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Wilderness First Aid Basics: Surviving Injury In The Outdoors

Wilderness First Aid Basics: Surviving Injury In The Outdoors

You may be carrying a basic first aid kit in your pack and that is a great practice. Still, you are venturing off into the wild. Depending on your adventure you may be miles away from any help. You have to respect the wild. Respect the loose rock or a falling tree that could turn your camping trip into a life-threatening circumstance. There are no ambulances coming to the rescue. In most, you or someone you love must be airlifted out of a bad situation.

We are going to explore some very basic first aid practices in this article. You should be prepared to handle things like shock and hypothermia.

Wilderness First Aid Basics: Hypothermia & Shock


In the event of hypothermia, the victim’s core body temperature has dropped dangerously low. This is can be a killer if not treated quickly. You will need to act fast to save yourself or the person you are treating.

  • Get them out of the elements as quickly as possible
  • Get them near a fire or other heat source
  • If the victim is wet remove all wet clothing
  • Cover them with a cloth, emergency blanket or another type of dry insulated material


After the body experiences a severe injury or several injuries it can oftentimes go into shock. The symptoms are cold clammy skin, rapid pulse, and rapid breathing

  • Lay the person down
  • Elevate the feet of the victim
  • Do not elevate the head
  • Keep the person warm and comfortable
  • Treat any other injuries
  • Give fluids

Using Nature In Your Wilderness First Aid

Now that we have covered these very basics first aid issues. Let’s look at how we can use nature to help us survive an injury in the outdoors. We will review four very important methods to be included in your wilderness first aid basics.


Sharp rocks, tool use, putting up tents, or a simple fall can result in cuts of varying degrees. You have to be prepared not just to stop the bleeding but to keep the wound clean and heal it quickly.

The good news is that there are several plants in the wild that can be mashed up to create a poultice. The poultice will go between the bandage and your cut. It will aid the wound with powerful antibacterial healing properties as well as soothing nutrients for the skin itself.

Chickweed, Plantain and Red Rose will all help heal a wound. The stringent qualities of the red rose will stop the bleeding while things like chickweed and plantain will soothe burning and help soothe cuts as well as heal them faster.


Breaks and fractures are pretty commonplace in the hiking world, particularly in foothills and mountains. If you have someone in your party who hasn’t spent time in the uneven footing of the outdoors this could become an issue.

Wilderness First Aid Basics: Surviving Injury In The Outdoors 1

We don’t realize it but if you don’t you spend so much of your time on flat surfaces. Stairs are the only obstacle. When you get out in the wild you can find that the landscape is so foreign it may be a struggle for some.

If you or someone in your party experiences a break or fracture you can treat that break or at least position it safely until help arrives. You will have to utilize the fallen wood around you. If you have an arm or leg, for example, that needs to be immobilized simply splint it with two pieces of wood on either side and wrap it tightly with paracord.

Unless you are a trained professional do not try to reset the bone. Get professional help as soon as possible.



Trail stitches are sometimes a necessity when you are cut to such an extent that pressure and bandage will simply not suffice. The fact is there are several options available to you when it comes to closing a wound. Trail stitches are just a name I have given various materials that could substitute for real ones.

For smaller cuts or those made by a sharp surface like a tool or knife utilize super glue. It burns and is tough to apply but it will do the trick. Just apply carefully because a finger superglued to an open wound gets ugly fast.

In the very worst case, you can utilize the brutal tactic of stapling cuts shut. This may sound barbaric but it is done in hospitals to this day. Of course, this would require you to have access to a staple gun which is not the worst thing to take camping. You could also store it in your vehicle.

A tourniquet (a restricting or compressing device such as a bandage or wrap that will control circulation to an extremity for a period of time) will also limit the amount of blood loss you experience. This coupled with some duct tape will give your body the time it needs to coagulate and stop the bleeding This will not be the best option but tying a shirt or other material above the cut, tightly, will slow the blood flow and the tape will keep it inside of you.

Be careful how tight and how long a tourniquet is left on. It can stop blood flow to areas that need the blood. If you starve a limb of blood for too long it could die and need to be amputated. Once the bleeding stops remove the tourniquet.


This lightweight magic dust is one of the best things to store at home and on an adventure. This is one of the most absorbent materials available. It’s often used in water filters and can be used for that in the wild as well.

When we are talking about first aid, an activated charcoal poultice will draw bacteria out of cuts. It can also be used if you ingest something toxic like a poisonous berry or plant. It also works well if you drink contaminated water.

One of the rare uses, though very effective, is its ability to absorb venom from snake and bug bites. If you apply some activated charcoal powder to the bite location, it will draw out some of the venom. Depending on what you get bit by this could make all the difference.

Modify your pack to include some of these items and practice wilderness first aid basics. We never plan for a week in the woods that involves a fall or other injury but we should be prepared to handle it.




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