The IFAK – or Individual First Aid Kit is a pouch one keeps on their person to combat two of the most common fatalities in times of war – severe hemorrhaging and blocked airways. The U.S. Army have deployed IFAK’s to soldiers with well over 900,000 issued pouches over the course of military history.
For the layman, an IFAK proves just as useful when venturing out into the wilderness or as part of a bug out bag. The contents of the IFAK can vary (depending on the branch of military who issued the pack) but I will extensively cover the core supplies needed in the list below. Let’s start with the basics and move up from there.
IFAK Contents List
- IFAK pouch – The pouch holding all of the supplies below. Check out my post on the best Molle pouches for a number of Molle compatible options. This pouch for example would function perfectly for these supplies. Molle (if you don’t know) is a military grade webbing used to attach gear and other storage compartments to your backpack or other Molle compatible product. Very useful.
- Nitrile gloves – Any good pair of nitrile medical gloves. Gloves serve to protect the treated wound from receiving bacteria from the hands as well as protect yourself from mixing blood with another person. In the medical field proper protection is a must and the gloves are your first line of defense.
- Hand sanitizer – Hand sanitizer kills germs on your hands and can even be used to treat smaller scrapes and wounds for infections. Once again, proper medical procedures place sensitization at the core of their practice.
- Band Aids – Nothing fancy here. Basic band aids can be life savers. Even small cuts and scrapes can become severely infected if not treated and covered with a band aid. Too small and light not to have in your IFAK.
- Dressings – Dressings are used to cover larger wounds. The main job of the dressing is to shield the wound from oxygen and keep the area moist and protected from infections. Dressings also absorb any excess blood and promote the clotting process so the wound can heal. In your IFAK should be a number of different types of dressings.
- 2X2 – for treating small wounds
- 3X4 – for treating medium wounds
- 4X4 – for treating larger wounds
- Closure supplies – Once the wound is wrapped it should be properly secured into place with medical tape or self adhesive ACE bandage. Waterproof medical tape is available and works great for securing dressings around small cuts and scrapes. The ACE adhesive wrap is well suited for wounds requiring pressure to stop bleeding. Any good IFAK will have the following closure supplies:
- Clotting agents – Medical products like Quick Clot will quickly stop any bleeding in seconds. Celox is another cheaper alternative (and doesn’t burn as harshly.) These can be life savers out in the field where simply dressing the wound and applying pressure is not working.
- Shemagh – A shemagh has so many uses even outside the medical applications. In the IFAK context a shemagh can be fashioned into a sling or makeshift tourniquet.
- Medications – Advil, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Tums, etc. I would also throw in a few Q-tips and some essential oils to top things off. Clove oil works miracles for tooth aches and functions as a powerful antibacterial agent. Other essential oils like lavender can treat and heal burns.
US Army IFAK
Each branch of the military implements their own version of the IFAK. The Army calls their IFAK an improved version of the original design. While the old kit was originally stored in a pouch designed for SAW (squad automatic weapon) rounds, the supplies in the Army IFAK are packaged in a modified top loading Molle pouch with two velcro flaps on either side. This configuration provides rapid access to medical supplies during battle. A comprehensive breakdown of the IFAK 2 and the core differences between the older design can be found here. The pouch the Army IFAK includes the following contents:
- Bandage Kit
- Bandage Gauze 4-1/2″ 100/Pkg
- Adhesive Tape Surg 2″ 6’s Roll
- Airway, Nasopharyngeal, 28fr, 12s
- Glove, Patient Exam 100/Pkg (4ea)
- Pouch, IFAK
- Insert, IFAK (has folding panels, with cord attached)
US Air Force IFAK
The US Air Force appears to implement a larger kit which includes a full blown trauma kit alongside other medical supplies not seen in other IFAK configurations. Here’s what’s inside their unique IFAK:
- TRAUMA Module (Surgical tools, gloves, various bandages and tourniquets)
- Israeli Bandage
- Pri-Med Bandage, Gauze, Cotton
- EMS Shears
- Nasopharyngeal Airway
- Adhesive Tape
- Zip Lock Poly Bag
- Quick Clot
Another robust medical kit.
- IFAK A1 Component Individual First Aid Kit
- TK4 Tourni-Kwik Self-Application Tourniquet
- “H” Compression Bandage
- Primed Compressed Gauze
- Adhesive Bandage 2″ x 4 1/2″
- Adhesive Bandages, 3/4″ x 3″
- Adhesive Bandages, 3/4″ x 3″
- Triangular Bandages, 40″x40″x56″ Non-sterile
- Combat Reinforcement Tap 2″ x 100″
- Burn Dressing 4″ x 16″
- Bacitracin Antibiotic Ointment 0.9 gram
- Povidone-Iodine Topical Solution USP 10% 1/2 floz
- Water Purification Tablets 10 Pack, Katadyn Micropur, Sodium Chlorite
A full breakdown including NSN numbers of these IFAKs can be found here.
Using the contents of your IFAK
Most of the contents found in your IFAK will prove useless unless you have basic first aid training. Below you will find a solid video on using many of the common supplies found in the standard IFAK. Thanks for reading and pop me a comment if you have any questions.