3 Reasons To Take Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Before thru-hiking, I worked as a trip leader for my college’s pre-orientation program on the Appalachian Trail. Apart of training included Wilderness First Aid (WFA). And, in this course I learned the importance knowing first-aid skills specifically for the backcountry. Throughout my thru-hike, I kept thinking of how the skills learned in WFA allowed me to safely navigate and be prepared for the Appalachian Trail.
On average, the Appalachian Trail is four miles from a road. I had Verizon cell-service and in the event of an emergency could have made a call 90% of the time. That being said, proximity to the road does not guarantee safety. The two-day, 16-hour Wilderness First Aid course will prepare beginners and really any hikers for basic first aid situations in the backcountry.
1.Learn Basic First Aid Skills
I took Wilderness First Aid through SOLO (twice) and found SOLO’s WFA course to be engaging and informative. To put it simply, SOLO explains “By learning a few basic skills, you can make the difference between a good outcome and a bad one-and maybe even save a life.” I agree. The basic skills you learn in the class can help you and other hikers who find themselves in less than ideal situations. Because, accidents happen.
For example, in May on the Appalachian Trail, the temperatures on Roan Mountain dropped to under 20°F and got over three inches of snow. The same day, we hiked in 60°F so the snow storm was unexpected to say the least. After evaluating the situation, Hannah and I decided to hunker down on Roan Mountain rather than try to out hike the storm. The following morning, we woke up to our tent caving in from snow. We were thankful for our puffy jackets, rain pants and cold weather layers that other hikers had sent home. In this situation, it’s important to know a basic first aid skill such as recognizing and treating hypothermia. The skills learned in Wilderness First Aid are valuable for safety in the backcountry.
I talk about making a plan and preparing ahead a lot. If you’ve never backpacked and are thinking about taking on a thru-hike then do yourself a favor and take this class. Although the class may not address the logistical and technical components of your thru-hike, it will give you skills to keep you safe. Additionally, I think it’s important to have a basic understanding of the first aid and survival skills the backcountry requires.
Here are a few places to take a WFA course:
The main reason I can think of is the price. However, think if it as an investment or even as insurance, it’s justifiable. I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something new Wilderness First Aid course. And, I bet you’ll be thankful at least once whether on or off that trail that you know these first aid skills. It won’t hurt to take them and learn new skills for backcountry adventures. Personally, it reaffirmed my interests in wilderness medicine and public health. As I learned how to use my gear in health emergencies, I gained an appreciation for learning to use what you have to keep you safe. Take the WFA class. Just do it.
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