You Didn’t Backpack an Ambulance…What Now?

In the context of wilderness medicine, there is a lot of stuff that you need, and you don’t have. So the only way to get most of what you have to use in a wilderness setting, is to find and make it. The thing about wilderness medicine is that because it is practiced in the backcountry, the size of the medical kit available is pretty small. Typically only things that are difficult to improvise are packed in. Everything else takes some ingenuity. Clothing, logs, sticks, cooking equipment, all becomes medical devices when you need it. Everything packed in can be used for something. Traction splints can be made from a trekking pole and some t-shirts. Splints made from foam sleeping pads. Pelvic slings made from backpack hip belts. Know what you have when you head out for a trip. It is useful to train using both commercial equipment and improvising. By using the commercial equipment you can recognize how it works, and then determine what you would pack with you that could be used to imitate the same effect. If it doesn’t bend, make it a splint. If it can pull traction, use it for that. Think about the purpose. What you’re trying to do is replicate the same care the patient would receive in the front country to the best of your abilities and using the resources you have. As always keep patient comfort in mind. Wilderness medicine isn’t always a by the book thing, so it takes a little more brain power to be effectively practice. Innovation, invention, ingenuity, and resourcefulness are all key skills for a wilderness medicine care provider to have and sometimes that takes practice. Remember to practice often and keep up with you skills because they can be the difference between life and death.