What’s in your pack?  What’s in your plan? Takeaways from CORE’S Wilderness Safety Workshop at Bragg Creek Community Center, April 22, 2017.

Contributors: Ron Gamp, David vanden Eikhov, Mindy Woolcott

Backpack First Aid Kit Emergency-Survival Blanket Triangular Bandage

It’s a mountain hike. Something goes wrong. Could be caused by weather, or an accident on the trail, or a hiker’s asthma attack. Could be caused by a bear. A lightning strike. A landslide. Someone gets lost.

How prepared are we hikers and what do we do in an emergency? Stay…Go? Split up the group or remain together?

“Getting to the top is optional, but coming home is not!”

Hikers need to quickly assess situations, adapt materials they have with them, and act in the best interests of both the injured hiker and the group at large.

Here are a few takeaways from CORE’s workshop.

1.) In an emergency, a ‘victim’ will likely be in shock. Know the signs of shock and act accordingly.

A  B  C

Airway. Make sure the person is breathing and facilitate that by loosening tight clothing at the neck, assessing breath, turning the person over on their side…

Body Temperature. Put layers of insulating material (clothes, leaves, jackets) under the person so that they don’t lose all their body heat from their backs. Cover them up if possible.

Circulation. Stop the bleeding

2.) In an emergency, decide if someone must go and seek help while another stays with the injured person. Assessing is difficult. Decide: will what I do cause harm? If not, will what I do help? How much time will pass before professional interventions can occur? Decide what to do, then live with the decision.

3.) Before an emergency, at the hike’s start, decide WHO has the phone number for the nearest INFO center (or emergency number for the area where you are traveling), and make sure the group has been registered. Who will take responsibility for contacting the center in an emergency?

All hikers should have personal health concerns, medication lists and contact numbers written and attached on their backpacks.

So, what’s in the backpack?

                    Some suggestions… basic.

Reflector blanket, Triangular cloth for sling. Duct tape and scissor. Bandaids. Water purifying tablets (optional), Aspirin, Ibuprofin, Tylenol for pain, Enough water, food, gloves, hat.

Canadian Red Cross APP

How about the Red Cross App on one’s phone?



Planned route. Phone number of nearest Information center or emergency number for the area you are hiking in.


When lost, hug a tree and shelter in.

                                                     Don’t move!

P.S. Enjoy the hike!


A few more details

Emergencies in the wilderness can and do happen. Following is a list of things to consider both when you are preparing for a trip and when something unforeseen happens.

  • YOU are 100% responsible.  Don’t expect if you get in trouble that someone will rescue you.
  • Preparation preparation preparation. Do your trip planning.
  • Know the emergency numbers in the area you are going to. You can look these up on the various park websites and keep them in a note book in your pack.
  • Let people know (friend, family etc. – someone who will be checking on your return) where you are going including a timeline, and who you are going with.
  • How you prepare will vary for each outing.  Factors include – length of the trip, difficultly, remoteness, communications, weather, group make up and skills, etc. etc. – there is no one recipe.  Prepare appropriately.
  • Do not expect cell coverage! (That said –the Canadian Red Cross App on your phone is a useful tool (although not geared to wilderness conditions)

Emergencies in the wilderness present extra factors to consider when doing first aid:

  • Immediate safety (of patient and rescuers): Move a patient even before any treatment if there’s EXTREME danger like avalanche, falling rock, cliff hazards, or nearby predators.
  • Assessment: Note Medic Alerts, membership card health conditions, forewarnings of medical conditions to coordinator as well as signs of injury causes.
  • Weather conditions: As soon as a patient assessment is done you should also assess the need to keep dry and avoid either hypothermia or heat stroke. You frequently need to get the patient in a comfortable position insulated from the ground even if movement would not otherwise be recommended. In such cases get everything you want to go under the patient arranged next to their body and rehearse coordination of all hands before lifting or rocking their body and positioning insulation to avoid or limit further injury.
  • Emergency numbers: Call the local park emergency number or else 911 if you are able to.
  • If out of contact: You need to estimate the delay before help can arrive. This may affect a decision to assist the injured party back to the trailhead. If that isn’t an option, it may even be necessary to prepare as best as possible for an overnight stay.
  • Rescue safety: Assuming you’re in a minimum group of four, nobody should be left alone. Send two or more for help, assuring that some second accident doesn’t leave everyone out of contact. Leave at least one person with the injured party. Estimate how long you’ll wait.

Useful things to have with you when you head out in the backcountry – very trip dependant

  1. Water proof matches and fire starter (Take a small zip lock bag of dryer lint – excellent fire starter)
  2. Emergency blanket (take 2 since they are so small and light)
  3. A “pill” kit – aspirin, Ibuprofen, water purifying tablets
  4. A tarp-  with size dependent on trip
  5. Rope or strapping of some type
  6. Flexible splint (SAM splint)
  7. Basic first aid kit with triangular bandages and/or tensor bandages, surgical gloves
  8. Foam mat
  9. Flagging tape and permanent marker (so you can mark your way if you have to go for help)
  10. Whistle, signalling tool, bear spray – as required
  11. Tourniquet
  12. Bivvy sack
  13. List of emergency numbers in the area where you will be venturing

Preparation—Every participant’s safety is their own responsibility: Carry your own first aid kit with things (like medications) that you regularly count on or may need. It’s not a coordinator’s responsibility to provide either first aid kit or expertise. Many lists of kit essentials can be found. It may be best if all of us don’t use the same one, providing a group with a variety of resources.