How to Handle Backcountry Emergencies (Ep.30)

If you spend time outside skiing, biking, camping, hiking, climbing, boating, or running in the mountains, how prepared are you to handle injuries when you are far from medical help?

Blister Podcast on Wilderness First Responder Training, or WFR, or backcountry emergencies

The answer for far too many of us is that we’re not prepared at all. It’s one thing to carry a spare bike tube in your pack, or to actually know how your beacon works when you’re going backcountry skiing. But when something happens and you or one of your friends gets injured, what are you going to do? What are you ready to do? Will you be able to take steps to provide critical care? Or will you stand there panicked and helpless, wishing like crazy that you knew how to help?

This is a big deal, and this topic does not get talked about enough. So today, we’re talking with three good friends who are experienced first responders to help you understand why — for your own personal safety, and for the safety of your friends and family — getting training in wilderness medicine is something you ought to do. There’s a lot of good information in this conversation, so please listen, and let’s all of us commit to increasing our level of knowledge and readiness for our adventures.


• Quick Christmas Party Story (4:28)
• Backgrounds: Mike Thurber, Morgan Matthews, and Justin Bobb (7:05)
• What is “Wilderness Medicine”? (13:30)
• Huge Factor: wilderness injuries involve *long* evacuation times (16:40)
• Three Real-World Emergency Anecdotes (19:40)
• Most important things you learn in a Wilderness First Responder course? (32:30)
• Difference between a WFR certification and an EMT certification (38:26)
• Emergency Scenarios #4 & 5: Driving, come up on a crash on the highway (40:29)
• Hypothermia, Avalanches, and Trauma — some important stats (44:35)
• Beacons, First Aid Kits, etc. Do you have them? Do you *know how to use them*? (53:55)
• What are the different WFR certifying agencies, and what are the different certifications a person can get? (58:49)
• How to tell if your friends, boyfriend, or girlfriend really love you (01:15:58)
• How helpful is WFR training if you are out by yourself? (01:17:28)
• FINAL POINT: Why is there so much emphasis on taking an AVI 1 course, while wilderness medical courses are given so little attention? (01:20:00)


Desert Mountain Medicine – Based in Leadville, Colorado, DMM offers courses around the Mountain West.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine – Based in Lander, Wyoming, NOLS courses are offered widely.

Solo Wilderness Medicine – Home campus is in Conway, New Hampshire, but SOLO courses are offered around the world at sponsor sites.

Wilderness Medical Associates International – Has offices in Portland, Maine; Ontario, Canada; and Tokyo, Japan, and offers courses around the world

Wilderness Medicine Outfitters – Based in Elizabeth, Colorado.

Wilderness Medicine Training Center – Based in Winthrop, Washington, WMTC offers courses in a number of states.

Aerie Backcountry Medicine – Based in Missoula, Montana, Aerie offers courses across Montana.

1 comment on “How to Handle Backcountry Emergencies (Ep.30)”

  1. A very informative episode. I could see you revisiting this every few years, or putting on your [gear] –> skiing 101 section. It’s more like a 201 or 301…but this isn’t exactly college. Or re-post old pod casts that are likely to get buried but are still very relevant.

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