Scot’s Product Review: Chinook MinimalistPak

Chinook Medical Gear, Inc. calls the kit I’m reviewing the MinimalistPak. They mean minimal in terms of size and cost. It’s not minimal, however, in terms of what you can do with it. It’s a good basic kit for handling most of the injuries one might get on a hike or perhaps while doing a roadside repair on a recalcitrant car. It can handle a good sized cut, though I would want more with a gunshot wound or other major injury. It is one of the seven kits available in their PAK line of first aid kits.

The kit comes double sealed. The first layer is a heat-sealed, zip closure plastic bag, which protects the kit that is packed in a LOKSAK OPSAK– a high quality waterproof clear plastic pouch that also has a zip closure. These bags are serious business; think sandwich bag on steroids. It is rated for keeping the contents dry down to 200 feet. I had no way to test that since I avoid places where I can’t breathe without extra gear, but it is comforting to see that level of confidence in the packaging. This version of the bag is also supposed to contain odors.

Here are some of the details on what you are getting:

Dimensions: 3.75” x 8” x 2.25” Weight: 9.2 oz

PERSONAL PROTECTION: 1 Emergency/Survival Blanket; 2 Nitrile Gloves, LG, BK; 3 Personal Antimicrobial Wipes

IMMOBILIZATION: 1 Elastic Bandage Wrap, 2″x4.5 yd

INSTRUMENTS: 1 Tweezers; 1 Flat Duct Tape, 1.89″x2 yd, OD

WOUND / BURN / BLISTER: 1 Trauma Pad, 5″x9″; 3 Burn Jel, 3.5 g.; 1 pkg Band-Aid, 30 ct; 6 Knuckle bandages; 6 Moleskin; 1 Stretch Gauze 3″x12 yd; 1 Suture Strip Plus, 0.25″x4″; 2 Non-Adherent Dressing, 3″x4″ 3; Povidone-Iodine Prep Pad; 4 Sterile Gauze Pad, 3″x3″

MEDICATION: 2 Aspirin, 2/pk (Analgesic); 2 Diamode, 1/pk (Anti-diarrheal); 2 Diphen, 1/pk (Antihistamine); 2 Ibuprofen, 2/pk (Anti-inflammatory); 3 Hydrocortisone 1% Creme, 1.5 g; 3 Triple Antibiotic Ointment, 0.9 g; 1 Oral Rehydration Salts, 12.5 g

Chinook is marketing this as a highly portable kit that you can have close by at all times, thanks to its small size and light weight. Since it only costs $27.00, it is also an economical solution, economical enough to be able to have several kits. There could be one in every car as well as one at home and another at work. When you need first aid, you need it now, so keep a kit close by.

Most of the contents in the kit are in their own zip closure plastic bags, for extra protection as well as to keep the contents sorted. The tweezers are held in a small, clear cylindrical container, which is a good thing as they are the sharp pointy ones that work so well for removing splinters or ticks. The container keeps them from punching holes in the LOKSAK or the other supplies. The various pads, suture strips, and gauze items are in their own sterile packaging.

Everything in the kit looked fresh, and the items with expiration dates were reasonably far into the future. I really liked the fact that they marked the kit’s label and supply list with the expiration date of the first item to go. You need to check your kits, by the way, on a regular basis and replace things that are old. Expiration dates are often very conservative, but pay attention to them. Watch out especially for adhesives and elastic items. Heat in a car can shorten the life of these products. Try a Band-Aid or two to make sure they still stick. See if the elastic bandages are still stretchy. Sacrifice some of your old stuff for practice.

Going through the kit, you will find a pair of the exam gloves that we all recognize are needed for dealing with non-family members. I probably won’t waste time putting them on to treat my wife or son (unless cleaning up after vomiting or worse), but I certainly would if helping a stranger. You also get some sterilizing wipes for cleaning up after working on someone. This is always a good idea, especially if dealing with an illness.

You get a very useful elastic bandage that could be used to hold on a dressing, put pressure on a sprain, immobilize a joint, or even make a sling. It could also be combined with something rigid to form a splint. It has a Velcro tab on one end to help secure it in place. I will admit to preferring cohesive wrap, which does pretty much the same but sticks to itself, so you don’t have to worry about making it stay on. The traditional elastic bandage is thicker, so you have to use more cohesive wrap to get the same amount of pressure. Cohesive costs more, though, and this is an entry level kit aimed at getting you a lot of capability for not much money. These types of products aren’t sterile, by the way, so you don’t want to put them directly over a wound, unless it is all you have and you are trying to stop bleeding.

Don’t joke about the duct tape in the kit. It is very useful stuff for first aid. You can use it to hold on a bandage, secure a splint, fashion a makeshift tourniquet, close a wound, or roll it up for someone to bite on if they are having a seizure or need a bullet to bite on for pain. Some people swear by it for protecting blisters, though I would want something between the blister and the tape. One instructor told me it wasn’t needed, but the thought of peeling it off a blister doesn’t sound like much fun. What’s really nice about the duct tape in this kit is that it is flat and has a backing you peel off before using. That saves room over the usual roll form. There isn’t enough here to make one, but I’ve seen stretchers made from the stuff too, so it doesn’t hurt to keep a roll nearby.

You get a nice pair of small tweezers that are not only great for splinters and ticks but also holding all sorts of other things. Just remember when you borrow them for some non-medical chore to put them back afterwards.

There is a pretty fair selection of dressings in the kit. There are a bunch of Band-Aids– 30, in fact, including small ones, medium- sized ones, and large ones for all those various wounds and scratches we get so often. You get moleskin for blisters and some knuckle bandages. You then move up to the bigger stuff. I really like suture strips for holding cuts closed, and you get a set of them. Even minor cuts in bad spots can be really annoying and take forever to heel, if they keep opening; suture strips will help them heel far faster. You then find some basic 3”x3” gauze pads, which can be used for cleaning wounds or covering them. They aren’t the best thing for a burn, though, but you also get some non-adherent pads that won’t stick. If there is bleeding, you get a combine pad, also often called a trauma pad. Finally, there is roll of gauze bandage that could be used directly on a wound, as it is sterile, or used to hold another dressing on. I’ve seen makeshift slings formed with the stuff, and you could use it to pack a deep wound, such as a gunshot.

One product I was not familiar with in the kit was WATER-JEL BURN JEL. It is a thick liquid for minor burns, which we all know can be very painful. I actually got a patient for it the day after the kit showed up when my nine-year-old spent too much time in the sun and got a pretty parched face. He said it really helped, though it gives off some fumes that he told me made his eyes sting a little. I watched when he put it on, and he didn’t get in his eyes; so, I suspect it was the tea tree oil or lidocaine in it that bothered him. He said it helped the burn enough to make the sting worth putting up with. When I looked the stuff up on Amazon, I found that it gets enough rave reviews to provide a vote of confidence in it. I’m going to buy a box of the packets as minor burns are common during Scout camping.

There are some packets of Povidone-iodine wipes to get things clean before putting those dressing on.

You get some meds too. There is the usual aspirin, and they also give you some ibuprofen. Although aspirin will work as an anti-inflammatory, my doctor says ibuprofen is better. I was happy to see an anti-diarrheal as well as an antihistamine. The runs and allergic reactions aren’t fun, so it is nice to have these along. I might have also liked having some acetaminophen in the mix. It’s good for kids. There are also some people who feel it works better for them than the other two.

As expected, there are some packets of antibiotic ointment for wounds and hydrocortisone ointment. The last is very welcome for skin irritation from allergic reactions or rashes. Itching is not fun, and this stuff can help take it away.

A surprise for me in this kit was the packet of rehydration salts. It’s good to have this stuff around in the event someone forgets to drink enough or they have an illness with a lot of vomiting and diarrhea. You don’t often find this in an entry level kit, but I think it reflects Chinook’s desire to make this a good kit for outdoors folks. You can make your own for less, but it won’t be sealed in a long life packet.

Chinook is very generous with some of the small items, and you may feel you could remove a few of them to make the kit more compact. These are things like the small Band-Aids, mole skin, and knuckle wraps. I haven’t been able to use this many Band-Aids on a Cub Scout Pack camp out, which usually is a major consumer of them. If you live in a really warm climate, you might consider ditching the survival blanket, but I’ve heard of people dying of hypothermia in South Florida, so I wouldn’t. When you use one of these for a cold victim, don’t be concerned about its lack of insulation. They are amazing at reflecting and retaining one’s own body heat. We almost gave the practice patient a heat stroke when we wrapped him with one in a first aid class. It was only about 70 degrees, but we had him sweating in under a minute and begging to get out. The blanket also makes a very visible signal device and can serve as a makeshift poncho or shelter to keep you dry.

Okay, so what’s lacking here? Considering the price, that isn’t a fair question. A better question would be what should you add after getting this one. Well, it is one of a series of compact kits Chinook is offering. The first one that draws my eye is their BleederPak. In a survival scenario, having someone bleed out would be really awful. A real tourniquet and compression bandage could make the life or death difference. You get that in this kit. It comes with the SWAT-T tourniquet, which I’ve written about before. It is a wide elastic band that you can wrap tightly around the affected limb. I’ve seen highly positive reports on it, and my doctor thinks it is a better mousetrap than the strap types, both for stopping blood and doing less damage. My only concern is that I think I would have much more trouble self-applying it than I would one of the strap ones. They cost more, though, so this is a good choice for this sort of kit. You also get a QuikClot dressing with a hemostat in it to stop bleeding. There is a compression bandage and some compressed gauze you can use to pack a wound. This kit adds a tremendous amount of capability to the MinimalistPak. It also comes in the LOKSAK for protection.

From here, I would probably get the GermPak which they might want to call the Germ-HeartPak, as it includes a face mask for CPR. You also get some more antiseptic wipes, two respirator face masks, more gloves, and a bag for bio waste.

The ToolPak would also be on my list, competing with the GermPak. It gives you some very useful EMT shears (so you can cut clothes or bandages off people without adding to their wounds), a thermometer (important for illnesses and monitoring for infection), a penlight, a marker, and more duct tape. There are also some safety pins that can help hold bandages together or hold wounds together.

Like all of the other Paks, these two come in LOKSAKs.

The prices are:

  • MinimalistPak $26.95
  • BleederPak $34.95
  • GermPak $9.95
  • ToolPak $21.95

You can also buy their Chinook6Pak for $119.95. In it, you get all of the kits, less the MinimalistPak, but all of the items from the Minimalist are contained in other ones. You could then go to the home store and get one of those tool bags they usually have on sale and have a very capable kit.

Chinook has some reasonably priced and well thought out kits, and they are worth a good look if you don’t already have first aid capabilities. Don’t forget that you need to have this capability with you. That means having more than one kit. You need one in each car, at home, and at work. It gets pricey, but that’s life… or death.

Chinook is based in Durango, Colorado and assembles the kits using individual items from a number of suppliers.

I want to stress the need for training. I’ve written about this before and, with the tolerance of my editors, I’m going to reiterate that gear is worthless without skills. The Red Cross offers classes around the country. I particularly recommend their Wilderness First Aid class. It was developed with the Boy Scouts of America. It takes two days and helps you deal with things when out of range of immediate emergency response. It is, however, only an introduction and doesn’t deal with some of the issues a prepper might face.

I’ve had recommendations for the following courses from other organizations:

Armageddon Medicine

National Outdoor Leadership School

Remote Medicine International

Wilderness Medical Associates International

Stonehearth Learning Opportunities

Advanced Wilderness Life Support

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of first aid training. These are just the few that I know about that have reputable recommendations. If you know of others, please drop me an email.

Your local college or university may have classes intended for EMTs and paramedics that could be useful, though they are usually based on the idea that there is a trauma center nearby.

You can find tons of videos on YouTube, but I’m leery of them unless I can verify the quality of the people posting the video. Vendors often post videos on how to use their products and those are usually pretty good. A doctor friend highly recommended this one, 9mm vs .45 vs Rifle, A Dr.’s View of Gunshot Wounds. You have to register your age to view it, as it is graphic and restricted to adults. There isn’t as much about treatment as I would like, but it is still an interesting look at gunshot wounds. I say again that it is graphic in parts. I did not enjoy viewing it and had to make myself finish as I thought it had training value.

The bottom line is that you, or someone in your group, needs to get some serious training along with some serious first aid supplies. Ideally, everyone would get a basic Red Cross class and, if possible, the Red Cross Wilderness one. Don’t forget CPR, which you can get from Red Cross or the American Heart Association. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie