Wilderness First Aid Basics

Wilderness first aid is the knowledge and ability to effectively address injuries, illnesses, or emergencies outside of modern facilities, out in the wild. Skills include knowing how to dress a wound, treat a burn or bite, or set an injured limb. These are important skills that can save your life or the lives of other outdoor enthusiasts. Learn more and be better prepared for your next hiking or backpacking adventure.

Wilderness First Aid - The Basics

"Sonoran Desert National Monument" by BLMArizona is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Preparation for First aid and wilderness essentials

The most basic wilderness first aid skill is the skill to properly prepare. Putting together a well-stocked travel first aid kit ensures that you’ll have all of the resources you’ll need should you or a hiking companion need assistance. Common items in a wilderness first aid kit include disinfectant, bandages, bite or sting ointment, a pair of tweezers, and Benadryl. It’s important that one inventory their first aid kit prior to their adventure so that if items need to be restocked before the trip, one has time to do so. Use the following resources to refresh your wilderness first aid skills.

Sonoran Desert National Monument

"Backpacking First Aid Kit" by Deacon Kevin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Basic first aid

While having all of the supplies for first aid is important, knowing how to properly use all of the items in your first aid box is crucial ACLS, BLS, or PALS recertification may be beneficial to those who may have let their initial certification in these life-saving skills lapse and are in need of a refresher.

Basic first aid and life support are invaluable skills in any situation, but it may be the one thing between life and death for those out in the wild. First aid classes give you the information and skills to help people during a variety of emergency situations. Many national, regional, and local organizations (or even local boy scout troops) offer basic first aid courses to the public. These classes are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts interested in building their skills to become a safer hiker. Here are a few examples:

Sonoran Desert National Monument

"First Aid Kit" by dlg_images is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Survival Skills

Survival skills are also critical for those exploring the great outdoors. Knot-tying, shelter-building, fishing, fire-making, and foraging are all skills that, should you be stuck in the wilderness, will help to sustain you until help arrives.

Also helpful are flares, fire-starters, or signaling devices that you might have in your wilderness kit. For any hiker, regardless of whether they plan to build a fire or not, these items can do double-duty as emergency signals or fire-starters. Many wilderness first aid items have multiple uses, but the key is to think outside of the box and keep calm in an emergency.

  • Survival and first aid information: This resource provides some good, basic information about first aid and survival skills that anyone out in the wilderness should know.
    • Survival 101: This scare-you-straight-style guide offers first aid tips, information on survival gear, and what to do if you're caught in an emergency out in the wilderness.
      • Wilderness survival tips: As a collection of survival and wilderness articles, this resource provides good information for those interested in educating themselves about wilderness survival and what is needed to remain safe and healthy outdoors.

        General Outdoor & Wilderness Safety

        Wilderness safety is about more than just your own knowledge and what you bring with you. Safety in the outdoors is also about making sure someone who isn’t hiking with you knows how to reach you, and where you’re expected to be and when.

        Communicating your plans to a friend or family member can help to ensure that if something unforeseen happens, the proper authorities will have a better idea of where to find you, should the need arise.

        We hear too many horror stories of hikers being injured or killed in accidents while out in the woods because they don’t keep safety best practices in mind or aren’t prepared. Don’t let yourself become a victim of poor planning. Arm yourself with proper knowledge of health and safety.

        • Wilderness safety from the National Parks Service: Safety is your responsibility. Educate yourself on wilderness safety and what you can do to avoid needing first aid or medical attention.
          • Wilderness safety training: Why it's important to know about wilderness safety before you head outdoors.
            • Backcountry safety tips: Check out these essential safety tips to get the most out of your hiking adventure.
              • Plan and prepare for success: This page and the resources it features offer basic, practical information on how to best prepare and plan ahead to stay safe when you're out on a hiking trip.
                • Safety tips from professionals: This wilderness trekking organization offers great information for those entering the wilderness. Check out the bulleted list of safety tips for specific scenarios.
                  • Wilderness safety tips: These common-sense wilderness tips are a great foundation upon which to build your knowledge of wilderness safety.
                    • Tips on backpacking with toddlers: The outdoors hold a world of wonder for children, and hiking is a great way for the family to experience nature together, but before you head out, there are a few key safety tips you should know.

                      For preparation, taking your BLS certification will cover many key topics. Sign up at our training center to make sure you are ready for wilderness survival.

                      This page is written by  on Feb 17, 2016 and most recently reviewed and updated by  on Sep 23, 2021.

                      Frank John Fund
                      Tuesday, April 26th 2022

                      Following Frank John's sad passing away in March 2022, some former climbers have requested the opportunity to contribute towards helping Frank's surviving wife, Clara, cover the costs for the family.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Help Bring Clean Water to the Maasai
                      Tuesday, December 21st 2021

                      Several years ago, Team Kilimanjaro were approached by representatives of the Maasai community that live close to the Lake Natron region of northern Tanzania, with a request to assist villagers in obtaining clean water.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Help Us Fight Rhino Poaching
                      Wednesday, October 20th 2021

                      It is estimated that since the turn of the previous century, the world has lost more than 99% of its rhino population, and that today, only 29,000 of these majestic creatures survive.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      VIP Series Comparison
                      Thursday, September 23rd 2021

                      Mobile users: Scroll right πŸ‘‰

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Wilderness First Aid Basics
                      Thursday, September 23rd 2021

                      Wilderness first aid is the knowledge and ability to effectively address injuries, illnesses, or emergencies outside of modern facilities, out in the wild. Skills include knowing how to dress a wound, treat a burn or bite, or set an injured limb. These are important skills that can save your life or the lives of other outdoor enthusiasts. Learn more and be better prepared for your next hiking or backpacking adventure.

                      ξ…Ÿ

                      Many people spend a lot of time and money training and equipping themselves for a Kilimanjaro climb, only to fail in their objective of reaching the summit. Failure is avoidable and we really want trekkers to understand how to prevent it.

                      ξ…Ÿ

                      As from March 2021, PCR testing (or rather, sample-taking) is now available at Seronera and Ndutu airstrips in the Serengeti. This facility has been implemented to prevent clients having to either curtail their safaris or dissect their safaris with a journey to Arusha or, more recently, Karatu (FAME Hospital), mid-safari - so as to satisfy the "less than 72 hours old" validity rule that most airlines are required to enforce. 

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Arusha Cycling Club
                      Wednesday, January 20th 2021

                      Arusha Pedal Series club aims to organise a group ride three times a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, and Saturdays. All keen cyclists are welcome to join.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Dangerous to climb Kilimanjaro?
                      Friday, January 1st 2021

                      We read widely divergent estimates of deaths on Kilimanjaro, but how dangerous is it really? In this post we share our own experience of the dangers.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      Dealing with COVID in 2021
                      Thursday, December 3rd 2020

                      First of all - you can definitely still climb Kilimanjaro during COVID-19! There is absolutely no impediment within Tanzania. Issues only potentially arise with your own country's rules.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      How to Get a PCR Test in Zanzibar
                      Thursday, December 3rd 2020

                      Although there is no requirement to have a PCR test for COVID in order to enter Tanzania, many climbers are nonetheless required by their airline to show evidence of a negative COVID test before boarding the flight home.

                      ξ…Ÿ
                      How to Get a PCR Test in Arusha
                      Wednesday, November 4th 2020

                      This following information is provided to reassure prospective climbers that there is a straightforward way to enjoy the incredible tourism and adventurous opportunities that Tanzania offers, while ensuring that returning home afterwards is stress-free.

                      ξ…Ÿ