IFAK/ITK (Individual Trauma Kit) vs First Aid Kit

Although an IFAK is technically an Individual First Aid Kit, it really should more appropriately be thought of as an Individual Trauma Kit.

First Aid kits and First Aid courses, as commonly thought of, deal with topics more akin to Band-Aids than tourniquets and life-threatening injuries.  STB (Stop The Bleed) is more used for stopping the bleeding and providing lifesaving techniques to that end.

We keep IFAKs in our vehicles and co-locate them in the house with fire extinguishers and flashlights. If you’re planning to be prepared in an emergency, like a fire, then you may need medical equipment, and more light is never a bad thing. 

Our IFAKS are stocked to provide lifesaving intervention. We prepare for massive hemorrhage, impaired airways, and tension pneumothoraxes. A first aid kit, more appropriately called a boo-boo kit (or snivel kit, as some call it) and is a convenience: no one ever died of a scrape or a splinter. Massive hemorrhage can kill a casualty in minutes. Lives may depend on knowing what is in your kit, where it is, and how to use those items.  You can never have too much training and practice makes perfect.

First Aid is not Trauma Aid, do not store basic First Aid items in our IFAKs or ITK.

Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, rolled gauze, and moleskin may be part of your first aid kit. However, we recommend your basic first aid kit be kept separate from your IFAK (or should we call it your ITK?). The reason is this: much like scissors are never where you expect them to be because someone has “borrowed them” (and neglected to put them back), if there are every-day items in your IFAK/ITK that someone may need to get into, like Band-Aids they will likely trot off with your IFAK/ITK. It will never be where you expect it to be in an emergency. 

Similarly, we do not stock items typically referred to as the “12 essentials” (or however many are on your list) in our IFAK/ITKs.

That is also a separate kit. Many people advise being prepared with essentials including sun/rain protection, fire starters, whistles, navigation tools including a map and compass, etc.  This would be known as a “GO BAG” or “72 Hour Kit”.  The possible exception would be adding a light to your IFAK/ITK.

Whether you buy generic Band-Aids or Johnson & Johnson doesn’t matter. A Band-Aid’s job is largely to keep small cuts from getting blood on your clothing and to keep them clean. For buying the supplies for your IFAK/ITK, quality matters because having proven life-saving supplies in an emergency where someone’s life depends on your equipment matters.  And training in using those items matters just as much as what  you carry.