EMS Gear Essentials: What to Pack in Your Tactical Medical Kit

SWAT medics, combat and field medics, first responders, EMTs and privately employed medics need a reliable tactical kit packed with life-saving gear, but knowing where to start can be tough – especially if you’re already carrying 25-plus pounds of mission-specific equipment. 

At bare minimum, you have to carry what your company, unit or team requires in its SOP, but if you’re putting together a custom tactical first aid kit for your own use, you can stuff it with specific EMS supplies you know you’ll need.

What to Pack in a Basic EMS Tactical Kit

Every tactical medical bag needs personal protective equipment (PPE) that keeps medical personnel safe when rendering aid. Masks, gloves and eye pro are mandatory. A basic medical kit also needs:

  • Airway stabilization tools, like pocket masks and manual suction
  • Patient assessment tools, like a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff
  • Routine wound treatment tools, such as tweezers and eye irrigation supplies
  • Trauma shears
  • Trauma supplies, such as Israeli bandages and chest wound injury seals

If you have the space, you can make your basic EMS kit even better based on the types of emergency services you anticipate providing.

Routine Care Medical Kits

If you’re the EMT who’s usually in the rear with the gear, you’ll need a backup bag that includes:

  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Basic wraps and bandages
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Burn care
  • Cold and hot packs
  • Gauze and tape
  • Hemostatic dressings
  • OTC medications for team members
  • Personal care kit, such as insect repellant and sunscreen
  • Extra PPE (gloves, masks and eye protection)
  • Splints
  • Trauma shears
  • Tweezers
  • Wound and eye irrigation supplies

Pro Tip:In an emergency, two is one, and one is none. Extra supplies are essential if you want to keep your charges (and yourself) as safe as possible.

Trauma Kits

Most EMS pros face trauma management. If you expect trauma care to be part of your job description, build out your tactical first aid kit with the following EMS supplies:

  • Abdominal dressings
  • Chest decompression supplies
  • Cervical stabilizer 
  • Hemostatic dressings in several sizes
  • Israeli bandages
  • King tubes
  • Manual suction
  • Seals for sucking chest wounds
  • Collapsible stretcher or litter for patient transport
  • Tourniquets

CBRN Threat Kits

Tactical medical supplies for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats are different than they are for trauma and routine care. If you’re anticipating CBRN action, your med bag may also need:

  • Standard PPE
  • CBRN PPE, such as a pro-mask and gloves
  • Basic decontamination equipment, also known as decon equipment or DQE 
  • Blister care
  • Burn care
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • King tubes
  • Manual suction
  • Pen light
  • Stabilizers for seizures 

If you’re building an EMS tactical kit for yourself or your family, customize it based on the care you expect to provide or require. You may need Epinephrine for allergies or anti-overdose medication like Naloxone, for example. The most well-rounded kits have a little of everything – trauma supplies, basic care and monitoring equipment, and everyday EMS gear like bandages, medical scissors and tape. Because medical gear can get heavy, especially if you're already carrying another tactical kit, use your best judgment to decide what's essential and what isn't for each specific mission. 

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