What Are the Best Tips for Outdoor Emergency Care?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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Outdoor emergency care refers to the process of treating injuries or illnesses while in a wilderness setting, and potentially transporting victims or patients out of the wilderness and into care facilities. Some outdoor enthusiasts undergo training in outdoor emergency care, which is beneficial for anyone who spends a significant amount of time away from modern facilities. For many outdoor professionals such as ski guides or backcountry guides, such training is usually required. Treating injuries outdoors can be done without extensive training, however, as long as that outdoor enthusiast is willing to do some research into proper care techniques.

Anyone who ventures into the wilderness should be prepared for outdoor emergency care by packing a basic first aid kit as well as orienteering items such as a map and compass or a global positioning system, usually known as a GPS. Severe injuries sustained in the backcountry will often require attention from a doctor at a well-stocked medical facility, which means the patient will need to be transported out of the backcountry quickly. It is never a good idea to run when transporting a patient; this risks injury to the person performing the outdoor emergency care, thereby compounding an already difficult situation.


It is important to know and understand the most common types of injuries sustained in the wilderness, and be prepared by packing an appropriate first aid kit and knowing what steps to take to treat such injuries. Falls are perhaps the number one cause of injury in the outdoors, so outdoor emergency care will often revolve around treating impact injuries such as fractures. Sprains and muscle strains are also quite common and are not life-threatening; the injury will need to be immobilized. Bleeding can be a big problem, and treating bleeding injuries can be difficult, especially if the bleeding is profuse. It is best to carry bandages, though if none are available, pieces of clothing can be used to apply pressure to the injury. Do not tie off a bandage to cut off blood flow unless absolutely necessary; this constriction of blood flow can lead to the death of the limb, thereby necessitating amputation in the worst cases.

Wilderness first responder courses, sometimes referred to as WFR or Woofer, are in-depth training courses that will teach any outdoor enthusiast the best outdoor emergency care techniques. Such courses can be expensive and time-consuming, but they are worth the investment for anyone participating in outdoor activities on a regular basis.


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Post 3

@MrsPramm - It's not a bad thing to have some knowledge of the outdoors, but don't rely on that knowledge unless you have to. People who need emergency care should be given safe rations and water, not subjected to whatever their fellow travelers can scrounge up.

And no matter how good you are at outdoor craft you won't be able to find a decent substitute for hygienic bandages or real painkillers if you haven't brought any along.

Post 2

@pleonasm - I won't disagree that you should bring things into the outdoors like waterproof matches and a sharp knife, but I actually think the most important thing you can have is knowledge. If you know the terrain and know how to get things done in the outdoors, you should be fine for most of the time.

Post 1

The best tip I can give you is to be prepared. You don't need to load up on every single thing you might possibly need, but at least have a basic emergency supplies kit. And increase the supplies depending on the weather.

Even experienced outdoors-people can run into trouble. I've heard of people freezing to death overnight because they didn't anticipate the temperature, or dying from dehydration when they still had water available because they weren't paying attention to their own limits.

The classic example, of course, is that guy who ended up pinned under a boulder and had to cut off his own arm. He was a relatively experienced hiker who was overconfident and didn't bring the supplies he needed for an emergency.

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