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The Individual First Aid Kit: What purpose does it serve and what are some options on how to set it up correctly?

by EURMED Actual on 27.09.22

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The IFAK is carried by every individual in the group, usually as part of his Load-Bearing Equipment (LBE) or tactical belt. It is meant to be used on the person carrying the IFAK himself, not to treat others with it.

Example 1: (incorrect)
A person gets shot and the person treating the victim uses his own IFAK to treat the patient. A second person gets injured, the person treating is out of supplies and the patient is likely to die. Also, there are no supplies left to treat the provider once he gets injured.

Example 2: (correct)
A person gets shot and the person treating the victim uses the patient's IFAK to treat him. A second person gets injured, and the care provider uses the supplies from the second patient on the second patient himself. All personnel is appropriately treated and the provider has completely unused supplies to be treated with once he is injured himself.

It is important that IFAKs are standardized across the whole unit or organization, so every IFAK is equipped with the same materials and clearly marked on the patient's body, so a care provider does not have to search for the equipment under stress. 

It is recommended to carry IFAKs in a common location on the kit as well, for example, the posterior part of the left Cummerbund of a plate carrier, the right side of a chest rig, or the 6 o'clock position of a belt.




A common location for carrying IFAKs is the belt. Horizontal IFAK pouches can be comfortably mounted in the 6-o'clock position and accessed with both hands. This is especially applicable to Law Enforcement and Military personnel who use padded belts for their daily duties.


Frequently used in a Military context, mounting a plate carrier on Body Armor or a Chest Rig offers the advantage of having more real estate for larger pouches. Also, the person providing treatment can easily access the kit for treatment (buddy aid).


A waist pack is a proven method to carry medical equipment comfortably, both on the battlefield and as a daily carry solution. It offers mobility and customization options that most pouches simply can not provide. Also, a fanny pack can be carried in the 6 o'clock position when not in use and rotated around the torso to the front for treatment or when entering vehicles, aircraft, or sitting down in a chair.


A carrying method that has been gaining popularity recently is the ankle carry. This allows for carrying medical essentials in a discrete way around the ankle. However, this method drastically limits carrying capacity and may influence the mobility of the wearer.


During the Global War on Terror, multiple approaches to IFAKs have evolved. One of the more successful evolutions of the standard IFAK is the Dual-Phase IFAK approach that includes two separate pouches for the IFAK supplies. One pouch is meant to be used by the individual on himself (self-aid) and the other pouch is meant to be used as a classic IFAK would be used, in a buddy-aid capacity.

The primary benefit of this kind of setup is that the individual has all necessary and applicable supplies immediately available and does not have to dig through items that cannot be used on oneself, such as Decompression Needles and similar items. Also, the provider that will later treat the casualty will have an unused kit will all items available, that has not been used up by the casualty already. 

Additionally, splitting the kit up will result in a very small and compact self-aid kit, that can be stored in an easily accessible location (For example on the 2 o'clock position on the tactical belt or the LBE), while the large and bulky buddy-aid IFAK can be stored in a less accessible location such as the side or back of the LBE.

Further, this increases the total amount of medical supplies that are available to the team medic. This will be further discussed in the Medic Bag article.


This kit is carried by the user in a location that is easily accessible with both hands. This kit contains items that can immediately be used by the individual on himself when injured and does not include buddy aid items.

SELF-AID KIT, Exemplary Packing List:

  • CoTCCC-recommended Tourniquet (can also be carried separately outside of the IFAK)

  • Z-folded (hemostatic) gauze

  • Emergency Bandage

  • Vented Chest Seal

  • Chem Light for self-marking


The Buddy Aid Kit is carried in a larger pouch and can be stored in a less-accessible place on the gear. It is for a team member to use on the casualty. This kit has to be adapted depending on unit requirements, mission, location, environmental conditions, and evacuation time.

BUDDY-AID KIT, Exemplary Packing List:

  • Extra Tourniquet

  • Z-folded (hemostatic) gauze

  • Regular z-folded gauze (non-hemostatic)

  • Emergency Bandage

  • Triangular Bandage

  • Nasopharyngeal Airway (NPA)

  • Vented Chest Seals

  • Chest Decompression Needle

  • Mylar Blanket

  • Active Warming Devices

  • Eye Shields

  • Auto-injectors (if issued)

  • Combat Medication Pill Pack

  • TCCC Casualty Card

  • 9-Line NATO MEDEVAC Reference Sheet

  • Chem Lights

  • Waterproof Marker (black)

  • Nitrile Gloves


The IFAK is meant to be used for major trauma and is not supposed to cover minor injuries and regular field sustainment medicine. 

A minor injuries kit with items that do not require rapid access should under no circumstances be stored in an IFAK, as it will decrease the ease of use of the IFAK during critical injury. Instead, this type of kit should be stored in a separate bag in the backpack or other location.

MINOR INJURIES KIT, Exemplary Packing List:

  • Exemplary Packing List:

  • Activated Charcoal tablets

  • Acetaminophen tablets

  • Wound disinfecting spray

  • Iodine solution

  • Assortment of plasters and band-aids

  • Elastic bandages

  • Sunscreen, lip balm

  • Vaseline paste

  • Medical tape

  • Disinfection wipes

  • Scalpel, Scissors, Tweezers, Safety pins

  • Blister treating kit

  • Baby powder

This list should be adapted to fit personal needs. Additionally, individual prescription medications and other applicable items such as Albuterol Inhalers should be carried in this kit.

When building such a kit yourself, do not just blindly copy this setup recommendation. Always refer to relevant practice guidelines and keep your skill level in mind. Do not perform procedures you are not qualified and authorized to perform.


A tool used for controlling massive bleeding from an extremity is the tourniquet. It is a device that puts circumferential pressure on a limb and limits blood flow to that extremity by compressing the vessels inside.

This device should be carried outside of the IFAK (or in addition to a Tourniquet inside the IFAK) and placed in an immediately available location on the gear. Frequently used locations are horizontally on a belt at the 2 o'clock position or in the front of the LBE.

The tourniquets currently recommended by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) are (1):

  • Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) Gen 7

  • Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) Gen 6

  • Ratcheting Medical Tourniquet -Tactical (RMT-T)

  • SAM Extremity Tourniquet (SAM-XT)

  • SOF Tactical Tourniquet – Wide (SOFTT-W)

  • Tactical Mechanical Tourniquet (TMT)

  • TX2” Tourniquet (TX2)

  • TX3” Tourniquet (TX3)


It is strongly recommended to ONLY buy supplies from the original manufacturers and their official distributors. 

There is a large amount of very accurately looking counterfeit Tourniquets available online. These fake tourniquets do not have any official certification and are usually made of cheap materials that break under pressure. 

The moment the tourniquet is really needed is not the moment you want your equipment to fail!



1: Joint Trauma System: CoTCCC Recommended Devices & Adjuncts (27 SEP 2021), accessed 17.10.2021:

Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice. Always seek professional help when confronted with a medical condition. This article is to be used for educational purposes only.


In case of academic errors or other issues related to the articles, contact us or message us on Instagram @european_medics.

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