Picture this: you’re on a call at the scene of a bad car accident. Several victims are in desperate need of assistance, and you’re there to provide it. But as you go to reach for your trauma bag to grab an important piece of equipment, something goes wrong. You’re having difficulty prying open the zipper on your bag, and when you finally do get it open, you can’t find the tool you need now because the bag doesn’t have separate compartments and the item you’re looking for has been tossed around so that you can’t find it quickly.
This situation is the stuff of nightmares for EMS personnel, but it shows the possibilities that await if you don’t take the time and effort to choose the right EMS bag.
As an EMT, few purchases you make can affect your daily work life in such a profound way. You don’t use every piece of equipment at your disposal on every call, but you do use your EMS bag on every call.
Choosing the correct EMS bag may sound straightforward enough, but there are several factors that go into constructing a good one, including:
The first step in choosing the proper EMS bag is to identify your needs. Think about factors like:
Now that you’ve asked yourself some key questions and can picture what you need, how do you go about selecting the right bag for your needs? Let’s explore four criteria for choosing the right EMS bag.
It may seem obvious, but the most important aspect to consider is whether the bag can store everything you need to do your job to the highest degree, and ease of use. What do we mean by that?
When thinking about functionality, consider two factors in relation to your equipment – frequency of use and most important to life-saving capabilities. These two are often not the same.
Look for a bag with storage compartments that allows those items you use most often on calls – think portable oxygen tanks – to be immediately accessible so that they are at your fingertips when you need them.
Conversely, there are tools at your disposal that you may not use near as often, unless lifesaving measures are needed (e.g. defibrillators), but that when those times arise, you must be able to access them instantly.
These two considerations should be first and foremost in your thoughts when shopping for an EMS bag.
Materials and Construction
On the job, it’s inevitable that your bag will be put through some rough situations and receive wear and tear on a daily basis. EMS bags are constructed of materials like nylon, polyester, soft fabrics, and leather materials. You want to choose a bag with long-term durability, as well as sturdy construction to handle those pressure-filled moments when your bag may be tossed around.
A good sign of a well-constructed bag is a manufacturer’s warranty. Respected manufacturer’s usually offer a long-term warranty because they trust the quality of their materials and craftsmanship.
Comfort and Carrying
As this bag will be with you every single day on the job, comfort is an important attribute to seek. And when we talk about comfort, we’re specifically talking about the way in which you carry the bag to and from scenes.
How do you plan on transporting the bag? Carrying it or rolling? Both options are available. And if you’re carrying it, there are several options available, including handle straps and shoulder straps. Backpack styles are also an option.
Ask yourself whether the handle or shoulder attachments will hold up under the weight of what you’re carrying in the bag, as well as if they will provide the comfort you need when transporting them. If a shoulder strap is your preference, look for one with extra padding so that it provides comfort when weighed down on your shoulder with the weight of your equipment. Also, make sure that the strap is long enough to possibly make it a cross-body bag, which will help keep the weight evenly distributed across your body, thus reducing the potential for injury.
If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that we often talk about the pricing and cost of equipment for emergency personnel. Unfortunately, as many of you know, equipment can be quite expensive and all too often it’s you that’s paying for it personally.
But we know that you take your job very serious, and that performing at a high level and positively affecting the lives of the people in your community is of the utmost importance. We also know that your safety is of critical importance as well. It’s for these reasons that we often advise thinking of your equipment purchases as a long-term investment.
When it comes to EMS bags, costs can vary greatly, and depend on several factors, including:
Remember that thinking of the long term now can actually save you money, as purchasing a higher-quality bag that lasts longer means you won’t have to purchase a new bag when the other wears out, as well as saving on the time and hassle of having to purchase a new bag more often.
Use Your Fellow EMTs
The easiest and most cost effective way to research and find the best EMS bag is to talk with your fellow colleagues to see what works or doesn’t work for them. Ask them what they like and dislike about their current bag or bags they’ve used in the past. What would they change about their current bag if they could?
Ask to check out their EMS bag. Try carrying it some distance. Set it down and test to see if the gear you need is easily accessible. How long have they had the bag? Is it durable, or is it starting to show signs of wear and tear?
Taking all of these components into consideration, here at CHIEF we’ve compiled a couple of our favorite bags that we think will deliver outstanding performance in your EMS career.
Fieldtex Basic Trauma Bag - $149.99
For over 40 years, family-owned Fieldtex company has produced high quality, trusted medical equipment and supplies. Their Basic Trauma Bag checks all the boxes for a go-to EMS bag, and was designed by EMS personnel who know the needs of fellow EMTs.
Constructed of durable, 1000D nylon, this EMS bag features a wealth of pockets and compartments – six interior and four outside – so that your equipment and tools are easily accessible under the most stressful situations.
The Basic Trauma Bag features comfortable handles for ease of use, and comes in three distinct colors.
5.11 Tactical Responder 84 ALS EMS Backpack - $229.99
For those seeking an alternative – and perhaps more comfortable – way to carry their equipment, 5.11 Tactical offers a durable, fully adjustable backpack design which includes a variety of complimentary features like a hydration system, removable Airway Kit and IV Kits, and reflective safety stripes on three sides.
An array of inside and outside pockets add to the functionality of this high-performance backpack, which is also water-resistant.