Building a marine medical kit (Part 1)

I’ve just ordered the components for our onboard medical kit. Our medical kit is extensive and was not cheap. My goal was to be able to treat ailments and injuries in an off-shore situation where help might be 24+ hours away. I also wanted a kit that was sized for our family. We have four little kids.

Most off-the-shelf medical kits are designed for adults. Medication strengths and ready-made splint sizes, for example, are different for children. And, who among us, wouldn’t want a cherry-flavored tongue depressor if there was one available.

I really enjoyed researching the components of our medical kit. My research took me to web sites for off-the-shelf medical kits – from the cheapest imaginable to expensive, comprehensive professional kits.

I read web content from industry experts and doomsday preparedness folks. This self-sufficiency web site will teach you how to staple skin by practicing with bed sheets, for example.

I should point out that I am not a doctor, dentist or burn expert. But, I have taken Wilderness Medicine and CPR courses. The purpose of this blog post is to share some of the resources that I discovered while researching the contents of our marine medical kit. (Don’t sue me if you decide to buy a skin stapler and ruin a perfectly good bed sheet.)

Medical kit resources

To build our medical kit I used the collective wisdom and supply lists of various off-the-shelf medical kits, including:

The Adventure Medical Kit Marine 3000 is organized into colorful, ailment-specific pouches. The supply list is detailed enough that I could order my own products online.

The OceanMedix Prescription Medicine Kit includes over-the-counter medications and prescription medications. The premise behind the prescription kit is described by OceanMedix co-founder, Denny Emory as follows:

…getting sick is far more common than getting injured. Six out of every 10 calls for medical consultation at sea result from illness rather than injury, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and offshore sailing organizations.

I’ve ordered virtually all of the medications online. The first of our over-the-counter medications arrived today as my husband awkwardly said, “Here’s your bottle of…” and trailed off as he abandoned our new bottle of Stool Softener on a counter.

The WaterJel Burn Kit may be overkill for our needs. But, like the cautious mom that I am, I want to be prepared.

The Suture/Syringe Kit is there if we need it. I don’t know how to suture or insert needles. But, I’d like to have my own supplies in case we need them at a hospital in Cuba, for example.

Useful websites

Our medical kit was further enhanced after reading the following websites:

The dental website drew my attention to the Save-A-Tooth product. There’s probably a DIY method to store a tooth for up to 24 hours. But, with sketchy Internet access, and in a toothless panic I shall defer to the dentist’s suggestion, and just buy the product he recommends. I also learned that not all dentist mirrors are created alike. Some use glass mirrors and others use cheap plastic.

Finally, IndefinitelyWild’s survival website suggested duct tape. Excellent. And, it was on this website (and some poking about elsewhere) that I learned about SAM splints, and that I can buy a SAM splint sized for children.

I expect to complete our medical kit in the next two weeks as products arrive. I will also be building a separate medical kit for our ditch bag for our life raft. Following the modular layout of the Adventure Medical Kit Marine 3000 I plan to organize the contents by ailment and bag and label absolutely everything.

Stay tuned!


  1. After having made many first aid kids with the goal of using with kids (15 yrs and counting now!) here are my MUST haves that are often forgotten in the kits

    – Blister bandaids. These are so useful… Half the time someone asks me for a bandaid, it’s for a blister.
    – Moleskin. I cut it into 1″ squares and 2″ squares, so that I can just peel and stick. You put it on anywhere that’s getting red from rubbing, before you get a blister. Or, for that pair of shoes that is constantly giving you blisters in the same place, you can just stick the moleskin to it instead.
    – Knuckle and fingertip bandaids. These are basically a butterfly shape, and come in so handy with kids. Wish they’d make them in colourful patterns…
    – About 300% more bandaids than the official gov’t first aid kits recommend….
    – several wickedly effective tweezers. The pointy kind. Because you always lose a few, and when my niece the 6 yr old has a splinter and is screaming and thrashing, I can’t afford to have misplaced them or to miss getting that sucker out the first time. (PS Carbon fibre splinters suck the most, from my own experience)
    – Eye washing cups. You can likely find water pretty easily (though saline is better) for flushing, but the cups make it really easy for getting stuff out of kids eyes, as they don’t have to hold their head under your water bottle/tap. I have improvised with styrofoam while trying to coax live insects out of the eyes of three different children. Then I found little medicine cups, put them in all the first aid kits I could find, and… haven’t needed them yet :(. But SO worth it if you need them.
    – CPR single use face shield. If space and weight is a concern for your kit, st.John’s has just started making a single use CPR Sheild that’s basically a plastic sheet with a vent in the middle. Less protection, but better than nothing and makes such a difference to size/weight. Unfortunately I have no idea where to get these, aside from begging my first aid instructor for two.
    – steri strips. Also known as wound closures, Steri strips are your best friend when it comes to probably needing stitches but not knowing how. You clean things as best as possible, then dry off the sides of the wounds and pull the area shut. My mom is a nurse and it was one of the first things she was always insisting HAD to be in every first aid kit.
    – AfterBite or ways to deal with the itching…. Comes in many forms, like topical spray on Benadryl, AfterBite, AfterBite kids (baking soda paste that is awesome), and calamine lotion. There are more but those are my favourites. You can also crack open an aloe plant (scissors are useful for the big ones) and hold it to the bite as well, as I learned first hand on a hike in Angola when a wasp stung me and we had no ice… i finished the hike, though 😀
    – nail clippers. You have them in the bathroom, but I keep a pair in the first aid kit. There is nothing worse than trying to cut off extra hanging bleeding nail with a pair of shears because you couldn’t find the nail clippers when you needed them. Believe me. Only took me two episodes to decide to keep that in there.

    Anyways, hopefully that’s way already on your list! -Janice


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