This book is for people who want to develop bushcraft skills so they can survive and thrive outdoors. One of the most important of these skills involves treating injuries and illnesses in the wild. Given that you probably won’t be carrying a full line of splints, bandages, and medicines in your kit, you’ll want to be able to use what’s on hand to help deal with the problem. Knowing the basics of wilderness first aid can prepare you to be the first line of defense in an emergency.
Wilderness first aid (WFA) refers to the help you give someone who’s been injured or becomes sick. It’s not (and we can’t stress this enough!) a substitution for professional medical assistance. In this book we say repeatedly that if an injury or illness is serious, the victim should be carried out as soon as possible and in a safe way.
What’s the difference then between wilderness first aid and regular first aid? If you’re performing WFA, you’re somewhere in the wilderness; you don’t have the option usually of calling the hospital to send an ambulance. In fact, professional medical care may be a long way away—hours or even days. When you’re administering WFA, you’re also dealing with the elements. You may have to splint an arm in a blinding rainstorm or bandage a severe cut during heavy snow. It’s also possible you’ll have to perform these and other actions at high altitudes or in other inhospitable conditions. As you spend more time in the wilderness, you’ll start to recognize that some kinds of physical injuries happen more often—for instance, it’s not uncommon for people hiking to come in contact with a poison plant or suffer hypothermia. Because it may take time for rescue or transport to be arranged, you will almost certainly have to do more than you would if you were providing traditional first aid.
Where this book differs greatly from other books and training courses designed for WFA is in the treatment of common injuries and ailments. Most courses are designed using industry-standard equipment made for first aid such as bandages, burn creams, activated charcoal, and SAM (structural aluminum malleable) splints. However, the typical outdoorsman does not carry such items on a regular basis.
Therefore, this book has been designed to make use of items found within the typical outdoorsman’s daypack as well as those found in nature. We call these items the Ten Cs—the items that anyone planning to go outdoors for hours or more at a time should have in case of an emergency or survival situation. With these ten simple items and the addition of medicinal plants, you will be able to effectively manage the most common injuries and ailments that occur in the outdoors. See “The Ten Cs” discussion in Chapter 2 for more information.