Skip to content

Wilderness First Aid training

November 3, 2009

I’m passing along an email I received from Susan Campo.  Suasn is a qualified Sierra Club outings leader and manages to hail from both California and South Dakota.  She’s put on outings for our Black Hills Group and attended some of mine.  (She came out for the September Red Shirt outing that was rained out; but our group had a great time drinking coffee and swapping stories about hikes in the Black Hills, Utah’s Red Desert, and Mt. Fuji.)  

I’m posting this as  hats off to Susan and to give her due credit for picking up the wilderness first aid certification which is both expensive and time consuming.   Susan is the kind of leader you want on any extended  backcountry outing. 


I enjoyed the WILDERNESS FIRST AID CLASS this week-end.  It was a 4 day class in 3 days, INTENSIVE , learning from 8 am sharp till 9 pm for 2 days and the last day was still 8 am to 5 pm.   We sat thru short lectures and had lots of hands-on outside in small groups.  The medical photos in the lectures were great and hopefully desensitized me so I could keep calm if I ever see the real thing!!!!! 

The Harwood Lodge, owned by Sierra Club is nice, with big clean dormitory sleeping and running (hot )  water .   It is made of stone and wood floors. I wish they had more than one shower per restroom, however.  The staff were well qualified and they had 4 people who spent all day doing the cooking ….wow….delicious home-made meals, snacks and plenty of fruit and vegetables, along with salmon dinner and a full turkey dinner.   The cost for the 3 full days of class, lodging and meals is $205…..not bad!

I learned that “wilderness” means 1.5 or more hours from a trailhead and close access to a ER hospital.   I learned lots of useful  stuff….like how to remove a ring off a hand before swelling sets in too bad….using dental floss!   I know that you need to apply pressure to stop bleeding…..20 pounds pressure for 5 full min. for something minor , but

a gushing slash required 80 pounds of pressure for a full 15 min.   GO TO YOUR BATHROOM SCALE AND TRY doing 20 or 80 lbs. of pressure… will need to put your body over the scale with straight arms to do that!

I learned how to make a donut compress by twirling a cravat to go around an exposed bone.

I learned that my swiss army knife’s sissors is worthless in a real first aid emergency. They provided the right stuff ; so  we got our kits started which I will carry on every hike, backpack.

There is a difference between reg. first aid and WILDERNESS first aid.  For example, we do not use butterfly bandages or try to close the sides of wounds ….because it will be more likely to cause infection before we can get the person out.  We wash wounds with up to 3 liters of water….if its good enough to drink, it can be used.

I learned that the femur break is the hardest to deal with……We learned how to split it with traction at the end……We also learned how to make stretchers using our jackets and also  assembly a full stretcher using only parachute rope ( 75 feet). That will take MORE practice.  I learned why ace bandages are old fashion and you need tape at least 2 inch athletic tape in your supplies.

They have quite a few live “actors” and we do live “scenarios” out in the trees.  They put make-up on them and fake latex wounds under the clothing that actually squirt LOTS of blood…..they also have hidden wounds. A team of 4 students follow the “procedures” from first coming upon the scene thru maintaining the victim and sending out for rescue or preparing the victim to walk out. We have to cut off clothing , stop bleeding etc. etc.….the only thing we don’t really do is CPR, but we pretend and a staff (teacher) watches us and tells us what the pretend pulse, respiration etc is. So we act accordingly….Each scenario may be up to one hour….then we have discussion and advice from teacher as well as pretend vicitim.

If interested you could look at.:

This class is only taught in approximately Oct. and May  each year.  Everyone in Los Angeles Sierra Club who now wants to be an I-rated leader ( for cross-country ability trips) must take the class.   I am “I-rated” but they didn’t require that in the old days, so I am glad I am up-to-date now….especially since  I do like spending alot time away from civilization.

  Well, I better get moving now.   Hugs, Susan

— Jim Margadant

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: