51ab43b81b3b257fc5f78fe6c2e1697c

The Direct Action Response Kit (D.A.R.K.) from Dark Angel Medical was designed by Air Force medic, Kerry “Pocket Doc” Davis. Davis spent 10 years on active duty and five years in the USAF reserves as a Combat Medic/Flight Medic-Airborne/Instructor and was deployed to several locations in the Middle East as well as numerous other locations worldwide with both US and foreign military organizations. Upon separation from the military, he worked as a civilian paramedic while obtaining his license as a registered nurse. Since leaving the military in 2007, he has focused his career on critical care and emergency medicine. Davis called upon his varied experience dealing with trauma cases in the field when he created his D.A.R.K. . . .

On first glance, the relatively few contents of the kit may seem too limited for it to be of much good, but once you understand the thought process behind the component selection, you realize how powerful the kit really is. The first thing you need to know is this is a serious trauma kit, not a “boo-boo kit” as Davis refers to most basic first aid kits. The majority of kits are sorely lacking in the kinds of materials needed for dealing with life-threatening trauma. Don’t get me wrong, a full medical kit will have both the boo boo healing contents as well as trauma components, but it’s important to understand what a kit comes with and what types of injuries it’s designed to handle.

When a first responder rolls up onto an injury scene, there’s a specific order of evaluation and treatment that must be followed when assessing a patient. This is based on the how quickly an injury will kill you. Here’s the list (in descending order of criticality):

  • Hemorrhage (accounts for 80% of combat deaths)
  • Airway
  • Breathing (accounts for 10% of combat deaths)
  • Circulation
  • Brain

Now, before anyone starts yelling about me putting the brain at the bottom, remember that this list is based on how quickly something will kill you. Depending on the severity, a brain injury isn’t likely to lead to death within minutes. A major arterial bleed on the other hand can and will. For example, if you come upon a person who is both bleeding heavily and not breathing, the blood loss needs to be addressed first. After blood loss, the airway is next on the list because a patient needs an airway to breathe. Clear an airway and then move onto the next step, etc.

As you can see, the first and third elements in the list above are responsible for 90% of all deaths in combat and almost certainly represent the bulk of the deaths in non-combat injuries. Assuming the remaining 10% of deaths are spread between the other three areas, it’s fair to say that more than 90% of deaths are attributable to hemorrhage, airway, or breathing and the D.A.R.K. is set up to directly address these three areas. It contains the following components:

01294

The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) – This is one of the most widely fielded tourniquets in combat theaters today.  It can be effectively applied with one hand, which enables a person to apply a tourniquet to their own limbs.  With practice, the tourniquet can be applied in 5 to 10 seconds assuming it is properly staged.  Kerry did a video for the Sig Sauer Academy on the proper way to stage a tourniquet.

 

Israeli_Bandage_1

Israeli Bandage – The Israeli Bandage was developed by a four-person Israeli startup to address the fact that bandaging technology had not really changed in nearly six decades. It incorporates features from several first aid elements such as a thick, sterile non-adhesive wound pad that could absorb a lot of blood, a compression bandage that could be wound to create pressure, and a pressure bar built into the back of the wound pad that would allow a lot of direct pressure to be placed on the injury in hopes of stemming the bleed.

thumbnail

Quik Clot Combat Gauze – This is the third generation of the hemostatic agent that can be used to stem blood flow. This version is impregnated into 12 feet of z-folded gauze that can be stuffed into a wound. Unlike older versions of the clotting agent, this one has no unpleasant heating effect (earlier versions could almost boil water).

rna_full

Nasal Airway – This is a soft tube designed to be inserted into the nasal passage or down the throat to open an airway should the patient be unconscious and have an obstructed airway.

40060_01

HALO Seals – A pair of occlusive seals that can be used to slow down the negative effects of air leaking into the thorax, commonly known as a sucking chest wound. The adhesive used on them enables the HALO seals to be removed and relocated without losing adhesion.  They are provided as a pair to deal with situations where there may be more than one incursion into the thorax such as a gunshot that passes through the body.

Compressed Gauze – 12 feet of gauze that can be used in addition to the Quickclot, or for other things such as field expedient slings, or binding splints to broken limbs.

Pair of Nitrile Gloves – A critical piece of personal protective equipment for tending to the medical needs of others.

Trauma Shears – A pair of specialized scissors for quickly clearing clothing or other material away from an area requiring treatment.

The whole kit is packed into a case about the size of two AR-15 magazines and can be mounted to any belt, backpack, or stored in your car’s glove compartment. There are two versions of the D.A.R.K. – one for Civilian/LE and the second for Military and Federal Government. The only difference has to do with the package of Quik Clot. The Military version includes a strip of X-Ray sensitive material on the gauze. This would show up in an X-Ray, alerting medical staff as to the presence of the Quik Clot bandage. The Civilian/LE version does not have the X-Ray strip.

The rationale for the X-Ray strip in the military version is that on a battlefield, a soldier would receive triage care and then get moved back for later evac. It is highly likely that the field medic who initially treated the soldier will not be there where the soldier gets wheeled into the operating room back in the hospital. The X-ray strip increases the chances that medical staff will realize that there is Quik Clot gauze in the soldier and take appropriate steps to remove it and treat the wound.  For civilians/LE, the chain of care is usually much shorter and information as to medical interventions performed by first responders will likely be given directly to medical staff.

Dark Angel Medical is limited by its contract to only sell the military version of the Quik Clot to documented members of the military or federal government. Plus, the X-ray strip adds about $5 to the cost of the Quik Clot, which makes the military kit more expensive than the Civilian/LE version.

This kit is not cheap. At first glance, it may be tough to swallow a price of $160 compared to the $25 – $50 most boo boo kits sell for on Amazon. But good components cost money and once you consider everything, the D.A.R.K. is reasonably priced for what you get.  To prove this statement, let’s walk through a deconstruction exercise similar to what we did a few weeks ago on the Echo Sigma Get Home Bag.

The tourniquet retails for about $26-$30 depending on where you look. It does pay to make sure you are buying one of the newer ones.  The newer models include a thicker windlass and a white tape strip for noting the time the tourniquet was applied.  If you find someone selling it cheaper, it might be one of the older models. Quik Clot in the z-fold gauze version will run you about $35- $40. A 4” Israeli bandage is about $8 to $10. A nasal airway costs $8, the HALO seal is $20, a good set of shears is $10, the compressed gauze and the gloves are probably another $5.  Dark Angel Medical sells the pouches they used for their D.A.R.K. kits for $35.  You could certainly use your own pouch, but the ones Dark Angel sells are pretty well set up for this sort of thing and include a tab in the main pocket that will let you eject all of the contents easily without having to fumble with it.

Add everything up and the price comes to between $147 and $158.  If you consider the fact that you likely would have to shop at several different stores and pay multiple shipping charges, any savings you get by assembling the kit yourself pretty much goes out the window. One nice thing about the D.A.R.K. is that everything but the CAT and the shears are packaged in a vacuum sealed bag which reduces the size and makes it easy to remove from the pack.

Initially, since I already had most of the components of the D.A.R.K. lying around, I just bought a pouch from Dark Angel Medical and tried stuffing what I had into it. Let me tell you, without the vacuum seal, it’s a very tight squeeze and if my life depended on getting to things quickly, I’m not comfortable with it (which is why I recently ordered a proper kit from Dark Angel).

2d02609b40be1c2b488929a12489f3be

Two warnings of note – the Quik Clot gauze has an expiration date. You can find cheaper prices for it on the Internet, but beware – you might be purchasing a product with a significantly shorter shelf life. These are, after all, medical supplies you are buying.  Better to pay another $10 to $20 to get something you know will work rather than saving a few dollars and getting something that doesn’t.  Also, the popularity of the CAT Tourniquet has led to some serious counterfeiting.  If you choose to purchase one, make sure you are buying from a reputable dealer.

Could you assemble the components – sans case for less? Sure, but a large benefit of this kit is its compact size. It is small enough to stow inside your car – I keep on in my center console so that in the event of a really serious SHTF situation, I can reach it without having to get to the trunk where I keep the main first aid kit. I keep extra CATs, Israeli bandages, and Quik Clot packages in my big first aid kit should the unthinkable happen and I roll up onto the scene of a multi-vehicle accident or mass casualty event before the dedicated first responders can arrive.

I also have a D.A.R.K. clipped to my belt whenever I go to the range. While I certainly never expect to end up like Tex Grebner, the fact is that Tex probably didn’t plan to end up this way either. Accidents happen and they tend happen at the most inopportune times.  If your first aid kit is in the car 50-100 yards away while you are doing a serious bleed out, you might not make it. A compact trauma kit right on your belt could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

Overall, this kit lives up to its billing – Everything you need and nothing you don’t to address a life threatening trauma.  I keep one close at hand whenever I’m out and about.  Does that sound paranoid?  It might, but then again, no more so than someone who carries a concealed weapon all the time.  In both cases, the object is to be prepared for the unexpected and statistically speaking, I am more likely to need my D.A.R.K. than I am my CCW.

One final note on the kit – many of the contents are not something that an untrained person should just pull out and try to use.  It helps to get some training on it. Kerry Davis spends a fair amount of time on the road teaching a two day class that focuses on trauma injuries and shows how the contents of the D.A.R.K. can be used to treat them. The class cost $450 but includes a D.A.R.K. in the price, so you actually pay $295 for the two day course.  The first day and a half is classroom instruction followed by half a day working with the components of the kit so you get some hands on experience putting them to use.  I strongly recommend that before you attempt to deploy this kit that you get some training, either from Dark Angel Medical or from some place else.  Remember that Good Samaritan laws generally cover you as long as you are working withing the scope of your training, More information on the course schedule can be found here.

BONUS:  Dark Angel Medical has made a 10% coupon code available to the TTAG readership. Simply enter TAG10 into the coupon code field.  This code is good from August 30 to September 30, 2013 and will get you 10% off any product ordered on the website.  Special Thanks to Kerry Davis for offering our readership this deal.

Price: $159.95 – $164.94 (depending on whether you order the Civilian/LE or Military versions)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design/Ease of Use: * * * * *
This is not your daddy’s first aid kit. It is a serious piece of kit that is designed for a very specific purpose – to deal with traumatic injury.  It rides alongside but does not replace the standard first aid kit you should always have at hand.

Construction: * * * * *
There is nothing to indicate anything about this kit is less than top quality.

Value: * * * * *
Whether you buy this as a complete kit or you assemble the pieces yourself, you are going to pay about the same amount of money. Dark Angel Medical has designed this kit based upon real world experience and the components are top notch.

Overall: * * * * *
You need this kit or something with similar components.  Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your hands on one.  You (or someone else) may someday be very glad you did.

Recommended For You

48 Responses to Gear Review – Dark Angel Medical’s D.A.R.K. Trauma Kit

  1. Dark Trauma? I think marketing should re-think the context of their sloganeering, sounds like a video game and not the happy unicorn kind either

    • That’s as may be, but it’s better than the other trope that gun and defense companies tend to fall back on. Better I think to have people roll their eyes at a pretentious or goofy name than to scare them off a company that can’t even spell basic words correctly.

    • I’m trying to organize an advanced/trauma aid class for our Boy Scout troop, because it’s not enough just to buy the gear. Training and practice are required, because it is entirely possible that someone could die if you get this wrong.

      • The primary purpose of the D.A.R.K. is to offer options in the event someone is going to die anyway. I agree though that training is a good thing particularly for some of the more invasive items in it.

  2. Nice writeup, Jim. I’m gonna have to add this to my range bag, I think.

    I’d be interested in one of their classes. Sadly, the furthest south they come on the current schedule is NC or TN.

    • Kerry is pretty flexible. If you can get a bunch of people interested, he offers two options; either $450 per person which includes manual and D.A.R.K. for all participants or $750 per day so $1,500 for the two day training class and he provides PDFs of the manual for you to print out. Your participants would have to procure their own kits. Reach out to him at his website if you are interested in hosting a class.

    • Sh*t! I see I just missed their training here right down the road in Monroe NC 2 weeks ago. Thanks Matt. Wish I had known about this sooner. I am on the road a lot and in the woods/on the water plenty, plus sports – all with my 2 young sons in tow…this training would be very useful, I then, to complement my basic CPR and first aid. Will keep an eye for more sessions, I guess.

    • I’m curious how you came up with that opinion, as Jim “parts it out” in the text above, and the a la carte prices for the items basically total to the same amount as this sells for.

      • I just bought a kit from let’s say brand X, at first I thought they were cheaper by a bunch but in double checking and considering what is included now I wished I had waited.

        My mistake.

  3. Their Facebook page has regular quizzes on medical procedures and stories of the DARK in action. One of the few Facebook pages that is worth liking, if you’re into that kind of thing.

  4. Great review Jim and thanks. I want to say something and please dont take this as me being an @&&, its just sincere concern. With almost 12 years working in EMS now and also as a BLS Instuctor I want to say be VERY craeful with what you use in your medical pack. If this kind of stuff is in your SHTF bug out bag thats one thing but please use it as an absolute last resort.

    Most states have good samaritan laws which protect the lay person rescuer from lawsuits if they cause harm to someone they were trying to help. However, this does not mean you are immune from prosecution for practicing medicine without a license/certification. I am not against the lay rescuer having more advanced first aid supplies but please know there may be consequences for using them. Stick to basic first aid unless your in the middle of nowhere or the SHTF so hard that proffesionals take a vacation.

    • Another way to look at it – I have those items in my first aid kit – not because I might use them, but because frequently a trained person stops to assist. I have never had to insert an airway, or determine if someone is having a PT issue and requires a chest seal. I have practiced inserting an airway, placing a tourniquet, using the Isreali bandage, and using the QuikClot. I have taken First Responder training, which was really hard to find.
      So,I think you can carry some items you might not use, because someone with the training and experience might be able to use them. In the 3 medical incidents I have been involved, twice a nurse or EMT came along.

      • Im not saying no one should carry them just that there may be a liability issue to use them. Quick Clot has come a long way since I first heard of it but Im not aware of any EMS agency that uses it and I really dont know anything about the Israeli bandage. As far as nurses in the field, unless they are ER nurses on the phone with a trauma doctor, they cant do anything more than basic life support. Any nurse or doctor that comes up to me in the feild has zero authority unless the plan on clearing it with my medical director and going to the hospital in the ambulance. Otherwise if I take care of the patient they are going to jail for abandonment and losing their license.

        • As a 25 year nationally registered paramedic, it’s refreshing to read what you wrote. While in house Dr’s and nurses have they’re place in medical care, none of them are paramedics and they are worthless in the field. I wish the public would realize this.

    • the law here at least in Oregon protect you from anything unless you are Certified and as far as I’m aware it is the same every where and has been that way for year the class at least here in oregon would not open you up to a lawsuit because you are not state certified

      • Im aware of the purpose of Good Samaritan laws. But there is a difference between hurting someone by moving them around vs using something your not trained to.

      • You are protected to a point. You start using some of the stuff in this kit without being properly trained, you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit

    • You make some excellent points. If you have taken Kerry’s class or a similar one, it could be argued that you have received sufficient training to deploy the items in the kit. If you roll up on someone with an arterial bleed, they are going to be dead in 15 – 25 minutes depending on which artery is in question. A Tourniquet may very well save their life and if not, it could be argued in court that it was better than doing nothing at all. As for the rest of the kit, the Quik Clot, HALO seal, and Israeli bandage are largely non-invasive operations that should not make things worse. The nasal airway could be tricky though if you screw it up.

  5. $450 for the training course. I am no enemy of capitalism, but good gracious is that expensive. Does anyone have any ideas on how to obtain good first aid training that is reasonably priced?

    • Get first aid, CPR and AED certified through the American Heart Association. Classes are usually around or less than $100 depending on what you take. Prices may also vary by instructor as the AHA only sets a minimum for certain supplies (card and workbook).

      Really thoes few classes are all a lay person needs. Without a state or national license to practice medicine a class on advance first aid would simply open you to liability of practicing without a license. I would only reccomend advanced training for personal use during SHTF situations or if your in the middle of nowhere.

      • I might argue that if you have taken Kerry’s course or something similar, you could make the case that you did have sufficient training to deploy its contents. Kerry’s class is 16 hours, which is twice as long as any of the basic first aid courses that I have seen.

      • I was looking at the price of training from Dark Angel’s own website and had glossed over the discussion on the cost of training in the TTAG article, which makes very clear that you get the kit as part of the training. (Yes, I am attempting to defend my own idiocy.) As a heads-up for those interested, some of the training hosts charge an additional fee of $20 to $50, which is noted on the website.

    • If you haven’t had any first aid training that specifically deals with trauma, it’s worth $300. At the time I was in the service a significant portion of the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks was first aid related. Of all the things I learned, those first aid skills have come in the most handy. I’ve actually given attending a course like this serious thought, because the treatment of casualties has changed.

      If anyone in the Kansas City, MO area is interested, I’m thinking about hosting.

    • The $450 includes the two day, 16 hour course where a first-aid manual and other handouts are given, as well as, the D.A.R.K. Gen 3 complete kit ($165.00).

  6. So as far as price goes they seem to be in line with what you get. You could piece this together cheaper, but not by much. I just did some quick math and it might save you $15-20.

    As far as using it goes. Typically you would use this on yourself or have someone use it on you. That is typically how the military considers it use.

    I keep this stuff handy at the range I shoot at. The closest EMT is 15+ minutes away. That might be too long depending on the situation. I agree with what someone else wrote about basic first aid and wait for help, but if someone is spraying blood everywhere I want a way to help instead of just watching.

  7. I carry a similar kit, but it’s about twice the size ’cause no vacuum packaging.

    Very cool, and I think I’ll get me one for the vehicle, the range and the hunt.

    Heck, the tourniquet is an older design and the Quick Clot is getting long in the tooth anyway.

    • I like the tourniquet because it is easy to apply to yourself with one hand. In Kerry’s class, we worked with several other tourniquets including the NATO one, the SWAT-T and one other. The CAT was definitely the easiest to deploy quickly.

  8. Kerry brought up the question of liability in his class. One student did not want to risk doing this to someone else, but Kerry asked – if it was your significant other, or your child, would you hesitate? The answer of course was “No.” Even if you never plan to use this on a stranger, it’s a good thing to have handy either for yourself or your family. I never really gave it that much thought before taking the course, but I’m a true believer now.

    • Because a chest needle moves you immediately from “Basic First Aid” to “practicing medicine without a license”.

      • if you upgrade from the standard to the vented chest seal ($5.00 more), you also greatly reduce the risk of a Tension Pneumothorax, thus reducing the chances of needing the decompression needle. At least where i live, decompression needles are out of the scope of practice for anyone other than a licensed and registered Paramedic or a trauma nurse/doctor. the reason for this is simple: it’s a big freaking needle that you’re stabbing into someone’s chest. without proper training, you could go too deep, puncturing a lung, or miss the mark and hit a major part of the circulatory system (just close your eyes and pin the tail on the donkey; or the needle on the artery, as it were. There’s plenty of stuff to hit) . As you can imagine, this would, at the very least, make your patient’s day worse. Even once i finish my EMT training, if i ever had to use this on a trauma patient outside of work, i would NOT be covered by the Good Samaritan laws and may even lose my license (not to mention the patient).

    • As Kerry covered in class, if you’re putting in the airway, there’s a high percentage change you can swab your finger in their spit, puke, blood, etc and use it as lube.

  9. Pretty expensive, and if I had the money, I’d probably invest in one. Luckily, I already put together a quick first aid kit from the last time Nick put up an article about building an “essential” first aid kit. Amazon.com helped me find all the pieces, and for a reasonable cost.

  10. I took the 3 day “Bullets and Bandages” class at SigSauer Academy in Epping NH last year – I think there’s a good review of that class on TTAG you can find in the google search. The class was 2 days of medical and one day on the range and was an excellent class. I keep one D.A.R.K. kit with me at the range and move it to my work backpack during the week and I built 2 more kits with basically the same components – one for the truck and one for the house. I also bought extra components to use for practice and spent some time teaching the wife what I could. My first response to any medical emergency is to call 911 of course, but if nothing else I guess I view myself and my family as our own first responders until help arrives (firearms, fire extinguishers, medical gear, etc – I feel each give us an opportunity to buy time or save ourselves depending on the emergency situation.) I’m happy I got that training and it gives me a little more peace of mind. The 3rd day on the range with Kerry was educational and fun. We used handguns in the morning and rifles in the afternoon and ran through lots of drills: two handed, two handed moving, one handed, off-hand, then adding in movement, reloads one handed, clearing misfires one handed, adding in emergency (tourniquet application) drills and more to build on each previous drill. There’s even a ‘graduation drill’ where you pull it all together – both the range work and the medical training, quite a rush and helps give you a sense of the pressure you may be under in an emergency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *