DTL Gear Outdoorsman First Aid Kit Review

How much first aid is enough?

Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis

There’s more to being a shooter than just pointing the muzzle downrange and pulling the trigger. Murphy’s Law tells us that “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Just as commercial, over-the-road trucks are required to carry first aid kits and contractors are required to maintain first aid kits on construction sites, those of us who shoot should be prepared to deal with the potential of someone (possibly ourselves) being injured at a shooting range or in the field while hunting, hiking, or camping. The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared,” and we should take that advice to heed.

The problem is, once we make the decision to take a first aid kit with us, how complete does that kit need to be? In my profession, the liability insurers talk a lot about “risk assessment.” That means looking at what could happen, and evaluating the potential risk of that bad thing happening vs. the potential risk of seeing that happen without our having done anything to prepare for it. When it comes to “first aid” kits, prices can range from $5 or $10 at your local pharmacy into the hundreds of dollars. How do we decide what’s enough?

First Aid Kits 101

We need to begin by deciding what we expect from our first aid kit. A kit containing some bandages and disinfectant is fine for situations where the worst you expect to encounter is a small cut, but would obviously be woefully inadequate for a gunshot wound.

Years ago, I was active in a Jeep off-road club. We held frequent trail rides at a commercial off-road park, where one of the park’s regulations was that every vehicle had to have a first aid kit. The regulars all knew this, so it wasn’t a problem. However, once a year we held a big event that was open to Jeep owners from anywhere, not just to our club members. We found that there would always be a few outsiders showing up without a first aid kit. After a couple of years, I addressed that problem by buying a dozen small, personal first aid kits. They weren’t of much use for anything other than a small cut, but we could sell them to the unprepared participants for under ten bucks and it satisfied the regulation. This is the “floor” of the first aid kit market.

The company I bought those kits from has changed the makeup of their consumer first aid kits slightly since my Jeeping days, but they still offer the same basic range of kits. The absolute baseline is a 16-piece (17 including the plastic case) first aid kit that has an MSRP of $3.07. It contains 12 adhesive bandages in two sizes, a small packet of antibiotic ointment, and three antiseptic towelettes. You really can’t get much more basic than this. The company classified this as a “Level 1” kit.

Moving up to what that company called “Level 2,” the kits I bought were 52-piece kits. The exact kits that I bought are no longer offered, but they now offer a 47-piece kit with an MSRP of $9.12, and a 51-piece kit (which bears the same model designation as the kits I bought) with an MSRP of $11.59. The 47-piece kit includes a total of 29 adhesive bandages (in three sizes); 1 butterfly bandage; 1 fingertip bandage; 1 fabric knuckle bandage; 4 alcohol wipes; 3 antiseptic towelettes; a small packet of antibiotic ointment; 2 aspirin tablets and 2 non-aspirin tablets; 1 packet of first aid cream; 1 safety pin; and a first aid guide. The 51-piece kit omits some of the self-adhesive bandages, and adds a pair of nitrile exam gloves; 3 more antiseptic wipes; and an additional packet of antiseptic ointment. One of these kits is what I would consider a (very) basic first aid kit for day hikes or short backpacking trips. The bottom line, however, is that these kits are still only for treating fairly minor cuts and scrapes.

Either of the above kits satisfied the regulations of the off-road park, but were not adequate for even basic first aid at incidents such as traffic accidents. The 106-piece, “Level 4” kits that I bought for my vehicles have also been discontinued. The closest equivalent in the company’s current line is a 130-piece kit that appears to fit in the same plastic case my kits are in. This kit has an MSRP of $19.73. Compared to the 52-piece kit above, this kit includes a lot more self-adhesive bandages, plus some other items that begin to move it toward (but not really into) the trauma response realm: a 4” x 5” cold pack; cotton-tip applicators; a finger splint; a small roll of first aid (adhesive) tape; a sterile eye pad; (8) 2” x 2” gauze pads; (2) 3” x 3” gauze pads; a 5” x 9” trauma pad; and a pair of tweezers. (My vehicle kits also included scissors; I don’t know why these are not included in the newer equivalent kits.)

However, like a serious automobile accident, a gunshot wound is a trauma. Unless it's a very superficial, graze-type wound, even the "Level 4" first aid kit I have for my vehicles doesn't include most of what would be needed to treat a gunshot wound. Why should we worry about that? Because accidents happen. Accidents don't call ahead to make an appointment, and that's why we should always be prepared to respond to them. Ideally, if you have a trauma kit you will also know how to use it. Even if you don't, however, if someone else is present who has the knowledge but not the tools, your trauma kit might save someone's life. That life might even be your own.

Several years ago, a young man posting under the name Tex Grebner uploaded a video to Youtube showing how he accidentally shot himself in the leg while practicing self defense drills at a shooting range. How did it happen? Although how it happened isn't as important to this discussion as the fact that it happened, it seems that he had switched guns and holsters. The first holster had a retention device that was released by depressing a latch on the body side of the holster. The second firearm was a 1911 and the holster didn't have a release latch there, it had a release on the outer side, immediately adjacent to the trigger. When his trigger finger pressed in while he was drawing, it went directly to the trigger. But ... because his muscle memory was still in the routine of using the right thumb to press a release device, his thumb released ... the thumb safety, while the pistol was still in the holster. The video shows what happened, and illustrates for us all too graphically that accidents can happen.

Please note that the video contains adult language!

What you see is what you get

The preceding line-up description is not included because we want to sell consumer first aid kits, it’s to set the stage for the kit sent to us for review by DTL Gear. The DTL Gear Base version kit goes beyond the first aid kits described above by providing more items that might be needed in responding to injuries more serious than a cut or a scrape. It’s also more portable. All three of the above kits are in hard plastic cases. The first two are small enough that they can easily fit into a backpack, or in the cargo pockets of a pair of cargo pants. The larger vehicle kit measures 8” x 9” x 2½” – a bit bulky for a backpack, and definitely too large to fit in a cargo pocket. The DTL Outdoorsman kit comes in a zippered nylon soft pack with Molle strips for belt carry or for attaching to the outside of a Molle-equipped backpack.

The list of included items is fairly extensive:

  • 1 – SWAT-T Tourniquet
  • 1 – Compressed gauze roll
  • 2 – Venting chest seals (for sucking chest wounds)
  • 2 – Wax tourniquet marking sticks (one white, one black)
  • 1 – EMT scissors
  • 1 – CPR mask with valve
  • 2 – Nitrile exam gloves – size medium
  • 2 – Nitrile exam gloves – size extra large
  • 4 – Hand sanitizing wipes
  • 1 – Mylar reflective emergency blanket
  • 6 – 6” Cotton swabs
  • 1 – Stainless steel tweezers
  • 1 – “Splinter Out” splinter removal kit
  • 1 – 1-ounce bottle of sterile eye wash
  • 4 – Safety pins
  • 2 – Triangular bandages
  • 4 – 4” x 4” moleskin (for blisters)
  • 8 – 1” x 3” self-adhesive bandages (fabric)
  • 2 – Knuckle bandages (fabric)
  • 2 – Fingertip bandages (fabric)
  • 2 – 4” x 4” Sterile gauze pads
  • 1 – 5” x 9” Sterile gauze pad
  • 1 – 3” x 5’ Elastic compression bandage
  • 1 – 1” Roll of cloth bandage (“adhesive”) tape
  • 1 – 2” Roll of cohesive bandage (“”Coban”)
  • 1 – Nail clippers
  • 2 – Packets of first aid & burn cream
  • 2 – Loperamide tablets
  • 2 – Diphenhydramine HCL tablets (generic Benadryl)
  • 2 – Packs of two Ibuprofin tablets
  • 2 – Packets of Neomycin antibiotic ointment

There’s a lot more in this kit than there is in the kit I carry in my vehicles. It’s all well and neatly packed into the soft case, but there isn’t any room to spare. The soft case opens fully and lays out flat, to display three sections, each filled with gear. There might be enough space to add one or two additional items if they’re small, but this bag won’t allow you to add a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope.

The DTL Gear Base Outdoorsman First Aid Kit also represents a significant jump in price from my vehicle kits—from the $20 or $25 dollar range to an MSRP of $99.95 for DTL’s Base kit. It’s a big jump, but with the addition of things like a tourniquet and chest seals, it moves the kit out of the realm of a basic “first aid” kit and into the lower end of trauma response kits. For people involved in the shooting sports, that’s a very important distinction, because we can’t effectively treat a gunshot wound (even to an extremity, let alone a chest wound) with a 1” x 3” bandage.

DTL offers two upgrades from the Base kit. The Intermediate kit replaces the SWAT-T tourniquet with a SOFTT-W tourniquet. The SWAT-T is essentially a wide elastic stretch band that wraps the limb being treated and gets tied off. It has some disadvantages as a tourniquet, but it can also be used to hold pressure bandages in place, to hold cold packs in place, and/or to wrap a sprain. The SOFTT-W is a standard 1½” wide tourniquet that utilizes a twist and lock device to tighten it in place. The SOFTT-W is similar to the type of tourniquet used by the U.S. military. The Advanced kit also provides the SOFTT-W tourniquet in lieu of the SWAT-T, and also substitutes a Quickclot pad instead of the standard compressed gauze pad. The Intermediate kit has an MSRP of $114.95, and the Advanced kit has an MSRP of $136.95.


To help me evaluate the DTR Gear Outdoorsman First Aid Kit, I took it across town to spend an afternoon with a friend who has taken some recent training in trauma treatment (not as a medical professional but as someone who wants to be prepared) and who has spent some time assembling his own trauma response first aid kits. His kits are packed into ballistic nylon soft bags that are essentially the same size and configuration as the DTR Gear bag. Plus one. And much of the contents of his kits are close to the contents of the DTR Gear Base kit. He sent me a breakdown of what his kits cost him to put together, and it came to a bit over $80 when he made up the kits a few years ago. Comparing that to buying the DTR Gear Base kit for $99.95, the DTR Gear kit looks like a pretty solid deal, although not a “bargain.” But it saves the hassle of researching what to put in a kit, figuring out how big a bag you need to fit everything, and then shopping for all the items. How much is your time worth?

The downside is that we decided the DTR Gear Base kit lacks a few items that we consider essential, and neither the Intermediate nor the Advanced kit offers a solution. None of the DTR Gear kits include a nasal tube, used for when the airway is obstructed and the first responder needs to intubate the patient to restore air movement. My friend has nasal tubes in all his kits. Discussing this with a friend who is a fellow veteran and who works as a nursing supervisor in the emergency room at a large Veterans Administration hospital, he agreed that a trauma kit should include a nasal tube, and he added that there should also be a small tube of KY Jelly for lubricating the tube for insertion.

All the DTR Gear kits include two-packs of chest seals. This is important for injuries that involve both an entrance wound and an exit wound. If you have only one chest seal, one of the wounds can’t be sealed. This is an example of the axiom “Two is one, and one is none.” The chest seals provided are a venting type; they have narrow bands in the adhesive backing where the adhesive is omitted, leaving channels through which air can be expelled from the chest wound but which will (theoretically) seal up against allowing air to enter the chest. My immediate thought was that this eliminates any need for a chest decompression needle, which is a trauma instrument that should only be used by a trained medical professional or para-professional. However, my friend quickly reminded me that an open chest wound is not the only possible cause of a collapsed lung. Collapsed lungs can also be caused by blunt force trauma to the chest and, indeed, by coughing.

I should have known this. Just a year ago, I was hospitalized for a collapsed lung caused by … coughing. It can happen. For this reason, we agreed that a trauma kit should include a chest decompression needle, irrespective of whether the chest seals are vented or non-vented.

We also didn’t like the either/or choice on the tourniquet. The SWAT-T type has some advantages in some situations, but for a major bleed on an arm or a leg it isn’t the best choice. We think that a fully equipped trauma kit should include both types of tourniquet. DTL Gear offers an option when ordering from their web site to add a second tourniquet, of either type, so for an additional $29.50 you can add the SOFTT-W to the Base kit.

Finally, there’s the question of the DTR Gear upgrade to a kit that includes Quickclot. Disclaimer: I have Quickclot, both the powder type and Quickclot pads, in the items I am assembling for my “bugout” bag trauma kit. My friend reported that his instructor advised against using Quickclot. I referred the question to the VA ER nursing supervisor, and his response was that medical professionals indeed do not like Quickclot, and also that it doesn’t work when/where you need it most. That would be a deep injury affecting an artery. The damaged artery is likely to be deep enough that the Quickclot can’t get to it to staunch the bleeding, so it just creates a mess for the ER doctors to deal with. Consequently, we can’t in good faith recommend the upgrade to the DTR Gear Advanced kit.

Overall, I give the DTR Gear Base First Aid Kit a solid B+ rating. It has almost everything that belongs in a well-prepared sportsman’s first aid kit, in a compact and portable carry bag that has enough space (barely) to add the nasal tube and second tourniquet that we believe should be in the kit.

The DTL Gear kits are not sold in stores. Order directly from DTL Gear on their web site (see below).


The kit we reviewed was provided to us on loan from DTR Gear and will be returned shortly after this review is published. Our thanks to DTR Gear for sending us the kit to review, and to Stephan Evatt of Evatt Marketing and Jacob Paulsen of Midnight Ride Media for arranging the review.

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DTL Gear
PO Box 2133
New Britain, CT 06050
Tel: (860) 881-2575
E-mail: info@dtlgear.com

Web: www.dtlgear.com