Last updated: April 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.
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.
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 become a safer hiker. Here are a few examples
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.
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 woods 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.