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Hiking First Aid - Medical Training for Backpackers and Hikers

Having medical training is important for all backcountry travelers in order to be able to respond to an emergency. Rescue could be several hours away, or even days if traveling in a remote area. There are several organizations that provide medical training for wilderness travelers, and even tailor their courses to address issues in the outdoors.

Basic First Aid and CPR for Backpackers and Hikers

Hiking SafeAt the bare minimum, a hiker should have first aid and CPR certification in order to be able to respond to basic emergencies. In the United States, the American Red Cross offers both kinds of courses from local providers throughout the country. For instance, the Colorado chapter of the Red Cross offers CPR as a stand-alone course, or in combination with first aid. These classes range between three and eight hours. They even have a wilderness first aid course which lasts two days. The Red Cross even offers training partially online, and has materials in Spanish.

Wilderness Medicine Training for Backpackers and Hikers

Wilderness Medicine providers are organizations that teach specifically medical courses designed for outdoor enthusiasts. These groups often offer a wilderness first aid course that covers not only basic medical problems, but also how to take care of patients in a wilderness setting. Students learn how to manage environmental issues and complete documentation for advanced medical care.

A more advanced course is a wilderness first responder certification. These courses generally run eight or nine days long, and cover medical issues more in depth, as well as caring for patients in the backcountry. These classes offer students more opportunities to practice their skills, and to gain valuable information from the instructors, such as what to stock in a personal first aid kit. A wilderness first responder course is appropriate for those who are not only recreational hikers, but also those who are responsible for others in a backcountry setting, or seeking to become qualified for a job that involves hiking or backpacking.

An even more advanced course is a wilderness EMT certification. This training is equivalent to the training one receives in an urban EMT course, but with the added wilderness component. This kind of training would be appropriate for outdoor professionals or others seeking training for hiking and backpacking jobs.

With all of these certifications there is a period when the certification is active before it's necessary to recertify.

Wilderness Medicine Companies for Backpackers and Hikers

There are many companies that certify in wilderness medicine. Three of the most common are the Wilderness Medicine Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Wilderness Medicine Associates, and Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities. These groups recognize each other's training, allowing you to train with one group, and recertify with another if the first provider does not have a recertification course in the area. An organization that oversees many wilderness medicine companies is the Wilderness Medical Society.

Being trained in wilderness medicine is not only a good learning opportunity, it is an investment in one's safety in the outdoors, as well as the safety of others.