Be prepared for emergencies in the field

You never know when you’re going to need medical attention. Accidents can happen anywhere, even out in the woods.

You can find yourself in need of medical help anytime, anywhere. It’s bad enough when you’re in town, and the EMTs are only a few blocks away. But when you hurt yourself or get sick in the woods, help isn’t as close.

I learned from experience that when you head off into the backcountry, it’s handy to have someone along who knows a thing or two about first aid. My dad’s a doctor, but he was the one who was always hurting himself. Like, just about every trip.

And I don’t mean little cuts and scrapes. When Dad hurt himself, he did it right. On one outing, he had a fully loaded pack horse fall on him. He broke his second and third ribs on one side of his chest. Something like that’s usually enough to kill a person. Dad was pretty lucky.

Another time, he cut his hand while he was cutting the string silencers off his bow. I mean, really laid it open. It was nasty. A few years before that, he was gutting a deer, and his knife popped off a bone and jabbed him between the first and second toes on his right foot. He sunk that sucker clear up to the hilt.

It’s safe to say my dad’s a tough cookie. Real tough. We didn’t come home early from any of those trips. We probably should have, but we didn’t. Dad toughed it out each time, though he did give himself some pretty good medical attention. When he couldn’t do it himself, he coached me or someone else through the steps we needed to take.

That doesn’t mean I feel like I know how to handle every emergency that could crop up outdoors. Because like my dad, I’m pretty accident-prone, I intend to take a wilderness first aid course this summer. I’ll try to pass along to you some of what I learn. Until then, be careful. You’re much better off not needing first aid in the first place.