In the wild, accidents and medical emergencies can happen at any time.You don’t have to be a seasoned survivalist or a nature enthusiast to start preparing for wilderness accidents. Knowing how to provide first aid in the wild can mean the difference between life and death.
The wilderness is unforgiving, filled with rugged terrain, unpredictable weather far away from immediate medical assistance. In these environments, basic first aid skills become critical. They can prevent minor injuries from escalating into major medical emergencies.
For survivalists, who often operate far from civilization, having the knowledge and supplies ready for first aid is essential for self-reliance. In remote settings, waiting for professional medical help might not be an option.
When you’re leading a group in the wilderness, whether it’s friends, family, or fellow survivalists, your wilderness first aid skills can ensure their safety. Being prepared to deal with injuries or illnesses can be a game-changer when you’re miles away from the nearest hospital.
Building Your Wilderness First Aid Kit
Basics of a First Aid Kit
A well-equipped first aid kit is the cornerstone of wilderness first aid. If you don’t have the right tools, you can’t treat the illness or injury. At the very least it should contain the following essential items:
- Adhesive tape
- Antiseptic wipes
- CPR mask
- An app or better yet a field guide for reference
Medications and Personal Prescriptions
Over-the-counter medications for pain relief, fever reduction, and allergy management are also essential to have on hand. For those on prescription medications, make sure to carry an ample supply in their original containers. You never know when a quick trip can turn into a survival expedition.
Splinting materials help stabilize fractures and sprains that can mean the difference between everyone getting home together or someone getting left behind while someone else looks for help. Items like SAM splints, triangular bandages, and duct tape can be invaluable, preventing small injuries from becoming life-or-death emergencies.
Personal Protective Equipment
Everyone remembers “PPE” from the COVID-19 days. Gloves and face shields are crucial to prevent the spread of infection during first aid procedures. Protecting yourself should be your number one priority while providing care.
Carry any specialized gear you’re trained to use, such as an epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions if this is appropriate for you or anyone else in your group.
Building Wilderness First Aid Skills
It’s important to build up your skill set before you head off into the woods. First aid isn’t the type of thing that lends itself to “on the job training.” So here are some ways you can prepare to give care before it’s time to actually provide care.
First Aid Courses
Formal wilderness first aid courses, often offered by organizations like the American Red Cross or similar, are an excellent way to build your skills for little or no money. They provide hands-on training and certification. The latter can be useful for a variety of reasons.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice makes perfect, so regularly practice your skills in various scenarios, from treating simulated injuries to handling hypothetical wilderness emergencies. Practice also builds muscle memory and confidence.
Learn to Recognize Signs and Symptoms
Knowing when to act is just as important as knowing how to act. Recognize common signs and symptoms of injuries, illnesses, and environmental conditions that can pose risks. This can allow you to avoid problems, but also knowing to act early before little problems become big ones.
Evacuation and Rescue
When push comes to shove, you’re either going to need to know how to get out of the woods in one piece or at least alert rescue teams to where you are.
Planning and Preparedness
Before setting out on a wilderness expedition, inform someone responsible that you know of your plans, including your route, expected return time, and emergency contacts. Always have an emergency plan in place.
Emergency Communication And Navigation
Rreliable communication devices like satellite phones or Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can help you to summon help when you need it. In an true emergency, these devices can be a lifesavers.
Likewise, knowing how to navigate and use a map and compass can mean the difference between life or death in an emergency. Even if you’re not evacuating, you can guide rescue teams to your location.
In remote areas, extraction via helicopter or other means may be necessary. Be prepared to assist rescue teams and provide essential medical information about the injured person.
Carrying the Injured
To improve the chances of everyone getting out together, learn how to carry an injured person safely. Improvised stretchers or fireman’s carries are two examples of properly carrying injured members of your party.
Keeping a Cool Head
The main thing you can do to increase chances of survival is to keep a cool head. It’s easy to panic. But keeping yourself focused on the situation at hand is possibly more important than any skills you can learn or gear you can buy. Take a deep breath, assess the situation, and act methodically.
Wilderness first aid is an invaluable skill for survivalists, but also just for anyone who ventures into the great outdoors. Your knowledg, preparedness and gear can save lives, providing crucial care while you wait for medical help to arrive.
By building out your first aid kit, learning the essential skills of wilderness survival, and staying prepared, you can explore the wild with greater confidence, knowing you have the ability to handle emergencies effectively. Remember, in the wilderness, the skills you acquire may be the ultimate survival tool.
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