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Wilderness First Aid

Exploring the great outdoors can bring unexpected challenges, especially when medical emergencies arise. Wilderness first aid is a crucial skill set that every outdoor enthusiast, specifically survivalists and preppers, should acquire.

This page aims to empower you with the knowledge of basic wilderness first aid skills like CPR, setting a splint, stopping bleeding and more. Read on to be better prepared for your next outback adventure!

Understanding Wilderness First Aid

Understanding Wilderness First Aid in practice

Wilderness First Aid helps you when you are far from help. It gives you ways to heal cutsfix bones, and more with basic things. This is not the same as city first aid. City first aid has many tools at a hospital close by.

Learning Wilderness First Aid also means knowing how to act fast in danger. Spotting signs of a concussion or stopping major bleeding can save lives. This training can make anyone feel safer on hikes or while camping in remote places.

Many take 16 hours long hands-on wilderness first aid training courses for this skill set. At the end of it, some get a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification. Others may go for further classes like Wilderness EMT if they want advanced skills.

City First Aid Vs. Wilderness First Aid


Wilderness First Aid and “City” First Aid differ significantly in methodology and scenarios. A comprehensive comparison is represented in the table below.

Wilderness First Aid“City” First Aid
Designed explicitly for remote outdoor environments.Designed for urban and populated areas where professional help is readily available.
Focus on treating head and spine injuries, wounds and infections, heat-related illnesses, and allergic reactions.Emphasizes immediate response to daily injuries like cuts, scratches, minor burns, or sprains.
Evacuation decisions depend on the severity of the condition and availability of rescue resources.Evacuation is usually immediate with the help of local emergency services.
Importance of maintaining order, keeping the patient clean and comfortable, prioritizing fluids over food, and involving the patient in evacuation decisions.Involves quick decision making to ensure the patient’s safety until health care professionals arrive.
Practitioners should carry a complete first aid kit and book, maintain cleanliness, and practice proper hygiene.Having a basic first-aid kit at home or in the car is usually sufficient.
Hyperthermia is a serious concern in the wilderness; recognizing its symptoms and providing proper treatment is crucial.Heat-related illnesses are less prevalent in city environments and more easily treated with available resources.
Creating easily identifiable routes and camp locations for first responders, utilizing landmarks, clear signs, and markers is vital.Emergency services can usually find the patient’s location with ease due to established routes and known addresses.

Essential Wilderness First Aid Skills

Essential Wilderness First Aid equipment

Learn the life-saving skills you need to treat injuries and emergencies in the wilderness, including CPR, splinting, stopping bleeding, treating burns, and more.


CPR is a must-know skill for survivalists.

  • It stands for “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”
  • This skill can save someone’s life.
  • It helps to get the heart pumping blood again.
  • First, place your hands on the chest of the person. One hand should be on top of the other.
  • Push hard and fast in the middle of their chest.
  • The aim is to do 100 pushes per minute.
  • CPR is used when a person’s heart stops beating.
  • Learning it only takes about five minutes.
  • Anybody can learn and perform CPR.

Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich Maneuver plays a main role in your life-saving skills set. This skill can help if someone chokes in the wild.

  1. Stand behind the person who is choking.
  2. Wrap your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
  3. Close one hand into a fist and put it above their navel, but not on the breastbone.
  4. Cover the fist with your other hand.
  5. Give quick, hard thrusts in an upward direction.

Set a Splint

Setting a splint is an important skill to learn for wilderness first aid. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Find two sturdy objects, like sticks or branches, that are long enough to extend beyond the injured area.
  • Place one object on each side of the injured limb, making sure they are parallel and evenly spaced.
  • Use cloth, rope, or paracord to tie the splint to the limb, ensuring that it is secure but not too tight.
  • Check for proper alignment of the limb before securing the splint.
  • Make sure the splint immobilizes the injured area and prevents any movement.
  • If possible, elevate the limb to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Remember that setting a broken bone should only be done by a trained professional; your focus should be on immobilizing the break until help arrives.

Stop the Bleeding

Knowing how to stop bleeding is crucial in emergency situations. Here are some important techniques to help control bleeding:

  • Apply direct pressure: Use a clean cloth or your hand to apply firm pressure directly on the wound. This will help slow down the bleeding and promote clotting.
  • Elevate the injured area: If possible, elevate the injured body part above the heart. This can help reduce blood flow to the area and minimize bleeding.
  • Apply a tourniquet: In severe cases where direct pressure is not enough to stop the bleeding, a tourniquet can be used as a last resort. Place it high on the limb, between the wound and the heart, and tighten until the bleeding stops. Remember to mark the time it was applied for medical professionals.
  • Use hemostatic agents: Hemostatic agents, such as gauze or powders that promote clotting, can be applied directly on the wound to aid in stopping excessive bleeding quickly.
  • Seek immediate medical attention: Even if you are able to control the bleeding, it is important to seek professional medical help as soon as possible. There may be internal injuries or complications that need further treatment.

Treat a Burn

Treating burns is an important skill to have in case of emergencies. Here are some steps to treat different degrees of burns:

For first-degree burns:

  • Gently run cool water over the burn for about 10 minutes.
  • Apply a loose, non – stick bandage or clean cloth over the burn.
  • Avoid applying ice, ointments, or adhesive bandages.

For second-degree burns:

  • Run cool water over the burn for at least 15 minutes.
  • Do not use ice or very cold water.
  • Cover the burn with a clean, non – stick bandage or cloth.
  • Seek medical attention if the burn covers a large area or if it is on the face, hands, feet, genitals, or major joints.

For third-degree burns:

  • Call emergency services immediately.
  • Do not try to remove any clothing stuck to the burn.
  • Cover the burn with a clean cloth or non – stick bandage.
  • Keep the person lying down and elevate their feet if possible.

Spot a Concussion

Recognizing the signs of a concussion is important for survivalists. Here’s how to spot a concussion:

  • Look for dizziness and pupil dilation.
  • Notice if the person is confused or disoriented.
  • Check if they have trouble speaking or slurred speech.
  • Keep an eye out for nausea or vomiting.
  • Pay attention to any loss of balance or coordination.
  • Observe if they are experiencing sensitivity to light or noise.

Support a Sprain

Spraining a joint can happen in the wilderness, so it’s important to know how to support a sprain until you can get professional help. Here are some tips:

  1. Wrap the sprained joint with an ace bandage to provide support and stability.
  2. Use a compression wrap to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  3. Elevate the sprained limb above the heart level to help decrease swelling.
  4. Apply ice or a cold pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day.
  5. Rest the injured limb and avoid putting weight on it.

Sutures and Stitches 

Learning how to properly close a wound can make a big difference in a survival situation. Here are some important things to know about sutures and stitches:

  • Sutures and stitches are used to close deep wounds that won’t heal on their own.
  • They help to hold the edges of the wound together, allowing it to heal properly.
  • It’s important to clean the wound thoroughly before suturing or stitching it.
  • Sterile materials should be used when performing this procedure.
  • Suturing and stitching require precision and practice, so it’s important to learn these skills before they’re needed in an emergency.
  • Proper technique is crucial for preventing infection and promoting healing.
  • After suturing or stitching, the wound should be kept clean and dressed with sterile bandages.
  • It’s important to follow up with medical professionals when possible, especially if there are signs of infection or complications.

Preparing to Give Wilderness First Aid

Preparing to Give Wilderness First Aid

Before administering wilderness first aid, it is crucial to conduct both an initial and secondary patient assessment to determine the extent of injuries and make a treatment plan. Learn more about these essential steps in providing life-saving care in remote environments.

Initial Patient Assessment

In wilderness first aid, the initial patient assessment is crucial for providing proper care. Here are the important steps to follow:

  1. Evaluate the scene: Take a look around and make sure it’s safe for you and the injured person.
  2. Identify life threats: Check if there are any immediate dangers that could harm the patient or yourself.
  3. Create a care plan: Think about what needs to be done first, based on the patient’s condition and resources available.
  4. Assess the airway: Make sure their airway is clear so they can breathe properly.
  5. Check breathing: Look, listen, and feel for any signs of breathing. This will help determine if CPR is necessary.
  6. Examine circulation: Check for a pulse and assess their overall circulation.
  7. Look for potential disabilities or injuries: Observe their body for any obvious injuries or signs of disability.

Secondary Patient Assessment

During a wilderness first aid situation, conducting a secondary patient assessment is crucial for survivalists like you. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Conduct a head-to-toe exam: Check the entire body for any injuries or abnormalities. Look out for swelling, deformities, or any signs of bleeding.
  2. Check vital signs: Assess the patient’s pulse rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure if possible. This will help you determine their overall condition.
  3. Gather medical history and current symptoms: Ask the patient about any pre-existing medical conditions or allergies. Also, find out about their current symptoms and how they have developed since the initial assessment.
  4. Assess mental status: Evaluate the patient’s level of consciousness and alertness. Look for signs of confusion, dizziness, or disorientation.
  5. Identify potential disabilities or injuries: Pay attention to any areas where the patient is experiencing pain or discomfort. Look for signs of fractures, sprains, or other injuries that may require immediate medical attention.

Making a Treatment Plan

To effectively provide wilderness first aid, it is important to have a treatment plan in place. Here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Assess the situation: Evaluate the severity of the injury or illness and prioritize treatment based on urgency.
  2. Gather information: Obtain as much information as possible about the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and any known allergies or medications.
  3. Provide comfort and reassurance: Keep the patient calm and reassured throughout the treatment process to minimize stress and anxiety.
  4. Stabilize vital signs: Check for vital signs such as breathing, pulse, and consciousness level. If necessary, perform CPR or use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
  5. Control bleeding: Apply direct pressure to any bleeding wounds using sterile dressings or clean cloth. Elevate the injured limb if possible.
  6. Treat for shock: If the patient shows signs of shock (pale skin, rapid heartbeat), help them lie down with their feet elevated and cover them with a blanket.
  7. Immobilize fractures: If you suspect a bone fracture, immobilize the affected area with a splint or improvised materials until professional medical help is available.
  8. Administer medication: Only provide medication if you are trained and authorized to do so, following proper dosage instructions and considering potential drug interactions.
  9. Monitor closely: Continuously monitor the patient’s condition for any changes or deterioration while waiting for further medical assistance.
  10. Communicate with emergency services: Provide clear and concise information about the patient’s condition when contacting emergency services to ensure appropriate resources are dispatched.

Wilderness First Aid Without a First-Aid Kit

a man receiving first aid with no equipment

Learn how to make a poultice, create a splint, and stitch wounds in the wilderness without a first-aid kit.

How to Make a Poultice

To make a poultice in the wilderness, you can use certain wild plants. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Find a suitable plant: Look for plants like chickweed, plantain, or red rose.
  2. Harvest the leaves: Gather a handful of leaves from the plant you’ve chosen.
  3. Prepare the poultice: Crush or mash the leaves to release their juices and create a paste-like consistency.
  4. Apply to the wound: Spread the poultice directly onto the affected area.
  5. Secure it in place: Use a clean cloth or bandage to hold the poultice in place.
  6. Reapply as needed: Replace the poultice every few hours or when it dries out.

How to Make a Splint

To immobilize a broken or fractured limb in the wilderness, you can make a splint using items you find around you. Here’s how:

  1. Find two sturdy pieces of wood or branches that are longer than the injured limb.
  2. Place one piece of wood on each side of the limb, making sure they extend beyond the joint above and below the injury.
  3. Use paracord or a strong rope to tie the pieces of wood securely to the limb. Make sure it is tight enough to hold the splint in place but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
  4. Check for any sharp edges or protruding parts on the splint that may cause discomfort or further injury. Smooth them out if necessary.
  5. Once the splint is secured, gently test its stability by carefully moving the limb. If it moves too much, readjustments may be needed.
  6. Support the injured limb with padding such as clothing, towels, or leaves to provide extra comfort and protection.

How to Make Stitches

To make stitches in the wilderness, you can use some simple tools and materials. Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it:

  1. Sterilize the needle: Heat the tip of a sewing needle until it turns red hot, then let it cool down. This will help kill any bacteria on the needle.
  2. Clean the wound: Use clean water or an antiseptic solution to clean the wound thoroughly. This will help prevent infection.
  3. Position the wound: Carefully line up the edges of the wound so they align as closely as possible. Hold them together with your fingers or by applying gentle pressure.
  4. Start stitching: Begin by inserting one end of the sterilized needle through one side of the wound, going from inside to outside. Leave a small tail of thread hanging outside for later.
  5. Insert needle through other side: Push the needle through the other side of the wound, aligning it with where you started on the first side.
  6. Stitch back and forth: Continue moving the needle back and forth between both sides of the wound, pulling gently but firmly to close up the gap.
  7. Tie off stitches: Once you reach the end, tie a secure knot using both ends of thread hanging outside of the wound.
  8. Cut excess thread: Trim any excess thread, leaving enough for easy removal later if necessary.


In conclusion, wilderness first aid training is essential for off the grid survival and preppers. Basic skills like CPR, treating burns, stopping bleeding, and setting splints can make a big difference in emergency situations.

Knowing how to assess injuries and make treatment plans is crucial when medical help may be far away. By learning these skills from places like Idaho Medical Academy, survivalists can be better prepared to handle unexpected emergencies in remote locations.


Find additional information on ‘Wilderness First Aid‘ below or click the following link to read more on ‘WILDERNESS SURVIVAL‘.

What is Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification?

WFA certification is a two-day first aid course specifically designed for outdoor enthusiasts and individuals who participate in backcountry activities. It focuses on the basic life support and first-aid training needed to respond to medical emergencies in remote wilderness and remote areas.

How is the WFA course taught?

The WFA course is taught through a combination of lectures, hands-on simulations, and practical exercises. Participants will learn about patient assessment, basic life support, and how to respond to common medical emergencies encountered in the wilderness.

Can I recertify my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification with a WFA course?

No, a WFA course cannot be used to recertify a WFR certification. For recertification, you will need to take a Wilderness First Responder Recertification course.

Is the Wilderness First Aid course recognized by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)?

Yes, Wilderness First Aid certification is recognized by organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. It is often a requirement for leaders and participants in adventure-based programs and outdoor activities.

Can I take Wilderness First Aid as an elective course?

Yes, many organizations offer Wilderness First Aid as an elective course for outdoor enthusiasts and individuals seeking to expand their knowledge of first aid in wilderness settings. It is a valuable addition to any first-aid training.