Wilderness First Aid 101

Here’s why you should take a wilderness first aid course and some basic tips to help you stay safe on the trail

You’re out for a long run with a friend along a mountainous ridge trail when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You’ve been running for just over an hour and a half and planned to go another few kilometres before turning around to head back to your car, but the ominous clouds rolling in over your heads changes your minds and you decide to cut your run short. You’re both wearing a hydration backpack stocked with a litre of water and an energy bar, but didn’t bring a jacket because the sun was shining when you started your run. You’re both in shorts and a t-shirt and have your cell phones with you for photos, but there’s no reception on the trail.
Just as you start your run back, the sky opens up and you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You’ve only been running for a few minutes when your friend suddenly slips on a slick rock and tumbles a hundred metres down a rock face. You scramble down to help her, and find her unresponsive and bleeding from her lower leg.
What do you do?
Andrea Mackey, a certified wilderness first aid instructor with Alert First-Aid, can tell you what do to. In fact, she can walk you through several emergency scenarios that might happen when you’re out on the trails in the woods and can teach you how to prepare for and respond to situations where someone’s (or your own) life is in danger.  
There are myriad things that could go wrong when you’re in a remote wilderness area, Mackey explains. “You could slip or fall causing injury, get lost or stuck due to an avalanche or a rock slide, encounter aggressive animals, or suffer from dehydration, heat exhaustion, heart attack, stroke, hypothermia, diabetic emergencies or any other sudden medical condition.”
Mackey suggests that anytime you go out into the wilderness, even if it’s not totally remote and it’s a nice sunny day, you should be prepared for extreme weather changes, all types of injuries and the possibility of staying out there for more time than what you had originally planned. “Unforeseen events could lead to you being stuck overnight or for several days, and you don’t want to be stuck with out something to keep you warm, extra food and water, needed medications, tools like a knife, and something to keep you dry.”
Aside from bringing extra gear, it’s critical to know basic first aid and to bring a basic first aid kit with you, especially if you plan to spend more than a few hours traversing an area with challenging terrain, extreme weather conditions and other known risks like dangerous wildlife.

“Basic wilderness first aid you should know includes injury splinting, bleeding control, dealing with animal bites, dealing with dehydration/heat exhaustion/hypothermia/low blood sugar, wound inspection and infection knowledge, and emergency evacuation planning/packing a person out,” Mackey explains, which is covered in detail in the Basic Wilderness and Remote First-Aid course offered in Victoria, BC, at Alert First-Aid. An Advanced Wilderness First-Aid course is also offered, suitable for people who act as overnight/day hike guides or lead groups of people on wilderness exploration trips. These courses also cover trip planning, what to bring in case of emergency, emergency evacuation plans, first aid with improvised materials, and long-term care and treatment for up to 48 hours, which are all learned primarily through real life scenarios, Mackey says.
So what kind of first aid equipment should you pack with you if you’re planning a day-long trail run or multi-day trek through the wilderness?
“Items that can be used for multiple purposes to limit what you’re bringing,” Mackey says. “For example, elastic bandages can be used for pressure on bleeding or wrapping an injury to a splint, or could be used as rope in a pinch for any tying requirements along the way. You’ll also need absorbent dressings for bleeding, padding splints, soaking in cold water to use as an ice pack or just extra insulation for cold weather. Garbage bags or a tarp is handy to have if you get stuck in the rain. Tarps can also be used as an emergency stretcher for evacuation, or as a shelter. Basic Band-Aids and larger wound closures are also important, as any injury could get infected and you want to keep it clean.”
As for what to do in the horrible scenario described above, Alert First-Aid’s head instructor Mike Barnes stressed that there are so many variables and questions to consider it’s hard to give a direct answer – and underlines the need for someone to take a wilderness first aid course so you can be prepared to handle a situation like this. 
“First I would ask, how far to the vehicle? What is the terrain like? How far until you come into cell service? Is it a busy trail? What are the chances of other people coming by? Minimal supplies, no communication, bad weather and only two people – one of which is unresponsive and bleeding – is a worst case scenario,” Barnes explains. “The first thing you would need to do is stop the bleed with a piece of clothing, since that's all we have. Then you’d need to come up with a plan for evacuation. It is unlikely you’d be able to carry this person out, so you need help, but it is not ideal to leave an unconscious person in a remote setting by themselves while we run for help,” Barnes says. “This is the reason we need to take a wilderness first aid course – so that we can have better pre-trip planning and so we do not end up in these situations.”
For more information about wilderness first aid courses or to find one offered near you, check out Alert First-Aid, St. John’s Ambulance, Slipstream Wilderness First Aid or Canadian Wilderness Medical Training.
If you want to get a head start on your pre-trip planning and need a first aid kit, Alert First-Aid is offering readers of Get Out There Magazine 15% off their great selection of first aid kits (including a wilderness first aid kit that has everything you’ll need to keep you covered in case of any emergency out in remote areas, while still being lightweight enough to carry with you) with the promo code GETOUTTHERE15. Enter this code at check-out to receive the discount and stay safe on the trails. 



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G Adventures' World Tourism Day Event Recap

Toronto-based travel company, G Adventures celebrated World Tourism Day 2016 at District 28 with a party fit for world travelers and, gave an exciting sneak preview of what travel enthusiasts can look forward to in 2017. World Tourism Day is a United Nations established event aimed at raising awareness of responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism, and is held every year on September 27. Here's a highlight of what G Adventures' had in store for the wanderlust crowd: This room was described to me "like being on the runway going somewhere new..." the giant room-sized wrap-around screen featured footage from different locations, exotic imagery and scenic landscapes for a stimulating immersive experience. Another room offered a more personal immersive experience with VR headsets, giving viewers a chance to experience India in 360 degrees. The hallway to these rooms were lined with vibrant artwork highlighting some of the G Adventure destinations. Oh, the food and the drinks! Each of the rooms had their own food or drink station to ensure the travelers were well nourished with some of the yummiest cross-cultural snacks like the jerk-shrimp shown here and the pulled pork with slices of pork belly (which was gobbled up before a shot could be taken).  <<pic>> The "takeaway" of the night was a friendship bracelet from the most epic wall of friendship bracelets I've ever seen! <<pics>> And the part everyone was waiting for...Founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, gave a presentation on the positive impacts of tourism in improving local communities, and highlighted some of their Planeterra Foundation projects such as:
  • Oodles Of Noodles – a partnership with STREETS International, a hospitality-training program that works with at-risk youth in in Hoi An, Vietnam.
  • Café Chloe – a project with local, Aboriginal-owned tour operator Ingan Tours in transforming a local train station into a training centre for youth in Tully, North Queensland, Austrailia.
  • Belize Bikes With Purpose – working with the first community high school in Caye Caulker, Belize, in developing a student-led bicycle tour which significantly raised student enrolment in the schools.
For more information about Planeterra’s projects, visit The big announcement of the night was G Adventures’ newest partnership with Jane Goodall! Yes, THE Dr. Jane Goodall, primate expert and animal welfare advocate! “Travel opens one’s eyes to the glorious diversity of cultures and wildlife in different parts of the world. And hopefully the traveler will return with an understanding of the urgent needs to protect our beautiful planet, before it is too late.” You can watch her full message here Jane also formally gave her support to the G Adventures Animal Welfare Policy which ensures the protection of all animals in all of the 650 trips they offer. “It’s an honour to work with Dr. Jane Goodall, but more importantly to continue her legacy by helping raise awareness of her work with our travellers.”  In 2017, G Adventures will offer the Jane Goodall Collection of wildlife-focused tours, which also aligns with UN’s Year of Sustainable Tourism. G Adventures will also be offering Travel Better, a 30-minute online training course developed with Sustainable Travel International by giving tips to travellers on how to travel the world in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Tips cover the initial trip planning and preparation stage, to onsite travel and even how to continue making positive impact upon returning home.  Upon completion of the course, participants not only get a certificate to show for their commitment to sustainable and responsible travel, but will get access to Sustainable Travel International’s Travel Better Club perks! And for those who want to know their new travel package offerings in 2017:
  • Experience Borneo (part of the Jane Goodall Collection) – In Sungai Kinabatangan travellers will take a river safari in search of wildlife and visit the nearby oxbow lake with a professional guide to seek out proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, macaques, and gibbons. In Sepilok they will enjoy an afternoon visit to the orangutan rehabilitation centre. There’s also the opportunity to travel to Libaran Island by boat to have a guided tour of the island's turtle hatchery and learn about the turtle conservation program.
  • Cambodian Water Festival & Longboat Race (for all you paddlers out there!) – Held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, guests will not only attend the festival but will get the chance to join a longboat crew and take part in the race itself!
  • Serengeti Half Marathon Experience (for all you marathoners out there!) – Not just a destination race, but one where you might get to see the Big Five as well!
  • Jamaican Reggae Sumfest Experience
  • La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain
  My favourite part of the G Adventures event was that it was packed full of international in Chief Experience Officers, the enthusiastic people who are from the different countries that lead the G Adventures tours! <<pic>> Big thanks to: Marina from Thailand who warmly greeted me and gave me a grand tour of the place when I arrived earlier that evening! <<pic>> Deybi from Peru who talked to me about all the different activities in Peru… <<pic>> And what I took as a sign from the travel gods was meeting Jose from The Galapagos as I've been thinking of planning a trip out there soon! (Jose, if you're reading this, thank you for putting up with my excessive gushing over the wildlife in the Galapagos and for answering all my questions about the cute lizards and seals and oh dear, it's happening again...I will visit you soon Galapagos!) If the travel bug didn't get you yet, it'll definitely get you at this event! Thanks G Adventures for the fun evening filled with endless travel inspiration!