The Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is one of the key parts of your kit. Whether you’re an assaulter, sniper, medic or a prepared citizen, when carrying a firearm or if wearing body armor, you should have an IFAK and tourniquet present. The very minimum is a tourniquet readily accessible and deployable for self-aid.


Equipment is one of the biggest issues I see while training people and seeing setups over the internet. Contrary to popular belief, you should only be stocking your IFAK with equipment that you know how to use, as well as what your fellow team members. You don’t want to have a dude walk up to you, uncap an ARS needle, and say “this looks a little long for an IV.” This is why all the IFAK’s the Marines carry don’t have ARS needles and scalpels (love you guys). There’s a reason medical personnel carry more bags around with more advanced equipment.

The minimum equipment that should be carried in an IFAK includes a tourniquet, two chest seals, and a pressure dressing. Additional equipment that is strongly encouraged is an individually sized NPA, Combat Wound Medication Pack, combat gauze (or similar hemostatic dressing), ARS needle (based on training), water purification tablets (depending on mission set), eye shield, and MARK1 kit (depending on mission set).

The number of tourniquets you should be carrying is dependent upon the mission, unit or team SOP’s and the type of kit you are wearing. For instance, for a low vis operation, where concealability is the name of the game, one tourniquet might suffice. The same might not be said for a direct assault on a fortified position in Afghanistan.

For the tourniquet type to be carried, I advise you look at what the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care recommends. The committee is made up of doctors, PA’s, medics, Corpsman and PJ’s. 100% of the committee have downrange experience dealing with trauma injuries sustained on the battlefield. I personally carry the North American Rescue CAT tourniquet as well as the Tactical Medical Solutions SOFTT-W tourniquet.

Location, Location, Location

Location is key when integrating an IFAK into your kit. Whether you’re carrying multiple IFAK’s or just one, your main IFAK that is for self-aid should be accessible by both hands. Unit SOP’s and user preference differ in where exactly to place your main IFAK, but from the 5-7 o’clock position is preferred. Personally, I carry two IFAK’s for use on me, one for self-aid at the 6 o’clock position on my belt, and one for buddy-aid (on me) at the 7 o’clock position on my plate carrier.

Depending on how many tourniquets you are wearing will depend on where you place them. If you are only carrying one, then it should be readily accessible and deployable for self-aid by either hand. If you are of the 1 per limb mindset, then an even amount should be on either side of the body. As with the IFAK, tourniquets should be on your first line kit. Personally, I have two on my belt, to the left and right of my IFAK, and then another two on my PC, one on the shoulder strap, and another next to my IFAK, all reachable by each hand.


One of the biggest things that need to be done once you have an IFAK is training with it. Basic medical skills are a necessity in today’s tactical environment. Make sure you get the training in order to treat yourself and treat your buddy. Basics first, you don’t run before you can crawl. I recommend an EMT or EMR class, as well as a Tactical Combat Casualty Care or Tactical Emergency Casualty Care course based on mission set.


This article was written by Andrew O’Brien, an active-duty Navy Corpsman and former SWAT and intercept paramedic. Any views expressed in this article are solely that of the author, and may not express the official views of the United States Government, Department of Defense, or the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.