Best Tourniquets (& Key Features) For Traumatic Medical Emergencies

Best TourniquetsSkilled Survival’s Tourniquet Buyers Guide

Today we are going to get into tourniquets, big time! Why? Because in a life-threatening wilderness accident, you better be prepared.

Basic first aid ONLY teaches you the ABCs.

And while these medical skills are essential, if you have blood shooting out of your main artery, chest compressions won’t help.

You need to know how to stop the bleed NOW; otherwise, it’s lights out in minutes.

Here at Skilled Survival, we prepare you for worst-case scenarios.

That’s why when you build an IFAK Kit, TFAK, or Bug-Out Bag, one of the most important things you can have is a quality tourniquet.

So here are all the topics we will cover today:

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Best Tourniquets On The Market Today

There are several brands and types of tourniquets for sale today. Here we are listing the best tourniquets, in our opinion:


North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)

This CAT is the official tourniquet of the US Military.

It has a great hook and loop windlass system. It provides the ideal circumferential pressure to the limb along with a dual securing mechanism.

The windlass rod is reinforced with a larger diameter for better strength. And is ribbed for a superior grip.

It can also work in any weather and is 100% effective in both upper and lower extremities at impeding blood flow.

There is also a stabilization plate with a beveled contact bar for better use.

Your tourniquet comes with:

  • a heavy-duty windlass
  • windlass clip
  • stabilization plate
  • and security strap

This device has excellent reviews, and for a good reason. It is one of the top tourniquets for sale on the market today.

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Recon Medical Tourniquet GEN 4B

The new Gen 3 from Recon Medical is an excellent tourniquet.

It comes with kevlar stitching and an aluminum windlass. It also includes a teeth-pinching buckle system. This helps to prevent strap pealing and a no-curl tip for larger patients.

This tourniquet is guaranteed for life. And effectively stops arterial blood flow with its one-handed design.

There is also a patent-pending finger hole design for better grip in all weather. And it has a timestamp to write down the application time so you can monitor time limits.

Having a recon medical tourniquet with you will save lives in an emergency.

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CAT Combat Application Tourniquet

Here we have the US Army’s official tourniquet. The CAT Combat Application Tourniquet is designed for fast application when your facing significant hemorrhaging.

It utilizes a robust windlass system with a free-moving internal band. This helps to create even circumferential pressure to the extremity.

When blood flow stops, the windlass is locked in place. And a hook and loop strap secures it for safe transport during the evacuation of the wounded.

One-handed application is easy with this Gen-7 model. And it also features a visible security tab with a writable area to record application time.

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Tactical Medical Solutions SOF Tourniquet

Tac Med has an excellent line of tourniquets, including the SOFTT-W.

They made it lighter and stronger, so it is ideal to use for all situations. Well adapted for one-hand and two-hand uses.

This soft t tourniquet easily slides over the arm or leg as well as unclips to fit around a limb that is trapped.

The constricting band is 1.5″ wide, giving increased constricting pressure while providing comfort to the patient.

It’s easy to reroute the band with a quick-connect snap-lock design. And the metal alloy components are lighter weight while providing the required strength and durability.

Their patented SOF tourniquet is preferred for elite military forces and emergency responders worldwide. It was designed by a Special Forces Medic while deployed in Afghanistan.

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tourniquet applied to an arm

What Is A Tourniquet?

The medical dictionary defines a tourniquet as:

“Any device for arresting bleeding by forcibly compressing a blood vessel, as a bandage tightening by twisting.”

At its most basic, that is exactly what it is.

And in a medical emergency, when you don’t have a first aid kit, you use whatever you can get your hands on to stop the bleeding.

A tourniquet is a device you wrap around a bleeding arm or leg with the ability to tighten. This process squeezes the large blood vessels and helps stop blood loss.

It saves lives by quickly controlling a major hemorrhage.

While you can use a belt, rope, or a strip off your shirt, a commercial-use tourniquet is ideal. A proper one works more effectively and minimizes risk.

For a normal wound, applying pressure with bandages usually stops the surface bleeding. A tourniquet is for controlling the bleeding from a severed artery. You have to react quickly to stop it, or your patient dies.

If you apply it properly, it’ll hurt like hell. But it’s also going to save your life.

The critical thing is to put it on when needed and leave it there. You can’t leave It on forever, so find a way to a doctor ASAP. When you get your patient to the hospital, it’s the doctor’s job to remove it.

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tourniquet worn on a mountain climbers leg

Everyone Should Have At Least One Tourniquet

Tourniquets are an effective tool for quickly stopping a major extremity bleed. When properly used, you can save a life. So who needs one?

If you are in the military or a police officer, it’s a no-brainer. You should be carrying one because you put yourselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. What about everyone else?

You are on this website because you’re interested in prepping and survival information. That’s a good thing. Anyone interested in outdoor life and wilderness adventures should own an IFAK medical kit. Whether it’s camping, fishing, hiking, or hunting, accidents can happen.

Being prepared for any situation is crucial.

If you are prepping for a world economic duster or enemy invasion, you have built a bug-out bag.

Among the essential survival items is your first aid supplies. You should have several types of tourniquets packed for sure.

They are going to help you with puncture wounds, gunshots, and fall injuries. It’s an essential medical device you hope you never have to use. 

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our #78 Item Complete Prepper Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

tourniquet worn on a plate carrier chest rig

Types Of Tourniquets (Pros & Cons Of Each)

There are several emergency tourniquet types. And they are all designed to do the same thing. To stop a massive hemorrhage by creating circumferential pressure and cutting off blood flow.

It’s best to practice with various ones to see what you are most comfortable using. It comes down to personal preference, so let’s check out the best tourniquet for you.

Here’s a good overview video showing the differences between tourniquets (or read our breakdown below):

MET – Military Emergency Tourniquet

A MET Tourniquet is a lightweight option that has a strong strap and a windlass made of aluminum.

The MET comes apart entirely as it is an open-loop system allowing you to put it around a limb quickly. You apply it loosely, letting the windlass take up all the slack until it’s tight.

Next, you can secure it at two different points for complete lockdown.

The MET comes in 3 generations. Gen 1&2 has a narrow band, while Gen 3 is wider.

Note: If you have never used a tourniquet before, you may require some training for their model.


  • Easy to wrap around limbs
  • Multiple lockdown points


  • Earlier generations were too narrow

SOF-T Special Operations Forces Tourniquet

Another truly open-loop tourniquet is the SOF-T.

It has several versions, with the earlier ones having a narrow strap with an alligator clip and locking screw. Two D-rings (made out of plastic) secure the metal windlass when it is applied.

You must secure the locking screw before using the windlass. Otherwise, the tourniquet will loosen.

The strap is wider with a break-apart buckle replacing the screw and clip-on newer generations of the SOF-T tourniquet.

This change was made possible by going down to one D-ring for locking down the windlass.


  • Ease of use
  • Windlass is made with a more robust aluminum


  • The narrower SOF-T can cause nerve damage if it’s left on too long

CAT – Combat Application Tourniquet

The military uses this tourniquet partially because it was the first manufactured one.

The CAT has gone through many versions over the years. Fortunately, the latest ones have corrected older performance issues.

When used, the strap is completely independent for wrapping around a limb. So you must secure the strap before using the windlass. A CAT tourniquet is a closed-loop system with just a three-inch uptake.

Velcro helps secure the strap. But depending on a lower or upper limb, it feeds through the buckle differently. There is only one locking point for the windlass on the CAT.


  • Less pressure is required for total occlusion of the artery
  • Less potential for lasting nerve damage


  • Can slip in wet weather
  • The windlass can more easily break due to its plastic makeup

RMT – Ratchet Medical Tourniquet

The RMT is another closed-loop tourniquet. It comes with a broad strap that can be fully open for getting around trapped limbs.

There is a ratcheting, self-locking buckle for tightening with a simple release mechanism.

These are designed for easy single-handed application and are compact and lightweight. It works great but uses this more as a backup for one of the models above.


  • It can easily fit into your IFAK
  • Single-handed use


  • Best used as a secondary option

EMT – Emergency Medical Tourniquet

Here we have an emergency medical tourniquet. The EMT looks similar to a blood pressure cuff that you see at the doctor’s office.

The difference is it has an aluminum clamp to secure it instead of velcro. It’s an open-loop system, so it’s pretty easy to use, and it’s lightweight. Pressure is applied through a pneumatic bladder that you hand pump up.

Its easy use can be applied one-handed if necessary. The EMT is less compact than other options, so you should consider that when building a trauma kit.


  • Less chance of tissue damage with its wide band
  • More comfortable than a band type


  • More expertise and bulkier than windlass types

MAT – Mechanical Advantage Tourniquet

The MAT is another good tourniquet you can apply with one hand.

It comes in two sizes; one for an arm and one for a leg. An internal mechanism tightens using a plastic dial that draws up the cord to restrict your artery. It also has a quick-release button.

You do have to get the strap tight around the limb before turning the dial as it has limited uptake. As a closed-loop system, you can easily remove the strap to get around the limbs and hook it back in.


  • Great one-handed use


  • Plastic parts that may not last
  • Limited strap uptake with the dial

Band Tourniquets – TK4, SWAT-T, NATO

Band tourniquets are simple elastic rubber bands you wrap around a limb.

Pressure is applied by repeatedly wrapping tighter, creating compressive force. You must apply a band style properly to be effective and restrict blood flow.

It is better suited to smaller limbs to ensure full restriction. Checking tightness is a must.


  • Simple, lightweight design
  • It easily fits small and large limbs


  • It can take longer to apply
  • Just a giant rubber band
  • Elastic can break, causing limb damage

All these tourniquets will give you blood flow restriction to a significant injury. They all have their pros and cons so take the time to see what works best for you.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Best Tourniquet Features

You would think that choosing a tourniquet would be easy, but that isn’t the case. Buying the least expensive may not get you what you need in a think-fast-or-die situation.

That’s why you should have several different options for different situations.

Remember, the best tourniquet is the one that is right for you.

Durable Parts

You don’t want a device that will break before you can get to a doctor. It’s hard to avoid plastic parts on some tourniquets but depending on the style, look for metal parts.

The windlass should be aluminum, so it will stand up to pressure. Also, the straps, bands, clamps, and locking mechanisms need to be tough.

Ease of Use

When a major accident happens, you need to react quickly to save a life. Having a tourniquet that you can put on quickly makes all the difference.

It’s in life-or-death situations where research is important. Understand how different tourniquets work and choose the ones you can confidently use.

One-handed ones are great to have if you hike or camp alone, so make sure to have one of these types.

Wide Band

Having a wider band makes reaching occlusion easier. It restricts blood over a larger surface area and lessens the chance of nerve damage.

Both strap and band tourniquets have their advantages. So to fully prepare, pack both styles.

Ultimately you want to save a life and not cause any other damage. Having a wide tourniquet plays a significant role in its effectiveness.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the single most crucial life-saving device you can carry is a tourniquet.

Get a few different ones and add them to all your survival bags. Having one on hand and knowing how to use it will save your life or the lives of those you love. Now get geared up!

“Just In Case” Jack

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There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.


The post Best Tourniquets (& Key Features) For Traumatic Medical Emergencies appeared first on Skilled Survival.

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