Make Your Own DIY First Aid Kit For The Road!

Now that school is almost out (yikes!) and summertime travel is just around the corner…I thought it might be a good time to do something I’ve been MEANING to do for a very long time. Put together a First Aid Kit for the car.

Everyone will need to use a first aid kit at some time…and of course no one knows when that time will be. So, take some advice from the Boy Scouts and BE PREPARED!

Ready-made first aid kits are available from many stores, but you can make a simple and inexpensive kit yourself. A LOT of the items I included in our first aid kit I already had on hand…just needed some sort of carrier to assemble it all in for the car.

Enter the good ol’ TACKLE BOX. This one set me back about $9.95 at Walmart. It’s probably not the color I would have chosen if I’d HAD a choice….but I can live with it. :-)

Since there are about a million different “LISTS” out there of what should go in a first aid kit…I decided to go with a list from a fairly reputable group….The Red Cross. :-)

The Red Cross recommends that all first aid kits for a family of four include the following:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

Here is what you’ll find in MY travel first aid kit (personalized to our family needs):


And last, but not least…..there is no better tool in the event of an emergency than a CELL PHONE.  If you can’t access emergency medical services, your car first aid kit is not complete. Cell phones need to have enough battery power to turn on, but they don’t need a service contract to call 9-1-1. Take that old cell phone you don’t use anymore and put it in your first aid kit for emergencies.

Now that your kit is COMPLETE….make sure you know how to properly use all of the items in your kit...and train OTHERS in your family to use it.

YOU may be the one who needs first aid!

Ready to hit the road with an added sense of security! (I should have done this LONG ago!) :-)


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  1. Georgann G says

    Great and timely post! My question: I was under the impression that hydrogen peroxide had to be in an opaque bottle. That is why they sell it on those brown ones. Will it still be effective if stored in a clear bottle?

    • Katie C. says

      I thought the same thing at first about the Hydrogen Peroxide, because it IS sold in a dark container for a reason. But IF I remember my chemistry classes correctly… it’s because there’s a gradual reaction that takes place turning the H2O2 into regular H2O, and that reaction happens more quickly when exposed to light. Hence the dark container. So it doesn’t actually make it work any different by having it in a dark container, it will just last longer. Which is preferable… but since this will be stored in the tackle box and only used every so often, I would imagine being in the dark container would work just as well. That’s just my thoughts on it though!

    • Steele says

      It will store fine in a clear bottle, as long as it is not exposed to sunlight. Over time, however, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) releases oxygen (O) and you are left with water (H2O) and even under ideal conditions, will break down from 2% to 1% in about a year. So you have a less potent product. Higher temperatures increase this action. So if you store hydrogen peroxide in your vehicle in the summer you may want to replace it after six months/end of the season [i.e. first day of spring/first day of fall].

      Additionally, if OTCs are exposed to higher temperatures, this greatly shortens the potency of the medication, and could reduce the expiration life from approximately 18 months to around 6-12 months. And sometimes it actually alters the chemistry of the medication [like tetracycline, which actually changes into a different "chemical" and can cause kidney danger which is why you don't want to take tetracycline after expiration, and don't store it in a hot environment, as it shortens it's lifespan].

      It’s wise to not only label these types of bottles with what it contains, but also label with the expiration date, and the date it was placed into the first aid kit, remembering that if the items have been exposed to higher temps, their shelf life has been greatly decreased. Personally, I replace all OTC’s in my “kit” every six months. And since they are basically “trial” size, or small amounts, it’s not a terribly expensive cost.

      Jillee, I would include one more thing in your kit. For burns whether they be an actual burn like from fire, or from sunburn. I would get a can of Dermoplast [red can, pain relieving]. It’s a great product for just about anything from cuts, to burns to insect bites.

      I’d also suggest that you get some providone iodine for cleaning, as alcohol is kinda harsh on for cleaning wounds as it may destroy tissue. Use the alcohol to “sterilize” items like your tweezers and your thermometer. And in a pinch, you can use straight alcohol as a hand sanitizer, so you don’t need to add that to your kit. That’s all a hand sanitizer is, alcohol, a jell product, and sometimes aloe so you don’t dry your hands out. [DIY idea!]

      And one more thing I’d add, is Hibiclens. It’s a antimicrobial skin cleanser with time extending anti-bacterial properties for wound cleaning. It’s great for prevention of MRSA.

      And a few instant cold packs.

      Oh yea, and a couple of “feminine” supplies.. you never know! And believe it or not, they are great for dealing with bleeding wounds when you have nothing else.

      That’s one problem with making up a first aid kit, you realize there are a few things that you forget and you soon realize you need a larger container [box or backpack] for those things.

    • says

      Essential oils are helpful in a MYRIAD of first aid applications. I am a novice at this stuff…but certain plants like lavender help relieve mild burns or cleanse small cuts. My sister-in-law was stung by a bee at a BBQ we had on Mother’s Day and a little lavender oil on the spot completely took the swelling down and the sting away.
      Peppermint helps with stomach discomfort. I only included those two oils, but there are many more that COULD be included. Hope this helps. :-)

  2. gabbie says

    they sell the instant cold packs the dollar store and because of youth sports we have used them more than any other thing in our first aid kit.

    i like the idea of a tackle box I think i will keep my keep out for a cheap one to use that can fit under our front seat

  3. Dina says

    I was wondering about leaving it in the car? Will the extreme heat or cold effect any of the products in the kit especially the medications? I keep a first aid kit with us whenever we go anywhere. I always take it in the house and grab the kit when we are leaving the house so of course it has been left behind many times.

  4. Karie says

    FYI – in the heat your lip balm and vasaline will melt so you might want to put them in a seperate baggie…Found this out the hard way….Thanks for the great post today!

  5. Pippa Griffin says

    The one thing I would add to your kit is a small container or tin of real aspirin – can be generic. This is vital in case someone may be having a heart attack and can be administered under the tongue immediately. Do NOT get the variety that is enteric though – you need the cheap fast dissolving variety. I carry aspirin in my purse at all times and in the past 10 years have helped two friends! It is also indicated when stroke may be a possibility. Such a cheap drug, but such a vital help in such times.

    • Brandon Edwards says

      EXCELLENT advice on carrying aspirin (instead of only acetaminophen) and its use for heart attack victims. You should give the person two pills; tell them to chew up the first one and then swallow the second…but, as a soon-to-be Registered Nurse, I must correct you on the use of aspirin for stroke victims. There are two types of stroke…ischemic and hemmorhagic. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, you would not give aspirin because you would be unable to differentiate between the two types and, if they are having a hemorrhagic stroke, giving aspirin would cause them to bleed out faster.

  6. Char Haas says

    Don’t forget a second first aid kit for your boat, if you have one. We had a friend trying to repair the motor on his speedboat on the water cut off the tip of his finger on Monday. Thank god for the boy scouts, and that my 14yo son decided to go at the last minute. He was the one who got the finger field dressed and hailed a passing fisherman for help, as it was the injured man , my son, and two other young teens in the boat at the time.

    SO make certain that you have a kit in EACH car, and in any other vehicle (boat, cycle, ATV, snowmobile)- and that every one in the family has some idea of how to use it.

  7. Catherine's not naturally crafty says

    I always keep a cheap plastic eye cup and a sealed bottle of saline solution for rinsing out the sand/dust/bug whatever from the eye. Quick removal of the irritant can really make a difference between getting back on the road or in the game and otherwise heading to the Dr to look at the scratched cornea. Plus the saline can be used to clean all kinds of owies prior to bandaging. And a roll of duck tape which in an extreme emergency (major Trauma) can be used to close large wounds, and act as a tourniquet and hold the muffler on :)

    Last but not least, there is always a roll of TP. Again, good for clean pressure bandage and for the obvious emergency that involves a bush and some privacy.

    But, these are just to control the emergency until you use the cell phone and the paramedics arrive.

  8. says

    May I add one reminder? I recently had to dig out my seldom used first aid kit from my car to retrieve the tensor bandage (I still don’t know where our other one went!) and I discovered that the Tylenol I had placed in there had expired. Eleven years ago! So my reminder is to make sure that you don’t forget about your kit, and keep all products up to date.

  9. Amy says

    The eye cup is a good idea for if you get chemicals in your eye that you need to flush out. I made first aid kits when I was in 4-h as a youngster, I also did a horse first aid kit for a project to take with me to horse shows. Another one for us was a snake bite kit, we had rattlesnakes in our area and my mom wanted to be prepared, so if you live in the country you might want to think about snakes YUCK.

    • says

      Kyra….(copied from Reply to kim above)
      Essential oils are helpful in a MYRIAD of first aid applications. I am a novice at this stuff…but certain plants like lavender help relieve mild burns or cleanse small cuts. My sister-in-law was stung by a bee at a BBQ we had on Mother’s Day and a little lavender oil on the spot completely took the swelling down and the sting away.
      Peppermint helps with stomach discomfort. I only included those two oils, but there are many more that COULD be included. Hope this helps. :-)

      Here’s a good video I found with more information:

  10. Christina says

    Love this blog! I’ve been planning to organize my car and this post couldn’t have come at a better time! I do want to mention that the chapstick will melt all over the place on a hot day! I know this from personal experience. Unfortunately I usually forget my chapstick in the front console and find a good mess later. :)

  11. Katie C. says

    How about a small bottle with liquid soap also? I can’t find the source I found this on… but I read the other day that if you put a big dollop on a cotton ball and put it on a tick, and swab it for 20 seconds or so that the tick will remove itself on it’s own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you pull it away. Worth a try before taking a chance with tweezers and not getting it all out!

    • Alex B. says

      Please do not suffocate a tick to have it remove itself! This is a huge no-no. When the tick removes itself it vomits all inside your wound. That vomit helps grease its to pull out, and ensures* it spreads any tick-borne diseases it carries to you.

      Please use tweezers or look up the cheap “tick remover” tool. Both are the responsible and safe means of removing ticks.

  12. Maureen says

    I’m an EMT, and my first aid kit that I carry is a bit more extensive…but I do use a tackle box to carry it in. As for chap stick, I make my own, and put it in a screw top container-if it melts due to heat, it is still contained…then I just use a qtip or my finger to apply. Also coban (the dressing that sticks to itself but not to your skin) is roughly $2.25 at the local farm supply store…it is twice as wide (4 inches I think) as what you get at the pharmacy or walmart for half the price…easy to cut the roll right in two, and you have even more, and it comes in all kinds of fun colors. Another consideration to add would be a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

  13. Nicole says

    I’m going to have to do this! We’re getting ready to go on a trip for 2-3 weeks and having this all together will be great. I do want to add one thing – Toilet Paper – because when you have “that” kind of emergency you WILL be thankful! ;)

  14. Amanda B. says

    Great ideas! When my family travels, our first aid kit is supplemented by my husband’s trauma gear. He’s a paramedic and we can’t seem to go on an extended trip without him having to work an accident along the way, so we just add it to the packing list now.

    However, a couple things I like to add are bottles of water for hand/wound rinsing,or radiator emergencies, as well as baby wipes. Baby wipes, whether bought or made, are super versatile and such hard workers.

  15. Penny Hannah says

    Great List Jillee – with everyone else’s suggestions, you’re going to need a suitcase…. One more from me, which has proved useful in my experience [when my elderly mother came a cropper on some rocks], and that was a small bottle of Arnica. It stopped the bleeding and not a bruise or swelling in sight the day after.

  16. jennielynn says

    Gallon size Ziploc bags! They are fantastic, in case someone is carsick and there is NO WHERE to pull over! They also can be used to hold wet messes, like icky bandages or compresses. I started carrying a box with me when I was pregnant with my first and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve replaced the couple I stow in our first aid kit. You should have seen my Brownies faces, when we were assembling our First Aid kits and I explained why mine had ziplocs! ;)

  17. Sarah S says

    Always great to be prepared. Takle box is a great idea, but I think I still have my caboodle from the early 90′s at my parents house!!! Anyone else use to have one of those?? It used to house my scrunchies and fingernail polish, but now it will make a great first aid kit!!! You might be able to find something like that at a secondhand store for much cheaper than 10 bucks. Plus it has a mirror in it :) Score. Thanks Jillee!

  18. Starr Frei says

    This is a really awesome post, we just bought a mini van on Monday, and so I’ve been organizing it all week and am determined that its going to have everything it needs even though we only have one child. We live in Las Vegas and so there is absolutely no way you could ever carry a kit like this in your car except for maybe January, everything would get destroyed from the heat. But we are moving to Great Falls Montana in about 6 weeks with the military and so for a 15 hour drive through mountains, plus with my new super awesome minivan a first aid kit is a must. I also was looking for a really good list of stuff to put in my kit since I know that we’ll need different things in Montana then we would if we were staying in Vegas with the cold, and bugs, and more open range.

    I love the idea of the tackle box. I was considering sewing up a cute fold up bag with pockets, but I’m feeling lazy so this would be awesome. And I wouldn’t mind the red since that’s the color of my car. Another thing that I would like to add, and will probably get for mine is not only the instant cold compresses already listed, but there are instant heat packs as well, and those could save someone from frostbite if they were stuck on the side of the road in the snow. Zip locks are also an awesome idea for if you have to trudge through the snow to find help. Another great idea I read somewhere is a whistle. So small and cheap but if you couldn’t yell for help you could blow on that. And hard candy as well. And I carry a tarp already, which is good for a clean surface for someone to lay on on the ground, but if you couldn’t fit that in, a plastic painting drop cloth would be so cheap and easy and it already comes in a tiny roll. I think the most important thing is a clean work surface (as clean as possible anyway) and that would be perfect. Also, this is Vegas mentality, but aloe vera?

    Anyway, I think I’m going to need a bigger tackle box! You never know!

  19. Jaime says

    I just wanted to add that in your kit should be a list of every family member’s medical allergies. Just because something in your kit works great for one person in an emergency doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. For exaample my husband can have aspirin if he needs it and no problem with the wound care items you have listed but I will die within minutes of contact with aspirin, iodine or quick-clot. That’s vital for him to remember in a panic or someone who is helping to know. I vote to make a list and laminate it, placing in on the inside lid of the tackle box. I also have a “refilled on (date)” liminated sticker on the inside of mine with a dry eraser handy inside. This way I know when/if I need to restock certain items. Don’t forget to pack a car charger for that emergency cell’s no good if the batteries dies before help comes.

  20. Sara K says

    These are all excellent ideas! If you are worried about the heat or extreme cold damaging the supplies, try a large, many-pocketed lunch box. Pick a lunch box that’s insulated on the inside- it will keep out water, heat, cold, and bugs/ animals. They are very cheap, and found at almost any store. The pockets will help for organization of things, but aren’t essential. I also recommend for the car, a juice box (with 100% juice) and a snack or two- These can help calm kids down, restore low blood sugar levels in diabetics, and the juice can be given to someone in a pinch for heatstroke. In the case of heatstroke, it will help re-hydrate a person and help restore essential electrolyte balance. Aloe Vera is also recommended for minor burns, sunburns, use as a mild anesthetic, and many other things.

  21. heidim says

    I am an RN and am always accoused of ‘over preparing’. What I have done in the past is to purchase one of the prepackaged kits (This is against my natural thrifty and ‘do it yourself’ nature, but I like the size and shape of the boxes and the small packaged products inside.) I split the smaller supplies between other kits for the other vehicles. This allows me the extra space to customize each kit with all the extras that the kits do not contain (like so many of these great ideas above) and helps distribute the medications and other items that expire. We have three drivers in the house and four vehicles, so each gets one (and everyone is taught to use them). Then, the kids go out of state each year to visit grandma (who is not too good at personal health measures and knowledge), so each child has their own smaller kit with all things necessary for anything they may meet. That way they have a copy of their shot records, a medical consent form, a copy of insurance info and medications and supplies that are specific to their needs. When one goes with grandma for the day and the other with grandpa, they each grab their kit and throw it in the car they are taking for the day. Again, both kids know what to do for basic first aid and then some and how to use the items in it. It does no good if no one knows how to use it.

    Overkill? Sure. But, you wouldn’t believe the times these have been used! When my daughter and I go to a dance competition with her team, everyone comes to me for things in my kit. Even the coach. The one time I did not bring it, we had injuries and illnesses and I was so upset about it, I ran to the local pharmacy and built one. I like being prepared!

  22. shalom says

    Ginger (candied or powder – it can be put it in empty capsules from health food store) can help with heartburn, car/sea sickness and maybe some types of nausea. Unseasoned meat tenderizer – make a paste to cover stings (bees, jellyfish, …)

    Tip: OTC kits contain small packs of pills. Make DIY packs – seal several dosages in little squares using a food saver and label them. This would reduce the cost of having to replace whole bottles.

    Years ago I made a kit to take when camping. We haven’t done much camping since DH goes camping with the Boy Scouts, so I need to update it. I put it in a bit larger than average belted pack to wear around the waist so it could be carried on a hike. At the time I put it together, I found a kit in a smallish water proof box. I put the bottles of liquid in that box so if one leaked it wouldn’t ruin all the other supplies. My campho-phenique did leak one time and I was glad did it. Another option would be to seal rarely used ones in food saver bags (more secure than zip bags) and more frequently used ones in zip bags. The zip bags could be large enough to allow resealing several times before needing replacement.

  23. Michelle says

    Thank you for this great post!

    For those with kiddos, I would also add non perishable snacks (crackers, dried fruit, etc), toys and books, diapers and wipes, and extra clothing for the really little ones. I was recently in an accident with my 2 year old son and while we were both ok, we had to wait for help. So with the help of snacks, and toys and books, my son was entertained and had a full belly. It took his mind off the fact neither of us had breakfast yet so he was calm and playful.

  24. Lori Johnson says

    Hi, everyone! These are all EXCELLENT ideas! Thank you, Jillie for starting the kit suggestions. It sounds like every thing is covered.

    I have only one suggestion: A laminated checklist of the CONTENTS of the kit. We may know whats in them, but if we’re not the one using it or if we are the one needing first aid, a list would be very, very helpful for the person using it. I think too, we may not remember all of the lesser used items when we are in or distracted by a very serious emergency medical situation.

    Again, great list! Thank you all! I’m off to start my kit!

  25. m4iler says

    I’ve been looking all around the internet and I can say that caoline, pure and clean is a very nice addition to your kit. It’s fairly cheap and does the same job as Quikclot. It IS actually the active ingredient of quikclot! For any deep cuts, it’s just sprinking on the cotton and applying to the wound away from complete bleeding stop!

  26. says

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Firefox.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I figured
    I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the problem solved soon. Thanks

  27. Beth says

    Excellent list! There does some to be an issue running this thing in FireFox, just to let you know. Anyway, I think it’s cheaper and more efficient to have your own custom-built first-aid kit mainly because it’ll contain exactly what you want it to contain – plus you’d know where everything is!

    I found another article on this issue that may or may not help:

    Cheers! :)

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