Paul’s Lifesystems Mountain Leader Pro First Aid Kit Review details a comprehensive and carefully thought out kit for remote adventures. We hope you find it useful.
I will start by saying that I have always been rather sceptical of ready made first aid kits. They usually seem to include items you don’t need while missing others I would consider essential. This is probably inevitable because different contexts have different requirements. The kit contents should be tailored to things like the activity risk, the number in the party and the distance from help. Every situation is different and your kit needs to account for that.
However, at other times ready made kits can be a good option. It is convenient to buy everything together. Also, many manufacturers offer a range of kit options so you can choose according to need. They also usually come in a well designed and weatherproof case.
As always, different options suit different users and situations. So, with my slightly sceptical head on, we come to this. Please read on for my Lifesystems Mountain Leader Pro First Aid Kit review.
Who Are Lifesystems?
Lifesystems are a UK manufacturer of first aid kits, survival equipment and related travel products. The company was set up by avid adventurer Mark Cobham in 1989. Following a medical emergency while travelling, Mark resolved to create a suitable first aid kit on his return. Now, although the focus remains the same, Lifesystems is a 50 strong team of designers and travel experts serving 40 countries with their products.
A big advantage of purpose made kits can be the case they come in. I say ‘can be’ because this depends on whether the case is designed and constructed well. For wilderness use they need to be robust and well organised and yet not too heavy to carry.
With all that in mind, I really like the Mountain Leader Pro case. It is made from durable bright red ripstop nylon and is clearly labelled as a first aid kit. Lifesystems have then added a water resistant clamshell zipper for easy opening and weather resistance. The case will keep out some weather but is never going to be waterproof. If that’s a concern you will be best to store it in a dry bag.
When you open the case it folds into three sections for easy access. All the sections are compartmentalised and each compartment is clearly labelled. Lifesystems call it their ‘Quick Find System’. There is a section with several pairs of gloves and a primary care guide. There is another labelled breaks and sprains and a section with sterile items. Another compartment contains equipment for bleeding and wound care and another has options for treating dental emergencies. Finally, there are a section with scissors and shears and one with medications and accessories.
Getting to what you need is really quick and simple, but there is another addition I also really like. Keeping things clean can be a real problem in a wilderness setting. You might be working on the floor or a dirty table. So, Lifesystems have included a fold out plastic sheet that offers a valuable work area. A great idea.
Also, at the top of the case Lifesystems have included a hang loop so the kit can be hung up. In some wilderness contexts this will be a great way to allow quick access and avoid contents getting contaminated. This has been really well thought out because, even when hung up, items will stay inside their compartments until needed.
I really can’t fault the layout and general organisation of the Mountain Leader Pro, but let’s now look at what’s on offer in each section. For simplicity I will work from the top down.
Scissors & Shears Section
At the back of the top compartment there are scissors, shears and antiseptic wipes. I would strongly argue some type of strong cutting tool is essential in a first aid kit. You may need to cut clothing, remove a climbing harness, cut dressings or use the implement for a host of other possibilities. In the case of the Mountain Leader Pro there are both 5.5 cm scissors and 6 cm Tuff Cut shears. It is great that both are included as scissors are great for general cutting jobs while shears are ideal for cutting things like clothing.
In this section there are also 12 antiseptic wipes, tweezers and some safety pins. Wipes are good for cleaning small wounds, tweezers are obviously great for splinters and safety pins have lots of uses.
At the front of the top compartment there is equipment for treating dental emergencies. Statistically, dental problems are quite common on wilderness trips and so including some items to manage this is great.
There is clove oil for toothache and a dental mirror. Some cotton swabs which can be used for cleaning cavities or applying clove oil. Lifesystems have also included some temporary cavity filling cement along with an application spatula. Finally, there is a sterile syringe and dental needle incase you are getting local healthcare professionals involved. Lifesystems have also included a care leaflet to ensure you know how to use all the contents. This section is well thought out and is a brilliant addition to the kit.
Medication & Accessories
The final compartment in the top section contains some medications. The contents included vary from country to country but in the U.K. includes Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. There are also 4 sachets of burn gel which makes a useful option for minor burns. A CPR face shield is also included.
In a fold of the case Lifesystems have added a chemical safety light and a roll of Duck Tape. The light could be used to mark a casualty location or maybe to guide advanced care to a location. Good old Duck Tape has a million roles in wilderness settings. This could be for fastening a splint just as it could be for patching up a tear in a pair of overtrousers!
Bleeding & Wound Care
As would be expected in a comprehensive first aid kit, careful consideration has been made to wound care. There are plasters for small cuts, small and medium sized non adherent dressings and a range of larger bandages. There are also swabs which can be used for covering or cleaning wounds, an eye bandage and several blister plasters. It is a selection that will allow initial treatment and yet also allow for ongoing care.
In remote locations you may still be seeking the assistance of local health care professionals. This can be a problem because you don’t always know if they have access to sterile needles, syringes and suturing equipment. That’s why Lifesystems have included a section of each in the kit. Far better to be able to get a local doctor to use yours rather than taking a risk.
Breaks & Sprains
The final section mostly contains items for fractures and soft tissue injuries. For this there are triangular bandages and various sizes of crepe bandage. Possibly because it couldn’t easily fit elsewhere, Lifesystems have also included several rolls of tape in this compartment. Tape is an essential first aid kit item. It could be used to secure a sling or splint but can also be used to fasten on a wound dressing. In this kit there are 2 rolls of zinc oxide tape and 2 rolls of microporous tape. I’m particularly pleased they have included zinc oxide because this is my favourite for first aid. It is very sticky and strong and also easy to tear by hand. It even works well when wet.
Without question the contents of this kit are comprehensive, but how will it prepare you for a wilderness first aid emergency? Infact, I also want to consider how it might also prepare you for a ‘second aid emergency.’ First aid is that immediate help we offer someone after an incident. This could be immobilising an injured limb or stemming a bleed.
However, in wilderness settings we might then still need to manage this person’s injuries for a considerable time after the incident. This might be some hours or, in extreme cases, several days. For this a wilderness first aid kit now needs to also provide the facility for second aid. That might be, for example, offering pain relief or redressing wounds.
Straight off, the Lifesystems Pro First Aid Kit ticks all the bases for first aid. It allows the first aider to protect themselves (gloves, CPR face shield). It has comprehensive supplies for cleaning and stopping bleeds of varying levels of severity. There are items to immobilise limbs (triangular bandages) and manage soft tissue injuries (crepe bandages).
There is also some equipment to deal with medical emergencies (dental repair, pain relief, burns, sterile needles, syringes and suturing materials). Finally, you have essential tools like scissors and shears, safety pins and tweezers. There is lots of great stuff in here and you will be well prepared for wilderness adventures. The addition of a guidance booklet for dealing with incidents and dental emergencies is also very welcome.
That all said, I have never found a kit of this type that I don’t want to tweak and this is no exception. That’s fine though, as there is space in the various sections to add additional equipment or swap a few items for others. So, in considering our Lifesystems Mountain Leader Pro First Aid Kit Review, what would I change?
When we discuss first aid kits on our wilderness first aid courses we always encourage people to use the ABCDE accident procedure to guide their choices. We added some ideas for a wilderness first aid kit here. So I will consider that as a reference for additions. Fortunately, there isn’t much.
In the Mountain Leader Pro kit Lifesystems have included a light stick. This might be useful for marking the location of a casualty or signalling for help. I would also consider a small torch and whistle as useful extras. For personal protection it might also be worth adding a face mask (especially in times of COVID-19).
For cleaning wounds I find antiseptic wipes to be of limited use. Small saline vials are often better as you can flush out a wound quite thoroughly. They can also be used to rinse grit and dust out of eyes. It might also be worth swapping out a couple of smaller bandages for a larger trauma dressing such as an Israeli Dressing. These can be used for stemming large bleeds but can also serve well as improvised slings or for securing splints. I also like to add a biohazard bag to allow safe disposal of contaminated materials.
The final things I would consider adding would be a tick remover and some way to record information. An example is our all weather Casualty Cards which are available by contacting us here. Also, if you are recording information you will need a means to record the details. This could be a fine Sharpie, pencil or other suitable pen.
A final consideration is the addition of other medications. This will depend on context and so isn’t something that is best discussed here. But, is worthy of consideration in some situations.
As our Lifesystems Mountain Leader Pro First Aid Kit Review details, this is a comprehensive and extremely well designed kit suitable for larger groups operating in very remote areas. Lifesystems say it was designed with input from special forces operatives and that knowledge shows.
The contents are well thought out and the bag design will aid the rescuer in any emergency situation. It is undoubtedly the best commercial kit we have come across and, although we have thought of a few additions, there certainly isn’t much we would change.
Although this isn’t designed for the average hillwalking group on a day hike, if you are heading seriously off grid it pays to be well prepared. In that context this kit will be a great choice. Full details on the Mountain Leader Pro can be found on the Lifesystems website here. The Pro retails for £79.95.
We have a range of first aid articles in our blog that would also be useful reading. There is one about first aid gloves here and another about first aid tapes here (it is great that the tapes we recommend are the ones included in this kit). Of course, the key to effective first aid also comes from training. Our range of ITC First Outdoor First Aid courses are detailed here and Advanced Outdoor First Aid courses are here.