IFAK Vs. Trauma Kit Vs. First Aid Kit: What’s the difference?

Medical terms and slang are thrown around and using the right one can be a bit of a challenge if you aren’t familiar with the medical world.

How are Trauma Kits different from IFAKs or First Aid kits? Aren’t they all names for the same thing?

No. Often items in kits will cross over, but each has its own important role to fill.

Even experienced care givers fall prey to some of the more common misuse of terms and descriptions. You might be wondering about the differences between a trauma kit, and IFAK, and First-Aid-Kit. Since these terms are often used interchangeably, which is the right one for you?

Below is a direct comparison and some of the items you will find in these three types of emergency kits.



  1. IFAK

IFAK is a military acronym that stands for “Individual First Aid Kit.” These complete kits are issued to every solider, sailor, marine and airman in the performance of their duties during combat and peace time operations. IFAKs are stocked with gear designed for catastrophic combat wounds on young healthy males.

In the IFAK are items needed to:

Control major bleeding with:

  1. Combat gauze
  2. Battle Dressings
  3. Tourniquets

Manage airways and breathing with:

  1. Chest seals
  2. NPAs

In the event of a major injury and delayed evacuation, a pill pack of:

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Pain relievers

Basic first aid items:

  1. Antiseptic ointment
  2. Band-aids
  3. Burn Gel
  4. Elastic bandage
  5. Gauze
  6. Prophylactic medications (malaria meds etc.)

Generally, the term IFAK is only used in reference to tactical equipment but is seeing a much broader use of the term in relation to personal medical gear. The basic concept of the IFAK is everything a single person might need for a emergency trauma or first aid.

Since every deployed military member is issued an IFAK and ordered to carry it, medics are taught to use the wounded soldier’s gear first, as a way of extending resources during a multiple casualty situation.

You may or may not see more advanced trauma gear such as needle decompression or cricothyroidotomy (Crike) kits, depending on the unit and level of training.



  1. Trauma Kit

With the promotion of the Stop the Bleed campaign, basic bleeding control is become much more mainstream. Trauma kits are becoming more fashionable as civilians learn how simple it is to save a life.

When deciding what kind of medical kit you need, you should be asking yourself what injuries you are expecting to treat. If you are preparing for treating life threatening bleeding, a dedicated and well stocked trauma kit will help you take care of someone badly injured.

To be a complete trauma kit, it MUST have the following items:

  1. Tourniquet
  2. Wound packing Gauze
  3. Pressure dressing
  4. Chest seals

There are other items that make your life easier, (like shears, gloves, and more of everything) but for a emergency trauma kit designed for handling bleeding and chest trauma, the above items are mandatory.



  1. First Aid Kit

Fortunately, controlling life-threatening bleeding is not something most civilians need to do on a daily basis. Emergencies are thankfully rare. But other types of medical inconveniences happen almost daily.

Small cuts, burns, scrapes and these kinds of medical issues might be the goal of your search. These types of medical kits are often stocked in the home, and the first thing to go is always the band aids if you have three young sons like I do.

These are also the kinds of kits that are found in most office settings for bad paper cuts and perhaps some OTC indigestion and anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

While these kits accel at taking care of the more common injuries you’re likely to see day to day, you are not likely to see trauma gear designed for controlling heavy bleeding.


The “Yellowstone” Trauma Kit – Mountain Man Medical

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