First off apologies for all the anacronyms to follow, it may seem a bit like alphabet spaghetti but you'll soon come to know these terms as if they were the first words you learned.
I've been training in first aid since I was 12 when I first learned the basics as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, after school I've maintained this with regular refresher courses on First Aid in the Workplace.
I have several First Aid kits that I maintain, each car we have has a small kit similar to what I pack when hiking or camping, my car is also used for my work so has a larger kit to account for the different risks and the largest is at home that has additional equipment not practical for the other kits.
So to keep things simple lets discuss what should you have in an individual first aid kit (I.F.A.K.) because let’s be honest, there are many pre packed first aid kits out there to choose from.
The main fault with pre packed I.F.A.K. is they purposefully omit products in order to stay within a certain price point.
My training with St Johns Ambulance has always revolved around the traditional Airway, Breathing, Circulation (A.B.C.) system of casualty prioritisation.
And for 99.9% of injuries this is fine but for my work in construction and time spent outdoors for bushcraft using potentially lethal tools the military medics M.A.R.C.H. system is more relevant as major blood loss is most likely the main risk in an emergency situation;
M. Massive Hemorrhage - most first aid focusses on breathing and circulating air until help arrives but if you're isolated or the casualty has a massive blood loss wound you need to prevent blood loss in order to be able to then circulate it and the vital oxygen it carries.
A. Airway - as with regular first aid ensure the airways are unobstructed.
R. Respiration - check if the casualty is breathing, if not begin Cardio, Pulmonary, Resuscitation (C.P.R.).
C. Circulation - traditionally cuts and wounds are placed after breathing as they are generally non life threatening, however we've already discussed that a major bleed is our start point so this is for less serious non arterial wounds that are easily bandaged.
H. Hypothermia / Heat Exhaustion - most patients will go into shock and if you're in an isolated location prolonged exposure to the elements can cause the casualty to quickly deteriorate.
Gauze - at least two large dressings to plug a sizeable massive bleed, it can be bulky but its cheap and could be a life saver, if you can also have a tourniquet to slow most extremity bleeds.
Face Shield - you've cleared the casualty's airway but if it was full of blood and vomit do you want to put your mouth anywhere near it? These are small and cheap and in my opinion everyone should have one. There is more complex but specialist equipment but as I'm not trained in its use I don't want to do more harm than good.
C.P.R. Air Bags can help but I don't pack them generally due to their bulky nature and equipment for dealing with collapsed lungs etc is beyond my level but is something to consider.
A good selection of bandages, dressings and tape of various sizes for general patch ups.
Hypothermia / Heat exhaustion:
This one is more of an initiative test, try to provide shelter from the elements and mitigate symptoms as best as possible with whatever is available.
Now many pre packed I.F.A.K. will have useful items that you should also consider such as alcohol wipes, antiseptic creams, latex gloves, cotton pads, tweezers, safety pins, scissors etc.
A big risk at my work or when camping for practicing bushcraft is burns so I also pack common clear plastic food wrap, if you wrap the burn area it prevents infection, fluid loss, is non stick unlike traditional bandages and is see through so medical professionals can assess the wound before removing it.
Eyewash is another essential to flush debris or harmful substances from a casualties eyes, little one use bottles are compact and inexpensive.
Whilst tweezers can be used for removing splinters etc, its a good idea to also pack a specialist tick removal tool, takes up very little space and costs pennies, if you're going to be outdoors for a while pack one.
Only medical professionals can legally prescribe and administer medicines, but if you're paddleless up the proverbial creek some common medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for reducing fever and pain relief together with some aspirin and antibiotics could be very handy indeed...
Hopefully whatever you pack you'll never have to use but its far better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it