How to Choose a Pre-Made First Aid Kit

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Reviewed by health expert Sally Russell, MN, CMSRN, CNE

One of the biggest perks of a pre-made first aid kit is not having to remember where everything is during an emergency. When your kiddo scrapes their knee, you immediately know where to get the antibiotic cream and their favorite character-themed bandages.

But choosing a first aid kit isn’t always simple. Grocery stores and pharmacies have several options, but the clerk may not know you well enough to recommend the best first aid kit for your lifestyle. 

Need to stock up on other emergency kits?

This guide will illuminate your personal first aid kit needs and share our top recommendations. You might also like our best fire safety emergency kits and best car emergency kits.

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Choose a first aid kit that fits your unique needs

No matter your needs, there's a first aid kit on the market that will serve you well. If you're a parent of a newborn, for example, you need a kit fitted to an infant’s needs. It would include items to treat croup, earaches, tummy aches, and teething symptoms. If you have pets, you want an entirely different first aid kit with products to remove ticks and treat sore paws.

Hikers and campers have different medical requirements. You spend your time in rugged terrain, which increases your risk for falls and sprains. And if you travel in groups, you may need to purchase a larger first aid kit. For solo adventurers, a smaller, lightweight kit could serve you best.

If you regularly commute or take road trips it's smart to get a car first aid kit that contains flares, jumper cables, water, and food. Those who live in areas with snowy weather should add a blanket and other winter safety items to the kit.

Focus on the essentials when building a first aid kit

First aid supplies

When evaluating or making a first aid kit, focus on the essentials. The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers many of the basic products found in first aid kits. If your kit is missing any of these must-haves, be sure to add them separately.

  • Splints or wraps
  • Gauze pad packs
  • Medical tape
  • Bandages (adhesive bandages, triangular bandage, etc.) 
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Antibiotic ointment or antiseptic wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Aspirin
  • Scissors

There are some optional items you may want to consider too:

  • Insect bite cream
  • Medical tape
  • CPR mask
  • Cold pack
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Emergency blanket

How to safely use first aid products

Each item in a first aid kit comes with guidelines for use. Read these to prevent allergic reactions and other maladies. Many first aid kits also come with an instruction book or recommend attending a first aid class.

Reading the book and attending the class are excellent ideas, but if you face an emergency before you do this, use the five tips below. They can help you take immediate action and keep everyone safe.

  1. Keep the kit in a central location. Keep your first aid kit in an easy-to-access and known location—for adults, not kids—within your home or vehicle.
  2. Examine the active ingredients. Some drugs react poorly with other medications or contain ingredients that could cause a rash. Make sure your products, such as aspirin, are safe for use.
  3. Look for indications of use. Every medication, ice pack, and other first aid item includes indications for use. Follow them to ensure a bandage doesn’t stick to a wound.
  4. Follow the directions. Kids under age twelve usually require smaller doses of medications. Read the directions carefully so you don’t over-medicate.
  5. Remember the expiration dates. Antibiotic cream and other first aid items come with expiration dates. Typically, they lose effectiveness after this date, so make sure you’re aware of when to replace these products. This is particularly important if you're storing prescription medications. Nitro (for someone with heart disease), for example, should be replaced every six months because it degrades and won't work as well.
  6. Keep it cool. Some medications, like insulin, need to be kept cool. If you're storing your emergency kit in the garage or in the trunk of your car, there might be an issue.
  7. Don't use vaseline or antibiotic ointment for burns. It can trap the heat in and continue the burn if the burn is new and intense. Aloe is best.
  8. Nix the aspirin for kids. It's not recommended that young children (infants through school-age) take aspirin, especially if you don't know if they've recently had a viral illness. Children taking aspirin can develop Reyes syndrome, which can be fatal. 

9 best pre-made first aid kits

These best first aid kit recommendations fit a variety of lifestyles, so you’re sure to find one—or pair a couple—that will help you soothe ouchies for every member of the crew (furry ones included!).

1. Coleman Expedition First Aid Kit

For groups list price as of post date.
Read full disclaimer.

If the Coleman brand makes you think of heavy-duty water jugs and coffee thermoses, you’re on the right track. This first aid kit is designed for groups headed to the great and rugged outdoors. We like that it has a semi-hard case to protect the goodies inside. We also like that it's jam-packed with 205 items to keep you prepared for a variety of situations, including cuts and sprains. 

pro Plenty of bandages
pro Organized with "EZ Find System"
pro Durable case
con Includes a razor blade but lacks scissors

2. Trek Proof Compact First Aid Medical Kit

For outdoor types
Red and black compact first aid kit list price as of post date.
Read full disclaimer.

Geared towards people who love spending time outdoors, this kit’s small size is deceiving. It contains almost any bandage imaginable. It has more than 100 items total. Even better, it's inexpensive so you can put a few around the house so they're handy.

pro Variety of bandage sizes
pro Contains a glow stick and poncho
con Difficult to fit in a backpack

3. Sustain Supply Co. 4-Person Emergency Survival Kit

For disasters

If you live in a disaster-prone region, you’ll want to buy this kit. Sure it's expensive, but it's worth it. It features all the supplies needed for four people to survive for three days, as well as a number of first aid items. All of this goes into a backpack so it's easy to carry.

pro Comes with lights and a large first aid kit
pro Enough food and water for 4 people for 72 hours
con Weighs almost 30 pounds

4. Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight and Watertight Medical Kit

For adventurers

The Adventure Medical Kit first aid kit caters to the lone ranger. It comes in three sizes so that you can find the one that fits your needs. Plus, it has three water-proof barriers to keep things dry, even when you're kayaking. 

pro Water-proof
pro Light and easy to carry
con Difficult to open

5. Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker First Aid Kit

For hikers

For lengthy bike rides or hikes in the woods, you can’t go wrong with Lifeline’s kit. It contains fifty-seven items to help with burns and wounds. It fits in a backpack or attaches to a bicycle so you can take it with you anywhere.

pro Super light at 2.7 ounces
con This kit won't help with a serious injury like a sprain or broken bone

6. The First Years American Red Cross Baby Healthcare Kit

For babies

If you have a kid, you’ll wonder how you ever left home without this kit. It meets every requirement for a young child who’s not feeling well. The kit has a thermometer, medicine spoon, nasal aspirator, and more for taking care of tots. It's small so you can toss it in the diaper bag before heading out.

pro Nasal aspirator, digital thermometer, and medicine dropper included
pro Small size
con Doesn't include bandages or medicine

7. Medibag Kid-Friendly First Aid Kit

For kids
Medibag kids first aid kit list price as of post date.
Read full disclaimer.

This Medibag first aid kit truly serves the whole family. It contains 117 pieces, including kid-friendly bandages and stickers. Plus, its friendly look is great for homes with children. The cute pup on the front may just get a giggle out of a tearful patient. 

pro Helps you distract kids while you treat scrapes and cuts
pro Case made of durable plastic
con Looks and feels like a dress-up doctor's kit

8. New Market Squared Pet First Aid Kit for Dogs & Cats

For pet parents

This one's for the pet parents. If you own a kitten or a dog that likes to chew everything in sight—even sharp objects—purchase this first aid kit. It holds 45 items essential to handling a pet emergency. The included emergency care handbook can guide you through some stressful situations.

pro Is compact and easy to take on-the-go
pro Includes a pet emergency care handbook
con Doesn't include any solutions if your pet eats something they shouldn't

9. Thrive Car Emergency Kit

For cars
Thrive car emergency kit list price as of post date.
Read full disclaimer.

Keep this kit in the car. The Thrive Car Emergancy Kit doesn’t have the most first aid items, but it's well-equipped with car emergency supplies. It includes bungee cords, tools, rope, jumper cables, and more to get you out of many different emergency situations. 

pro Contains a flashlight, jumper cables, and a distress help sign
con Includes some basic first aid supplies but is designed to save cars not humans

With the kits recommended and advice given here, you’ll be ready for any emergency. Scraped chins and sprained ankles have nothing on you thanks to your pre-made first aid kit.

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual's unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

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Alina Bradford
Written by
Alina Bradford
Alina is a safety and security expert that has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. Her goal is to make safety and security gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification and paving the way to her current career. Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.

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