View Full Version : First Aid Training

03-09-2004, 17:46
So I've got an officemate that is nagging me to take some form of first aid before I hit the trail and suggested a Wilderness First Responder course. After checking into it and noting the required 72 course hours I bargained him down to a Wilderness First Aid course (16 hours), but in all honesty I'm having a hard time convincing myself that it is worth the time and money.
It seems a contradiction that I believe in seat belts, helmets, and condoms yet hesitate to spend a weekend learning life-saving skills. I assume this course teaches far more then common sense, but it's not like I'll be traveling with a defibrillator. Besides, the AT is fairly populated with ample towns and roads to bail on in case of emergency. Right?

Those are my thoughts so I thought I'd solicit a reality check.
Any opinions on the Wilderness First Aid course or on formal first aid training in the wilderness in general? Do you consider it an essential part of your 'gear' during long-distance treks?


Hammock Hanger
03-09-2004, 18:22
I am certified in CPR, Professional Rescuer & have had WIlderness First Aid courses. I never used any of these skills on the trail. (Thankfully!!)

If you have the money and the time it never hurts to expand your knowledge. Is it absolutely necessary, no.


03-09-2004, 18:54
The Red Cross offers a standard first aid course that takes 8 hours and covers CPR for adults, treatment of bleeding, shock, poisoning, broken bones, etc. I taught this course until a few years ago. It's geared to people who have ambulance response in 10-20 minutes, but covers the basics of what you could do without carrying a heavy kit on your hike.

yogi clyde
03-09-2004, 19:20
I took the course, and found it well worth it.

Wilderness 1st aid differs from a Red Cross class, because you can not just call 911. They teach you want to do in certain situations (ie a compound fracture - pull the break back in line)

I took the class for additional confidence, actually I'm in better position to help others, than myself.

Happy & Safe Trails

Yogi Clyde

03-09-2004, 19:43
Strangly enough the only time I had to use my first aid training was when I gave CPR to pegleg in Andover, MA, on a zero day.

03-09-2004, 19:44
I took my WFR and WEMT training through NOLS and it was a great course. I would suggest taking at least the Wilderness First Aid which will give you the basics you need for taking care of basic problems and treating someone enough until you can get someone with more training to look at the problem. If you decide against at least taking the WFA course I would suggest traveling with or near someone who has. The WFR course will be a bit more then you really need, but it never hurts to know.

03-09-2004, 22:11
WFA is an excellent course to take. Most people carry a very small first aid kit. The WFA course will show you how to work not only with your kit BUT it
will also teach you how you can use some of your gear and clothing in case of an emergency on the trail. I have lead hikes and backpacks for our local Sierra Club and Carolina Mtn. Club so the info is good to know. Who knows, hopefully you will never need to use what ya learn from WFA, BUT if you are on the trail and somebody needs help you could make a difference. I know if I were out there and something happened to me and someone could help, I would appreciate their effort.

Happy Trails,

03-12-2004, 21:06

Take at least the red cross course. It will be well worth it even in "real life".

As a Paramedic, I have never needed any of my "skills", well, I put on a band aid one time on the trail :) But I was glad to have the skills I learned at my first red cross class & have never regreted getting my EMT then Medic cert. If you have the time/money, go further & you will learn much. Besides, it looks great on a resume, and I have been hired at a non EMT job, just because I was a EMT, they even paid me more.


Doctari. :dance

03-13-2004, 15:00
How many of us remember everything we learned at a course given a few years ago, let alone a few weeks, if we don't use the skills frequently? Don't rely on a first aid course you took in Boy Scouts 20 years ago (okay, 35 in my case). Spend a day or two on a refresher course at least every few years. Of course, this is easier said than done, but I'm always amazed at what I remember as well as what I've forgotten.

03-20-2004, 00:40
I have wrestled with the question of how much first aid training is appropriate given the cost of the advanced courses and the question of how much my feeble mind might retain without frequent use and heavy review. I decided to stick with the simple basic Red Cross first aid and CPR. I also bought the Outward Bound Wilderness First- Aid Handbook and the Basic Essentials Hypothermia book. I really like the books because they address the kinds of situations we find ourselves in when backpacking. Both books are quite readable and are something I can throw in my bag for hotel room reading when I work out of town.

The Outward Bound book takes a systems approach to basic body functions and how they are affected by injury. It gives you good basic information that can help you decide how to treat an injury, what symptoms to expect in various situations and helps you understand what is a real crisis that requires immediate evacuation as opposed to something that can wait until morning or when the weather clears, etc. I feel that even though reading the book doesn't make one an expert in wilderness medicine it does give the foundation for wise treatment choices and the ability to gather and communicate meaningful information to qualified first responders and physicians.

My interest in boning up on first-aid beyond blister treatment was spurred by an incident involving a touron jumping from boulder to boulder and landing in a creek. Three miles from trailhead, possible concussion, possible spinal injury, broken or sprained ankle, hypothermia, thunderstorm approaching, evacuated out on stokes litterat night. I had not had serious first aid training since my boy scout days. It was amazing how much of that came back to mind but I also felt inadequate and knew I should have been able to do better. Some of the bystanders were freaking out, some wanted to improvise a litter or hand carry the victim and take all sorts of wrong actions which could compound her problems. With my meager first aid training I was able to gain the victims' confidence, hold off the cazies, and redirect some of their energy to good use to help stabilize the victim until Emts arrived. For those of us that haven't taken first aid in years there is a lot of new info and better ways of dealing with various problems. It is nice to feel more confident if a crisis erupts.

Mr. Clean
03-20-2004, 07:53
Many don't have the time to schedule a course, but anyone has time to read a chapter here and there. I'm lucky to have a first responder class every year through work, but a more in-depth wilderness first aid class does sound interesting. Maybe I'll buy the book.