True North Blog

A New Life Saving Tool for Your First-Aid Kit

A New Life Saving Tool for Your First-Aid Kit

Consider the following scenario:

You and the other members of your group are finally relaxing around the evening campfire after another long day of hiking in a remote section of Allegheny National Forest. Suddenly, the shared banter and laughter is interrupted by a loud cry from your friend who, sitting just across from you while whittling, just sliced deeply into the back of his hand with his knife. As he leaps to his feet, you immediately see the blood begin to pour from the wound and vigorously drip from his fingers. You recognize immediately that this cut is bad … very bad. A knot forms in your stomach because you also know that it will realistically be almost twenty hours before he can get proper medical care. After all, the group can’t safely start the hike out until dawn, and not only does there remain a hard fifteen mile hike to the trailhead, but there is probably at least another two hour drive to the hospital. How, then, will you be able to best manage his bleeding and protect the wound?

Now consider your standard treatment option:

Certainly, the bandages and dressings in your standard first-aid kit, which you recently purchased from your local outdoor retailer, will likely work just fine, right? Maybe. Quite likely not.

You realize that the dressings aren’t big enough to fully cover the wound. And they quickly become so blood soaked that they aren’t really helping to control the bleeding. And worse, you realize that was the extent of your supply because the kit is mainly stocked with band-aids for small cuts, and moleskin for blisters. Well, you could use your extra tee-shirt to wrap the wound, right?

Here is a much better choice:

A relatively new bleeding control option is a hemostatic dressing.

Like most medical advances, hemostatic dressings were first developed by the military and saw widespread use in combat beginning in 2003. Now almost every soldier on a battlefield carries some form of a hemostatic dressing.

A hemostatic dressing works in one of three ways: by soaking up the water components of blood, thereby concentrating clotting factors at the site of bleeding; by providing additional factors which promote natural clotting; or physically adhering to damaged tissues and vessels to seal a wound.

The best of use of a hemostatic dressing is where bleeding can’t be controlled by conventional means, like direct pressure, elevation, and pressure points, or where the bleeding is in a part of the body which can’t realistically be compressed, like the neck (A tourniquet would definitely stop bleeding, but would make breathing a bit difficult, eh?)

So far, the first product to move from the battlefield to the civilian market is QuickClot. It looks amazingly simple – just a thick piece of gauze, albeit one that has been chemically impregnated, that comes vacuum-sealed in a heavy-duty foil packet. It is available in a variety of sizes, from 2×2 squares to thick abdominal pads to rolls.

And QuickClot is very easy to use. Simply remove the pad from the packet, apply it directly over the wound, and hold it with pressure for three minutes, or until the bleeding stops. Then wrap a tight bandage over the dressing to maintain the pressure and hold it in place. Typically, it would only be removed by the attending staff in the Emergency Department.

Even better, the product is widely available in the United States, does not expire, and weighs next to nothing.

On the downside, though, QuickClot is not cheap. It ranges anywhere from $10 to $150 each depending on the particular item and its size. However, considering its many obvious benefits, especially when it is a member of your group (or you) who is bleeding profusely, the price suddenly seems amazingly inexpensive.

This is why hemostatic dressings are already a part of True North’s trauma kits.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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