The folks at Adventure Medical Kits have given me an opportunity to test and review one of their pre-packaged first aid kits designed for outdoor use: the Ultralight/Watertight .7 Medical Kit. I really like this kit for its quality and contents, and it is a great buy at $27.
AMK's Ultralight/Watertight series is designed for use by outdoor enthusiasts, containing items chosen to make these kits useful while avoiding unnecessary weight. They each come in a proprietary DryFlex (TM) Bag which is basically an ultra-durable version of a Ziploc bag, and the three largest of the four sizes (which are .3, .5, .7, and 1.0, indicating the kit’s weight in pounds) also have an outer seam-sealed bag made of ripstop nylon with a watertight zipper. This outer bag is not entirely watertight itself but will resist moisture, and mostly provides extra durability. The outer bag also has a couple external loops perfect for attaching the bag to a carabiner or cord to make it easy to retrieve from a backpack.
The contents of this kit are pretty complete and include:
- (3) butterfly closure bandages (like steri-strips)
- (1) 10-yard roll of cloth medical tape
- (3) adhesive fabric knuckle bandages
- (5) 1” x 3” adhesive fabric bandages
- (1) 2” x 5 yd elastic bandage with Velcro closure (similar to an Ace wrap)
- (1) 2” conforming roll gauze
- (2) 3” x 3” sterile gauze bandage, 2 per package
- (2) 2” x 2” sterile gauze bandage, 2 per package
- (2) 3” x 4” non-adherent sterile gauze dressing
- (5) benzalkonium chloride wipes (disinfecting wipes)
- (3) triple antibiotic ointment single-use packet
- (4) alcohol wipe
- (11) pre-cut and shaped moleskin pieces, on one punch-cut sheet
- (1) pint-size zipper-top bag with biohazard sticker
- (1) pair latex gloves, size large
- (1) tweezer/mini-foreceps
- (3) safety pins
- (1) 2” x 26” roll of duct tape
- (3) ibuprofen 200mg, 2 pills per package
- (1) aspirin 325mg, 2 pills per package
- (2) diphenhydramine (generic for benadryl) 25mg
- (2) AfterBite® sting & itch wipe
The kit used to come with tincture of benzoin, which would be used for putting on the butterfly strips. It’s also useful for getting any bandage to stick to dirty, oily, or moist skin. The company found, though, that the paper packaging the benzoin came in was not durable enough for these outdoor kits. If you've ever used benzoin you know that one leaky package could ruin the rest of the contents in the kit. This is why they took it out and are looking for an appropriate single-use packaging. The steri-strips in the kit are self-adhesive, and aren't going to stick as well as they might with benzoin, but they’re better than nothing for keeping a short gaping cut closed (see wound care).
Scroll through the slideshow to see the individual contents. My favorite items are the elastic bandage, non-adherent gauze, antiseptic wipes, and the medications. Here's my input on the items in this kit:
The kit contains a 2-inch wide by 5-yard long elastic bandage, like an Ace wrap, which can serve several purposes. The most important of these is as a pressure dressing (see bleeding control). Remember that direct pressure is always the first measure to control external bleeding. A badly and continuously bleeding wound can be covered with gauze or an improvised bandage and then tightly wrapped with the elastic bandage to get the bleeding controlled or at least slowed-down enough to seek help. The wrap can also be used to stabilize an injured wrist, and maybe an ankle if placed well.
The disinfecting wipes are very important for an outdoor injury. Any little wound that doesn't receive proper care can lead to a nasty infection. Consider irrigating a dirty wound with sterilized or at least clean water before closing/covering the wound. The wipes can also be used to clean a caregiver’s hands before and after treating a wound, especially if gloves aren't available.
Tiny forceps and/or tweezers are a must for any wilderness kit. These tweezers are small enough to save weight, but can still be used to remove ticks and splinters and for basic wound care like getting debris out of an open wound. They’re packed in a little tube to keep them from puncturing the bag. I’d sterilize them with a flame just before use.
The meds included are an excellent selection, though I would add just a little bit for my own use.
The ibuprofen (generic for Motrin, Advil, etc.) is a great anti-inflammatory drug for general aches and pains. The total included, 800mg, is the maximum recommended single dose for an adult, to be given no more than every six hours. So, this means you get a hefty one-time dose for an unexpected injury.
Aspirin is also an anti-inflammatory drug and a great pain reliever. It cannot be taken in conjunction with ibuprofen like acetaminophen (generic for Tylenol) can (see pain medications). Aspirin is given to patients on the ambulance and in the ER to slow the progression of a heart attack. If someone in your group has a history of heart problems and starts having crushing chest pain (angina) while exerting themselves then it MIGHT be wise to give them one of the included 325mg pills (but no more). What I list here is the common medical recommendation and intended use, and aspirin is a relatively safe over-the-counter medication so use your own judgment. Remember that aspirin worsens bleeding! If a person is already taking daily aspirin other blood thinners you should hold off and let rescuers decide what to do.
The kit contains a total of 50mg of diphenhydramine (generic for Benadryl), which is enough for a mild-to-moderate allergic reaction. If a person gets a skin reaction from a plant or bug bite, with itching or rash in a single small area of skin then 25-50mg should be very helpful and safe. I would like to see 100mg of diphenhydramine in a kit meant for several days or multiple people (AMK does have more diphenhydramine in their larger kits). That’s how much I carry for even a day trip, just in case.
Safety pins are a fantastic idea. They can serve so many uses, even non-medical ones like fixing a backpack or your pants just enough to get back to the car. For their purpose in this kit, though, they can do many other things. They can be used to make an arm sling from a shirt or bandana, to secure an improvised splint or wrap, to remove ticks and splinters (sterilize with flame first), or to secure pressure dressings.
Moleskin and duct tape:
Moleskin is an absolute must for an outdoor kit. Blisters can absolutely ruin a trip, and are very avoidable with moleskin and good foot care. Use in conjunction with good sock and dry feet. The sheet in this kit has 11 pre-punched shapes, negating the need for scissors and making them very quick and easy to apply (see blister care).
Duct tape can also be used for blister care. Many people swear by it to prevent hot spots on feet and from backpack straps. It is also very useful for bandaging, taping injured joints for support, and making improvised splints.
The bandaging supplies the kit contains are sufficient to treat a couple minor wounds for a day or two. There are no large-size dressings, because this is a weight-saving kit and larger dressings can be improvised with clothing and gear if absolutely necessary. What the kit has is a enough to keep going and finish your short trip with a couple minor injuries as long as you keep them clean and dry to prevent infection (see wound care, wound infections).
I really like the non-adherent dressing, which is basically a gauze pad with a slippery coating so that is doesn't stick (as badly) to a wound. Regular gauze sticks to dried blood, and when you take it off the wound can start bleeding again. Coating regular gauze with ointment like petroleum jelly or the antibiotic ointment in the kit will also make it less adherent.
I've never had great luck with knuckle bandages. There's just not a great way to get an adhesive bandage to stay on a knuckle if you need to use the hand. If you place a knuckle bandage or regular adhesive bandage, and wrap it just snugly with a couple layers of elastic athletic wrap (a.k.a. "Coban," the 3M brand name) they will stay on pretty well though.
What I would add:
There’s not much that I would add to this kit, really. If fact it’s very similar to the kit I made myself and have been carrying for years, except for a couple extra items and other medications I personally feel confident carrying and administering to myself and others (don’t carry anything you can’t safely use). For myself, I would add to this kit: two more diphenhydramine pills, two 500mg (extra strength) acetaminophen pills, and some 1-inch elastic athletic wrap (Coban), which is great for getting finger and knuckle bandages to stick without sticking to the skin.
All-in-all I think that this is an excellent kit and based on its contents it is probably AMK’s best all-around outdoor first aid kit for the outdoor day-tripper, and a great buy at $27 from adventuremedicalkits.com or your local REI store. A group on a 1-2 day trip should have a similar kit for every 1-2 people. At a mere 0.7 pounds the weight is negligible compared to the preparedness it provides. The contents are enough for one moderate wound, mild allergic reaction, or general unforeseen trail-related aches and pains. It’s not enough for a long trip into the bush though, so consider one of AMK’s larger kits for longer expeditions.
See these related articles to learn about using these first aid items:
- Allergic reactions
- Bleeding control
- Chest pain
- Pain medication
- When you need stitches
- Wound care
- Wound infections
Have you used this kit or something similar? What are your experiences? Do you want to know more about using a particular item? Please leave some comments below so I can help you be a confident first aid provider.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to subscribe. Stay safe and be well.