Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own First Aid Kit?
Are you wondering if it’s cheaper to build your own first aid kit than to buy a pre-made kit? In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of building your own first aid kit vs. buying a first aid kit that’s prepackaged. We’ll also delve into some tips and tricks to getting the most from your first aid kit. Let’s jump in.
If you’re serious about a first aid kit, there are advantages to building it yourself. In some cases, it's cheaper to build yourself, in other instances, it isn't. It all depends on the type and scope of the first aid kit.
Below, we’ll outline the pros and cons of building your own first aid kit. Remember - there is a difference between price and value, and this differentiator will come into play throughout this discussion.
The Cheapest First Aid Kit: Consider Your Needs
What’s the cheapest first aid kit? Well, it depends on your needs. When you’re looking for a first aid kit, the first thing you need to do is establish when, where, and how you’ll use it.
Here are three general categories of people who carry a first aid kit:
The professional first responder. If you’re a professional first responder, then you’ll probably carry a few advanced items. However, on the other hand, as a professional, you might be well equipped to improvise items, reducing the amount of stuff you carry.
The non-medical person. This is the mom or dad who wants to be ready when their children come to them with bloody noses and mangled limbs. These people usually want a little bit of everything, and they also need a system that’s easy to carry.
The guide/outdoorsman. If you’re a guide or an avid outdoorsman, then you’ll probably need to carry extra supplies, and you’ll need to think about the long term.
What’s the point of outlining these profiles? Know who you are. Think about your needs. Don’t just grab some gear, even nice gear, and assume you’re all set with everything you need. You should always be thinking about purpose.
The cheapest solution will be the one that meets your needs with the least amount of extra waste. Let’s talk about what this means.
Understanding Value and Waste for First Aid Kits
You might think the cheapest first aid kit is the one you buy off the shelf of a big box store. However, to a professional first responder, that’s not even a first aid kit. Why? Because they aren’t looking for a box of Band-Aids. They want tourniquets, packing gauze, chest seals, moldable splints, and more.
Sadly, many times, these essential first aid items are not included in many of the big-box stores, pre-made “first aid kits.” It’s much better to build your own in this case, ensuring you have the gear you need.
Advantages to Building Your Own First Aid Kit
Building your own first aid kit has many inherent advantages, particularly for those who are new to the first aid world. In some cases, it will be more expensive to buy all the first aid components individually instead of buying them as a package, but for those new to first aid, it might be worth it.
Here are a few reasons it’s worth it to build your own first aid kit:
Customization. If you have a specific health concern, you can add gear to suit your needs.
Organization. If you’re new to first aid, building your own first aid kit will force you to understand each part.
First aid bag. When you build your own first aid kit, you typically need to find a good bag as well. This improves the system by allowing you to buy a medical pouch that works for you.
Now let's talk about how to build a first aid kit without going overboard.
How to Build a Budget First Aid Kit
The first step is to make a list of the medical items you need. Ask yourself if there are any medical conditions unique to you or your family. In some cases, there will be people who are allergic to bees, so it would be wise to carry an Epi-pen, or some sting relief pads.
Some people might have a weak ankle that frequently sprains, in this case, it would be wise to carry some Ace wrap and ice packs.
And of course, everyone should have the fundamentals, which include items for major bleeds and airway management.
We’ve talked about building first aid kits in other articles, so here are a few links for specific types of first aid kits:
If you'd like, you can also watch this video on building a budget trauma kit. Now, let's go over a few tips for staying within the budget:
Learn to Improvise
Let’s look at these in more depth.
Modularity for a First Aid Kit
Instead of having fifteen first aid kits, have only several placed in key locations, like one in the car and one in the kitchen. While we believe it’s always good to have extra emergency supplies, there’s no reason to be excessive, and sometimes, if you have too much, it’s easy to become disorganized.
For modularity, you might have one large first aid kit and a few smaller first aid kits. The smaller first aid pouches will fit into the larger kits, but when you need to be more mobile (say you’re walking with your kids at the park) you can take out the smaller pouch and place it in your pocket.
This takes some habit building to do correctly, but once you get used to it, you’ll find that you have less clutter while still having the essential gear you need.
Overlapping Items in a Medical Bag
There are a lot of items out there – if you buy a first aid kit from the pharmacy, it will have a ton of variations of items - big gauze pads, little gauze pads, big band-aids, little band-aids, rolled gauze, trauma pads, more band-aid. But all this stuff can be replaced by a single pack of compressed gauze.
Think about this when building your kit. There are a few items that are difficult to duplicate, like a tourniquet, but many other things have different uses. For example, the Israeli bandage is built for a ton of different uses – from splinting to bandaging to creating a sling and swath.
If you buy a few “multi-use” items, you will find yourself spending less money overall, while still having the same functionality.
Training and Learning to Improvise First Aid Items
As they say, the more you carry in your head, the less you’ll carry in your pockets. However, no matter how well trained you are, it’s often more effective to have the gear your need ready to go during an emergency.
Getting trained will do several things for you. First, it will help you cut down on non-essential gear. Second, it will make you more effective with the gear you have. You’ll know how to use the gauze or splint for more than its intended purpose, and you’ll know how to do it with less stuff.
Are Some Pre-made First Aid Kits Worth It?
Yes, some pre-made kits are worth it, particularly once you know how to use the components, and you understand you’re getting a quality product.
For example, the Civilian Medical trauma kit by Medical Gear Outfitters is built with professional tools, and it doesn’t overlook any of the essential gear.
Mistakes to Avoid when Building an Inexpensive First Aid Kit
When you’re looking to buy a first aid kit, there are a few mistakes to avoid.
Ironically, the first mistake people make with first aid kits is going cheap. Yes, the title of this article is about “cheapness”, but when it comes to first aid kits, you should be thinking about quality and value. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get the most with the money you have, but you don’t want to “race to the bottom.” This is a matter of life and death. You need good tools to perform during high-stress situations.
Lack of training is the next mistake. When it comes to first aid, training is everything. I’ll go even further and say, just taking a weekend first aid class does not mean you’re “trained” for an emergency situation, any more than a person could take a weekend swimming class and be ready for the Olympics. If you want to perform well under pressure, then you need to dedicate yourself to hours and hours of consistent training.
Disorganization is the final major mistake. You might have the greatest first aid kit that mankind's eyes have ever seen, but if it’s tucked deep in the closet in your room, it will be of no help during an emergency. Just like you brush your teeth every night (hopefully), you should build a habit of having a good first aid kit ready to go at all times.