Last Updated April, 2021
Traditional medical kits are good to have in your home, car, or gym bag. However, if you are on a tactical team, participate in shooting sports, or spend any amount of time around firearms, weapons, and so forth, you may want to consider medical kits designed to treat traumatic injuries and severe bleeding. There are now small kits that attach to your belt, vest, or that fits in a pouch, but will still hold essential life-saving devices.
When assembling your tactical gear load-outs, you will typically think vest, belts, helmets, and firearms. But a well-equipped first aid kit can save your life just as easily as any ballistic protection gear and should be considered essential.
We'll go over the differences between various tactical first aid kits (IFAK, AFAK, and MFAK) and explain the essentials you should be sure to have in your kit.
Read on to learn the essential facts about the different kinds of first aid kits and what they offer.
Table of Contents
- Military First Aid Kits: Essential Wherever You Go
- How Are IFAKS, AFAKS, or MFAKS Different from Normal First Aid Kits?
- What's Inside The IFAK, AFAK and MFAK Kits?
- Do I Need A Military First Aid Kit?
- Where Should You Place Your First Aid Kit?
- Best IFAK, AFAK Or MFAK To Have
- Stay Prepared, Every Second Counts
Military First Aid Kits: Essential Wherever You Go
Each kit has its own pros and cons, so the majority of this article will talk about the use and application of an individual first aid kit. However, a kit overview and comparison of IFAK vs AFAK is vital to get started.
Kit Overview And Comparison
There are two basic tactical first aid kits: IFAK and AFAK. Each varies in its contents, the items contained are based on the requirements and situation of its carrier. Most come in an easy to carry pouch, holding all the important equipment you need.
IFAK - Individual First Aid Kit
Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is a treatment kit to help yourself in the event you are a victim of a trauma event, such as a bad cut or gunshot wound (GSW). Each pack has critical life-saving materials to control bleeding and prepare the wound for proper medical treatment. A basic tactical IFAK, such as the Spartan Armor Systems Individual First Aid Kit, has life-saving bandages, a chest seal, tourniquet, and other medical devices.
AFAK - Advanced First Aid Kit
Advanced First Aid Kits (AFAK) have all the necessary materials and equipment in an IFAK but have additional components available to use for immediate medical treatment. AFAKs may have particular types of machinery like defibrillators, plaster casts for severe fractures, life-saving medications, and advanced airway kits. Some kits even have the equipment to help people with specific medical conditions. For example, my partner has an inhaler in his AFAK as well as other airway devices. I keep additional tourniquets in my kit.
ifak vs afak: The Difference Between IFAK And AFAK
IFAK are basic medical kits. Practically anyone can be trained on the proper way to use an IFAK. An AFAK on the other hand is more advanced. You can customize your first aid kit and AFAK by purchasing IVs, advanced airway tools, NARCAN, an additional tourniquet, a chest seal, and other gear that may increase your survival rate in the event of severe bleeding.
Both a first aid kit, AFAK or IFAK, can be attached to your duty belt, battle belt, or bulletproof vest. Most are small bags that contains one pouch.
MFAK - Multiple First Aid Kit
A multi-first aid kit (MFAK) is not an individual first aid kit. It can be used on multiple people and typically does not attach to your tactical gear. Rather than being a giant pouch, like an IFAK or AFAK, an MFAK will be a large bag or box. It will look like traditional medical kits, however, it has items that will be better for traumatic injuries.
I carry an IFAK, with an MFAK in my vehicle.
How Are IFAKS, AFAKS, or MFAKS Different from Normal First Aid Kits?
Regular first aid kits aim to treat superficial cuts, scrapes, and bumps. It is intended for non-life-threatening situations. They are better than nothing but are not ideal for tactical situations.
An easy way to think of it is... a first aid kit is made for people who get injured by accident. A tactical first aid kit is meant for people who put themselves in harm's way.
What's Inside The IFAK, AFAK and MFAK Kits?
A standard first aid kit has band-aids, a cleaning solution, basic bandage, cotton, and simple wound cleaning components. On the other hand, an individual first aid kit and a first aid kit AFAK contain items that mainly provide initial treatment on a battlefield, or anywhere during a mission.
For example, Spartan Armor Systems Individual First Aid Kit is specifically designed to prevent further complications from wounds with moderate to severe bleeding, particularly from those caused by explosions or gunfire.
What's Inside The IFAK
- Heavy-duty gloves, preferably surgical (sterile) type
- Trauma Shears
- Medical tape, preferably waterproof
- Chest seals
- Compression gauze
- Hemostatic granule packet
The Individual First Aid Kit is suitable for most people who expect to face critical situations. It contains most items you'd need to treat bleeding and trauma.
What's Inside The AFAK
- 5.5” EMT shears
- Sharpie or any permanent marker
- Blue medical gloves
- Nasopharyngeal airway tube
- Vent chest seals
- Compression gauze
- Trauma dressing
- Thermal blanket
- Tactical combat casualty care card
If you are assigned to a specific mission, or with people under the vulnerable category, such as children and seniors, you might want to consider bringing an AFAK instead of an IFAK. They often contain a broader range of tools for certain complications, such as a blocked airway.
What's Inside The MFAK
- 5.5” EMT shears
- Sharpie or any permanent marker
- 2 pairs of medical gloves
- 2 pack of nasopharyngeal airway tube
- 2 combat tourniquets
- 2 vent chest seals
- 2 pack of compression gauze
- 2 pack of trauma dressing
- 2 pack of thermal blanket
- 2 tactical combat casualty care cards
AFAK vs MFAK medical kits: These kits are nearly identical. The primary difference being that MFAK medical kits contain additional supply quantities making them the best choice if you anticipate the possibility of caring for multiple patients.
Do I Need A Military First Aid Kit?
A military first aid kit might not be necessary for the average person, but those in dangerous professions or who engage in shooting sports might want to consider having one. They're also valuable if you enjoy outdoor activities that may lead you deep into the woods, like off-roading or hiking.
For people in Law Enforcement or the military, having these medical supplies easily accessible isn't just a no-brainer, it's a requirement. When the lives of you or your team are on the line, you need to be prepared.
But what about other folks? Unfortunately, we live in a time of unknowns and it seems that mass casualty events are no longer a once-in-a-decade type of scenario.
There are many benefits to having life-saving essentials in a pouch that you can carry with you on missions, during events, or in your car in case of emergency. These kits could be the difference between life and death for you, your family, or your loved ones when disaster strikes.
Where Should You Place Your First Aid Kit?
A first aid kit, be it a standard type or MFAK, should be easily accessible by everyone. If you are in a facility, it should be accessible to everyone. It should always be stocked with the supplies needed in case of an emergency.
If you are out on a mission and engaged in a tactical activity make sure your kit contains all the necessary supplies prior to leaving. Try to anticipate likely scenarios and be prepared so you can provide initial treatment.
For regular civilians, consider having one in your vehicle or at home, where adults can reach it. It should be kept out of the reach of children unless they're trained in its use.
Placement For Tactical Units
If you are in a tactical unit then an IFAK or AFAK may be standard-issued gear. If you are in the military or a strict uniform Law Enforcement profession, then you may be ordered to wear your kit in a certain location. However, in my experience, there is some flexibility in where you place your gear.
I encourage you to try different locations for your IFAK/AFAK, but only during training sessions. For example, I used to carry my IFAK on my vest. However, I had a couple of issues with this setup because it altered the mechanics of shouldering my long gun. Secondly, it added too much bulk to my kit, which could complicate entries. After a couple of training scenarios at the range and close-quarters combat (CQC) training sessions, I decided to attach my kit to my battle belt.
What Works For Me
At the beginning of 2021, I purchased a slim pouch-style individual first aid kit from Spartan Armor Systems. It contains the essentials for survival in the event of injury. However, as a LEO in an urban area, I am never far away from medics or a hospital, so it doesn't need to contain everything a deployed infantryman might need. If I worked somewhere remote where advanced medical care was far away, I would pack my bigger advanced first aid kit, also made by Spartan Armor Systems.
Whatever you get, the important thing is to practice, practice, practice! Whenever you change or alter your kit, make sure you are comfortable wearing it and using it. One of the best decisions I ever made was taking a combat medic course.
It gave me a kit overview and comparison, taught me about IFAK vs AFAK and AFAK vs MFAK medical kits, as well as survival techniques that work in the real world. It also tested skills during real-life situations, by having instructors firing sim rounds at trainees while they worked on downed officers. I took this course in 2012, when IFAKs were unheard of in the civilian world and even a rarity in law enforcement. In 2021, most people rock an IFAK, and they have become much better at using them.
New equipment is being made by companies like Spartan Armor Systems, which makes these first aid kits smaller, lighter, and more affordable to purchase. But there's no shortage of great choices with brands like SafeGuard Medical, AR500 Armor, and North American Rescue.
Things To Remember For Carrying An IFAK
The IFAK you are carrying should be used for your welfare in the event of an injury. If your teammate is injured, find his or her IFAK and utilize it, not yours. You'll need yours in case you're injured.
Place your IFAK where both hands can access it. I personally put my IFAK on my non-dominant side, just behind my pistol mag pouch. This is my personal preference as I like to know I could access it while still staying on target.
Ensure that your IFAK won’t be a hindrance. You want to make sure you can access your firearm and other tools on your battle belt. Also, try to keep the IFAK compact. The last thing you need is a bunch of gear sticking off to the side making tight entries even tougher.
Your IFAK should be easily accessible to you and to someone who will come to your aid. My unit all wear their IFAKS on their battle belts, so I know if someone goes down to check their belt for a kit. Additionally, we all have MFAKs in our vehicles. Each MFAK can be found in the same location in each of our trunks.
Best IFAK, AFAK Or MFAK To Have
The best kit depends on the situation you expect to be in. We can't decide that for you, but we hope this information has helped you recognize what you might need and when.
You can browse through Bulletproof Zone’s military first aid kit collection from many trustworthy brands.
Here are some kits to consider. Do a kit overview and comparison, explore which items and refills are available, and purchase what would best fit the situations you'd expect to face.
Very similar to kits carried by law enforcement and has all the essentials. Highly recommended.
Solid package however you may want to add in additional meds, inhalers, or whatever else you may need for your situation.
This is a good kit that will serve a group. It is pricey, so best to consider it for a team. You can't put a price tag on your safety and life!
AR500 is becoming increasingly popular and many LEOs are purchasing their plate carriers. AR500 has a great name and their products are highly recommended. This IFAK has all the essentials in a convenient pouch and is comparable to those offered by Spartan Armor Systems.
The perfect kit for someone who wants to rock their IFAK on a belt system. It is a small pouch but doesn't add much weight and you will still have access to all the essentials.
This a great kit for the money. It is almost identical to what I keep in the trunk of my work car. It has equipment for chest trauma, extra tourniquet holders, and you can purchase it in a variety of colors. If you need an advanced kit that can hold onto a large number of supplies in a large pouch, look no further.
For restocking or replacing equipment, check out items offered by SafeGuard Medical.
Stay Prepared, Every Second Counts
A properly packed tactical first aid kit, such as an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) or an Advanced First Aid Kit (AFAK), could be that one thing that will save you, or those you care about, from a life-threatening situation.
Having a tactical first aid kit is necessary as it can shorten the treatment time for emergency situations to be treated, which lowers the risk for complications and death. Prepare and place it strategically. Make sure it is accessible to both your hands and readily available for a responder to access in the event you need medical treatment. It pays to be prepared.
Have you ever faced an emergency situation? What do you recommend individuals have in their advance first aid kit? Everyone should have the proper resources, knowledge, and skills to survive critical situations. Please share your advice and experiences in the comments below!