(1200 words)

I’ve seen a number of posts here and elsewhere regarding med kits, get home bags, EDC packs, and the like. I have several similar pouches: blowout kit, booboo/OTC med pack, and food items. I’d like to see a post on how you handle perishables. Many of the items in my kit are rarely used, but necessary. For example, about a week ago my daughter came down with a sudden migraine while we were out. I checked my bag and found my stash of OTC meds for that. And I thought, “when did I put these in here?” I can’t remember the last time I used this particular med while out. Similarly, the imodium in there is pretty old. I know meds last longer than the 5-year FDA expiration, but for some of the rarely-used items, how do you go about using the oldest first, and cleaning out items that are no longer good?
— Mac

Great question. For the medical questions gear questions, we can hope that one of our medical professionals responds. Otherwise, I’m going to hope that Dive Medic answers on his blog. Which I will then steal and put here.

Our family has a two tier system of medical goods. The first is the Boo Boo kits. We use them. They get restocked constantly. Now, some of the things in the boo boo kits don’t get used regularly, so they get rotated out about once per year.

Think imodium. When you have the runs, you need it. If you don’t have the runs, it just sits there. The shelf life for that stuff is much longer than a year.

For the small kits, we use single dose packages. These are more expensive than buying a bottle over the counter, but they are well-marked, waterproof, small, and well labeled. Just what I want in a boo boo kit. My other option would be to use aluminum pill bottles.

There is a problem with those aluminum pill bottles. As the wife of a friend found out, luckily, not in the hard way. Her husband was prescribed nitroglycerin for because he had a bad heart. In the event of a cardiac event, he was supposed to put a tablet under his tongue.

He carried his emergency nitro in a small aluminum pill bottle around his neck. One day, his wife decided to check on it. Just for grins. What she found was powdered nitro. Over the course of a few years, the pills had ground themselves into powder.

She now replaces those pills twice a year.

For the single doses, I’ll pay for the packaging and keep the bottles for larger kits.

The single biggest thing you can do to keep your boo boo kits stocked and up-to-date is to use it. If you are using it, you will see that the band-aids need to be replaced. You’ll notice that some of the meds are getting low. If you use a single dose of anything, when you get to home base, replace it.

I’ve watched people run to the house to get medical supplies rather than use their first aid kit because it was too hard to replace anything in the kit. So the kit was for “emergencies” which never happen.

Get in the habit of using your first aid kits. It will help you in the bigger emergencies. And you will have a better idea of how to use those things.

Which takes us to blowout kits, or stop the bleed kits. In my opinion, these kits should be shelf stable for at least a decade. Your C.A.T. or Soft-T or SWAT-T or whatever its brand is tourniquet should be good for at least a decade. The only thing in your blowout kits that should have expiration dates will be your clotting agents. Celox or Quik-Clot, for example.

If so, they have to be replaced on a regular interval.

As some of you know, I recently got back into photography. One of the things I found was that my expensive SpeedLight was a near write-off. I never “stopped” doing photography, I just wasn’t doing it. The batteries had leaked inside my SpeedLight, and it took me a good three hours of work to rescue it.

What this means to you is CHANGE YOUR BATTERIES! McThag’s blog has a post where he talks about his yearly battery changes. He goes through all of his gear and replaces batteries, or at the very least tests them all. These are the batteries in radios, lights, optics, and anything else that you depend on.

For me, I don’t replace the batteries on my light. I have a spare battery for each of them. I also have batteries that are single use for some of them, rather than rechargeable.

For my kit, I do have batteries in the kit. Those batteries are rotated into the gear that needs to be updated. Then new backup batteries are put into the kit.

When I’m doing the battery replacements, I am checking expiration dates on all the medical gear in that kit.

In general, this is a single weekend of laying hands on every piece of kit, verifying it is in working order, doing any PM required, restocking and putting things back.

The same way, I do a once per year inventory of my firearms. It isn’t enough to know I have it or to know it is in that safe/cabinet. I have to lay hands on each piece.

The other strong method is technology.

In Number Of The Beast Heinlein talks about packing Gay Deceiver, their vehicle. The gist was that you can pack more into a given space if you are not attempting to organize the packing. It might be harder to pack a pair of shoes together, but there might be two corners where a single shoe would fit. Thus, denser packing.

As Heinlein described it, anytime you needed something, you “just” asked the car, and she would tell you where those things were stashed. Easy.

And impractical. You need to be able to find things.

Technology can help if you can make yourself obey technology. As an example, my computer tells me to check Supreme Court cases every Monday. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. The technology doesn’t fail, I do.

If you have a document which tells you when you have to replace things in each kit, and you use it religiously, that might work for you.

If you have a document that just tells you when it is time to inventory and replenish each kit, that might work for you.

Regardless, make a plan to check your gear at least once per year. You will be amazed at what you find.

Spread the love

By awa

12 thoughts on “Is it expired?”
  1. Amazon warehouses use a quite complex space management/inventory system: each item has a “volume definition” – HxWxD=V – that allows assigning random location storage, the only way their system could work. EX: You order a book, a pair of shoes and box of Band-Aids; the “order puller” is sent to the nearest item – the shoes – and passes a single copy of the book on the way there, goes by the shelf where 1 box of Band-Aids are on his way to the “pre-shipment packing station.” If all the books were in one aisle, the shoes in another, the Band-Aids in a third, huge amounts of time would be wasted traveling around a 200,000 sq ft warehouse.

    Without that highly complex computer system Amazon would be forced into that extremely inefficient “geographically-based product storage” layout. Most people do not realize just how much space – and time – is required “to get organized” and stay organized. It’s HUGE.

    I do not know anyone with a computer-based inventory and storage management system for their house. I do know people who have devoted entire rooms in their house into inventory and storage systems. They still spend inordinate amounts of time looking for things because they really need two such rooms (or three, or four; one guy built a detached garage for the cars because the 2-car attached garage wound up filled with shelving and plastic bins. It was supposed to be am in-home theater room… but at least he can – usually – find stuff.).

    A certain amount of computer tracking is beneficial – I use timed reminders for things like “new batteries in the smoke detectors and wall-mounted flashlights,” “sharpen the kitchen knives,” “replace consumables in the car med kits,” etc. But….I can, and have, easily ignored the reminders because there’s no one in management who will fire me if I don’t heed them. I could add code to nag me every X days about an item and require “notification of completion” to stop the nagging, but then the computer would wind up going on a one-way trip the range.

  2. I have yet to have any of the new lithium batteries leak and ruin equipment. I assume there is a lifespan on them but its way longer than the other designs. I pay the difference for thing I depend on.

    1. Lithium batteries typically have a service life of 10 years, vs. 1 year or so for older technologies. Clearly if that is valid they shouldn’t leak in that period of time, either. And I don’t recall seeing leaking lithium batteries, though I should probably check the old ones in my parachute…

    1. He was using an aluminum bottle for his nitro-pills. The issue he had was that it was more of a talisman than real medical gear. He wore it around his neck to ward off evil heart attacks. Over time, the motion of the bottle slowly ground down the pills he carried inside it. I liken it to a very slow rotary mill.

  3. I can’t tell you how many maglights I lost to burst batteries.

    I now have a habit of checking all my battery powered gear from time to time. Putting it on a schedule is probably a wise move.

    I use my 1st aid kits constantly. I have one in the car, one in my garage, and one in my office. I do this because my X wife was a slob and I got tired of wandering around the house, bleeding, with the blood being staunched my a papertowel looking for a gottfdamm bandaid that wasn’t where it should be.

    BTW – search on Aesops site. He did a piece on this sometime ago. I should dig it up, because, if I remember, it had what’s good to keep and where, as well as when to rotate things.

  4. From a MS in biomaterials:

    The expiration date on the packaging is for the time sterility of bandages, medical devices, etc can be guaranteed. A 10 year old bandaid is fine. Airtight containers of things like iodine and topical antibiotics are good for well over a decade. The only thing to worry about is prescription meds and non-sealed containers.

    1. I once read, or think I remember reading, that medical stuff is required to have expiration dates not exceeding two years. Clearly a lot of things do legitimately expire, and just as clearly some other things just don’t. Consider “lithium” (which is actually lithium carbonate) — a scientifically valid expiration date for that would be measured in eons.
      There was a WSJ article recently about dates on consumer products like foods, and the fact that these are not mandated by any government agency and have neither a fixed wording nor a fixed meaning (if any). They started out as stock rotation aids, and morphed into phrases like “best before”. But people tend to interpret these as “not edible after” which is utterly wrong and can result in lots of perfectly good food being discarded. I suppose that’s particularly likely with commercial establishments, which are subject to abuse by dishonest lawyers.

  5. For medical supplies how old they are is important. How they are stored is more important. Kept cool and dry in a safe place most all of them can last far past any expiration date, the majority of such dates are created to keep lawyers happy, not for physical reasons. The only time for scrupulously following expiration dates is for things that are injected/infused into the body. Oral meds are far more stable.

  6. AWA – Thanks for the post. I’m not very good at designating a period to review items, so this was a big help. Most of my meds are stored in aluminum capsules, with a few that are Ti. For every one, I stuff the capsule pretty full, then top with a bit of a cotton ball to keep the items from becoming powder. It works pretty well.

    Beyond my lack of regular maintenance, the other reason I think I accumulated stale items is that I tried to have stashes in all of my various bags: daypack/get home bag; travel pack; camp pack; &c. However, I work from home, haven’t traveled since before Covid 19, and haven’t camped in years. If I need vitamin I, I go to the medicine cabinet, not the daypack. I don’t go far often, and haven’t had much occasion to dip into the booboo kits. I’ve never had to use a blowout kit.

    Weather is another issue in my AO. Where I live, it’s ridiculously hot (we don’t start counting until triple-digits) about half the year. That heat destroys all but the hardiest items left in vehicles. We don’t even leave wipes or water in a vehicle. Air pump, tire kit, shovel, those are fine. So any vehicle emergency bag must be brought to the vehicle each time it’s driven. Just another thing to consider.

    At any rate, thanks again for the post. You guys are all great. Now I need to sit down and go through my gear.

  7. Our meds/sterile items have a label I print: buy date, exp date, lot #. Right as on original package. Makes assessing the medic kit stuff easier.

    Car stuff/medic bags get assessed/swapped out every 6 months: I shoot for 21 March and 21 Sept. (Oops! New project for this weekend! Thanks for the reminder!)

    In-pocket, on neck meds might benefit from a similar labeling/replacement schedule.

    I’m an ex-RN, current mid level.

  8. Long-term storage food should be handled the Mormon way — use it to supplement what you have fresh, and replace with newer goods.

    Not that I’ve been doing that, but that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.