The Best Survival Tourniquet for First Aid Prepping

Injuries happen. Traumatic injuries with blood loss happen. This type of injury can be deadly, and there are very few first-aid resources that can address it. The tourniquet has been around for a while and has been controversial. But over time, we’ve learned that the tourniquets are your best shot at survival when used properly. That is why it is important to have the best survival tourniquet available in your first aid kit trauma module.

There are several options to consider when it comes to survival tourniquets: cinching type, size, versatility, etc. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best tourniquets, tested each of them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a lightweight budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a tourniquet that will stop the blood flow in a survival situation, one of our picks will hold it all together.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


CAT Gen7 Combat Application Tourniquet

The Best Survival Tourniquet

CAT Gen7

CoTCCC Approved, Small, and Easy to Use

A windlass with a lock makes cinching down the bleeding easy, even with just one hand.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

With the Gen7 sporting a better windlass and buckle, the original Combat Action Tourniquet is slightly better. Pioneering the one-handed application and trusted by military forces worldwide, this tourniquet has earned its place. Here are the specs:

  • 37.5″ strap length
  • 2.7 ounces
  • Patented tourniquet supplied to US Army (NSN6515-01-521-7976)
  • High visibility tab and grey time-stamp strap

With solid quality and a price that doesn’t break the bank, it’s easy to see how the CAT Gen7 is still the best choice out of all of the competition.


SWAT-T Tourniquet

EDC Survival Tourniquet

SWAT-T

Stretchy, Lightweight, and Versatile

Stretch, wrap, and tuck your way to a versatile lifesaving solution.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The SWAT-T is more of a multi-purpose dressing than it is a dedicated tourniquet, so it is an unparalleled option if you are strapped for space, weight, or budget.

The downside is that it does not meet the CoTCCC standard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t stop bleeding. In all actuality, it can do that and more. Use this as a wrap for first aid and to apply pressure to any wound. There is a myriad of other uses too, as it is essentially a giant rubber band. Here are the full specs:

  • Easy-to-read interactive instructions
  • 4″ wide x 36″ long
  • 4.2 ounces

Pick up a SWAT-T to add a workhorse to your bug out bag.


m2 RMT Ratcheting Tourniquet

Upgrade Survival Tourniquet

m2 RMT

CoTCCC Approved, High-Quality, and Precise

High-quality materials and ratchet precision make one-handed cinching, well… a cinch!

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Ratcheting takes the CAT one step further, significantly improving how easily you can use a tourniquet. You can operate this with the palm of a single hand- no finger dexterity is required! It also allows for precise mechanical pressure- easily increase or decrease pressure with the ratchet and release. These have started earning a favorite status with EMTs all over the country. In stressful situations, you won’t know how well you’ll handle a wound windlass but ratcheting makes it simple for anyone. Plus, it’s not much heavier than a CAT. Here are the full specs:

  • 2″ webbing (> 120-pound adults)
  • 5.3 ounces

If you are looking for the best of the best, pick up an m2 RMT for your trauma kits.


Everything We Recommend

CAT Combat Application Tourniquet

CAT Gen7

A windlass with a lock makes cinching down the bleeding easy, even with just one hand.

Where to Buy

$30* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

SWAT-T Stretch Wrap and Tuck Tourniquet

SWAT-T

Stretch, wrap, and tuck your way to a versatile lifesaving solution.

Where to Buy

$20* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

m2 RMT Ratcheting Tourniquet

m2 RMT

High-quality materials and ratchet precision make one-handed cinching, well… a cinch!

Where to Buy

$39* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Tourniquets We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several tourniquets that we tested: C-A-T, m2, Rhino Rescue, EverReady, Primacare, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the what to look for section, with an explanation for each.

We focused on combat, trauma, and survival tourniquets. We excluded pretty much every other type of tourniquet, like quick blood draw tourniquets since they are not for emergency applications. Those are useful in certain situations- but did not fit our focus.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a survival tourniquet that you swear by let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually, so we can always get it in the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best survival tourniquets have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. CoTCCC Approval
  3. Cinching Function
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable tourniquet that will help you tackle a worst-case bleed-out. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the tourniquets that set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a tourniquet shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. Don’t go overspending or overdo it. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap or just plain get the wrong thing. If the windlass snaps off on the first use, it’s not going to do much good when you are trying to stem the bleeding.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like tourniquets. It’s better to diversify your preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

CoTCCC Approval

The Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) is part of the U.S. military’s Joint Trauma System and is the standard bearer for tourniquet effectiveness.

If a tourniquet doesn’t meet CoTCCC standards, it doesn’t make its list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tourniquet is useless- you will just want to keep this in mind when you are planning your first aid kit trauma pack.

Cinching Function

The compression a tourniquet can provide and how you apply that pressure is key to the main function of stopping the bleeding. There are a few methods with various benefits:

  • Windlass – rotational compression from a CAT is pretty much the standard, can be done one-handed, and offers some variability.
  • Ratcheting – ratcheting compression is relatively new for tourniquets, can be one-handed as well, and is very precise and powerful with pressure.
  • Stretch Wrap – not CoTCCC approved but very similar to medical tourniquets, it’s a stretch band meant to be wrapped tightly and tucked.

The size of the tourniquet band can also factor into the applied pressure since wider width will distribute pressure over a larger area.

Size & Weight

The profile of a tourniquet is usually pretty small. Even still, ounces can matter when you are packing mobile survival kits. It can be easy to overload yourself by packing gear without checking out the weight first. If you do this, you can easily end up with a bag you won’t be able to lug more than a few miles.

You also want to be able to access the tourniquet quickly. Tourniquet holders and mounts can make this easier so you don’t have to dig in your kit to save a life.

Versatility

There are only a few accessories that help tourniquets, but being able to write the application time on the tourniquet itself is always nice. If the tourniquet doesn’t have one, you’ll need to mark the forehead beyond just the ‘T’ for the tourniquet.

Tourniquet holders, as we mentioned above, are a popular item that can reduce the tourniquet deployment time. This is helpful for saving lives when seconds matter.


How to Use a Tourniquet?

A tourniquet should only be used in life-threatening emergencies when bleeding cannot be controlled through other means, such as direct pressure or elevation of the wound. Here are the steps for using a tourniquet:

  1. Locate the wound: Identify the source of the bleeding and the location of the wound.
  2. Position the tourniquet: Place the tourniquet around the limb, as close to the wound as possible. The tourniquet should be placed directly above the wound, on the side of the limb closest to the heart.
  3. Tighten the tourniquet: Use the tourniquet’s tightening mechanism to constrict the blood flow to the limb. The tourniquet should be tightened until the bleeding stops.
  4. Secure the tourniquet: Once the tourniquet is in place and tightened, secure it in place with a knot or clip to prevent it from slipping.
  5. Mark the time: Once the tourniquet is in place, mark the time on the tourniquet or on the patient’s skin to indicate how long the tourniquet has been in place.
  6. Seek medical attention: Call for medical help or transport the patient to a hospital as soon as possible. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible because leaving a tourniquet in place for too long can cause serious damage to the limb.

It is important to note that using a tourniquet is a last resort and should only be used in life-threatening emergencies. If a tourniquet is not available you should still try to continue direct pressure and elevation of the injury.

PrepMedic has one of the best video demonstrations on how to use a tourniquet:


Who Needs a Tourniquet?

Tourniquets are not completely necessary in several kits, especially if you are untrained on how to use one.

They are essential for:

We suggest them in your standard first aid kit:

Have them easily accessible or staged in a spot where you can quickly pull them out and use them quickly when seconds count.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best survival tourniquet is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Navein, J., Coupland, R., & Dunn, R. (2003). The Tourniquet Controversy. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. Volume 54. Issue 5. Pages S219-S220. (Source)

Fitzgibbons, P. MD, DiGiovanni, C. MD, Hares, S. MD, & Akelman, E. MD. (2012). Safe Tourniquet Use: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Volume 20. Issue 5. Pages 310-319. (Source)

Welling, D. MD, McKay, P. MD, Rasmussen, D. MD, & Rich, N. MD. (2012). A Brief History of the Tourniquet. Journal of Vascular Surgery. Volume 55. Issue 1. Pages 286-290. (Source)


The Final Word

Being able to combat lifesaving first aid skills is great for self-sufficient survival, and if you can take one course to learn something new this would be the one we suggest. First aid is always an invaluable skill and leveling up your skills to address traumatic injuries can make you that much more prepared for disasters.

Here are a few related articles our readers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the CAT Gen7 to be the best option given its value, CoTCCC approval, cinching function, profile, and versatility.

If you pick up one of our suggested tourniquets- make sure you are familiar with it and know how to use it. Get trained in trauma first aid and understand basic lifesaving procedures. You don’t want to encounter a survival situation fumbling with new gear.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Survival Tourniquet for First Aid Prepping

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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