Is First Aid Different in the Backcountry?
by Chuck Fitzgerald C2005. All Rights Reserved.
First aid is first aid is first aid - right? At first glance,
providing first aid in the backcountry appears to be much like it
is anywhere else. But if you look a little closer and you'll
find it is quite different. When you have finished this article,
you will understand how it differs and how you, as an outdoor
enthusiast, must think about it differently.
Let's start with the definition of first aid, followed by a
little advice. First aid means just what it says - it is the
initial help a person gets. It doesn't mean you need to be
capable of providing expert medical care across all medical
disciplines. First aid is not meant to replace medical
attention. It is meant to provide appropriate treatment until
expert medical attention is available. The only way to recognize
the appropriate treatment is to be educated on administering
When an emergency strikes in the backcountry, you may be the only
care giver within many miles or many hours of the situation.
Here's the advice. If you haven't taken a first aid class in the
past 2 years, it's time for a refresher course. Same goes for
When you're in the backcountry, everything tends to get
magnified. The landscape is appears larger, the weather feels
harsher and emergencies seem worse. If you don't have easy
access to an emergency room, something as routine as a broken arm
becomes a very big deal, very quickly. Meaningful first aid in
the backcountry, or anywhere for that matter, requires
preparation. We've already discussed the merits of proper
training now let's talk about your first aid gear. Having a well
stocked and appropriately stocked first aid kit is crucial.
Kits designed for outdoor activities tend to include items
related to nature such as weather, insects, animals, plants,
water, heat and cold. Do you have the right kit? Be sure you do
and be sure you review the condition and contents of your first
aid kit every time you head out. Not having what you need when
you need it is inexcusable.
Getting the right training and having the right gear only helps
if you have the right attitude. The most important first aid
skill you can have in the backcountry is the same first aid skill
you need to have at home, at work or at school. You must have
confidence in your abilities when an emergency arises.
Confidence comes from knowledge. Knowledge you've acquired from
training, knowledge you have about your equipment, knowledge
about your surroundings and knowledge about the situation. The
more you know, the more confident you will be. This confidence
will allow you to remain calm and act appropriately during tough
times and it will help you to enjoy the good times while in the
Use this information and you'll Get It Right The First Time.
About the author: Chuck Fitzgerald is the President of Arizona
based BackCountry Toys, an online store providing backcountry
specialty gear and educational information for outdoor
enthusiasts. Visit www.BackCountryToys.com to receive the free
e-newsletter "FreshAir" or call (800) 316-9055.