A Look Inside the Medical Points Abroad Portable Medical Kit
Free post: A high-quality kit assembled by a battle-hardened medic.
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When people ask me the first thing they need to be prepared, I often say “first aid kit.” That usually takes people aback because they’re thinking of food, water, knives, or guns. But the reality is, we’re all going to have accidents and injuries. There’s a good chance you’ll have at least one major wound at some point in your life, and an ambulance may not reach you in time.
A good portable medical kit is essential. You want something self-contained so you’re not digging around a bathroom drawer for bandaids while you’re oozing blood. And you want it to be portable so you can take it with you wherever you may need it.
When I first started at The Prepared, I did not have a proper kit. You might say I was… unprepared. Fortunately, my friend Tom Rader put together an excellent list of items for an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), and I used it to assemble my own.
Tom is the expert on emergency medicine. He served as a medic alongside Marine Recon in Afghanistan so he’s seen the kinds of wounds that would give you nightmares. Now he’s an instructor with Wilderness Medical Associates International. You can sign up to take a class with him in person if you’re willing to brave the wilds of New Mexico. (Tom has graciously invited me out for a course. Let me know if that’s something you’d like to read about.)
It took several weeks to source all of the stuff and I spent a lot of money doing so over multiple Amazon shopping trips. First, there was the tourniquet, chest seals, and gauze.
Then trauma shears, tweezers, bandages, etc.
And more bandages…
Just these three orders added up to $231.36, and that isn’t all I bought! Plus, I had to put the whole kit together myself.
I kept saying, “This is a huge pain. We need to be selling pre-assembled kits.” And that’s exactly what Tom started doing. This is the same kit we recommended in our nuclear war survival guide, and I promised a review. It’s very hard to review something like this, especially given that I’m not a medic, but we can at least give you a peek inside.
While a portable medical kit is a must, nothing replaces professional medical training, and you should put an in-person course on your preparedness bucket list. That’s one area I need to work on. I’m not a medic and nothing here is medical advice. I’m just a dad who often has to patch up his loved ones.
(We are an affiliate for Medical Points Abroad and when you purchase a kit through one of our links, you support Unprepared. As stated in our list of values, we do not recommend products based on affiliate revenue. Several readers purchased kits from the link in our nuclear war survival guide and there haven’t been any complaints or returns.)
The Medical Points Abroad Enhanced First Aid Kit
Tom was kind enough to send me one of his Enhanced First Aid Kits for review. They usually cost $220 on their own, and I highly recommend paying the extra $15 to get the pack pre-assembled. Readers at The Prepared were constantly asking us to explain how to fit everything into the kit because it takes some finesse (and brute force). Consider the extra $15 a cheap tuition fee in packing a medkit.
$235 might seem like a lot for a medical kit, but I can tell you from my days at Wirecutter that most of the cheap first-aid kits on the market are junk. And as you can see above, I spent much more building my own kit. Tom tells me the margins on these kits are low because the main reason he sells them is so he can buy class supplies at wholesale.
Let’s look at the Medical Points Abroad portable first aid kit side by side with my self-made kit. First of all, Tom’s bag is much better than mine. He recommends the Fox Outdoor Medical Responder Active Field Pouch, which has been hard to find post-COVID.
Tom has bought up basically all of the stock, so if you want that bag you have to buy his kit. You can choose between orange, black, or coyote brown (my personal favorite for tactical gear), but I highly recommend orange so it’s easy to spot.
I bought the closest-looking knockoff bag, but as you can see, there’s no comparison. The Fox Outdoor is larger and made of much more substantial materials. Also, compare the professional packing job of the Medical Points Abroad bag to mine. He runs the strap through the trauma shears so they won’t slip out, and the tourniquet is secured underneath that top strap. There’s also a marker slipped into the PALS webbing so you can mark the time on the tourniquet.
You want the tourniquet on the outside so you can grab it quickly in case of a major limb bleed. The first thing you should do with this kit is unwrap the tourniquet and follow the included instructions on “staging” it so you can quickly pull it open and put it around an arm or a leg that’s gushing blood. I have thankfully never had to use one, but every medic I know swears by them, so my medkits all have staged tourniquets in them. (At least, I try to keep them staged. I think my kids screwed with the one on my kit.)
You may also wonder why you need the fancy scissors, much less on the outside of the pack. In an emergency, you may have to quickly cut off clothes, cut through webbing (like on a seat belt), or trim a bandage. You need quick access to sharp shears with a blunt edge so you don’t stab your patient (or yourself) while you’re scrambling.
The Medical Points Abroad bag has MOLLE straps on the back, so you can attach it to any bag that has PALS webbing. My knock-off bag has that too, but the velcro that holds on the straps sucks, and the medkit regularly falls off my bug-out bag.
On the back of the Medical Points Abroad bag, he attached a copy of the Wilderness Medical Associates field guide. This is a great idiot-resistant manual for treating medical emergencies, with lots of flowcharts and illustrations. I like the idea of keeping it on the outside of the kit so you can flip through it quickly when you need it. It’s printed on rugged waterproof paper, so there’s no need to keep it in the kit.
The inside has a whole lot of stuff crammed in. As painful as it may be to take it all out and cram it back in, you should do that right away so you know where everything is.
Let’s start with the little mesh bag, which is full of bandaids and over-the-counter medications. The mesh bag is attached with velcro, so you could detach it and carry it on its own as a lightweight kit for little boo-boos.
In addition to the bandages, you’ll find things like burn cream, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, and hydrocortisone cream, along with common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, decongestants, and “non-aspirin.”
Moving on to the main kit, there are forceps, high-quality tweezers, and an irrigation syringe. Those syringes are lifesavers. You can use them to flush out wounds, flush your eyes, and I’ve even used them to suck out splinters that I couldn’t grab with tweezers or a knife.
Then we have an OLAES Modular Bandage. I have one in my own kit, and it came in handy when my neighbor cut himself on a cast-iron bathtub and was dribbling blood all over his kitchen floor. It’s also known as an “Israeli bandage” or “pressure dressing.” Alongside the modular bandage is a roll of elastic bandage with a little roll of duct tape inside. When I was helping my neighbor, I held the modular bandage in place with a roll of that elastic. It’s great for tightly wrapping bandages over wounds. (I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I got the bleeding to stop.)
On the other side of the kit is a toothbrush (for cleaning dirty wounds), compressed gauze for packing wounds, a CPR face shield, and two mylar survival blankets, which are handy to wrap around someone going into shock to maintain their core temperature. Not pictured: a pair of medical gloves.
Finally, we have an aluminum splint, which you can wrap around a broken or sprained limb, a bandage wrap, gauze, and a pack of chest seals for puncture wounds like gunshots. There are two seals in the pack because if you’re treating a gunshot, there will likely be an entrance wound and an exit wound.
The Medical Points Abroad kit does not have every single item in that original IFAK list. A few examples:
Petroleum jelly (but there are three packets of antibiotic ointment)
Needle and thread stored in isopropyl alcohol. (To drain blisters. Not for DIY stitches, Rambo.)
Plastic cling wrap. (A real pain to pack.)
Nasopharyngeal airway. I have one but have no idea how to use it.
You would also want to throw in any prescription medications you may need immediate access to, like an asthma inhaler, EpiPen, or insulin.
Altogether, this is a fantastic and high-quality kit for the money, and buying it pre-assembled saves you a lot of time and frustration. If it’s out of your price range, you need to have some kind of kit filled with medical supplies you know how to use, and keep it handy at all times.