You might have noticed that it’s been a little bit slow around here lately.
This book can be blamed.
I just spent 10 days knee deep in the NOLS Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. Al spent the weekend doing his WFR recertification.
The 10 days cost us a whole lot of money ( $699.00 for the WFR course + $235.00 for the recert + a babysitter ) and a whole lot of time (80 hours for the WFR + 24 hours for the recert).
But, I can say that every single penny was worth it.
The instruction was incredible. The course material was relevant and useful and I trust NOLS to only put out information that is accurate.
Here’s what I learned and here’s how I grew throughout the 10 day experience.
1. Someday I might have to try to save the life of someone I love.
I usually hike with my family and my friends and I want to be able to help them.
If I’m hiking with our local hiking group and one of my kiddos or a friend’s child falls off of a rock at Vedawoo I want to know exactly what to do to take care of that child. I want to know how to asses the patient, how to safely evacuate the patient and how to stay calm and take control of the situation. Before the WFR course I had zero first aid skills, not such a good thing when you write trail guides for a living and lead a popular hiking group.
2. Someday I might have to help someone who you love.
If we hike a lot it only increases our odds that we’re going to come across someone who needs our help in the wilderness. Maybe they’ll just be having a hard time breathing at altitude or maybe they will have fallen off a cliff and fractured their femur. We just don’t know. As human beings I think it’s natural for us to want to help when we see someone in trouble. But how can we help someone without causing further injury if we don’t know how? There’s something to be said about learning some wilderness first aid.
3. This course helped me to dispel myths and misconceptions about the outdoors and medical treatment.
There are a lot of outdoor bloggers out there publishing useful information but it’s not always good. We can’t trust everything we read on the internet…or everything we grew up learning about the outdoors and first aid. NOLS spends a whole lot of time and effort working with top researchers around the world to ensure that their curriculum is based in science and that it works in a wilderness context. Basically everything that I grew up reading in my brother’s boy scout handbooks is dead wrong (but I already knew that).
4. This course helped me know what to pack in my first aid kit but more importantly, how to use what’s in my kit.
For years I’ve hiked with a first aid kit, thinking that I knew how to administer the medications in it or use the contents of it. In reality I had no idea what to do. You can find a bazillion blog posts out there about what to put in a first aid kit but not a whole lot of detailed information about how to use your first aid kit. To me that’s where the WFR course really stepped it up a notch. Especially after our night scenario when I was laying there in the snow with a fake fractured leg looking up into the stars and really thinking about what I would need to help someone out and survive in the wilderness. My entire packing list now needs a complete overhaul.
Today’s NOLS Wilderness First Responder lesson on burns. pic.twitter.com/1rABU5Uu2p
— Rebecca Walsh (@RebeccasTrails) January 19, 2015
5. This course gave me confidence.
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is not good. Ever. But confidence is essential–especially when it comes to taking care of a serious injury in the backcountry. Knowledge breeds confidence. If you take the WFR you’ll finish the course confident in yourself, your knowledge and your abilities.
If you’re a casual weekend hiker I’d recommend looking into the NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course. If you do a little bit more than that or are thirsty for some serious outdoor medical knowledge, WFR is probably more your style.
The good news is that NOLS is a Wyoming based organization and finding a WFA or WFR course or recertification is pretty easy, especially because the University of Wyoming Outdoor Rec Program offers one WFR course every winter.
In the mean time if you’re curious about the WFR course or want to chat about it just leave a comment below or come up on our social media sites. I still can’t get over what an incredible learning experience it was, a huge thanks to top-notch NOLS instructors Dusty and Jake!
UPDATE 2/3/15: I’ve been called out on social media (holy cow this blog post went VIRAL) for not mentioning that another reason to take a WFR class is to meet awesome people. And yes, that is very, very true. Al and I have both made friends and done some important networking through our WFR experiences. So yes, take a course and make friends too. It’s a win win!)