Red bag review: New AUSMATeers put the red bags to the test

27 Jun 2023

The red bag has become synonymous with the AUSMAT brand. When an AUSMAT is requested to respond to a health emergency, the team arrive in blue shirts with their bright red bag in tow.

Each AUSMAT member is issued with a complete red bag when deployed, filled with items necessary for personal comfort, ration packs for the first 24 hours, uniforms, and additional space for clothing and small personal items.

The contents have been specifically developed by the NCCTRC operations team to support an austere field deployment. The equipment is of a high standard to ensure performance in the field and maximise comfort in difficult environments.

Participants of this year’s AUSMAT Team Member courses had the opportunity to put their red bags to the test and become familiar with the contents.

After completing the five-day course, we asked participants to review the red bag, the contents and what their personal luxury item might be if they were to be deployed with AUSMAT.


Philip Evens, Logistician – Northern Territory


“I think I started behind the eight ball because after I had completed online pre-learning resources, I didn’t even consider what I might need as far as personal items were concerned … and then the red bag appeared and I hadn't pre-prepared anything. Luckily, I had packed the absolute essentials… I had three sets of undies, two shirts and a pair of socks in my car.

“Once actually using the contents of the red bag across the five day course, I realised that I'm a three pillow man, not an inflatable air pillow person so that was an adjustment from day one! But, I am a Territorian and consider myself somewhat of a minimalist, so once I pulled out the contents of the red bag that I needed, I was more than comfortable.

“The ration pack was a pleasant surprise, I had a feast of green curry with chicken, mashed up with some dry noodles, followed by beef jerky… and then I proceeded to trade all the other items in my ration pack for more beef jerky.

“I could comfortably live out of the red bag for a 14-day deployment. It was incredible, there wasn’t anything I would flag as missing and I didn’t feel like I was without the essentials. Next time, I would roll up a couple of extra pillows.

“This course is far more than the bag of course, and if I could say it in one word, I would describe the AUSMAT course and overall experience as ‘perfect’. The faculty and the instructors were informative and engaged across every session and practical exercise. I walk away from the experience very happy and really stoked to be a part of the AUSMAT family.”

Angela Cheaib, Pharmacist – Western Australia


“AUSMAT has a fantastic reputation, and I wanted to make sure I lived up to the name, so I over prepared rather than underprepared. I came into the course with the mindset that I needed to be prepared for anything. As a result…my red bag was quite heavy when I loaded everything in there.

“I found it easiest to use the handles like a backpack. So I literally ended up walking around looking like a little red turtle.

“The ration packs became a form of currency; our group seriously had a system going on to get their favourite snacks. What I most enjoyed about the ration packs is that I'm someone who hates cleaning up and doing the dishes, so there are a lot of things I just ended up eating dry. I am vegetarian too, and I have to say I felt like the pack had just as many nutritious snacks for me as for anyone else with dietary needs.

“Full disclosure, I brought my luxury item with me… I usually make cold brew. I actually prepared enough brew for the full five days of the course. So, if I were on a deployment I definitely would bring my cold brew, no matter where I was, I'm not the same person when I'm not caffeinated.

“If I could give one tip to anyone else likely to take the AUSMAT Team Member course in the future, I would just say make sure you have a bit of fun with it all and really get to know the people who you will one day likely work with on a team. It’s a huge but rewarding week, and I have really done my best to absorb every moment of it.”


Toni Norris, Paediatric and neonatal retrieval nurse – South Australia


“The red bag gave me plenty of confidence that I would be prepared for whatever the AUSMAT Team Member course might throw at me. It had everything to ensure I slept comfortably, and was well fed with some additional snacks and provisions.

“I consider myself a pretty decent camper in my personal life, I don't skimp on any gear, so it was nice to open the red bag and set off with really well equipped… instantly I felt confident in what I was carrying with me for the week.

“My favourite item in the pack was probably the Squelchers, basically like electrolytes in all different flavours once dissolved in water. I underestimated how much water I would be drinking in the Northern Territory heat, so it was nice to have something other than plain old water.

“For anyone who is yet to be a part of the AUSMAT course, I would suggest coming with open mind. Be prepared to have fun and embrace what's going on. Drink lots of water, and enjoy the ride.”

Jennefer Love, Doctor– Western Australia


“The red bag is incredibly well equipped; it's probably the most durable bag I have ever used.
We've dragged them along dirt roads, they've been tossed in and out of vehicles, and they've survived really well.

“Being handed a red bag on day one of the AUSMAT Team member course was the moment it really hit me, this is it, and this is real.

“It’s amazing how much is inside for each person, there is everything that you could possibly need for a little bit of creature comfort. There’s gear for hiking, sleeping, eating utensils, right down to little bags with bug spray, hand sanitiser and sunscreen.

“I've given my luxury item a bit of thought, so I would probably pack my own pillow. The pillow provided in the red bag is surprisingly very comfortable, but I would probably take an extra one just for additional comfort.

“For anyone taking on the course in the future, I highly recommend you test your batteries on all your equipment before you arrive! My batteries for my head torch failed after about five minutes, I was walking around in the dark until I could find the hand held torch that was supplied in the red bag.

“It’s just such a great course and I feel like I have absorbed so much information from the faculty and from my team mates, it’s seriously the best course I have ever had the privilege of being involved in.”


Congratulations to all the new AUSMAT members who have completed the AUSMAT Team Member course in 2023.

AUSMAT; Australian Medical Assistance Team; NCCTRC; National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre

Gabrielle Lyons
Communications and Digital Engagement Officer

Gabrielle joined the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre in 2021 as Communications and Digital Engagement Officer, supporting media requests, social media coverage and operational requirements for NCCTRC and AUSMAT while on deployment. Gabrielle comes to the NCCTRC with substantial experience as a radio and digital journalist, most recently producing for ABC’s flagship program Radio National Drive with Patricia Karvelas and supporting Afternoon Briefing on ABC News 24, a program dedicated to current affairs and political analysis. Gabrielle specialises in Asia-Pacific politics and human interest feature writing. Beyond Australian borders, Gabrielle has also co-created and hosted an international travel podcast, which was nominated for Best Australian Podcast of 2019. You can follow Gabrielle on Twitter @gj_lyons