This week, we will outline what I refer to as the “medical bucket,” for use in any bug-in scenarios, along with a folding medical bag known as the M3 Medic’s Bag. If you have seen any movie or television show set during the Vietnam War, then you have most likely seen the M3 Medic’s bag. I use it as a quick grab-and-go-style medical kit, and keep it stored inside my medical bucket when not in use. The bucket carries on the tradition I have started by using plain white food-grade five-gallon buckets—available at the hardware store, home-improvement center, or animal-feed store—for storage.
You can also use amazon.com as a one-stop shopping center and order the buckets and lids at the same time. You may want to go with a red-colored top to set your med bucket apart from your food. I tried to go that route, but Amazon wanted to charge me $39.99 shipping to Alaska, so I chose the cheaper alternative—I purchased a white Gamma Seal lid off the shelf at my locally owned hardware store and wrapped the bucket with high-quality red duct tape (shown below). Red means medical. Easy to remember. You can see clearly that I believe in simple and affordable things when prepping; sometimes the process get expensive, and that is unavoidable, but why waste money when you can prep on a budget?
Functional, simple, and eye-catching, that’s what works best in this situation. This bucket isn’t meant to be anything other than a storage place for extra medical supplies that aren’t already in a kit or bag. This is your SHTF medicine cabinet—nothing more, nothing less. If you find you want to have two of them, then by all means, make two. Just make sure you can quickly tell the differences between the contents of each of them. You may even want to have one contain only the “must-haves” and the other contain the “nice-to-haves.” Can you live without Zyrtec? Is it more important than hydrochloride cream? These types of questions should provoke some discussion and thought on the matter of medicine and SHTF.
I use the above setup to also store my M3 Medic Bag. I have a medical kit for the house, and this isn’t it. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Having a well-stocked medical kit for your house or apartment is important, but so is having one for SHTF-type scenarios. Keep them separate. Now, I’m the first to admit I am not a medic or an emergency medical technician, firefighter, or anything close to that. And that’s exactly why my kit is set up for things I know how to treat or will likely have to treat. Scrapes, cuts, bruises, a broken bone, or splinters will hopefully be my biggest medical emergencies in a SHTF scenario.
For the M3 bag itself, just like 90 percent of our gear, it can be found at amazon.com, military surplus stores, or websites that carry a lot of military gear such as ranger joe’s, US Cavalry, Rothco, Cheaper Than Dirt, and OpsGear.com. These are just a few of the thousands of sites you can check out. I chose the Amazon method. They sent me a M3-style bag from Military Uniform Supply Company, and the first thing I did was dump everything out and start to weed through the combat-oriented items and things I honestly had no idea how to use. It comes jam-packed with 136 pieces of medical-related paraphernalia,
Here’s the list:
- 1 EFA First-Aid Instructions
- 10 Pill Bottle
- 16 Bandage Strips 1×3”
- 10 Pain Relievers
- 2 Bandage Gauzes 4.5 yds.
- 2 Triple Antibiotic Packages
- 1 Elastic Bandage 6”
- 2 First-Aid Cream Packages
- 1 Triangular Bandage 40x40x56”
- 1 Burn-Aid Package
- 1 Field Dressing
- 1 SAM/Universal Splint
- 4 Abdominal Pads 5×9”
- 1 Tourniquet
- 1 Eye Pad
- 1 EMT Shears, 7.25”
- 16 Alcohol Wipes
- 15 Iodine Wipes
- 1 Stainless Steel Hemostat, 5″
- 15 Antiseptic BZK Wipes
- 1 Suture Set
- 15 Clean Wipes
- 1 Irrigation Syringe
- 1 Lip Treatment
- 2 Tongue Depressors
- 1 Sterile Flushing Solution.
That’s a lot of stuff in a small bag. I grabbed my black permanent marker and went to work on the bag. I like to label things, because when things go bad, I want people to use their brains for something functional–if they can read what something is on the outside, they are less likely to tear it apart looking for something else. First, I labeled the outside “medical.”
I then unclipped the bag and rolled it open to expose all three major compartments. I labeled the largest compartment with the things I would use most often: scissors, gauze, Band-Aids, and tape. In this compartment, I found that an old screw box with a hinged lid and latch worked well to keep my bandages together in a nice, easy-to-find spot. After that revelation, I figured out an old individual first-aid kit (IFAK) that I had lying around would work very well to keep the antiseptic wipes, iodine swabs, and burn creams all in an easy-to-manage space.
These two containers easily fit into the main compartment and left plenty of room for gauze rolls, stainless-steel hemostats, and a set of EMT shears that came with the kit. The way the kit is set up, you can’t keep everything in one compartment, so I set mine up in such a way that I would only have to use two of them—the far left and the center one. As you can see in the picture below, I have gone overboard on labels, and even a person who has never seen this bag or done anything medically related can figure out where things are.
The second compartment contains several pairs of nitrile gloves, a SAM splint, various dressings, and a tourniquet (which will be replaced with a better one very soon). I chose nitrile gloves instead of latex because most medical personnel use them due to possible latex allergies in patients, but gloves are a must-have in my mind. The compartment is snug but not overloaded, and it still folds like it’s supposed to without binding the other compartments.
The third compartment is a little on the small side, so I decided to put the things in it that would be less “emergency”-related or critical. In it, I placed:
- Two crushable cold packs to apply to sore joints, aches, etc.
- A small bottle of ibuprofen that I had on hand for mild aches and pains
- Sterile eye wash that was supplied with the kit. Honestly, I never thought about getting any, but it makes sense—especially in a situation where dirt and dust may be in higher concentrations than normal.
- Soap for cleaning hands, because they can still get dirty if you rip or tear a glove.
- An emergency blanket, because you never know who might go into shock. When people are in shock, keeping them warm is one of the highest priorities. It’s small and compact, and the emergency blanket might be the difference between someone slipping into deadly shock or not.
I have been honest with the readers here at The Loadout Room about my ups and downs in prepping, and honestly, the idea of a medical bag was not on my list for years. I always put emphasis on firepower, infrastructure, sustainability, and defenses over medical care or supplies. This was terribly wrong on my part. It took some guts to admit that and make plans to change it. This is my first attempt at a medical bag, and I’m still refining it. The medical bucket is easy; it’s a medicine cabinet in a waterproof bucket. Nothing hard about that. It’s what we call “shop stock” at work—you resupply what you used. The bag was a little trickier.
The bag I chose here would be great to toss in your vehicle for road trips or a campout, but honestly, I think that is the extent of its functionality. The size of the bag is initially what drew me to it; this lightweight nylon bag measures 10 x 8 x 4.5,” and weighs 3.7 pounds when loaded according to the manufacturer. It also comes with a rather short sling that attaches to each end of the bag, almost like a satchel.
That concludes our review/buildup of my first medical kit. Feel free to give us your creative input here, on Twitter, or on Facebook. If there is something you want covered, let us know. We have a wide array of personalities and skill sets to be able to give you the very best we have to offer.