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  • Writer's pictureJoshua @ Forge

Wilderness First Aid Basics: Be prepared for an outdoor emergency

Updated: Sep 21, 2021


Wilderness first aid is the knowledge and ability to effectively address injuries, illnesses, or emergencies outside of modern facilities, out in the wild. Skills could include knowing how to dress a wound, treat a burn or bite, or set an injured limb. These are important skills that can save your life or the lives of other outdoor enthusiasts. Learn more and be better prepared for your next hiking or backpacking adventure.

Dusty green old First Aid kit.

Preparation: First aid and wilderness essentials

The most basic wilderness first aid skill is the skill to properly prepare. Putting together a well-stocked travel first aid kit ensures that you’ll have all of the resources you’ll need should you or a hiking companion need assistance. Common items in a wilderness first aid kit include:

  • disinfectant

  • bandages

  • bite or sting ointment

  • a pair of tweezers, and

  • Benadryl

It’s important that one inventory their first aid kit prior to their adventure; that way if items need to be restocked before the trip, one has time to do so.

Useful resource: Wilderness first aid reference cards - these reference cards will help you when studying about the important aspects of wilderness first aid.

Basic first aid

Knowledge of how to properly use all of the items in your first aid box is also very important. ACLS, BLS, or PALS recertification may be beneficial to those who may have let their initial certification in these life-saving skills lapse and are in need of a refresher.

Basic first aid and life support are invaluable skills in any situation, but for those out in the wild, it may be the one thing between life and death. Many national, regional, and local organizations offer basic first aid and BLS training courses to the public. So do local boy scout troops. These classes are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts interested in building their skills to build on their Wilderness first aid basics: This article provides first aid information for many different types of emergencies one may encounter in the wilderness.

Survival skills

Survival skills are also critical for those exploring the great outdoors. Knot-tying, shelter-building, fishing, fire-making, and foraging are all skills that, should you be stuck in the wilderness, will help to sustain you until help arrives.

Also helpful would be any flares, fire-starters, or signaling devices that you might have in your wilderness kit. For any hiker, regardless of whether they plan to build a fire or not, these items can do double-duty as emergency signals or fire-starters. Many wilderness first aid items have multiple uses; the key is to think outside of the box and to keep calm in the event of an emergency.

Useful resources:

Survival and first aid information: This resource provides some good, basic information about first aid and survival skills that anyone out in the wilderness should know.

Survival 101: This scare-you-straight-style guide offers first aid tips, information on survival gear, and what to do if you're caught in an emergency out in the wilderness.

Wilderness survival tips: As a collection of survival and wilderness articles, this resource provides good information for those interested in educating themselves about wilderness survival and what is needed to remain safe and healthy outdoors.

General outdoor/Wilderness safety

Wilderness safety is about more than just what you bring with you and your own knowledge; it’s also about making sure someone who isn’t hiking with you knows how to reach you, and where you’re expected to be and when.

Communicating your plans to a friend or family member can help to ensure that if something unforeseen happens, the proper authorities will have a better idea of where to find you, should the need arise.

We hear too many horror stories of hikers being injured or killed in accidents while out in the wilderness because they don’t keep safety best practices in mind or aren’t prepared. Don’t let yourself become a victim of poor planning; arm yourself with proper knowledge of health and safety.

Useful resources:

Plan and prepare for success: This page and the resources it features offer basic, practical information on how to best prepare and plan ahead to stay safe when you're out on a hiking trip.

Tips on backpacking with toddlers: The outdoors hold a world of wonder for children, and hiking is a great way for the family to experience nature together, but before you head out, there are a few key safety tips you should know.

This blog post was written by Amanda Menard and supplied by ACLS Training Centre. Forge takes no responsibility for any factually incorrect or misleading information contained therein and in the linked content.

Cover photo by milan degraeve on Unsplash


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