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Is First Aid Different in the BackCountry?
by Chuck Fitzgerald

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 first aid.

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 CPR.

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 backcountry.

Use this information and you’ll Get It Right The First Time.

Get Outdoors!

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.

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