Book Review: Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

A while back we were given a copy of “Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook,” Second Edition, by Dr. Spike Briggs and Dr. Campbell Mackenzie to read and review. Since then I’ve spent a little time with it and in general I’ve been very impressed.Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

This book is very well organized and everything from the layout to the binding and type of paper is designed to be used in the field.

I think the biggest advantage to this book is the extensive useof flow charts and it’s step by step construction.

This is appropriate given the book’s target audience of traveler since most injury situations in the wilderness are going to involve fairly long term contact with the patient while evacuating them or waiting for help to arrive. In that period of time, this book will help you to methodically work through the steps and make sure you are doing the best you can for an injured person.

Of course, this is all after you’ve dealt with any urgent, life-threatening problems.


At some points, I can tell that it is written as a reference for people with fairly advanced medical training.

Certainly beyond anything I picked up in my Wilderness First Responder Course. In fact, some of the things in this book shouldn’t be done except by people with advanced training and equipment.

But there are still many parts of this book that are still useful to someone with even basic wilderness first aid training.

This book seems ideally suited for any type of larger expedition or any type of a supported trip. Even if that support is just your own car while you are car camping. However, I don’t think I would carry it if I was backpacking with a couple friends. It’s a little bit too big and heavy for that.

If you do take this book on your next adventure, you’ll want to read through it first and become familiar with its parts.

It is written to be used as a reference but like with all reference material, you need to be familiar with the basic components to get the most out of it. This need is compounded in this case by the likelihood of stress and fear that can accompany wilderness injuries.

Finally, I would hope that getting a book like this encourages you to get some level of medical training. Rebecca and I are both Wilderness First Responder Certified. Medical knowledge is important for people who spend a lot of time isolated in the wilderness and no book by itself can make up for a course and practice. In contrast, having even basic wilderness first aid training will make a book like this one much more useful to you.

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