Medical kits review: From the uniform LE perspective
The following review comes from the perspective of daily uniform wear for law enforcement. This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all available offerings rather a review of those kits I have used over the years and their general performance and attributes. This is not meant to be a discussion of medical training or proper implementation.
I’ll begin with a list of the products I’ll be reviewing so that you can easily skip ahead:
Chinook Medical – Officer Response Pouch
Dark Angel Medical – DARK lite trauma kit
Blue Force Gear – Micro Trauma kit
Original SOE Gear – Tear off IFAK
First Spear – Self aid pocket and insert
*I will use “Tourniquet” and “TQ” interchangeably
*NPA = Nasopharyngeal airway aka nose hose
* I did not get into the weeds with the cost of each med kits’ contents as this isn’t really the focus of my article and not all of my kits are setup the same. The mentions of price in my analysis are related to my interpretation of those costs relative to the capability of the kit.
Chinook Medical – Officer Response Pouch
The ORP is the pouch I am currently using on my duty belt for daily uniform wear. I have found this pouch represents the best solution for my particular needs. This pouch is 7” tall, 3.5” wide and 2” thick when stuffed. The pouch is designed to be secured via standard Molle straps which are integral to the pouch. The pouch will easily hold:
More could be packed into the pouch but it would require creative use of the space and additional items would not be secured individually. The front of the pouch has a slight teardrop shape and is narrower towards the top of the pouch while the bottom swells slightly. This makes the pouch fairly comfortable for belt carry even while seated. The Molle attachment allows for the pouch to be easily mounted onto a belt and provides some height adjustment for added comfort. The downside is that the pouch does not grip the belt tightly and can move around on the belt if not secured by other means. The pouch features an exterior Velcro loop panel for securing a patch of some variety. The pouch secures via two zippers that run lengthwise along each side of the pouch and end at the top of the pouch. A nylon pull loop is attached to the exterior flap of the pouch and is secured along with the zipper pulls under an integral Velcro flap that prevents zipper slip or accident snag. To open the pouch users simply grab and swiftly tug down on the pull loop. This will unzip both sides of the pouch and the contents become accessible. The ORP is the best balance of size and capability I have found for a daily uniform carry IFAK thus far.
+One of the cheapest options
+Smallest perceived footprint
+Form fitting design is comfortable for daily belt wear
+Able to carry all needed supplies
-Contents not on a removable sleeve for easy access
-Molle attachment creates slop when belt mounted
-Pull loop is not very long nor a differential color for easy discernment
Dark Angel Medical – DARK lite
The DARK lite is currently being used on my training / range belt; it rode on my duty belt for a short period of time before I switched back to the ORP. The lite is 4” by 6” and 3.5” thick when stuffed (Dimensions do not include externally attached TQ). I have found this pouch to be a great balance of size and capability. The pouch can be secured by either integral Molle straps or included Velcro based belt loops. This pouch is sold with a dedicated medical supply suite that includes:
– 1x QuikClot Combat Gauze LE or MIL or ChitoGauze XR Pro
– 1x 1 pair of Hyfin Vent Compact Seals
– 1x 1 pair Nitrile Gloves
– 1x Compressed Gauze
– 1x H&H Mini Compression Bandage
The pouch is specifically designed for this medical supply suite and although other supplies could be utilized there is no integral organization or removable sleeve. The medical supplies are individually packaged by their respective manufacturers and then all of the contents are sealed together within a vacuum sealed plastic bag. The pouch is essentially a box shape based on the shape of the packaged medical supplies. The pouch features a stretch panel on the front of the pouch as well as a shock-cord based TQ retainer on each side of the pouch. The pouch allows the user to carry 3 TQ’s although none of them are enclosed or particularly secure. I run a SOF Tourniquet on one of the side shock-cord attachments which has never come out unintentionally (In part thanks to the groove on the windlass which the shock- cord falls into and firmly retains). I keep a SWAT TQ in the front stretch panel but have found that this regularly becomes dislodged when getting into or out of a seated position. The pouch lid is secured by a Velcro flap that tucks into the pouch behind the medical supplies. There is a nylon pull tab that protrudes from the top of the pouch and allows quick access to the medical supply suite. The lite is a good balance of size and capability but the squared off shape and lack of internal TQ storage make it less than ideal for daily wear.
+Multiple attachment options
+Medical supply suite is extensive
-Blocky shape is not particularly comfortable for belt wear while seated
-TQ attachment points do not prevent accidental dislodging or abrasion
-TQ attachment points are prone to snagging if no TQ is attached
Blue Force Gear – Micro Trauma kit
The Micro kit design stems from a design originally put out by Cleer medical a couple years ago. The design is simply a tri-fold removable placard which fits into a stretchy sleeve made from materials we know and love from the 10-speed line of pouches. The placard features two pull handles that protrude from the sides of the pouch and allow it to be easily pulled from either side of the pouch. The pouch measures 4” by 5.5” and 2.5” thick when stuffed. This kit can (and should) be purchased with the following medical supply suite:
– QuickClot Combat Gauze
– HyFin Vent Chest Seal (2 seals included)
– Cleer Medical Trauma Bandage 4” Flat Pack
– Decompression needle
– Six 2” x9” Frog Tape
– Size 28 Nasopharyngeal Airway
– Heavy Duty Medical Gloves in tan (1 pair)
This pouch is designed around these medical contents. Although you can buy the pouch without these medical supplies it should be noted that an attempt to stuff the pouch with standard sized medical items will be an exercise in futility. The items included in this comprehensive kit are specifically sized for this unit and are smaller than their off the shelf counterparts. The end result is a remarkably complete medical kit in an astonishingly small footprint. The placard is easy to remove from the pouch with a swift tug to either side, the placard is retained by both Velcro and the tension of the stretch side panels, the placard is not likely to become snagged or dislodged accidentally. All medical supplies contained on the placard are held in place by bungee straps and are well retained without risk of easily falling off. The only real downside to the design of this kit is that there is no integral means of carrying a TQ. The pouch is available in either dedicated belt or Molle attachment systems. The exterior of the pouch includes a laser cut cross shape with several plastic inserts that allow the user to select the best color configuration for the cross based on their environment. Overall this is a winning design and will be right at home on a battle belt or plate carrier. It is however a bit awkward for use on a uniform wear duty belt due to both its form and its deployment. With all the crap most of us are forced to wear on our belts it would be difficult to find enough space on a duty belt to not only place the pouch but also allow its effective deployment. If you are less circumference challenged than I perhaps it would work but YMMV. Remember that you will also need to carry a TQ independent of this kit which will take up even more space on your belt.
+Exceptionally well thought out design
+Easy to deploy
+Comprehensive medical supply suite
-Horizontal deployment requires dead space to either side of the pouch
-Custom medical supplies raise the price
-Initially stuffing the placard is a major pain in the ass
-No integral TQ storage
Original SOE Gear – Tear off IFAK
(The website shows a newer version than I have and will be describing)
The Tear off IFAK (TOI going forward) is a 2 part design. The pouch itself is a quad-fold design that secures via overlapping Velcro tabs. The pouch then attaches to the mount via Velcro and is also secured by a fastex type buckle on Y shaped straps. The mount panel is secured via MALICE clips. The overall package is 4” by 6” and 4” thick at the fastex buckle. The pouch has several straps and pockets and will easily fit:
The TOI uses a quad-fold design secured by Velcro, there are red nylon pull straps that assist in opening the pouch itself. In order to remove the pouch from its mount the user must unbuckle a fastex style buckle and pull the pouch away from the mount. Personally I don’t like the idea of fumbling with a small slippery buckle while bleeding but that’s just my opinion… At the top and bottom of the pouch are small nylon loops that allow the attachment of a TQ when utilized with a Tourniquet Now. Although not integral to this pouch the capability is appreciated. At the end of the day the TOI is a quality pouch and a design that clearly attempts to fit the niche micro IFAK market, however, for me the pouch falls short in a few important categories. The TOI is one of the thickest pouches of the bunch largely due to the fastex buckle, In addition the quad-fold design and layout of the pouch make access somewhat more tedious than other pouches. For buddy aid or first responder use I believe this is an extremely useful design, for self-aid on your duty belt I’d look elsewhere.
+Design takes into account a way to attach at least one TQ
-Removal requires releasing a fastex style buckle
-Design is one of the thickest in the bunch
-Not an ideal design for emergency self-aid
First Spear – Self –Aid Pocket and Insert
The Self-aid pocket and insert (SAP going forward) is a very different design than the others mentioned above. The SAP is essentially a stretchy material sleeve that covers a removable rolled placard. The sleeve itself is attached to the belt via First Spear’s proprietary 6/12’s attachment system. (The design was available with other attachment systems so I won’t discuss issues with the 6/12’s system further) The placard is a long oval shaped piece of material with many different sized stretch loops stitched to the center of the placard running lengthwise. The placard is rolled up and secured inside of the sleeve via Velcro. The entire pouch when stuffed measures 5” wide, 6” tall and 4+” thick. (Thickness is dependent on what items are placed on the placard and how they arranged, the above mentioned thickness was taken without a TQ on the placard and would have increased) The placard is capable of holding just about any common IFAK supply you can think of, I won’t bother going into what’s in mine since the possibilities are basically endless. At the end of the placard is a nylon webbing strip with several red plastic beads attached for easy removal from the sleeve. (It should be noted that careful placement of this pouch is recommended, these grip assist implements are often mistaken by your astute colleagues for something of a slightly more personal nature if the pouch is located too close to the 6 o’clock area of your kit) The placard is easy to remove from the sleeve with a quick tug from either side. Once removed the placard is simply unrolled and access to all items is easy, perhaps most importantly you can clearly see each item without having to move others. Unfortunately that’s about where the positives for this design end. The placard although long is fairly narrow at approximately 4” wide. This means that if left in the packaging the longer items normally found in an IFAK such as decompression needle and NPA will protrude from the sides of the sleeve when stowed. This leaves the user with a rather haphazard looking end result. As discussed the placard has an incredible amount of storage capability, in conjunction with the rollup design this means that the entire assembly can be very small or extremely large based on how and what you stuff it with. The sleeve is obviously designed for a fully stuffed placard, this means that when stuffed with what I consider the bare essentials the sleeve is very loosely draped over the placard. What this creates is a billowy sack that loves to hang up on every snag hazard you bump into. Now worst of all even when stuffed with only these bare minimums the roll up design means that the entire assembly is over 6” thick. Overall this design is too bulky and billowy for use on a duty belt. I would look to this as an option for use as a comprehensive trauma kit on a pack or other supplemental supply source. *It would appear that this item is no longer available through First Spear’s website and may no longer be in production.
+Roll up design makes identifying and retrieving specific items a breeze
+Tons of space for supplies on the placard
-Extremely thick design
-Billowy sleeve is a major snag hazard
-No one likes looking like they’ve got personal pleasure toys hanging off their kit
As you can see I’ve tried several different options over the years to fill my need for a daily uniform wear IFAK solution. Since none of us get to carry a medic around on our back we have to have the necessary supplies to save our own skins. I won’t get into the training you should have and the basic skillsets you should master; that’s an entirely different discussion for a different day. As with anything there is a delicate balance between having everything you need and having the ability to effectively carry it with you. Perhaps most important is the end user’s ability to quickly access the needed supplies, having a TQ in your patrol car 50 yards away won’t help you when your femoral has been severed. You owe it to yourself and more importantly your loved ones to have lifesaving medical supplies on your person.
Take the time to investigate your options and do your due diligence. Take my $.02 or leave it but hopefully the above helps you make an educated decision on how to best spend your money. Remember that it’s not always the kit blowing up social media that will best fit your needs.
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