Medical Volunteer Abroad- 5 Tips for Building a First Aid Kit


5 Tips to Consider when building your 1st aid kit for working or volunteering abroad




When you are heading out for a day of medical work either in rural Kenya or for your local Search and Rescue team…what are you thinking about as you throw items in your bag?



No matter how much medical training you have or how much time you spend abroad, designing the perfect first aid kit can be a little overwhelming! When our teams are working in Kenya, we spend a lot of time walking between rural villages on foot. We are constantly discussing and designing our med kits so they are:


  • Efficient
  • Lightweight
  • Effective


We want to share some of our thoughts and a few resources with you here!


A few thoughts to consider


Consideration #1:

Common Injuries happen commonly: think about the items that you are mostly likely to use ~ Ibuprofen, Blister products, wound care items etc.


Consideration #2:

Think about what really needs to go: there are many considerations when designing a medical kit ~ it depends on the location, the duration of your trip, the time you are spending abroad and the medical expertise of the person carrying the first aid kit. If you are doing hurricane relief work on the coast of Puerto Rico, you probably don’t need to be packing a lot of supplies for cold weather or altitude illness. Likewise, you will want sufficient supplies that cover tropical illnesses and saltwater/ocean injuries.

Consideration #3: 

Think in Systems..then make a System! One of the most helpful ways to create your first aid kit is to think in body systems and pack accordingly such as: Heart & Lungs, ENT, Neuro, GI, Derm. Once you have made a list of all the items you want to bring in each category, make a spreadsheet in a place like google drive that is easy to access and refer to quickly when you are about to head out for medical work, checking each item to make sure your kit is complete.

Consideration #4:

Take time to re-stock your kit: the best time to do this is right after you return from your medical mission or fieldwork. This is the time you have the freshest memory of what you have used from your kit, therefore it is easier to recall what you need to replace. How many times have you reached into your first aid kit wanting a pair of gloves or a bandaid and realized you used them all up the last time you were out??

Consideration #5:

Design a personalized “Quick Kit” and encourage other members of your team to take one with them as well. The quick kit is something that we talk a lot about during our medical mission trips to Kenya. This is the kit that you grab for the day, knowing that if you are truly needing something, you could return back to the local clinic to get a supply from your bigger first aid box if you needed it.

What goes in the “Quick Kit”?

  • Hand sanitizer and baby wipes
  • Wound care supplies: gauze, bandages, tweezers, syringe, steri-strips, Tegaderm
  • Benadryl and Epipen (if available)
  • Scissors, Safety Pins & Tweezers
  • Duct Tape, ACE wrap and Coban
  • Analgesic: Tylenol, Ibuprofen
  • Gloves, Gloves and extra Gloves!
  • Some type of water purification item: Iodine or Chlorine Dioxide
  • Snacks! Energy Bars, Jerky…or Caffeine pills
  • Notepad & Pen
  • Blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, stethoscope and thermometer


If you want to receive a list of our complete MedTreks Medical kit, join our email list! 


Helpful Resources: 

Below are a list of helpful resources that we have come across to help you get started with designing your first aid kit. Enjoy and feel free to make a comment or leave us some feedback!

Mayo Clinic First Aid Kits

Red Cross First Aid Kit

REI First Aid Checklist 

NOLS 27 Item First Aid Considerations


Wishing you all safe and happy adventures! 





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