REI Community

Survival in the Backcountry   

Tagged in: Injuries and Accidents
by Shannon Davis
Good Article?
Avg Score:  3.5 from 2 votes
Your Score:  

How to use 5 items already in your pack as first aid or evacuation tools  

In the context of medical emergencies, the wilderness is defined as anywhere beyond an hour from definitive medical care. That includes nearly every climb featured in this issue. However, that doesn’t mean you need to pack an ambulance-worth of specialized equipment for an overnight trip. Bring a small first aid kit of items you can’t improvise (like an Ace bandage or ibuprofen, for example), and then learn creative ways to treat common injuries with what you’ve got. This primer is a starting point, but no replacement for wilderness–first aid training. Find a wilderness first responder course near you at wildmed.com.

Rope 

Rock Climbing Photo: Rope litter

Rope litter
On-route, the rope is your lifeline, and if you or your partner need to be evacuated, it can also be your ticket back to the trailhead.


(1) To create an improvised “daisy chain” litter, lay out 15 to 20 loops of rope across seven linear feet.


(2) Build the best frame you can with what you’ve got: duct tape or cord and tent poles, trekking poles, and sticks. Then place a tarp and padding (a sleeping pad and two packs shown here) on top. If weather is iffy, sandwich the victim between two sleeping bags and wrap him inside a tarp.


(3)Then begin to lace up the daisy chain, starting at the feet and tying off the ends.


This is useful for a victim who cannot walk on his own. If you suspect a spinal injury and don’t have training, seek an evac.

Stuff Sack 

Rock Climbing Photo: Stablize with a stuff sack

Stablize with a stuff sack
Suspect a spinal injury? If your partner took any impact to the head (from falling rock or a climbing fall), decked (especially from a distance more than twice his body height), or lost consciousness, you should.


Step one is to stabilize the head and neck and keep your pal as still as possible. One way you can stabilize his head and neck while you make a plan for assessing, treating, and likely evacuating is to fill a stuff sack with enough sand or clothing to use as an improvised head immobilizer, which allows you the freedom to do a head-to-toe exam. This may require gentle alignment of the cervical spine (neck) into a neutral position. If you must realign, do it slowly and stop if it requires force or induces pain.

Learn more about the principles of spinal assessment in our iPad edition.

Sleeping Pad 

Rock Climbing Photo: Immobilize with a sleeping pad

Immobilize with a sleeping pad
Among the most common climbing-related injuries are lower-extremity sprains or fractures. This is also a common hiking-related accident, so be on high alert in the backcountry.

It’s important to get the victim off his feet and to stabilize the injury to prevent further damage. A doubled-over sleeping pad can make a great splint.

Before you start constructing, check circulation, sensation, and mobility below the injury. If it’s the ankle, can the victim feel his toes? Are they warm and pink? Can he move them?

Now splint the injury in a comfortable position. Immobilize joints above and below a possible fracture, or the bones above and below an injured joint. Secure with cord or anything you can tie securely.

Re-check circulation.

Hydration Reservoir 

Rock Climbing Photo: Irrigate the wound

Irrigate the wound
Slits happen: an over-zealous swipe of a blade while cutting a rope, or a laceration or puncture sustained during an ugly fall.


Your top concern is to stop the bleeding, and then to calm the victim and monitor for shock. But in the backcountry—hours or days from medical care—infection should also be on your list of possibilities to account for.


The best way to mitigate? Irrigate.


Fill a reservoir with clean water (if you can drink it, it’s clean), hold the nozzle one to two inches above the wound, and forcefully squeeze the bladder. Repeat until no visible debris remains.


Now, dress the wound.


No reservoir? Fill a zip-top bag with water and puncture a corner.

Webbing 

For a climb-ending but not life-threatening injury, like a sprained ankle, self-evacuate. If the victim can bear weight, distribute her gear for others to carry and lend a shoulder or trekking poles. If the injury it too severe, improvise a piggyback-style carry using about 20 feet of webbing (or rope or cordelette).

Rock Climbing Photo: Set up a webbing piggy-back carry

Set up a webbing piggy-back carry
(1) make a bight in the center, pass it through the victim’s legs from behind, wrap the ends around the legs, and bring them through like a girth-hitch.

(2) bring the two ends over your shoulders like pack straps

(3) wrap around the victim’s backside

(4) bring to the front, and tie off like a rope backpack

Rest often, and rotate carriers if possible.

View the original article on climbing.com.

Next Topic » Prevent and Treat Frostbite

Comments on Survival in the Backcountry Add Comment
- none yet -

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About