LAST UPDATED: December 19, 2019
Best Tourniquets: Stop Arterial Blood Loss Effectively
A quality tourniquet can stop the bleeding of an injured limb in just seconds
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON December 19, 2019
Studies have shown that most deaths caused by accidents are a result of hemorrhaging or excessive bleeding. This is because bare hand pressure and bandaging can only prevent superficial capillary bleeding. When the bleeding is from the main artery, the victim will lose too much blood in a very short time and might die before the ambulance arrives. That’s why you need an effective kit that can stop severe main artery bleeding—the tourniquet. In this guide, we review the best three tourniquets on the market.
This U.S. military-approved tourniquet uses high-quality materials for reliable bleeding control. Its easy-to-use design features an anodized aluminum windlass and clip allow for easy application, and its 1.5-inch wide strap applies even pressure for reliable bleeding control while providing that patient with relative comfort.
This is one of the most user-friendly tourniquets on the market today. It uses high-quality materials to ensure reliability and is endorsed by first responders for its quality.
This tool is not quite as easy to apply one-handed, although it is still possible. Beware of poor-quality counterfeit versions; verify authenticity before purchasing.
This BERRY-compliant tourniquet has been tested and proven effective by the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research. The second-generation version is longer for use with more patients and can easily be adapted for EDC and use with animals.
This tourniquet uses high-quality materials including vulcanized rubber exterior and is very fast to apply. It is easy to use quickly and its small size allows for easy adaptation to creative EDC use.
This tourniquet is better suited for two-handed application, although it can be done with one. Users must take care to avoid overtightening.
This kit is officially approved for use by the U.S. military and will effectively stop blood flow in the extremities. It features a windlass clip for easy, one-handed use. Its security tab has a writeable area to record the time of application.
This kit is lightweight and easy to use. It is proven and certified by the military and medics. It is made of quality material to enhance its durability and is very user-friendly.
Many purchasers have been sold poor-quality imitations. Verify that the product is a genuine North American Rescue product before purchasing. It can be a little pricey.
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Benefits of Tourniquets
- Can be used on amputated limbs. You can use a tourniquet on an amputated limb when there is an increased risk of bleeding. Amputations may be caused by explosions, motor vehicle accidents, or other trauma. A tourniquet lowers the chances of hypovolemic shock, a condition that occurs when you lose more than 20 percent of your blood.
- Treats multiple casualties. Tourniquets may be used as the first response treatment when there are mass casualties, like during terrorist attacks or industrial accidents. They quickly stop or slow down bleeding in people with serious limb injuries. This gives first responders more time to treat critical cases, secure airways, or perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- Great alternative to applying direct pressure. A tourniquet can be applied to prevent bleeding on an affected limb when you can’t reach it to apply direct pressure. It may be the only method to control the bleeding. It is highly useful when someone is trapped under a boulder with a badly injured limb and they are unable to get out.
Types of Tourniquets
Military Emergency Tourniquet (MET)
This lightweight tourniquet is made of an aluminum windlass and a strong strap. It opens up completely for placement around a limb. It doesn’t need to be totally cinched before you engage the windlass. When you need to tie it loosely, turning the windlass can loosen it. The tourniquet has two tightening features for locking the windlass after use. One has Velcro while the other is adjustable.
Emergency Medical Tourniquet (EMT)
This is a pneumatic tourniquet that resembles a blood pressure cuff. However, the tourniquet has a stronger securing mechanism and a reinforced pneumatic bladder that prevents air loss when it inflates. These maintain pressure on the limb once the tourniquet is applied. The EMT is an easy-to-use, open-loop tourniquet that compresses even when loosely applied. It is larger and costlier than many windlass tourniquets.
Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)
This is one of the oldest tourniquets in existence and is commonly used by the military. It comes in different models. However, it’s important to use the most recent model as it is more effective. The tourniquet features a closed-loop system limited to a 3-inch uptake. The windlass only has one locking point and the strap is secured with Velcro. The strap is routed through the buckle differently; it all depends on whether the tourniquet is used on a lower or upper extremity.
Mechanical Advantage Tourniquet (MAT)
This tourniquet is made from plastic shaped like a “C” for easy application around the limb. It is manufactured in two sizes: one for the leg and the other for the arm. It utilizes a closed-loop system and its strap can be quickly attached and detached. The tourniquet’s internal tightening mechanism is a plastic dial that can be turned. This tourniquet has a lower uptake because the strap must be secured before the internal system is engaged.
Tac Med Solutions
This company specializes in developing and producing top-notch tourniquets that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It uses high-quality materials to create its product, materials that stand the test of time. In addition to meeting military, law enforcement, and first responder standards, they also sell the SOFT-W Trainer for meeting proper training standards.
North American Rescue
This company’s motto is “Products with a Mission.'' Each of its products is an inventive, life-saving solution that’s specially designed for the unique challenges that crop up during casualty care in difficult environments and situations. We love its 2-Pack CAT Tourniquet, as it’s very easy to use.
This company changed its name from RATS Medical to reflect its growing list of medical products. As part of its belief that speed equals life, it sells numerous first aid kits and other blood loss-stopping products. We find their Hi-Viz Green Rapid Tourniquet particularly valuable for situations needing quick visual identification.
- $5-$10: A majority of the tourniquets here are disposable and made from latex-free material. The tourniquet may be one continuous roll or they may be sold as a pack.
- $15-$20: This range features a mix of disposable tourniquets and those that have a windlass. The disposable ones come in packs of up to 100 pieces.
- $25-$30: These tourniquets usually have an aluminum or metal windlass. They may be sold as singles or as a pack.
A cuff that has a wider bladder blocks blood flow with less pressure compared to a cuff with a smaller bladder. The lower pressure decreases the chances of pressure-related injuries. A wider cuff efficiently transmits blood to the deeper tissues. To minimize the risk of nerve injury, ensure the cuff edges are not close to the joints of the affected limb.
The best tourniquet can withstand pressure and stays firm after repeated use. In the USA, the FDA requires all tourniquet manufacturers to have a quality management system. The minimum standard is the ISO 9001 certification. Additionally, the best tourniquets meet the standards set by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC). This is an independent organization endorsed by the National Association of EMTs and the American College of Surgeons.
Tourniquet and Cuff Length
A good tourniquet should be 3 feet (1 meter) long so as to fit people of different dimensions. If you are small-bodied, a shorter tourniquet is best for you. A military tourniquet spans at least 3.13 feet and is the standard most manufacturers use. The cuff length is usually determined by the limb size. The cuff should overlap at least 3 inches (6 inches maximum). A cuff that is too long doesn’t fit snugly and is unstable. A short cuff will put uneven pressure on the limb.
- Windlass: Tourniquets featuring a windlass are better because they are the most effective and fastest to use. They can be comfortably applied with one hand. The windlass helps tighten the tourniquet. Avoid tourniquets with cheaply-made windlasses because they bend easily under pressure.
- Use Case: The kind of environment you plan to use the tourniquet in is important. Tourniquets come with diverse features, hence the need to identify the intended use before buying one. There are emergency tourniquets, surgical tourniquets, and rehabilitation tourniquets, although many will find emergency tourniquets to be the best fit for most situations.
Best Tourniquet Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Tac Med Solutions Gen 4 SOFT-W Tourniquet is one of only two tourniquets officially approved for use by the U.S. military, and its sturdy build and ease of use are the proof in the pudding. This tourniquet’s sound design and solid construction inspire confidence in the most demanding of users. In addition to its appearance on foreign battlefields, this tourniquet frequently appears in use with police officers, SWAT teams, firefighters, EMTs, and Search and Rescue teams. The prepared citizen may also find a great use for this tourniquet as well.
The SOFT-W is extremely reliable and lightweight. The anodized aluminum windlass and retention clip provide incredible strength, durability, and reliability, and the windlass’s ribbed surface ensures a solid grip to minimize slipping during application. The 1.5-inch strap allows for uniform application of pressure for predictable results, and with such a wide strap, the usual discomfort patients often experience during tourniquet use is diminished due to the better-distributed application of pressure.
This tool is not the easiest to apply one-handed. Also, beware of poor-quality counterfeit versions that have a tendency to appear from time to time.
While not officially approved for military use, don’t be surprised if you find a Rapid Medical Gen 2 Rapid Tourniquet (formerly known as the RATS Tourniquet) in the occasional Army rucksack due to its flexible use. This BERRY-compliant tourniquet has been tested and proven effective by the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research. The second-generation version of this unique tourniquet is longer for use with more patient types and can easily be adapted for EDC and use with animals.
The Rapid Tourniquet is known as the fastest tourniquet on the market today, and it makes great use of high-quality materials. The twist-to-tighten design replaces the traditional strap and windlass with a proprietary elastic band and metal buckle, making this a very simple and adaptable tool. In addition to its allergy-friendly construction, this tourniquet stands out for its ability to easily adapt to use with smaller individuals and even animals, and its lightweight and rare design also allows for users to dream up some creative EDC locations.
This tourniquet is better suited for two-handed use, and users must know that it can be overtightened fairly easily.
The U.S. Army lists the one-handed North American Rescue Gen 7 Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) as one of its officially-approved tourniquets, and according to the U.S. Army’s Institute of Surgical Research, it is 100 percent effective. It successfully occludes blood flow in both the upper and lower extremities when there’s significant hemorrhaging. The tourniquet is usable in all weather conditions, and its stabilization plate has a beveled contact bar that helps it work better.
The kit is lightweight and easy to use. For faster application, it has a single routing buckle to enable effective slack removal and fewer windlass turns. This tourniquet comes with a reinforced windlass rod and windlass clip. The clip is bilateral to allow for rapid locking and features a buttress for added strength. The rod has a larger diameter and is aggressively ribbed for improved grip. The tourniquet is equipped with a clearly visible security tab that has a writeable area where you can record the time you applied the tourniquet.
Due to the tourniquet’s plastic hardware, many counterfeit products have found it easy to masquerade as the real McCoy, so pay close attention before placing an order.
- When buying a tourniquet, its length, width, size, and material are all necessary considerations. Always try to choose a convenient size that can fit into your emergency kit.
- A kit with a wider cuff surface area is recommended. This is because narrow straps can cause a lot of pain or tissue damage.
- There are four main types of tourniquet: windlass, elastic band, pneumatic, and ratcheting. The windlass design is military approved because it features a solid stick that can be twisted to create pressure.
Q: Are tourniquets safe?
A: Yes. Some people have concerns that using a tourniquet will only make matters worse. However, research has shown that only 0.4 percent of patients who applied a tourniquet underwent limb amputation, and it had nothing to do with the kit. Also, only 1.5 percent of these patients suffered severe nerve damage. Therefore, a tourniquet is the safest way to stop severe bleeding.
Q: When should I use a tourniquet?
A: Use a tourniquet when the hemorrhage is life-threatening and cannot be stopped by direct pressure. However, if the bleeding can be controlled by hand pressure or bandaging, then a tourniquet is not necessary.
Q: How should I use a tourniquet?
A: It is recommended that the tourniquet is placed directly on the skin several inches above the wound. However, avoid placing it on the joint, since it might not be as effective and can also cause damage to the joint.
Our top pick for the best tourniquet is the Tac Med Solutions Gen 4 SOFT-W Tourniquet. It’s easy to use, durable, military-approved, and relatively comfortable for patients.
If you are on a budget, we recommend the Rapid Medical Gen 2 Rapid Tourniquet. It’s made of high-quality materials, is adaptable, and is easy to carry.