First-aid kits are one of the few pieces of gear that shouldn’t sacrifice substance in the name of pack space or weight. But that didn’t stop VSSL from making one.
Everyone knows that a first-aid kit is essential if you spend time in the outdoors. But the extensive choices make it hard to decide which kit you should buy. The variety of kits now runs the gamut: day-use kits, car-camping kits, kits for groups, travel, winter, and more.
This spring, we had a chance to test the new VSSL First Aid Mini ($70), a smaller and more compact version of the brand’s original kit. It’s designed as a day kit, but based on the contents, we’d be comfortable carrying it for overnight trips as well.
In this review, we break down why we liked the kit and how it stacks up to others on the market.
In short: When you think of a first aid kit, you probably think of some sort of bulky, fabric pouch with lots of pockets and storage flaps. VSSL went in a different direction with their kit design, using a sleek cylinder to store the contents. Don’t let looks fool you — this small kit has enough packed inside to sustain one to two people for several nights in the backcountry.
VSSL First Aid Mini: What’s Inside
- The VSSL First Aid Mini kit cylinder with four supply tins: Clean Cut & Cover, Tools, Outdoor Essentials, and Trail Marking.
- Clean Cut & Cover contents: antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, large bandages, and Steri-strip closures
- Tools contents: blister pads, burn and sting ointment, pain relief medication, knuckle bandages, and disposable thermometers
- Outdoor Essentials contents: safety whistle, gloves, razor, tweezers, safety pins, and sewing kit
- Trail Marking contents: 20-foot roll of multiuse adhesive tape
We took the VSSL Mini on several hikes, one bike trip, and one camping trip, and we love the cylindrical design. It easily fits into the side pockets on most daypacks, in a backpack’s brain, and in a handlebar or top tube bike bag.
- Materials: 6061 military-grade aluminum, waterproof sealed caps
- Size: 6.75 inches tall, 2 inches wide
- Weight: 9.9 ounces
- Price: $70
Overall, my favorite facets of this kit were the durability of the kit itself and its organization.
To test the durability and waterproofness of the exterior, we dropped it, dunked it, and tossed it. When exposed to water, the contents inside stayed dry. When placed on a rock or dropped onto a trail, the container held up well (and came out with only a few minor scuffs).
To cut down on weight, VSSL made the interior tins out of lightweight aluminum. The only issue I could see would be damage. If you drop or dent the tins, they may deform and not slide back into the VSSL. In fairness, I banged one tin against a rock a couple of times to test my theory. While it did get a small dent, it still fit back into the kit.
Just a note if you’re interested in the VSSL Mini: The exterior of the kit is nearly indestructible, but the contents within are not.
Similar kits on the market weigh between 7 ounces and a little over a pound, and they cost less ($25-50). But the majority of other kits aren’t nearly as durable nor are they waterproof. With this kit, the extra price buys some very tangible features.
First-Aid Contents and Packing
Overall, the tins are organized well. My only suggestions would be to include a small unit of gauze and to move the included pair of gloves from the tool tin to the wound tin. This makes more sense to me — if you are treating a wound, you won’t want to open two different tins.
The rest of the contents are easy to identify and find, so you aren’t left guessing what’s where.
This kit packs an impressive amount of tools and resources into a relatively small tube. And while the contents all tuck in tightly, they aren’t crammed or overstuffed. Everything proved easily accessible, and what I didn’t need or use I was easily able to repack. There’s even room in the tins to add one or two extra items (like allergy meds or a few water-purifying tablets).
I was also excited about some of the items included, namely the thermometers and sewing kit. These are items I consider essential but which most premade kits often forget to include.
Case in point: I was on a trip in the New Mexican desert once when I got sick, and the only thing missing from our group’s kit was a thermometer. I returned to civilization to find that I spent three days camping in the desert with a 101-degree fever — not ideal.
The last thing I like about this kit (also a standard for many): The tins have quantity labels, so you can easily note what you’ve used and need to replace. And while VSSL sells replacement tins and contents, you could also buy contents directly and add them to your kit. The contents aren’t a special size — the medication, bandages, and tools are all standard on the market.
VSSL Mini First Aid: Review
If you’re looking to buy a premade kit and need something durable, consider investing in the VSSL First Aid Mini.
Because of the materials, the price is higher compared to other kits. But for that price, you get a less bulky kit that is fully waterproof. The kit is also on the lighter side in terms of weight and is easy to pack.
But if waterproofness and durability aren’t as important to you, then a cheaper kit (like this premade kit from HART Health) might be a fine choice. Just know, the kit’s durability won’t be the same as the VSSL in the long run.