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WFR Course through NOLS - how is it?
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Nov 3, 2012
Hi All - I am considering taking the Wilderness First Responder course through NOLS this winter. I am a PT, so have a fair bit of training in acute injury assessment, basic first aid/CPR, although nothing specific to wilderness environments. The course is $650, which is pricey, but not too bad considering it is 80 hours of class. I will also need to take 6 vacation days - so don't want to waste those if it isn't worth it.

Any perspectives on the course from those who have taken it? Was it worthwhile? If you already have a healthcare background, how was the pace/level?

Joined Sep 28, 2010
40 points
Nov 4, 2012
I've taken two full WFR courses and several recerts.

If you have no experience with wilderness medicine, it might benefit you. Some of the course subject will be very basic and slow going for you though. There is a lot of hands-on splint building. They basically assume that you are 30+ min from definitive health care and you have equipment with you common in outdoor activities: backpacking, climbing, paddling, etc.

They teach you to assess, stabilize and evac. Not much more.

If you're not working in an outdoor field that requires this cert, it might be a bit overkill for you. It really depends on why you want to take the course. If you need it for a job that you're considering, I'd say do it. If you want it because you want to feel safer playing in the wilderness with your friends, a WFA might suit you just fine.

WFA is generally about three days long and doesn't cover as much of the internal illnesses/injuries that people sustain in the wilderness. There is about as much splint building and basic assessment skills as a WFR that are crucial in deciding if a person should stay out, leave, or leave now.

Hope that helps. Feel free to PM me in you want further info on anything. It's been several years since I've taken a course, but I'm pretty well versed in basic wilderness medicine through both classrooms and real-world issues.
Marc H
From Denver
Joined May 10, 2007
20 points
Nov 4, 2012
every WFR is different, whether you take it through NOLS, Solo or anyone else that offers it.

I thought the NOLS was a great course, they give you a lot of resources to study with(i think i had 2 or maybe 3 books given to me with the course) also, every month or so they send you an email with a practice scenario to figure out what the best plan would be for the given incident. My instructors were awesome, and you really get to get hands on with the scenarios, which really helped the class fly by, its not an entire day of just sitting listening to a lecture about when to evac, and when to rapidly evac.

  • added bonus, when you complete your wfr through nols, it gets you pro deals through promotive, on their NOLS team. gives you access to a TON of different deals on a lot of different outdoor gear.
From Harrisonburg, Virginia
Joined Oct 27, 2009
160 points
Nov 4, 2012
I got my first WFR through WMA, did a recert through WMI/NOLS, and will be doing my second recert through WMA.

My experience doing a three day recert course through NOLS was good. The instructors were knowledgable, approachable, and well organized. Having said that I LOVED my WMA instructor and I co-led a 10 day canoe trip with another WMA instructor who was fantastic.

One thing you might want to consider when taking the WFR is that the NOLS course is only good for two years, then you have a one year grace period in which your cert isn't active but you can do a recert without having to retake the whole course. WMA and SOLO both offer three year certs with no grace period. For me, this means I get a much better bang for my buck with WMA and its less intrusive on my schedule. For example, your $650 NOLS/WMI course ends up costing $325 per year of certification, whereas a $650 WMA course would only cost you $217 per year of certification.

Also, depending on where you are located it may be much easier to find courses offered by one group or another. For my WMI recert last year I made a trip out to Boulder for it which was fun but added to the expense. WMI courses out east are hard to come by, but you can find WMA and SOLO courses much easier.

Both WMI and WMA are widely accepted from my understanding. My WMA card is solid plastic with my name and my instructors name printed into the plastic and 100% waterproof. My WMI cards were punch out cardstock with my name typed on in the blank space provided for it.

All of these reasons are why I chose to go back to WMA for my upcoming recert. I can't say I was dissatisfied with my experience with WMI and NOLS. They did a great job. I just prefer WMA and find it to better meet my needs.
Kari Post
From Keene, NH
Joined Sep 13, 2012
53 points
Nov 4, 2012
weird, my wfr is good for 3 years...not sure about the grace period thing, but will be doing a recert again with nols as soon as it expires.

i got mine in Asheville NC, through landmark learning, great organization, awesome instructors.
From Harrisonburg, Virginia
Joined Oct 27, 2009
160 points
Nov 4, 2012
I took the WFR through the WMA and was very happy with the course. The cool thing about the WMA opposed to NOLS is that you can take the WFA course first (3days), then later on you can take the WFA-WFR Bridge course(4 days).

This both enables you to test out the information and subject matter at a lower cost and you wouldn't have to take a long vacation from work. Then if you feel that the WFR is something you would like to pursue, you can take the bridge course at a later date; still save the amount of time you take off from work and it ends up being close to the same amount of money of taking the full WFR through NOLS.
Tapawingo Markey
Joined Feb 1, 2012
0 points

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