.

CAT Tourniquet Gen 7

Prices accurate at time of writing

Hemostatic Gauze

This gauze is perfect for gunshot wounds, cuts from frag, or any other deep cut that has caused arterial bleeding. Open the package of gauze and start to pack the wound with gauze until you have the remaining gauze packed on top of the wound. At this point, you would apply the pressure dressing.

The hemostatic gauze the instructor preferred is Celox Hemostatic Gauze and Quikclot Combat Gauze.

Celox Hemostatic Z-Fold Gauze

at Amazon
Prices accurate at time of writing

Emergency Pressure Bandage

The pressure dressing would be applied to the area you just packed with hemostatic gauze. The purpose of this is to keep constant pressure on the wound allowing the gauze to do its work and stop the bleeding. A pressure bandage can also be used to secure the handle of the CAT tourniquet or an improvised tourniquet.

Our instructor had an ACE bandage with velcro in his personal kit, but he also recommended the Israeli trauma bandages.

Emergency Pressure Bandage

Prices accurate at time of writing

Chest Seal

The chest seal is to be used for gunshot wounds high in the chest area. They are extremely easy to apply. Just apply one seal over the entry wound on the chest. Check the back for an exit wound and cover that with a second chest seal. By applying this seal to the chest wound you are slowing down the loss of air from the lungs which would result in a collapsed lung. This won’t stop that from happening, but will certainly buy you time until the patient gets to a hospital or paramedics arrive on the scene.

The two chest seals recommended were the Hyfin chest seal and HALO chest seal due to the fact that they both come in a two-pack allowing you to purchase one pack to handle both entry and exit wounds.

HyFin Chest Seal Twin Pack

at Amazon
Prices accurate at time of writing

Trauma Shears

There are several different styles and brands of trauma shears, but the pair that is at the top of most lists are the Madison Supply trauma shears. The handles of these shears are made to withstand a lot of use and impact with hard surfaces if dropped, driven over, or smashed in a vehicle door, which makes them one of the best trauma shears in the medical industry.

They come equipped with 7.5-inch long stainless steel blades that have serrations, which makes them perfect for cutting through tough materials. They have been field-tested by doctors, paramedics, nurses, and military combat medics. The end of the scissors is made with a blunt tip to prevent any injury when used close to the skin. These specific trauma shears are autoclavable, meaning they can be cleaned and serialized quickly for continuous use.

EMT Trauma Shears

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best IFAK Pouch

High Speed Gear offers its ReFlex product line that was designed with direct input from active-duty medical personnel and constructed around the medical supplies included in the U.S. Army-issued IFAK.

The two-piece system allows you to carry previous medical supplies or other essential items to optimize versatility depending on the field of work that you may be in.

The High Abrasion-Resistant Neoprene Kevlar handles were designed for users to be able to easily find, grab and access the contents of the ReFlex IFAK System as quickly as possible.

"We know and understand the importance of preventive measures that users take by carrying organized medical gear." said Allison Mitchum, HSGI® Director of Sales & Marketing. "It makes us proud to see all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces utilizing our ReFlex IFAK System in the field."

Since the release of the ReFlex, High Speed Gear has also created alternatives for people to be able to use, such as the ReFlex Vehicle Mount and the ReFlex Leg Rig for users to be able to carry comfortably, no matter their preference.

High Speed Gear Reflex IFAK System

at Amazon
Prices accurate at time of writing

What IFAK Does The Military Use?

The Individual First Aid Kit increases the warfighter’s capabilities by providing Self-Aid and Buddy-Aid. The military IFAK provides interventions for two leading causes of death on the battlefield; rapid loss of blood from an arterial bleed and a compromised airway.

IFAKs have been issued to every deploying Soldier via the Rapid Fielding Initiative. Weighing just one pound, the military IFAK pouch consists of the following medical items packaged inside of a modified 100-round SAW pouch. In 2006 the Army released the Improved First Aid Kit as an improvement to the original list of contents. Again in 2014, the Army updated the Improved First Aid Kit to the IFAK II by adding more items to the kit.

  • 2 Combat Application Tourniquets
  • Six-inch Israeli Pressure Bandage
  • Gauze Bandage
  • Surgical Tape
  • Eye Shield
  • Nasopharyngeal Airway Tube
  • Gloves
  • Tactical Combat Casualty Card
  • Sharpie
  • Chest Seals
  • Strap Cutter

What is in a USMC IFAK?

The new style USMC IFAK is designed with a clamshell opening allowing a Marine to quickly find their gear and be able to lay it flat for a workstation. The contents contain items to mitigate the three leading causes of death in combat (extremity bleeding, tension pneumothorax, and airway obstruction). The included NPA and decompression needle should only be used by those who have combat lifesaving (TCCC) or equivalent medical training.

  • 1 QuikClot, Z fold 4yd x 3" Hemostatic Gauze
  • 1 Compression Bandage
  • 2 Wound Packing Compressed Gauze
  • 1 CAT Tourniquet or TMT Tourniquet
  • 1 Cravat
  • 1 Combat Tape roll
  • 1 NPA (nasopharyngeal airway)
  • 1 Decompression Needle
  • 2 Hyfin Chest Seals, one twin pack
  • 1 Burn Dressing
  • 1 Marking pen

North American Rescue makes a handy USMC IFAK re-supply kit with the exception of the NPA and decompression needle.


These are the five basic components your IFAK should contain. They are each simple to use and easy to apply. Anymore more than this will more than likely involve more advanced medical training.

Having a compact pouch to keep all this in is just as important. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or even a branded medical pouch. Any IFAK pouch that is roughly 6"x6" will work.

Seconds count when first responders are minutes away. Be prepared!

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