Injuries in the wilderness (Self-Aid and First-Aid in the woods)

What Could Possibly Happen?

No matter how experienced you are, and how careful you try to be, Injuries in the wilderness Are ‘eventually’ Going To Happen to you.

Being prepared to deal with accidents and injuries “Out There” will mean the difference between returning from your outing “Relatively Unscathed”, and having a Very Bad Time.

I have spent ‘literally’ Years “Out There, and have of course had my share of oopsies and Owies.. But, Fortunately, I have never gotten Severely Injured “Out There”

Self-Aid and First-Aid Kit

So .. What do I typically carry with me, to deal with owies?
The Essentials that I have in my “PFAK” (Personal First Aid Kit) are:

  • Duck Tape
  • White Bandage Tape
  • Several assorted bandaids
  • Healing Salve (that My Wife makes)
  • 2nd Skin
  • Turmeric
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Small Mirror (on my Compass)
    … That’s About It

Whereas My Brother (Who was a Paramedic Instrtuctor) who carried a “First Aid and Trauma Kit” Large enough and provisioned well enough to set up an emergency medical clinic in a medium-sized third world country.

OK .. If I fell over a hundred foot cliff, onto sharp rocks below .. Or, If I got severely Mauled by an angry Grizzly, I would Absolutely want My Brother and his Medical Knowledge and Supplies, to be near by.

But, for most situations I have run into over the years, I am pretty sure that I could get by with My small PFAK.

Things Happen

If you saw it, In season 5 of “ALONE”, Carleigh Fairchild got a fish hook embedded in the back of her dominant hand (Possibly through the tendon of her thumb?) .. Owie !!
She tried everything she could – with limited resources – but was unable to remove the hook (Unable to cut off the eye of the hook, to enable ‘pushing’ it through)
If you saw the episode, She tried really hard to somehow extricate the hook, but in the end she had to “Tap Out” to have the issue professionally dealt with.
Had she had a multi-tool (or even possibly toenail clippers?) she might have been able to Cut off the eye of the hook, and get the hook  out herself .. (‘tho she would still have had to deal with possible infection issues .. but would probably have been able to continue the challenge.)

It would be an interesting discussion, of how that situation  could have been dealt with – If she had Not had the option to “Tap Out”, and “Had To” get that hook out.

….. Personal Experiences:

On one memorable occasion, I was setting up a stealth camp, Way Up  The Elwha Valley (Olympic National Park), and as I had gotten a kinda late start, I was hurrying to gather enough firewood for the night.

As I usually did, I would take longer 3-6″ limbs and Whack them across a fallen log, to easily break them into usable pieces.
All was going well, till I got a little bit sloppy, and got a bad hit on the fallen log, and the branch I was breaking broke into 2 instead of just one free piece – The nearer piece flying up directly into my eye.
…..OWIE!!!!!! .. Blood was freely flowing from my face, and the pain was exquisite ..
This was when I re-learned a Valuable lesson .. “Always have a mirror of some sort available”
I could not ‘see’ how badly I was injured, nor whether I would have to seek professional attention.
I felt with my finger and determined that there were no large pieces of wood ‘stuck into my eye/cheek, so I held pressure on the injury, with a wet cloth, and eventually the bleeding slowed, and I was able to ascertain – by Feel – that the injury was less severe than I initially thought – so I gathered a hand full of soft Sphagnum Moss, and placed it over the injury, covered by the wet cloth, and tied it in place with a bandana .. and slept with it that way.

By Morning, when I took the compress off, altho it was Quite painful, I could ‘at least see‘ out of the eye, and as the bleeding had all but stopped, I left it open to the air.
Later, I chewed up some Plantain and Yarrow leaves, and pasted the mash over the cut part of the injury, and recovered it with more Sphagnum Moss, and yet another wet cloth.

Within a couple days, Altho it was still pretty Owie, I was pretty much on the mend.

Lessons Learned:

  • ”Be Careful” breaking limbs
  • Have A Mirror available
  • Have a good ’Healing’ Salve available (easier than improvising from medicinal plants)

Another time – in the same location actually, ‘tho several years later, I had my camp established and had some soup heating on the coals, and not really paying attention, I stepped over the boiling pot, and knelt down directly ”Into” the pot.
It took just about 1/100th of a second for the boiling liquid to soak through my pant leg, and scald my knee .. OWWWWWW!!!!

This might have been some of the worst Pain I had ever experienced in the woods.

I removed my pants, and looked at the burn – It did not Immediaely Blister, so I poured Cold Water over the burn .. and then covered it with a clean cloth (keeping the cloth soaked with cold water)
Finally, I let it air dry, for an hour, and then lightly covered it with a soft cloth (to protect it while I slept), and I took a couple Turmeric Capsules to ease the pain, and went to sleep.
By Morning it was pretty red and sensitive, but was not Blistering, so I left it open to the air, for the morning, and then put a light coating of “Healing Salve” on it, and lightly covered it with a clean cloth, and went on with my day (being careful not to hit or brush against the knee)

I was Very Lucky, I think .. that the burn did not blister, and that it healed up nicely over just a few days.

On another occasion, I was configuring a “Sit-Upon”, and cutting ‘just the right sized branch” with my folding saw – and as it just takes a second of inattention, the saw jumped out of the ’cut’, and came down right on the large joint of my index finger .. OOOFF!!! ..
The ‘jagged’ cut was only about an inch long, But was Deep (To The Bone?) …

OK ..

Pressure on the cut, to slow the bleeding, and then assess the damage … Finger still moves (Joint probably ok, and bone not broken)
… Can feel ‘touch’ all along the finger, so no apparent nerve damage .. OK .. Gape the cut open and pick and wipe any ugly stuff out of the gash ….. Then Pour Clean water, ”from height”, into the wound, to flush out any missed debris .. Then Yarrow and Plantain mash, and Sphagnum Moss over it, and tie loosely with bandana. Fortunately, the Owie was on my left hand, so not too debilitating .. and with a little care, it was closing up nicely within a couple days.

Could it have used a couple stitches? Yes .. But, it closed up pretty nicely, and didn’t leave much of a scar at all 🙂




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