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A Deep Dive Into Outdoor First Aid and Wilderness Medicine | THE SHED KNIVES BLOG #60

A Deep Dive Into Outdoor First Aid and Wilderness Medicine | THE SHED KNIVES BLOG #60

Welcome back to The S.K. Blog for edition #60. If you're new here, welcome! Outdoor adventures provide us with a sense of freedom and a connection to nature, but they also come with certain risks. Whether you're an experienced wilderness enthusiast or a beginner, accidents and emergencies can happen. In this edition of The Shed Knives Blog, we'll be diving into the world of outdoor first aid and wilderness medicine, equipping you with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively in remote settings. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your first aid kit, and join us on this journey into the world of wilderness medicine.

1. Why Outdoor First Aid Matters

Outdoor first aid matters because it's the life-saving bridge between adventure and safety. In the great outdoors, far from immediate medical help, accidents and emergencies can happen at any time. Possessing the skills to provide prompt and effective care can prevent minor mishaps from escalating into life-threatening situations. 

2. Preparation: Building Your Wilderness First Aid Kit

You can build your own First Aid kit, buy one in-store, or have one shipped direct to your door. Whatever you do, here is a list of items to get a great base for your kit.

1. Adhesive Bandages: Various sizes for covering minor cuts and wounds.

2. Sterile Gauze Pads and Rolls: To dress larger wounds and control bleeding.

3. Adhesive Tape: Secure gauze, bandages, and splints in place.

4. Antiseptic Wipes or Solution: To clean wounds and prevent infection.

5. Tweezers: For removing splinters, ticks, or debris from wounds.

6. Scissors: Useful for cutting clothing, tape, or other materials in emergencies.

7. CPR Face Shield: Provides a safer way to perform CPR.

8. Disposable Gloves: Protect against bodily fluids and maintain hygiene.

9. Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

10. Allergy Medication: Antihistamines for allergic reactions to bites or stings.

11. EpiPen (if applicable): For individuals with severe allergies.

12. Antiseptic Ointment: For applying to wounds after cleaning.

13. Burn Cream or Gel: For treating minor burns.

14. Oral Rehydration Salts: To combat dehydration in case of diarrhea or vomiting.

15. Irrigation Syringe: Useful for flushing out wounds.

16. Sam Splint or Elastic Bandage: For splinting fractures or sprains.

17. Triangle Bandage: Can be used as a sling, bandage, or tourniquet.

18. Sterile Eye Wash: For flushing foreign objects or irritants from the eyes.

19. Instant Cold Packs: To reduce swelling and pain for injuries like sprains.

20. Space Blanket: Provides insulation and protection from the elements.

21. Emergency Whistle: For signaling for help in emergency situations.

22. Fixed Blade Knife or Multi-tool: Useful for various tasks, including cutting.

23. Moleskin or Blister Pads: To prevent and treat blisters.

24. First Aid Manual: A reference guide for medical procedures.

25. Prescription Medications: If you or your group members require prescription medications, make sure to include an adequate supply.

26. Personal Medical Information: In a waterproof container, carry essential medical information, such as allergies, medical conditions, and emergency contacts.

27. Medical Gloves: Disposable medical gloves for maintaining hygiene during first aid procedures.

28. CPR Instructions: A laminated CPR instructions card in case you need a quick reminder of CPR steps.

29. Duct Tape: This versatile item can be used for a wide range of fixes and improvisations in the field.

30. Tourniquet: Only for extreme situations, as improper use can cause complications. Learn proper tourniquet application.

31. Emergency Blanket: A more compact alternative to a space blanket, providing warmth and protection from the elements.

32. QuikClot or Hemostatic Agent: These are advanced blood-clotting agents for severe bleeding cases.

33. Sutures and Sterile Needles (if trained): For closing deep wounds in situations where medical assistance is not readily available.

34. Medical Waste Bag: A sealable bag for disposing of used medical supplies.

If sutures/needles are not obtainable, Krazy Glue is a good second option but should only be used in emergency situations.

Remember to customize your wilderness first aid kit to your specific activities and location, and keep it in a waterproof and durable container. Additionally, regularly check and replenish supplies to ensure your kit is always ready for any outdoor adventure.

3. Common Outdoor Injuries and Ailments

Outdoor adventures can expose individuals to a range of injuries and ailments. Understanding these common outdoor-related health issues is essential for prevention and preparedness. Here are some of the most prevalent injuries and ailments encountered in the outdoors:

  1. Cuts and Abrasions: Minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions can result from activities like hiking, climbing, or handling equipment.

  2. Sprains and Strains: Ankle and wrist sprains, as well as muscle strains, can occur during strenuous outdoor activities.

  3. Fractures: Falls and accidents can lead to broken bones, such as wrist, ankle, or collarbone fractures.

  4. Blisters: Ill-fitting footwear and excessive moisture can cause painful blisters on the feet.

  5. Burns: Sunburns, campfire burns, and cooking-related burns are common outdoor injuries.

  6. Hypothermia: Exposure to cold and wet conditions can lead to hypothermia, characterized by a drop in body temperature.

  7. Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses.

  8. Dehydration: Failure to maintain proper hydration during outdoor activities can lead to dehydration.

  9. Insect Bites and Stings: Mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and other insects can bite or sting, causing discomfort and sometimes allergic reactions.

  10. Allergic Reactions: Exposure to allergens, such as pollen or insect venom, can trigger allergic responses.

  11. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Contact with these plants can lead to skin rashes and irritation for most people.

  12. Altitude Sickness: At higher elevations, individuals may experience symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness due to lower oxygen levels.

  13. Snake Bites: In regions with venomous snakes, snakebites can occur during outdoor excursions.

  14. Gastrointestinal Issues: Contaminated water or food can lead to issues like diarrhea and food poisoning.

  15. Sprained Ankles: Uneven terrain and trail obstacles can result in ankle sprains.

  16. Bee/Wasp Nest Encounters: Disturbing beehives or wasp nests can lead to stings and allergic reactions.

  17. Frostbite: Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause frostbite, particularly on exposed skin.

  18. Drowning: Activities involving water, like swimming or boating, can lead to drowning incidents.

  19. Internal Injuries from Falls: Falls while hiking, biking, or climbing can result in concussions.

It's essential to be prepared for these outdoor-related injuries and ailments by having a well-equipped first aid kit (like those mentioned above) and the knowledge to address these issues. Furthermore, understanding prevention strategies is vital for ensuring a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.

4. Assessment and Prioritization: The ABCs of First Aid

The ABCs of First Aid is a simple and widely recognized acronym that serves as a fundamental framework for assessing and prioritizing medical treatment in emergency situations. This approach helps first responders and medical professionals quickly evaluate a patient's condition and determine the most critical interventions. The ABCs stand for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation, and sometimes an additional D (for Disability) is included. Here's a breakdown of each component:

  1. Airway (A): The airway is the passage through which air travels to and from the lungs. It must be clear and unobstructed for the patient to breathe effectively. In the context of the ABCs of First Aid, assessing the airway involves checking for any obstructions, foreign objects, or physical blockages that might hinder the patient's ability to breathe. If there is an obstruction, it should be removed. Techniques such as the head-tilt-chin-lift maneuver or jaw thrust maneuver can be employed to open the airway and ensure that it remains unobstructed.

  2. Breathing (B): After ensuring the airway is clear, the next step is to assess the patient's breathing. Check for signs of breathing, such as chest rise and fall or the sound of breath. This is essential to determine if the patient is breathing adequately or experiencing respiratory distress. If the patient is not breathing, it may be necessary to initiate rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or using a bag-valve-mask device) to maintain oxygen supply to vital organs.

  3. Circulation (C): Circulation refers to the flow of blood through the body, carrying oxygen and nutrients to vital organs. In the context of the ABCs, assessing circulation involves checking for a pulse, as it indicates the heartbeat and overall blood circulation. If there is no pulse or if the pulse is weak and irregular, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be initiated to restore circulation. CPR combines chest compressions and rescue breaths to maintain the oxygen supply to the body's vital systems.

  4. Disability (D): In some variations, the ABCs may include a "D" for Disability, which focuses on assessing the neurological status of the patient. This step evaluates the patient's level of consciousness and neurological function by assessing their responsiveness, motor functions, and pupil reactions. It helps identify potential head injuries, neurological disorders, or issues that may affect the patient's cognitive and motor functions.

The ABCs of First Aid serve as a systematic approach to rapidly assess and address life-threatening conditions in emergency situations. It is important to remember that in life-threatening situations, the primary goal is to stabilize the patient's vital functions (airway, breathing, and circulation) before addressing other injuries or concerns. Proper training in first aid and CPR is essential to effectively apply the ABCs and provide timely and appropriate care to individuals in distress.

5. Basic First Aid Techniques

Basic first aid techniques encompass a range of simple but crucial skills aimed at providing immediate care and assistance to individuals in times of injury or medical emergencies.

These techniques include assessing and managing injuries, such as cuts and wounds, by cleaning, disinfecting, and dressing them to prevent infection. Basic first aid also covers the application of bandages and splints to stabilize fractures, sprains, and strains, ensuring the injured area is immobilized and supported. Additionally, understanding the principles of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is fundamental, as it involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to maintain oxygen circulation in the event of cardiac arrest. Basic first aid skills also involve addressing common issues like burns, insect stings, and choking, with the goal of providing immediate relief and reducing the risk of complications.

These techniques are essential for promoting safety, preventing the worsening of injuries, and potentially saving lives until professional medical help arrives.

6. Special Considerations: Children and Seniors

Providing first aid to children and seniors in the wilderness requires special considerations and adaptations due to the unique needs and vulnerabilities of these age groups.


  1. Dosage Considerations: Children often require different dosages of medications and treatments compared to adults. When administering medications or performing first aid, it's crucial to calculate and use pediatric-specific dosages to ensure safety and effectiveness.

  2. Emotional Support: Children may be scared or anxious during a wilderness emergency. Providing comfort and reassurance is essential to keep them calm and cooperative during treatment.

  3. Child-Friendly Communication: Tailoring your communication to be child-friendly is important. Explain procedures and treatments in simple terms and, if possible, use visual aids or props to help them understand.

  4. Specialized Gear: Ensure that your first aid kit includes pediatric-specific supplies like smaller bandages, child-sized splints, and appropriate medications, such as children's pain relievers.

  5. Extra Vigilance: Children are more prone to dehydration, sunburn, and heat-related illnesses. Keep a close watch on their hydration, sun protection, and comfort in different weather conditions.


  1. Medication Awareness: Seniors may be taking multiple medications, so it's important to inquire about their medical history and medications to prevent drug interactions or allergic reactions during first aid.

  2. Mobility and Stability: Seniors may have reduced mobility and stability. Be cautious when moving or assisting them to prevent falls or injuries.

  3. Chronic Health Conditions: Seniors are more likely to have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart issues, or hypertension. Knowing how to manage these conditions during an emergency is crucial.

  4. Reduced Tolerance: Older adults may have a lower tolerance for extreme temperatures, making them more susceptible to heatstroke or hypothermia. Pay close attention to temperature regulation in seniors.

  5. Slower Recovery: Seniors often have slower healing and recovery rates. This may necessitate more extended monitoring and additional care after initial treatment.

  6. Comfort and Warmth: Provide additional insulation and comfort, such as blankets or extra layers, to keep seniors warm and comfortable during wilderness emergencies.

In both cases, it's important to adapt your care by recognizing the unique needs of children and seniors. This may require modifying your first aid techniques, communication, and equipment to ensure their safety and well-being in the wilderness. Remember that proper training in wilderness first aid, as well as knowledge of age-specific considerations, is crucial for effective care.

7. Dealing with Environmental Emergencies

Hypothermia, frostbite, and heatstroke are critical wilderness emergencies that are more common than anything else when it comes to environment related injuries. Let's go over a few basic first aid skills related to "The Big 3" as they all pose serious risks in the outdoors.


  1. Recognize the Symptoms: Look for signs of hypothermia, which may include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and numbness.

  2. Move to Shelter: If possible, move the affected person to a sheltered, warm location and remove wet clothing.

  3. Warm Gradually: Gradually warm the person using dry clothing, blankets, and warm, non-alcoholic, and non-caffeinated drinks. Avoid direct heat sources like a campfire, as they can burn the cold, numb skin.

  4. Share Body Heat: If necessary, snuggle with the person to share body heat, especially focusing on the core areas like the chest and armpits.


  1. Recognize the Symptoms: Look for frostbite signs, such as pale, cold, and numb skin, often affecting extremities like fingers, toes, and ears.

  2. Seek Shelter: Move to a warm, dry location and remove wet clothing. Avoid walking on frostbitten feet if possible.

  3. Gradual Warming: Immerse frostbitten areas in warm, not hot, water (100-104°F or 37-40°C) for 15-30 minutes. Do not use direct heat sources, like a campfire.

  4. Avoid Aggravation: Avoid rubbing or massaging frostbitten skin, as it can cause further damage.


  1. Recognize the Symptoms: Signs of heatstroke include high body temperature, hot and dry skin, confusion, rapid pulse, and nausea.

  2. Move to Shade: Get the person out of the sun and into the shade or a cooler environment.

  3. Cool the Body: Use methods like wet cloths or a cool bath to lower body temperature. Apply cold compresses to the neck, armpits, and groin.

  4. Rehydrate: Ensure the person drinks water or an electrolyte solution to replace lost fluids.

  5. Seek Medical Help: Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If the person's condition doesn't improve or worsens, seek immediate medical assistance.

In all cases, prevention is key. Dress appropriately for the weather, stay hydrated, and be aware of environmental conditions to reduce the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and heatstroke during outdoor activities.

8. Search and Rescue: When to Call for Help

From: Signaling for Help: These 10 Techniques Might Save Your Life | THE SHED KNIVES BLOG #58

Knowing when to call for search and rescue (SAR) assistance is a critical aspect of wilderness safety. While being self-sufficient and prepared is important, there are situations where professional assistance is necessary. Here are some key scenarios in which you should consider calling for SAR help:

  1. Injuries or Medical Emergencies: When someone in your group sustains a severe injury, experiences a medical emergency, or falls seriously ill and you cannot provide adequate care or safely evacuate them on your own, it's time to call for SAR.

  2. Lost or Disoriented: If you or someone in your group becomes lost, disoriented, or unable to find your way back to your base or trail, it's advisable to contact SAR.

  3. Exhaustion or Dehydration: In cases of severe exhaustion or dehydration, where individuals are unable to continue safely and require assistance, calling for SAR is the right course of action.

  4. Severe Weather: In the face of extreme weather conditions such as blizzards, hurricanes, or other natural disasters that make it impossible to proceed safely, it's wise to seek SAR aid.

  5. Running Out of Supplies: When you've exhausted your food, water, or other essential supplies and have no means to obtain more, it's time to call for help.

  6. Inability to Navigate: If you find yourselves unable to navigate, due to a lack of appropriate maps, GPS failure, or other factors, and you're stranded, requesting SAR assistance becomes necessary.

  7. Communications Failure: When you lose the ability to communicate due to equipment failure or other reasons and cannot reestablish contact, it's important to call for help...using other techniques than what you lost.

  8. Overdue Return: If you're aware of a planned outdoor trip, and the group doesn't return by the designated time or date, contact members of the group first, and if no response or condition of the group can be verified, it is a good idea to contact SAR for a possible search.

  9. Wildlife Threats: In situations involving encounters with dangerous wildlife, where your safety is at risk, contacting SAR can help ensure a safe response.

When considering calling for SAR, keep these tips in mind:

  • Stay Calm: Try to remain calm and provide the SAR team with accurate information about your situation, location, and the condition of those involved.

  • Use Proper Communication: Use the appropriate means to contact SAR, which may involve a satellite phone, radio, or whistle, depending on what you have available.

  • Share Trip Details: Always inform someone of your trip plans, including your destination, route, and expected return time. This person can initiate the SAR process if you fail to return or check-in.

  • Follow Professional Guidance: Once you've called for SAR, follow their instructions. Attempting to self-rescue when SAR is already on the way can complicate the situation.

Remember that search and rescue teams are highly trained professionals equipped to handle emergencies in the wilderness. If you're in doubt about whether to call for SAR, it's generally safer to make the call and let the experts determine the appropriate response.

Read: Signaling for Help: These 10 Techniques Might Save Your Life | THE SHED KNIVES BLOG #58

9. Conclusion

In the concluding section, we emphasize the importance of ongoing education and preparedness in outdoor first aid and wilderness medicine. We leave you with the confidence to tackle any outdoor emergency with skill and poise, knowing that you can be the lifeline in remote environments.

To explore a wide range of high-quality knives, like the entire 2023 Shed Knives Collection, visit the Shed Knives website HERE. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next edition of The Shed Knives Blog.



About The Author:

CEO & Founder of Shed Knives, W. Jack Billings

Jack Billings is the 19 year old CEO and Founder of Shed Knives, a rising manufacturer of high-quality fixed blade bushcraft knives. With over 5 years of experience as a knife maker, he has developed a reputation for crafting durable, reliable knives that are designed for outdoor enthusiasts and bushcrafters alike. Jack started making knives at the age of 13 and has been refining his craft ever since.

In addition to his expertise in knife making, Jack has a High School Degree from POLYTECH High School, where he studied Automotive Technology and obtained his ASE Certification. He is also a content creator for Shed Knives and has reached the eyes of over 600,000 people across the world through his work.

When he's not working on knives, Jack enjoys exploring the outdoors and has a passion for bushcraft. He also has a passion for the automotive world and enjoys learning about new technologies and advancements. Additionally, he has a great interest in language and is studying Spanish, German, and Arabic.

Jack's personal mission is to constantly improve himself, his products, and his processes in order to stay ahead of the rapidly changing interests of the knife industry and to surpass the competition. He takes great pride in American manufacturing and is committed to contributing to the growth of the world knife industry through his work.

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