shtf med-kit

Building Your Medical Kit

A medical kit (med-kit) is a bag, box, or other container that is mobile and has everything you need for an emergency situation based on your training and capability.  Just like the efficient handyman or homemaker has their tools or supplies organized by project type or grouped by application, it’s also a good idea to have a single general use medical kit along with other emergency-specific medical kits.

Possible medical kit types include:

  • General use
  • Gun shot wound
  • Trauma
  • Basic first aid
  • Suture
  • Dental
  • Burn
  • Family

This article will focus on building your first med-kit, a general use kit.  I have worked as an emergency health professional for years, and I have seen trauma of all kinds including burns, de-gloving, compound open fractures, dislocations, amputations, gun shot wounds, puncture wounds, and stab wounds, as well as general emergencies.  Building a medical kit is easy for me, and a general use kit is one of the easiest.  I understand that it may not come easy to everyone, so I’ll try to guide you through the supply selection process as we go along.

STEP 1: Pick a Guidebook

Since you’re on, I’ll plug my own – The Medical Prepper Guidebook, 2nd Edition.

TMPG 2E is a guidebook full of high-yield content specifically designed to put you in the driver’s seat for assessing, diagnosing, and treating primary, urgent, and emergent medical issues.

The entire book has been reformatted and I’ve added expanded sections on wound closure (including suturing with multiple techniques), abscess care, and more.

Over 100 topics with entire chapters devoted to pediatric survival medicine, emergency interventions, and dental procedures.

Topic List

  • Medical Prepping
    • { planning, purchasing, paying, prepping }
  • Recommended Training and Networking
    • { extended education, networking }
  • Core Skills
    • { ABCs of emergency & general care, taking vital signs, CPR – basic life support }
  • Medical Kits
  • Sourcing Supplies
    • { controlled supplies without a prescription, antibiotics, medications }
  • Alternatives to Over-The-Counter Medications
    • { diet and physical activity, cloves and clove oil, herbs }
  • Pathophysiology, Anatomy, and Physiology
  • Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment
  • Disease Management
    • Bones
      • { hip fractures and dislocation, femur fractures, finger/toe fractures and dislocations, foot fractures, arm fractures, ankle/wrist sprains and strains, shoulder dislocations, nursemaid’s elbow, broken ribs and flail chest }
    • Wounds
      • { lacerations, abscesses, suturing, stapling, amputation, burns }
    • General Illness
      • { concussion, earaches, eye pain and discharge, sinus infections, throat pain, headaches, nosebleed, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, coughs and colds, hypertension (high blood pressure), appendicitis, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, urinary tract infection, menstruation hygiene, subungual hematoma, in-grown nails, cellulitis, skin tags,blisters, insect bites, muscle cramps, hypothyroidism, allergic reactions and anaphylaxis, sleep and insomnia }
  • Pediatrics
    • { acne, strep throat, ear infections, ADD / ADHD, tetanus, asthma, conjunctivitis (pink eye), diarrhea and constipation, vomiting, lacerations (cuts) }
  • Dental
    • { cavities, subluxation, avulsion, chips, extraction }
  • Emergency Intervention
    • { IV therapy, control of bleeding, blood loss and replacement, needle decompression, CPR, airway management, chest pain }
  • Camps and Clinics
    • { water shortages, dealing with death }
  • Pregnancy and Birth
    • { pregnancy, birth and delivery, circumcision }
  • Community of the Prepared

STEP 2: Pick a Bag


Unless it’s coming from one of us (a medical professional), don’t go for those pre-packed medical kits.  The sellers of these kits tout their value by advertising a high number of supplies that come with the kit when, in reality, there only a few really valuable items and too many alcohol swabs and band-aids.

First things first, though.  A med-kit isn’t just a bag or box with medical supplies thrown in.  There needs to be some internal organization.  So, the first big step is deciding which container to use.  I prefer bags, as they are much easier to carry on your back, over the shoulder, or just holding.  You need to pick a bag that has a lot of compartments and some degree of internal organization.  Here are some of my favorites:

Rothco Rescue

Primacare First Responder

Voodoo Tactical Field Medic

Explorer M2 Corpsman

Kemp Trauma

Pelican 1600

These are five great bag options, and one case option.  Each is large enough to carry a ton of supplies, but is portable enough not to limit your response range if on foot.  My least favorite of these is the Explorer M2 Corpsman.  When I contacted the company about their bag I received a very glib response from their sales representative and I assume they didn’t want their bag tested by a real prepper because of questionable quality.

STEP 3: Pick Your Supplies


For a general use kit, there are some staple supplies you will want to include like alcohol swabs, band-aids, tourniquet, and so on (more detail below).  But you will want to stay away from other supplies that wouldn’t be appropriate for a general kit and would tax your organizational approach.  These include dental items and other emergency-specific supplies.

Picking supplies is easiest when you visualize potential emergency situations and think through the steps required to resolve them.  For instance, someone’s been working outside on a generator trying to repair the pull-cord.  The pull-cord snaps loose bringing a piece of metal with it that gashes their forehead.  You now have a laceration to assess, clean, and suture.  What pieces are required to complete this puzzle?  Here’s a short list:

scalp laceration

  • Sterile gloves
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Hibiclens skin antiseptic
  • Soap and water
  • Light source
  • 1 straight forceps
  • 1 mosquito forceps
  • 4.0 nylon suture or skin stapler
  • Short scissors
  • 1% plain lidocaine
  • 18 gauge 1″ needle
  • 27 gauge 0.5″ needle
  • 3mL syringe
  • Gauze pads
  • Antibacterial balm

You would fix your light source (head-lamp or clamping flashlight), don the gloves, and clean the cut with soap and water, alcohol swabs, and then the hibiclens (using gauze pads as needed).  Next, you would draw up 3mL of plain 1% lidocaine into the syringe using the 18 gauge needle, swap the 18 gauge for the 27 gauge, and inject the lidocaine into the tissue surrounding the cut for numbing.  Next, you would use both forceps and the suture line, or just simply the skin stapler, to bring the skin back together.  The short scissors would be for cutting excess suture line.  Last, you would re-clean the area, dry it, and apply the antibacterial balm.

It sounds simple (well, the suturing part maybe not, but I will explain suturing and stapling in a subsequent post).  Your going through the steps of responding to an emergency and resolving it.  That’s the mind-set you take on when picking your supplies.  Here is a list of the supplies I believe should be in a general use medical kit.

  • Stethoscope
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Gloves (nitrile, not latex)
  • Shears
  • Cotton-tipped applicators (think Q-tips)
  • Medical tape
  • Chlorhexadine swabs or alcohol swabs
  • Ace wraps
  • Adhesive bandages, various sizes
  • Thermometer, preferably not battery powered
  • Gauze, in rolls and pads of various sizes
  • Squeeze bottle (for irrigating wounds)
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Dental floss
  • Liquid soap (small amount)
  • SAM splint
  • Finger splint
  • Otoscope with 4.25mm and 2.75mm specula (just a few)
  • Glucometer (blood sugar check) with test strips and lancets
  • Regular belt (for dislocations)

LAC Kit Option

  • 3.0 nylon sutures (LAC kit option)
  • 4.0 nylon sutures (LAC kit option)
  • 3.0 chromic gut sutures (LAC kit option)
  • 4.0 chromic gut sutures (LAC kit option)
  • 5.5″ mosquito forceps (LAC kit option)
  • 5.5″ straight forceps (LAC kit option)
  • #11 scalpels (LAC kit option)
  • Straight tip small scissors (LAC kit option)

Dental Kit Option

  • Dental Surgery kit
  • Filling kit
  • Crown re-fill kit
  • Baking soda
  • Tooth brush

STEP 4: Pick Your Medicines

tipMedicines expire and some medicines aren’t necessary for a general use kit.  Medicines also dissolve in water so storing your medicines in a water tight container or in waterproof bags within your med-kit will go a long way in keeping your kit viable if dropped in water, in a flood or river crossing situation, or any other scenario where the kit could be exposed to water.

Like picking supplies, visualizing potential emergencies and there solutions is key to picking the right medicines for your med-kit.  Here is a list of the basic medicines I would always include in my med-kit:

General Medications

  • Diphenhydramine (benadryl), 25mg capsules
  • Acetaminophen (tylenol), 500mg tablets
  • Ibuprofen (motrin, advil), 200mg tablets
  • Naproxen sodium (aleve), 220mg tablets
  • Aspirin, 81mg chewables and 325mg tablets
  • Any narcotic pain killers you may have (Rx)
  • Famotidine (pepcid), 20mg tablets
  • Meclizine (dramamine, antivert), 25mg tablets
  • Doxylamine succinate (unisom), 25mg tablets
  • Pseudophedrine (sudafed), 30mg tablets
  • Melatonin, 3mg tablets
  • Loperamide hydrochloride (immodium), 2mg tablets
  • Ducosate sodium (dulcolax), 100mg tablets or capsules
  • Clonidine (catapress), 0.1mg tablets (Rx)

Oils, Balms, Inhalants, and Syrups

  • Olive leaf oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Mullein leaf oil
  • Colloidal silver
  • Elderberry syrup
  • Honey (preferably Buckwheat)
  • Ammonia inhalant
  • Albuterol inhaler (Rx)
  • Powdered electrolytes
  • Glucose quick sticks or chewables
  • Orajel


Antibiotics will be in short supply in an off-the-grid situation.  Antibiotics labeled for human use are available with a prescription from a pharmacy.  However, the exact same antibiotics, including FDA approval and supply companies, are available in the form of fish antibiotics.  See the top seven antibiotics I suggest you stock in the table below.

Here are some common antibiotics and some of their common uses in adults.

Fish Mox Forte (amoxicillin 500mg): Strep throat, 2 by mouth daily for 10 days; Ear infections, 2 by mouth twice daily for 10 days

Fish Zole Forte (metronidazole 500mg): H. pylori gut infection, 1 by mouth twice daily for 14 days; Almost any bacterial STD, 4 by mouth ONCE

Fish Flox Forte (ciprofloxacin 500mg): Urinary tract infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days; Pneumonia, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days

Fish Pen Forte (Pen VK): Dental abscesses, 1 by mouth three times daily for 10 days

Fish Doxy (doxycycline 100mg): Most bacterial tick-borne illnesses, 2 by mouth on day 1 then 1 by mouth daily for 9 to 14 days; Acute sinusitis, 1 by mouth daily for 7 days

Fish Flex Forte (cephalexin 500mg): Urinary tract infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days; Skin infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10-14 days; Ear infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days; Pneumonia, 1 by mouth three times daily for 10 days

Fish Sulfa Forte (Bactrim DS): Skin infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days; Urinary tract infections, 1 by mouth twice daily for 5 days; Acute sinusitis, 1 by mouth twice daily for 10 days

IV Supplies

STEP 5: Pack it

The last step is to pack your kit with organization in mind.  If you end up with a lot of space left over (depending on the bag or container you choose), you can then decide to add some of the optional emergency-specific kits within your general use med-kit.

Most of these supplies can be found in the TMP Health Medical Supply Store.

Just remember – the practice of medicine without a license is illegal.  Read our terms of use.


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Thanks for reading, and happy prepping.