First Aid

CAT vs RATS

At Lightning X, we carry two main tourniquets in stock: the R.A.T.S. and C.A.T. tourniquets. Both tourniquets have been proven effective in occluding blood flow by the US Army’s Institute of Surgical Research and rely on patented designs that allow them both to claim that they’re the best tourniquets on the market.

While both serve the same basic purpose, to prevent extensive blood loss in cases of trauma or hemorrhaging, there are several key differences between the two that might encourage you to choose one over the other…

Color

Everyone loves having color choices when they go to purchase something, whether that’s clothes, shoes, gear bags, or tourniquets. Sometimes the choice in color is for aesthetic reasons —-maybe it’s someone’s favorite color or it matches their gear bag —-and sometimes color is chosen for strategic reasons, such as to blend in in a tactical environment or to stick out in an emergency rescue situation.

The Rapid Application Tourniquet System (RATS) and Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) can both come in a variety of colors, although we only stock one color of the RATS. The CAT comes in Tactical Black, Rescue Orange, and Training Blue to accommodate the various needs of professional first responders —stealth or visibility, or just aesthetic needs. We stock the RATS in fluorescent yellow to match our reflective trim on our bags.

Fun fact:

Contrary to popular belief, the “training blue” CATS tourniquet is manufactured to the exact same specifications as the black and orange versions and is completely safe to use in the field. James Davenport, Public Safety Programs Manager at North American Rescue writes: “when law enforcement made a shift to using a “blue guns” for non-ballistic training evolutions we created the blue CAT to enable individuals and agencies to conduct hands-on training & tourniquet application practice with a visual means to distinguish training devices from personal/operational life-saving devices. It was designed and is manufactured to the exact same specifications as the black and orange CATs. The only difference is the dye used in the material manufacturing process –other than this, the three are identical. The blue one is officially labeled as a training tourniquet to denote it may have been used and abused in hundreds to thousands of training scenarios –this is necessary so folks using it in training to not rely on it as if it was just taken out of the plastic wrapper”

While the CAT does come in a few more colors, all versions of the CAT have a distinctive red tip on the end to assist in correct application of the tourniquet in case of emergency which makes it even easier to use.

Ease of Use

One of the most significant characteristics of a tourniquet is how easy and simple it is to use. Tourniquets should be incredibly easy to use for anybody who might need to because the situations where a tourniquet might be needed are high stress situations where we often aren’t very clear-headed. Both tourniquets can be applied in a few easy steps and are designed to be applied with one or both hands. In our experience with these tourniquets, the RATS has a simpler application process to learn quickly and be performed by someone with minimal tourniquet experience, however it would be difficult to apply one-handed although it is marketed as being designed for one-handed application. The patented locking system used to keep the tourniquet locked in once it has been applied is difficult to engage because the metal cut-outs for the tourniquet strap to lock into are just big enough for the strap, making it a tight fit.

In comparison, the CAT has more moving parts in its application process that would make it a little more difficult for someone with less experience to figure out in a hurry, but the steps are relatively easy once you’ve tried doing it at least one. The CAT design is also much easier to use one-handed in comparison to the RATS because the tourniquet comes ready to apply, and the hook and loop closure with the routing buckle means the first step of application is as easy as pulling on the red tip until the tourniquet is appropriately tightened and securing it, which is easily done one-handed.

Size & Speed

Easy storage is another key component in choosing a tourniquet. The tourniquet should be small enough to fit in a small first aid kit or hip pouch, but not so small it can get lost in a larger kit. Additionally, tourniquets should store in such a way that someone can quickly pull it out of a kit and have it ready to apply in seconds. Thanks to its hook and loop closure, the CAT conveniently folds in on itself and stays self-contained very easily, but can also unfold and be applied in just a few seconds. The RATS can be folded any number of ways, however it doesn’t stay held together very easily, so if it was stored loosely in a bag, it is liable to become tangled, preventing quick application in an emergency.

The best way to store the RATS would be in a smaller bag or pocket within your larger gear bag to prevent tangling the tourniquet or any other supplies or holding it together with a rubber band.

Price

Price is easily the biggest concern when choosing any supplies, especially if you’re purchasing for an entire department. Our RATS are priced at $14.99 and our CATs are priced at $34.99. While there is a steep price difference between the two tourniquets, the other characteristics of the two systems should be the defining factor, as you want to make sure you have a tourniquet that fits your needs.

There are different characteristics of each tourniquet that make it suitable for a variety of needs, and it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you. When you decide, you can buy your own RATS or CAT through GearBags.com, or, if you’re looking for more than just a tourniquet, check out our wide selection of IFAK Tactical Trauma Kits here to see which kits come with a RATS or CAT.

RATS CAT
Color Options Florescent Yellow Tactical Black, Rescue Orange,
Training Blue
Ease of Use Simple design, fewer steps,
difficult to lock in place
Hook and Loop closure, routing
buckle, and distinctive red tip,
but more steps and parts
Size 54" strap length 37.5" strap length
Storage 3" x 2.25" x 1.5" when folded as
packaged.
6" x 2.4" x 1.5" when folded.
Easily self contained
One Handed
Application
Designed for one handed use,
but difficult in practice
Easily applied with one or both hands
Price $14.99 $34.99
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