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Common Ground

Columnists should never say they are going to write about something in advance. I said I would continue this week with more stuff on using GPS and maps. I changed my mind.

There is something equally important as knowing where you are in the backcountry: That’s knowing what to do in a crisis, especially a medical emergency.

Of course, the first thing to say about going into the outback to begin with is two things: Go with someone else, and let someone reliable know where you are going and when you plan on returning.



Going solo out into the wild and not making it back is a topic some have written books about. John Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” is the first one that comes to mind. There are others.

I’ve written whole columns on why you should tell others where you are going and when you are returning. As they say, “It ain’t rocket science.” Think about why breaking this No. 1 rule is not smart.



That leads us with our topic of the day, safety in the woods.

Know basic first aid and take a small first aid kit with you. You can spend money on many kinds of small kits or you can make your own. Mine is a combination of a small pocket kit with materials added from experience. In other words, because something was needed that wasn’t there when it should have been.

Take moleskin, for example. I always wear two pairs of socks while hiking and have broken in many new boots gradually before ever leaving home, I can honestly say I have never had a blister on my feet from hiking ” knock on wood. All it takes for those who have had blisters to become a believer in moleskin is one time applying adhesive tape on a blister then trying to remove the tape.

Next, and most important, take a basic first aid or first responder course from an American Red Cross or other certified program instructor. Then take a separate cardiopulmonary resuscitation course. Keep current on both.

Want more than the basic course? You’re in luck. This summer, the Wilderness Medicine Institute is offering its Wilderness First Aid course at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. The dates are June 7-8, and the cost is $145 ” cheap for the excellent training you’ll get, especially if you’re an outdoor professional.

As a Colorado Outward Bound graduate, I’ll lay aside our rivalry with the National Outdoor Leadership School for safety’s sake, and I strongly recommend this course. If interested, either call 963-2562 or visit wmi.nols.edu for online information and registration.

The emphasis of this program is the introductory-level principles of treatment and decision making that can make the difference between life and death in the wilderness.

I know from personal experience how important good medical training can be in the backcountry. The stories I could tell.

Don’t take my word for it. Take this course.

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies and hiking in wilderness, Bill Kight of Glenwood Springs shares his stories and thoughts with readers every other week.


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