Blackhawk S.T.O.M.P. II:On Amazon $217
Backup Link: On Amazon (Optics Planet) $224 + shipping
At Blackhawk: S.T.O.M.P. II Medical Coverage Pack
Altatac Everyday Carry Medical Backpack
Blackhawk Medical Litter: On Amazon $48
Are you a hero? I’m just asking because as much as I hate it, I probably am. It is so stupid from a survival perspective to rush in to the face of a disaster to help people, but the reality is, most of us reading this column are going to do it. So if you believe that there will be an event of some sort to distract the sheep away from who caused this mess, it might help to buy some trauma bandages and learn how to clean wounds now. There is no worse feeling than wanting to help but not being able to do so because you lack the proper tools. It also sucks for the people who would be trying to help of course. You can pull off your shirt, rip it, tie it as a tourniquet, then use a stick to tighten it. But after a couple of those, helping people naked is just asking for trouble. You could use their shirt duh, but how hard is it to get a shirt off of someone screaming in pain? Wouldn’t it be better to get a few tourniquets in advance?
This is a followup to my comprehensive yet rudimentary first article on Survival Medicine, which is the title of the book in that article that I recommend, and that I still recommend. All of the stuff in that article is still available, though the websites from India where you can order antibiotics seem to get taken down as soon as they go up these days. Our wonderful government needs billions of dollars in law enforcement spending to fail at stopping underage porn online, but when it comes to the medical establishment retaining their control of our health, they just shut the damn websites off. Pet antibiotics are still available, but they aren’t the most updated.
The only thing that I left open in that article is trying to construct your own medical trauma kit rather than purchase one already built. No matter how you slice it, a medical kit is going to be expensive. I decided to go back to this subject after reading Steven Harris’s list of first aide kit products (we covered his solar heating books last week). He has some great things on there like diaper rash cream and Tinactin, some of which I still haven’t gotten for my rather large stock of OTC first aide products. I spend hundreds of dollars at Walgreens getting a supply of everything from Tylenol to Immodium, but I did not buy any Tinactin.
What Steven overview doesn’t cover, and what most people don’t cover, are the tools that EMTs and the military uses to stabilize people with heavy trauma. You may say that in a survival situation, if someone has a sucking chest wound or a leg blown off at the thigh, they ain’t going to make it. But what if that person is the neighbor you were at this past Sunday for a barbecue, or your kid’s school teacher, or G-d forbid someone from your own family? You are going to try to save them, and if you don’t educate yourself now as to how to do potentially do that, and buy some of the tools, it isn’t going to end well. We are all on a limited prepping budget, and every dime that you spend not on storeable food is a pretty serious dime. But like with everything else in this column, you have to ask yourself what is more likely a need you won’t want to be without.
Do You Need a Specialized Pack?
My original thoughts on needing a specialized pack were negative, but my thoughts on all expensive specialized nylon packs are always negative. I’m the guy who is going to buy the cheap tactical gun case from China at the gun show that the zippers break on. I also don’t really prioritize organization. Throw everything in a duffle bag and we’re good to go. That got me to thinking. Maybe for this particular application, my general modus operendi isn’t appropriate. You won’t find a pack for sale online that has all of the stuff I am going to cover, so you are stuck building it yourself. If you have the budget, I would invest in a good compartmentalized pack.
For this article I decided that backpacks are superior to the compartment duffle bags you see carried by most EMTs. An EMT can 99% of the time assume that their ambulance will make it in, and that they won’t have the hump the bags. A good backpack like the ones I chose can be carried by handles, but you can can also put them on your back if you have to carry them in should traffic be deadlocked. In your hands you could carry water, food, or even a rifle. Granted, those EMT bags generally have a slot for an oxygen canister, but I wouldn’t waste the pack weight on it for survival of heavy trauma.
The first was sent as a review product from Blackhawk. I looked over their product pages on medical packs and decided on the most expensive one lol, the $347 MSRP S.T.O.M.P. II Medical Coverage Pack. (they are selling on Amazon significantly less) In fairness I did also ask them to send one of the cheaper models, but they said they could only send one, and a litter. So though I don’t plan to jump out of perfectly good airplanes anytime soon (the pack is “Jumpable”), what would you do?
If you have never compared a Blackhawk pack to cheap Chinese copies (and yes, I did buy one of those too), they may look close to the same, but I think the Blackhawk a cut above. The S.T.O.P. II is 1000 Denier Nylon, and the stitching is very heavy thread in multiple rows for reinforcement. This pack was made for SEAL team medics, so it is built to withstand a lot of abuse. There are plenty of people who read this column who are on high budgets, and I have to say that if you are going to go and build a kit like this, don’t think twice whether the Blackhawk S.T.O.M.P. II is the best pack for the job. See the pictures for the compartments, and it comes with two extra bags, only one of which I used.
The other pack I found from Altatec on Ebay for $72.95 shipped, and I have to say, it is no slouch. They call it the Everyday Carry Huge Tactical Corpsman Backpack, and I would say that they were copying the Blackhawk in building it. This pack also comes with two extra bags, and it claims to also be made of 1000 Denier Nylon. Physically it is nearly identical in size to the Blackhawk, but it lacks a waist belt (not jumpable lol). Both packs also have a drag strap system that you can use with a litter, which we’ll get to below, but the design of the straps and the overall feel of the shoulder carry system, with a waistbelt on the Blackhawk, is much better on the more expensive pack. Of course you could buy the Altatec pack and a ton of supplies if you are on a budget, as compared to the Blackhawk.
If there is a huge difference between the two, it is in the beefiness of the zippers. The Blackhawk zippers don’t catch as you open and close them, and with the tunnel vision of a survival medic situation, that is a big deal. The Altatec zippers are smaller, and they are covered. That cover, while possibly providing some water resistance, does catch when you try to do the zippers quickly. I found that I could practice with the zippers and they don’t catch, but if the “event” happens a year from now am I going to remember? I’ll probably have to deal with zip covers caught up in my zippers.
I try not to give a lot of actual advice in this column, but in this case I can safely advise you to beware of smaller packs. Altatec makes a smaller pack that is used in a lot of the “trauma kit” pre-made packs on Ebay. I started with that pack myself, as a pre-made kit. I think they are fine if you just want a basic kit with one of each thing to carry in your car. If you happen upon a car accident, the chances of more than one person needing an airway are slim. But if you want to carry 30 of the Israeli blood stop bandages and 10 nose trumpets and a big bottle of iodine, etc., you are always going to wish you had more space.
Another example of a small car kit would be the military 7M09 Medical Kit. I bought one and stuffed it with extra Israeli bandages for my car. It’s got all the good stuff not in most first aide kits that are listed below. Then there are intermediate sized kits, and you’ll find that each branch of the military has their own version. Even on these big packs I find myself saying I wish I could fit more of something, like cold packs, sterile water bags, and yet more bandages, so if you are serious about a pack that you can walk into hell with, beware that you are going to need more space than you have, even with the biggest packs.
Stocking Your Pack
There is no mystery to most of the stuff you need in a medical pack. Your job will be to stop the bleeding, then clean and bandage the wounds. But there is a list of specialty equipment.
- Blood Pressure Cuff & Stethoscope – I covered this in my last article. One of the telltale signs of survivability is the person’s blood pressure. Even in war, the most common type of life threatening trauma is blunt force injury, like being blown back my an IED, or having part of a vehicle or building fall on you. As I explained in my recent article on triage tape, diagnosing the injured and labeling them for transport is going to be a big part of your usefulness. Electric BP monitors are great for home use, but a manual cuff and stethescope are going to be far less prone to breakage and failure, and you can get sets on Ebay for under $20 that work great.
- Blood Stop Powder – The most common use for styptic, hemostatic, or “blood stop” powder is for dog grooming. It is not unusual to cut too far up a dog’s toenail and that makes it bleed. Groomers apply some blood stop powder, and it saves a lot of mess. For people, “Quick Clot” is the company that supplies the military, and that you can buy in the consumer market. Quick Clot is made from Zeolite, which is a porous rock used for purification of a lot of different things. You can find several different types of blood stop powders on Ebay for a very wide range of prices. I don’t know how effective they are compared to Quick Clot. They are certainly much cheaper. In non-consumer, military and industrial packaging, Quick Clot is much cheaper, like $7 for 100 gram packages. I think it is a must have.
- Trauma Bandages – The other absolutely must have are a lot of combat bandages. There is nary a prepping article in the world that won’t suggest the Israeli military trauma dressing, because they are so heavily oversupplied for both Israeli and US military use, leaving plenty for the grey consumer market. The most common size is 4 inches, and in this terrible economy, those are going for only a few bucks each these days. The larger 6″ size goes for a little more. The nice thing about these dressings is that they are impregnated with hemostatic powder already, and they come with straps, eliminating the need or tape as with common sterile gauze dressings. Buy as many of these as you possibly can. In lots of 30 or more they are currently under $2 each including shipping. I also found some 12″ for about $6 each.
- Tourniquets – By far the highest mortality rate on the battlefield is due to limb loss. The femoral artery in the leg is like a garden hose, and the injured person can bleed out very quickly. Luckily it doesn’t take big technology to save a person who has had major blood vessels severed in the extremities. If you do a regular search for Tourniquets on Ebay, you’ll get mostly hits for a military version called the “red tip tourniquet.” They go from $7-$15 each, depending on where you get them from and if they have the military NSN markeings.
That tourniquet is great because it has an integrated tightening rod, and it doesn’t rely just on elastic material, which can break down after sitting for a time in a pack. Cheaper than those are H&H tournequets, which are just a rubberized cloth with two hooks, simple yet effective, and even cheaper are the tourniquets used by flobotomists. They have a plastic buckle release. You can also get natural rubber tubing by the foot for less that a dollar per tourniquet. It all boils down to what is your budget and how much time can you spend on ordering things in for your pack. I found a pack of 10 flat rubber tourniquets for $6 on Amazon. You can get the colored ones with the buckle for a buck each.
- Airways – A funny thing happens I guess when you get knocked unconscious. The back of your tongue can actually block off your air, so most good medical kits have some sort of airway. The military uses a Nasopharyngeal Airway, which is a rubber tube that is pushed through the nose down into the back of the throat. They are also called a nose trumpet, and they are only a few bucks each on Ebay in quantity. The other type of airway is the kind you see in EMT kits. They are called a Berman Oral Airway, and they come both in a kit with several sizes, down to small child, and I see them in bulk in just adult size. I have one of the many size kits in my pack, and some nose trumpets. See the Youtube videos on how to insert both types of airways. This is not what they call Intubating. I actually bought a laryingeoscope in hopes of learning that but I haven’t gotten further.
- Chest Seals – There are two camps it seems when it comes to the best way to patch a sucking chest wound. The old traditional way to seal the wound was to use a sticky dressing and leave one side not taped. That would give the blood something to clot against without cutting off the ability of the chest to expel gas from leaks in the lungs. The problem with this is that the chest can also suck stuff in, which is nasty. To deal with this a military contractor company called H&H created a chest seal with one way valves. The chest seal is a big gummy sticky thing, and the wound can breath out through the valves, but can’t breath in stuff that would contaminate the inside of the person. I found some on Ebay for as little as a few bucks each.
According to the Hyfin chest seal video on Youtube, that thinking seems to have reversed itself completely now. The military kits currently have a Hyfin Chest Seal, which is just a big bandaid with 4 sticky sides. They run about the same price on the surplus market, just under $10 each.
- Tension Pneumothorax Needle/Catheter – Wait! Don’t run away screaming yet! This isn’t as complicated as it all sounds, and every battlefield trauma kit has one of these things in it. One of biggest reasons people die from blunt trauma wounds is that they break a rib, and it punctures a lung. This causes the chest to pressurize, and that pressure can make it so that the organs in the chest cavity can’t function.
It used to be that they would put in a chest tube, which is a semi-complex minor surgery, but at some point, as a bi-product of our endless wars and the resulting casualties, someone figured out that you could just use a 14 gauge needle to vent the chest, and that a soldier could even do it to himself in the field. You just locate the 2nd rib space and stick it in, then remove the needle, leaving the catheter.
- Splints, Duct Tape & Zip Ties – The military supplies a SAM Splint with most of their kits. They take up about the room of two ADB bandages each, so it is decision when you are dealing with cubic inches. They are as little as a few bucks each on Ebay. I personally put one per kit. I also hang a roll of duct tape from the outside straps of my packs, and I also carry industrial sized zip ties. Both of those things can double as a tourniquet as well. If you have duct tape you can really use anything as a splint, but Murphys law don’t forget.
One of the more expensive components of your pack for which there is no cheap substitute are burn dressings. If you look through what comes up on Ebay for “burn dressing” you’ll see both wet and dry options. The wet option is from Water Jel. They make both big and small bandages soaked with lidocaine, and I got some for my pack.
I also got some of the H&H dry burn dressing called a “cravat,” which is also a sling, and a tourniquet if need be. The very expensive option is called Silverlon. It is impregnated with colloidal silver to stop bacteria growth, which is the primary danger with an open burn. I got a couple of those too. At some point you do have to ask yourself, should I get 5 6×6 Silverlon dressings or another 50lb bag of pinto beans, but whatever.
The different brands of “burn cream” are mostly just sterile Lidocaine. For minor ouchy burns and sunburns, , packets of Burn Free will do the job.
Once a wound has stopped bleeding, by far it is as important or more important to clean it than it is to bandage it. We have a natural desire to close an open wound, and if you trap dirt and bacteria in there, it will fester as the material around it tries to join and heal. This creates an infection inside, one that can kill you. Unless the person is allergic to shellfish, the best way to do this is with iodine. It doesn’t sting, and iodine is a strong antibacterial. I prefer iodine swab sticks, and the best buy I have found in my travels is on Amazon, $48 for 500 of them. Now 500 is a lot. The individual boxes of 50 are about 8″x 4″ x 4″ and you won’t fit more than 50 of the sticks in your pack. I would just box them and put them away in your survival storage. The sticks will also work as water purification, and you’re always going to have booboos to clean.
I also found small bottles of tinture of iodine in plastic for only a few bucks each, and for big wounds before you put a bandage they are well worth the investment.You can also get 100 iodine wipes for six bucks, and big 16 ounce bottles of iodine for washing hands are only seven bucks.
You can also initially clean the wound with water of course. Both of these packs have attachment points on the outside, and you can attach a military canteen if you wanted, or even just regular water bottle holders. You don’t need sterile water to clean wounds, but if you are going to suture, it might be worth it to have some sterile water as part of your pack. I don’t, because the only difference between sterile water and bottled water is that sterile water is heated to over the temperature that kills botulism, under pressure. Regular bottled water is UV or gamma sterilized. I am also not a fan of the bagged “survival water,” because you can’t recap it.
If you look in the pictures, you’ll see that I included two types of litters in this project. Blackhawk sent me their medical litter, and they sell that on Amazon for $48 right now. The only cheaper option I have seen is a US Marine Corps canvas litter that actually has absorbent “wee wee” type of pad on one side. It’s kind of yucky I don’t know why you’d want that. The Blackhawk litter is the opposite, shiny waterproof. I’d get that.
I think a litter is an absolute must for a pack. Both of the bags I show here have a double drag strap system, and it is hard to drag someone unless you have a litter to attach them to. Rigid litter kits are very expensive. The NARP Talon II, even surplussed, goes for $100 and more for just the litter, and the bag for it is usually close to that as well. Loaded with goodies, the whole kit sometimes goes for $500.
There is what I would call disinformation in some of the survival medicine books that you shouldn’t attempt to suture wounds. They assume I think that at some point, you’re going to go to a hospital. My take on it is that if you are preparing for a grid breakdown, you had better have some sutures, and learn how to suture. Just beware that the key to not making things worse with suturing is to clean the wound really well.
I am just getting into learning how to suture myself, so I’ll update you with that if I have time, which is getting short I think. There are a number of good Youtube videos on it, and I bought this $69 learning kit that includes practice skin. If you look on Ebay, there are a ton of people selling survival medical kits that have sutures in them. I strongly suggest that you buy your suture kit from this guy. Look at the pictures. And if you are going to make your own kit, there are plenty of 12 packs of sutures of individual sizes on Ebay. The name brand company is Demetech. There are cheaper options though. And beware that there are absorbable and non-absorbable sutures. The latter tend to be stronger, but you have to cut them out. If you are going to order just one size, I would get absorbable, in either 3/0 or 4/0 in the 18″ length. You can research it yourself. Just beware that sellers on Ebay will list them as practice, dental or veterinary sutures, because they are supposed to be RX only. Sutures are sutures are sutures. They boxes don’t say anything different.
If you can, try to get some injectible Lidocaine from your doctor. There are some sellers on Ebay that have it as a bonus when you buy other things, so check the photos. Just beware that you have to do your homework about how to use it. My preliminary research has shown that if you don’t draw first to make sure that you aren’t on a vessel, you can kill the person. Also, some Lidocaine has Epinephrine in it, to stop bleeding. I don’t know what the additional dangers it poses. From what I have seen, you draw from the bottle with an 18 gauge needle and inject it into the sides of the wound with a 25 gauge needle, working up so only the first needle prick is felt. This is of course at your own risk. I’m not advising you to do anything if you are looking for someone to sue. Lidocaine is also a big deal for extracting a tooth.
Food & Water
In any mass casualty scenario, there just aren’t going to be enough hands. You should include in your pack either a canteen or bottled water that is just for you to drink, and some sort of survival food that isn’t going to go bad or turn to dust several years down the road. I am personally carrying a couple 3600 calorie bars in my packs. They are about $6 each in quantity, and I don’t think you could get more calories in $6 worth f Snickers bars or really anything else. These bar blocks are indestructable, and vacuum packed for at least 5 years of shelf life, probably more. As a regular survival food they no slouch in cost per calorie. A 50 lb. bag of dry pinto beans is about $50, for 50,000 fairly substantive calories. These bars are mostly flour and sugar, but $115 20 pack is 72,000 calories, not comparably bad, especially when you factor in that you don’t have to cook these, and that price is shipped.
Misc. & Etc.
This article already has way too many links that only a handful of people will follow, so I’m not going to link out to a lot of other little things that you can consider. Steven Harris’s page, liked above, has a lot of things that are musts for a camp first aide kit, but may or may not be worth the trouble of putting into a mobile trauma hospital. If you are just trying too cover your bases, Amazon is a great place t find bulk packages of everything from zinc oxide packets to snake bite and eye wash kits, which you will see in my pictures here. The “people have also viewed” feature on both Ebay and Amazon is really valuable in these types of projects because it’ll show you where there are sizes that might be the same price with twice as much. I have probably 20 hours into this article, FYI. You have to do your homework, and I hope I have saved you some trouble if you want to go down this road. Also check out my prior article (especially about the antibiotics) and Steve Harris has some very basic knowledge about how to buy bandaids on Amazon (lmao). The trick is finding the time and money to buy all this stuff.
And as with many of these articles, I’ll say that ideas like this kit are great brain food when you think about prepping, but if you don’t have sufficient food and water at the ready, there is no way you should be putting money into these things. What is sufficient? A year is not crazy, I can tell you that. And if you have a lot of people in your group, that’s a lot of food. I’ve written so many of these articles that I have the luxury of spending money on projects like this because the company pays for them. I hope there is no disaster for this fool to rush into, but in case there is, I am as well supplied as anyone. Now I have to just learn how to do stuff lol.