How One Man Uses the 99 Cent store for his First Aid Needs

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[Nyerges, a member of the Dirttime team, is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere” who has been leading survival classes since 1974. He can be reached at].

Art Lee, a man with an engineering background from Southern California, found that he could make a better first aid kit by purchasing all the components himself – even purchasing many of the items from the 99 cent store!

He has put together two do-it-yourself kits, one for backpacking and one for home use.

“I made my own because I felt I could get it all cheaper with precisely what I want,” stated Lee. “Too many of the pre-packaged first aid kits are overpriced and just contain a lot of band-aids. I wanted something that is economical, compact, and geared to my personal needs,” he explains.

Lee emphasizes that one should always pick and choose for their own needs. For example, a diabetic will have certain needs, and a parent with children will have other specific needs.


All of the components of his Level One portable kit can be purchased for about $60 to $70 if you look for the lowest prices. “I can get 80% of these ingredients by going to two or three 99 cent stores, and maybe Walmart,” he explains. Some of his items are purchased on-line.

Here is the list:
Two 4×4 gauze pads
Two 4×4 non-stick pads
One 5×9 Israeli trauma pad
2- 25 grams of Quick Clot (Celox).
Four nitrile gloves
Four alcohol pads.
One splinter tweezers
One roll 1” adhesive tape
One moleskin
One container of tincture of iodine

Yes, there are Band-Aids!
Six ½: Band-Aids.
Six ¾” Band-Aids
Two 2” Band-Aids
Two ¼” Steri-strips
Two ½” Steri-strips
Four butterfly closures
One container of instant glue

Three maxi-pads (to absorb bleeding)
One container Visine
One nail clipper
One small flashlight
One hand-sanitizer container
Five Q-tips
One chapstick.

And there are pills!
Sixteen 200 mg. Ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil)
8 2 mg. Loperamide (Lomotil) for diarrhea
eight allergy pills
eight multi-vitamins
Tube of antibiotic ointment.

All of this fits into Lee’s little zippered pouch and is easily carried on the trail. Fortunately, he’s only had to use the items in his kit for a few minor incidents on the trail or while backpacking (and that’s how we like it, right?).


Obviously, there’s more in this kit and it’s bigger and heavier. OK? It’s for all those home emergencies, when you don’t want to hunt around the house for what you need.

One CPR mask, costs about $7.29 (from Amazon)


A flashlight. This one was a cheap pump flashlight with a lithium battery. It cost only $2!
Splinter tweezers
Sharp tweezers
Large nail clipper
Large safety pins
Single edge razor
Knife (this was a cheap Walmart knife, $2).

20 cc irrigating syringe
A Band-Aid pack (contained sizes ½”, ¾”, 2”, and knuckle wrap)
Butterfly tape
Duct tape (yes, duct tape really comes in handy for many things)
Adhesive tape
Tegaderm (this is a non-adhesive film by 3M, a breathable band-aid, one of the more expensive components of the kit, purchased on-line). $28 for 50 4×4″

4×4 gauze pads
2×2 gauze
roller gauze
Israeli trauma pad
Curad non-stick pads, 3 x 4”

2x- 4-0 nylon suture
quick-clot gauze
Cyanoacrylate glue (yes, folks, “superglue”)
ACE wrap, 3”
Triangular bandage
Roller dressing

Wet wipes
Hand gel sanitizer

1% hydrocortisone cream
anti-diarrhea pills
fever thermometer
alcohol pads
cold pack
lip balm
triple antibiotic ointment
Salonpas pain relief patch, available in Asian stores.
A pen

All of the above fit into a container about a foot deep and wide, by about 20 inches long. But you don’t need to go out and buy a special bag, advises Lee. “Just find a bag that you already have.”
If purchased economically, all of the contents of Lee’s small pack retails about $30 to $40, and Lee’s large pack can be had for between $100 and $150.

He reminds people to not slavishly follow someone else’s list, but to customize according to your needs. The best prices are usually at the 99 cent store, and the highest prices are typically at a backpacking store like REI or Sport Chalet.

Also, all of the first aid gear in the world is of limited value if you haven’t learned how to actually use them in an emergency. To that end, Lee has taken various Red Cross first aid courses, and encourages readers to do likewise.

Lee can be contacted for questions at Lee also hold workshops for greywater installations and solar generators.

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