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Wilderness and Remote First Aid/CPR/AED certification is 18 hours of intense training packed into two or three days. As a leader of High Adventure Treks with Scouts and as a Women Who Hike Ambassador, I am required to take it every two years. Last weekend was my 4th time going through the course and I learn something new every time.

IMG_7317Classes cover simulated emergency scenarios, decision making and treating medical emergencies in the wilderness or remote areas when calling 911 isn’t an option. I would highly recommend this training for anyone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors or remote areas.  Note:  This post has been edited and re-published, because I really  believe in the importance in this training and wanted to get the info out there again.

Besides being required to take this class 6 years ago for our first High Adventure Trek to Glacier National Park, I found it to be an empowering experience that gave me another level of confidence in the outdoors.  In the beginning, I had some fears and didn’t feel qualified to be a leader in my son’s Boy Scout Troop.    Taking every class that the BSA had to offer, outdoor skill classes at REI/Midwest Mountaineering, reading blogs, and talking to anyone who would give me their time helped me gain the skills I needed in order to overcome some of those fears and gain the confidence to break out on a whole new set of adventures!

Shout out to my friend and instructor, Paul aka Hiking Dude .  I met him 7 years ago right after he hiked the AZT. He was the first real backpacker I had ever met and he’s still teaching me!

For the first 2-3 hours of class, we learned:  Check-Call-Care procedure, how to perform a head to toe assessment, CPR and how to use an AED.   The “high tech” CPR dummies lit up when compressions were sufficient and allowed you to breathe into to them to make CPR more realistic.   We also had hands-on practice on AED equipment, to ensure you know how to use one until help arrives (when you have one available).  Since having AED training, I am more aware of these devices and keep an eye out for them in stores, churches, the gym….its a good idea to know where they are and how to use them.

The guidelines change occasionally, but at the time of this post, the American Red Cross teaches alternating 30 compressions, and two breaths.   I remember this being different (and a little confusing) when I first leaned CPR in high school, so having the class every 2 years is a great way to stay current.   If you aren’t sure about the breathing/compression combo..they say hands-only CPR is still better than no CPR.


In the last 16 hours of class, you will learn basic First Aid Skills and become aware of injuries you may encounter in remote settings.  Treating serious injuries like a sucking chest wound, impalement or spinal injury on a trip is hopefully not going to happen, but very good info to know!  Other more common injuries include burns, lacerations, head injuries, sprains/breaks, and bleeding.  One of my favorite new skills I learned the last time I took the class was learning how to make a stretcher out of two long sticks and two jackets.  This video is way more involved, but you get the point.  We were able to carry a fairly big guy around on just two fleece jackets!

Nice and warm in the hypothermia wrap!

Participants will receive hands on experience, take turns in various roles and are challenged to play out and treat assigned emergencies as realistically as possible.  “Ow!  There’s a stick in my arm!”

Right before I survived these horrible wounds kayaking (yes, that’s vomit), I managed to drag a 200lb man out of a ‘burning tent’ in his sleeping bag!

Bottom line, having a first aid kit as part of your 10 essentials is super-important, but knowing how to improvise and not panic is also a valuable skill to practice. Specifically, learning all of the ways to make a bandage, splint, evacuate and patch people up with common hiking and backpacking supplies is pretty cool.

Rule #1:   Try to avoid getting hurt in the first place. 

Accidents happen, but most injuries can be prevented with rest, hydration, awareness of your surroundings (weather, time, risk, etc).   

If you are interested in getting some Wilderness First Aid Training for yourself, check out Active Source, REI, NOLS or Red Cross for local classes. The Red Cross also has a free first aid app that Is handy in case you need a reference quick!


Be careful out there!



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4 thoughts on “WRFA/CPR/AED-Wilderness First Aid and Rule #1 for Staying Safe in the Wild.

  1. Great advice… can’t get enough practice… and keep talking to other knowledgeable wilderness medicine/first responder types!

  2. I love that you are so very humble about this. I’m thrilled to soak in as much knowledge as I possibly can in my lifetime.

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