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Anatomy of an Adventure: Solo Crossing the African Great Lakes

Monday, January 8th, 2018

This January, adventurer, biologist, and photographer Ross Exler will embark on the first ever human-powered solo-crossing of the African Great Lakes system in support of The Nature Conservancy. His journey will include approximately 1,000 miles of paddling across the lakes with 600 miles of biking between the lakes and will take him through remote parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. We’re excited to support Ross as he seeks to raise awareness about the lakes and support conservation efforts. Below, Ross shared with us about his decision to make this journey and his plans for safety. – Adventure® Medical Kits

For many years now, I’ve been driven to go out and explore wild places around the world. In 2015, I paddled an inflatable kayak 1,000 kilometers through the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon, staying each night in small villages. When I hit the Amazon River, I had a small motorized canoe built, which I navigated a couple thousand more kilometers through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. To date, I’ve spent about 2 years of my life traveling in Africa, mostly solo expeditions, and have visited dozens of wilderness areas in East and Southern Africa.

My next expedition, which will commence in January 2018, will be the first entirely human-powered, solo-crossing of the African Great Lakes system. I will attempt to paddle a kayak across Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria, traveling between the lakes via bicycle and along with all of my equipment. The journey will be over 1,600 miles and will take me through remote parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. I’ll be doing the trip alone, and every mile will be earned through the fair means of paddling or bicycling.

When I tell people about this expedition, they usually ask me one of two questions:

  1. What are the African Great Lakes?
  2. How do you stay safe?

I find that first question to be rather tragic, serving as further motivation for my trip, while the second question certainly deserves considerable thought. I’ll try to briefly answer both.

What are the African Great Lakes?

I was first introduced to the African Great Lakes when I worked in a college lab studying several species of fish from Lake Tanganyika. I soon found out that these lakes have some amazing distinctions: Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world, the second deepest (over 4,800 feet deep), and the second largest lake in the world by volume. Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world by surface area, and the second largest overall. Lake Malawi is the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. Altogether, the lakes comprise nearly 25% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater.

Further, the lakes are remarkably important for biodiversity. They contain thousands of species of fish, with as much as 10% of the world’s species of fish living in these three lakes alone. By some estimates, Lake Malawi holds the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. Additionally, the shores of Lake Tanganyika include the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream, both known for their populations of chimpanzees.

Unfortunately, the lakes are under threat due to overfishing, invasive species, climate change, and pollution inputs from deforestation and other human activities. These impacts are all contributing to ecological degradation of the lakes. One estimate suggests that over 200 species of cichlids found only in Lake Victoria have gone extinct in the past 30 years alone. These environmental issues also endanger the millions of people who live along the shores of these vast lakes.

After having visited the African Great Lakes region and completing my solo Amazon expedition, I came up with the idea of enchaining the three largest of the African Great Lakes by kayak and bicycle. As I planned the expedition, one of my goals was to team up with a conservation non-profit who works within the region, to help increase awareness.

That’s when I came across the work of The Nature Conservancy’s Tuungane Project, which operates along the Tanzanian section of Lake Tanganyika. The Tuungane Project brings a multidisciplinary approach to conservation and addressing the extreme poverty that is the underpinning of environmental degradation in the region. Their efforts include introducing fisheries education and management, terrestrial conservation, healthcare, and women’s health services and education, agricultural training, and other efforts to increase the quality of life and understanding on how human activities impact the very resources that the local people depend on for survival. Without the buy-in of local communities, efforts to conserve this incredible region will likely be unsuccessful.

How Do I Stay Safe?

The answer to this question is a fairly straight forward product of preparation and experience with regards to the different dangers and threats I am likely to face.

Animals & Weather

As someone with a background in biology and having spent a lot of time in the African bush, I’m well aware of the animals which may be present, their habitat preferences, and behaviors. Much like traveling in bear country, simple behaviors such as keeping a clean camp, traveling only during the day, avoiding likely habitats, knowing the behaviors of species (such as predatory or territorial), and maintaining constant vigilance can go a long way.

The lakes themselves are often referred to as inland seas, where storms and large waves can be a threat. So, I will rely on my years of experience on the water and travel prepared with the right equipment: an extremely seaworthy folding sea kayak and a securely fastened PFD.

Criminal

People can also be a threat to safety, but in my experience people are generally good and welcoming, and some common sense, vigilance, and interaction with local people should keep me safe. I’ve talked with local people and asked about crime and threats to safety, and their advice is generally good. On the whole, the areas that I am visiting are mostly populated with small rural villages, which are generally extremely safe. I will have to be more vigilant around larger towns or cities, or if someone points out a specific threat.

Diseases & Injuries

The final threat to my safety on this trip is wilderness health. This poses a unique challenge on my trip because I will be traveling alone in regions that suffer from endemic tropical disease and have little or no medical infrastructure. Similarly to other threats, a combination of education, preparation, and a having a plan in place can diminish or neutralize most of these health dangers.

First, it is important to understand the diseases that pose a health threat and understand transmission, recognizing symptoms, and treatment. Prevention of infection is the single most important thing that I can do. Before I leave home, I will identify all diseases for which there is an option for immunization or prophylaxis and make sure to diligently follow through. To prevent infection from ingested diseases, I will only drink verifiably treated water and only eat thoroughly cooked or reputably packaged food. I use UV and filter treatment for water, always have the ability to boil water as a backup, and generally cook my own food.

The main routes of transmission for parasites in the region where I will be traveling include exposure to contaminated water (Schistosoma) and being bitten by insects which carry diseases (Malaria and African Sleeping Sickness). To prevent this, I will take Malaria prophylaxis, insist on wearing clothes that are treated with insect repellent chemicals, such as permethrin, use insect repellents such as Ben’s 100 DEET and Natrapel Picaridin, and attempt to keep my skin covered as well as possible. To prevent exposure to Schistosoma, I shall avoid contact with the water, especially near shore and around villages and vegetation. It is advisable to know what types of areas have a higher density of the insects, and what part of the day they are active, and avoid both if possible.

If I do fall ill or am injured, it’s important to know how to deal with it and be prepared with the necessary medicine and medical supplies to do so. I recommend taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course, and doing as much research as possible into first aid and tropical disease (or whatever diseases exist in the area where you are traveling). Another excellent resource that I always bring is a small wilderness medicine book, such as A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine by Eric Weiss, MD. I always carry a full range of medications so that I have some ability to respond to illness in the field. I am also packing a well-equipped first aid kit, in this case an Adventure® Medical Kits Mountain Series Guide Kit, which has supplies to cover situations including wound care, musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bleeding, and over the counter medications.

Emergency Evacuation Plan

Finally, I utilize a satellite telephone and medical evacuation service in case of emergency. This service provides me with a final layer of protection, should the worst happen. I can call them and speak with a doctor who can talk me through diagnosis and treatment, and if necessary, they will extract me from the field and take me to a medical facility.

So, my advice to any adventurers or people of adventurous spirit is to seize the day and go out there, but make sure to be safe by going educated and going prepared

– Ross Exler

Picture Credits: Ross Exler Photography

SheJumps’ Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol at Crystal Mountain

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Written by Wild Skills Director, Christy Pelland

On December 16, 2017, SheJumps Wild Skills hosted Junior Ski Patrol at Crystal Mountain a day camp where girls learned mountain safety and first aid while working with the strong women of the ski patrol community and SheJumps volunteers. Throughout the day, participants were taught a range of outdoor skills that are utilized by ski patrollers to keep the mountain safe. Topics included first aid, avalanche control, snow science, weather stations, toboggans, avalanche rescue techniques, avalanche dogs and much more. There was also plenty of snack breaks, high fives and unicorns delivering hot cocoa!

The day started at 9:30am with registration, meeting team members, filling our pockets with snacks (Thank you Clif Bar!) and making Junior Ski Patroller cards. Teams consisted of 8 participants, 3 SheJumps volunteers and 1 Crystal Mountain pro patroller.

At 10am, the teams headed to ski patrol headquarters located at the base of Crystal Mountain. We entered in through the ‘Ski Patrol Only’ entrance and cozied up in the patrol locker room for a briefing by ski patrol director, Kim Kircher. Kim talked about what ski patrol does, how they educate the community, the skier’s responsibility code and more. After a Q & A, teams toured the aid room and witnessed patrollers in action as a skier was cared for.

By 10:30am, Teams Blue & Orange were headed to the summit and Teams Purple & Green over to Campbell Basin. All teams started the morning station set with First Aid which was housed in tents provided by our generous partner, Big Agnes. Patrollers led demonstrations in prevention and care of injuries – role playing situations which included making splints and stopping bleeding. A big thank you to our program partner, Adventure® Medical Kits for providing all the gear needed in order to create this part of the event. Also, for giving each participant a first aid kit & emergency blanket!


Next up, teams learned about snowmobiles, toboggans and why patrollers cache gear on the mountain. This station set included finding caches and learning how to load & maneuver the toboggans. Many girls I talked to said driving and riding in the toboggans was their favorite part of the day!

I bet you’d like to know the secret to pulling off successful youth events in the mountains? Well, get ready for it: UNICORNS DELIVERING HOT COCOA! That’s right, our team of 4 unicorn delivered piping hot cocoa complete with whipped cream & sprinkles to our 32 participants, 20 volunteers and 6 pro patrollers.

Lunch was included in this event and consisted of everyone’s favorite: PIZZA! Crystal Mountain recently installed a wood fire pizza oven in Campbell Basin Lodge and OH is it amazing! Our crew annihilated 12 large pizzas and 2 giant bowls of pasta before heading back out into the snow.

After lunch, each team was greeted by a unicorn carrying avalanche beacons, probes and shovels. The unicorns gave instructions about the Buried Treasure Hunt and patrollers lead the team in how to properly conduct a search. At SheJumps, we strongly believe in education and fun – our events blend both of these elements to make for the safest and most entertaining adventure possible. After tracking down the buried treasure each team uncovered their booty: a BCA beacon & box full of donut holes. Special thanks to Backcountry Access (BCA) for providing all the beacons, probes, shovels, slope meters and crystal cards for this event.

Once the girls had their fill of donuts, all teams hiked thru the trees into a secluded area of Campbell Basin. This was a challenge for some of the girls who have never done this level of side stepping and technical skiing/snowboarding. Yet all made it and were greeted by enthusiastic high fives. After all were settled into the snow, Kim Haft led a presentation on the avalanche dog program at Crystal Mountain sharing many interesting aspects about the dogs such as how they are trained and how the dogs like to spend their summer vacations.

Once Kim was done answering questions, we turned our attention to Christina Hale & Kala who were located on the slope above us. Everyone sat in silence as Kala charged across the hill searching out the scent. In seconds she’d found it and began frantically digging – pulling up the sweater that had been buried earlier that day. Christina loudly praised Kala as did the rest of us – it was quite the sight!

As we exited the area, we were treated to a stash of fresh pow!


The afternoon station sets included touring the weather stations and avalanche prevention. At the weather stations, teams learned how data is gathered and how to find & read weather reports. This station also included lessons on snow crystals and the science behind them.

The avalanche prevention set included seeing the different control routes at Crystal Mountain as well as stories of past avalanches. Teams discussed terrain assessment, the human factor and the importance of making good decisions.

There was a lot of information covered during this day but teams still found time to do a bit of free skiing – some even ran into unicorns!

At 3:30pm, all teams gathered for wrap up which included certificates for completing the day and a sweet swag bag filled with a watertight first aid kit from Adventure® Medical Kits, SheJumps lip balm by EcoLips, and Clif bar notebook.

Our goal with SheJumps Wild Skills is to see girls learning, having fun and connecting in an encouraging environment with amazing instruction and support from female mentors. We want Wild Skills to be an experience they will remember, one that will spark a lifetime of passion for the outdoors and will remind them that they are capable of anything. Giving participants, young and old, the opportunity to learn skills in a fun yet challenging setting develops perseverance and fosters confidence. Thanks to all that helped make this program come to life!

This was the first event of it’s kind for Wild Skills and we’re looking forward to bringing it to other mountain communities this season including Big Sky, Sun Valley and Alta. If you’re interested in bringing Junior Ski Patrol to your local hill – contact Wild Skills Director, Christy Pelland cpelland@shejumps.org

Special thanks to our partners:

Crystal Mountain Resort

Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol

Clif Bar

BCA

Yukon Trading Company

Big Agnes

High fives to our photographers:

Ryan French

Blake Kremer

Big up to our videographer, Max Chesnut for capturing the magic!

Hilaree O’Neill: Remote Expeditioning with Adventure® Medical Kits

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Skier, climber, mother, and the first woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in a single 24-hour period, Hilaree O’Neill is an adventurer like no other! This spring, Hilaree accomplished her personal goal of climbing and skiing the “Peak of Evil,” a 21,165-foot mountain in the Indian Himalayas. Her team is the first party to ever complete a ski descent of the mountain. We asked Hilaree what the experience was like and how she prepared for the expedition. Here’s what she said: 

“From a Skier’s Perspective, Papsura Was Absolutely Perfect”

For most of my adult life, I have been a professional adventurer. Climbing, skiing, and generally clinging to the side of big mountains has always been my medium of choice. Often to access many of the places my passion leads, myself and my partners must be well versed in self-reliance. Expedition-style travel is especially tricky to plan for due to the length and remoteness of the undertaking.

Just this last May, I returned to a mountain that I had long been obsessed with in a very remote region of the Indian Himalayas. Along with two partners, I set out for a month-long journey to climb and ski Papsura Peak, aka the Peak of Evil. I had first seen the twin peaks of Papsura and Dharamsura back in 1999, on my very first expedition. From a skier’s perspective, Papsura, the taller of the two peaks, was absolutely perfect. This last May was my second attempt on the Peak of Evil and my 5th expedition to this region of India.

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

It was about a four day walk to get from the nearest village to the mountain’s basecamp at 14,000 ft. From there, it was another 8,000 ft and nearly two weeks of acclimatizing and route-finding to reach the summit.

So How Does One plan for Such a Trip?

One of the first, and most important, things to consider is your medical kit. There must be some balance between being your first and best source of medical treatment should something go wrong and packing a manageable weight and bulk, as well as the effectiveness and accessibility of your supplies.

This is where Adventure® Medical Kits comes into the picture…

Prior to any expedition, I will take several different parts of my medical kits, pull everything out, and compile them into 2 to 3 different systems. In the case of our Papsura Expedition, I doubled down with Adventure® Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight Pro, as I knew we had porters to assist with our gear all the way to basecamp, and therefore we could have the relative luxury of a very extensive kit. From there, however, we were on our own.

Photo Credit: Chris Figenshau

At that point, we left behind the bigger medical resources at basecamp and brought individual smaller kits like the Ultralight/Watertight .7 that each of us carried all the way to our high camp. The experience I had in the area from my previous trips helped me know how to narrow down not only our supplies, equipment, but even our route to such an extent that we were able to laser focus on the objective at hand: a remote 3000ft, 50 plus degree face of snow and ice at high altitude.

When it came time for our summit push, we planned on paring our kits down even further to just one fist-sized medical kit, the Ultralight/Watertight .5, that would go in one of our packs as group medical supplies.

Of course, at each point along the climb we would further specialize what we carried with us based not only on size and weight, but also on being able to treat the most likely type of injuries, given our activities. For example, the trauma pack and the C-splint would make it all the way to high camp, while the burn pads, allergy meds, and bulk of the blister kit might get left at basecamp. The summit kit would include ibuprofen and other altitude meds augmented from the pharmacy at home, steri-strips, a single Survive Outdoors Longer® Survival Blanket, plus maybe the trauma pack and tape. We would rely on our ice axes or ski poles to fill the need of a C-splint, and extra clothing to act as tourniquets or slings should there be a need.

Of course, it’s impossible to plan for everything so, again, it’s a balance, and the best case scenario is to never have to use any of it. Fortunately, the most use we got out of our medical kits were the ibuprofen, lots of blister stuff mostly for our porters, along with triple antibiotic and the occasional Easy Access Bandage®!

On May 15th, We Went for It.

 

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

Without a doubt, our trip to the summit proved to be one of the most intense and committing climbs I have ever done. For two weeks, we pushed hard every day until we felt we were ready to tackle the west face in single day push.

We arose in the darkness at 3am. We started the climb two hours later and moved continuously up the face for 9 hours before we finally reached the first reasonable spot to take off our packs and rest – this spot happened to be about 50 feet below the summit. After a long pause where we drank and ate and waited for the monsoonal clouds to lift, we finally tagged the summit and started our ski descent. While conditions were amazing for climbing, they were pretty rugged for skiing, and our descent took another 4 hours. All in all it was about a 20 hour day.

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

By the time we crawled into our sleeping bags, we were exhausted – tapped both physically and mentally.  It took a few days of recovery for the enormity of our effort to be fully appreciated.  We were the first Americans to summit Papsura Peak and the first party to ever complete a ski descent of the mountain. More importantly though for me, I had stuck with my obsession and seen it through to the end!

 

Photo Credit: Chris Figenshau

About Hilaree O’Neill

The first woman to climb both Everest and Lhotse in a single 24-hour period, Hilaree O’Neill’s mountain adventures led Outside Magazine to name her one of the most adventurous women in the world of sports. For Hilaree, skiing is the gateway to possibility. She started skiing at age 3 at Steven’s Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. She took a leap of faith shortly after graduating from Colorado College and moved to Chamonix, France, where she was introduced to the world of big mountain skiing and climbing. From there, the place for Hilaree was anywhere she could cut turns on mountain slopes: volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, in Mongolia, India, Lebanon, and first descents of the tight couloirs of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Between expeditions, Hilaree O’Neill spends her time as a mother, adventuring with her two sons. In addition, her writing has been published in National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic’s “The Call of Everest”, the Ski Journal, Outside Journal, and several other publications. Hilaree continues to travel the globe, always looking for new ski objectives and honest suffer-fests.

Helping Save the Colorado River Watershed from Invasive Species

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Canyon Country Youth Corps members rafting downriver to provide conservation work

The Colorado River Watershed begins high in the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, providing a vital water source for cities across the Southwestern United States from Las Vegas to Grand Junction to Los Angeles and San Diego. This watershed also provides vital water to California farmers in the “world’s breadbasket.”

Clogged Waterways & Lost Habitats

Invasive tamarisk and Russian olive trees have clogged these waterways, destroying native habitats, wasting an important water supply, and making recreational activities difficult. Adventure® Medical Kits supports youth crews in removing these invasive species through their donation of medical and first aid kits to the Canyon Country Youth Corps.

Overgrowth and brush from invasive species have clogged the Colorado River Watershed

Overgrowth and brush from invasive species have clogged the Colorado River Watershed

Restoration & Conservation Work

Canyon Country Youth Corps has been working with its partners on an intensive removal effort along the Dolores and Escalante Rivers for over the last five years. These two rivers have been chosen because they are major arteries into the Colorado River. If tamarisk and Russian olive are removed from these and other arteries, seeds will stop flowing into the Colorado River, thus protecting the larger watershed from the further spreading of these invasive trees.

Rafting down the river

Rafting down the river to reach areas that need clearing out

Removal efforts require Canyon County Youth Corps members to raft far into the remote backcountry on these rivers for up to 10 days at a time. When pulling together a work trip along these rivers, things can become challenging. Crews need to carry chainsaws, fuel, hand tools, and herbicides. Sections of these rivers are remote. The Canyon Country Youth Corps often uses horses to reach the Escalante River. The Dolores River goes from wild whitewater to a trickle within a few miles, making the rafting experience an adventure.

The breathtaking beauty of the Colorado River Watershed

At the beginning of a recent trip on the Dolores River, a scout raft was funneled into a boulder and three of its occupants were launched into the river. Luckily no one was hurt, but the crews were prepared if there had been an injury because of the medical kits they had from Adventure® Medical Kits.

Camping along the river edge for the night

Camping along the river edge for the night

Conservation: A Team Effort

These important efforts to remove invasive species involve a number of different groups. The Tamarisk Coalition, Escalante River Watershed Partners, Dolores River Restoration Partnership, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps, and public lands agencies from the affected states and federal government work together to complete this effort. Often, these trips require authorization from wildlife biologists or environmental clearance because crews go into sensitive areas with endangered birds or delicate ecosystems.

Big thanks to Adventure® Medical Kits for their support of this work. They are helping make our waterways healthy and sustainable.

About Canyon Country Youth Corps

 

The 2017 Canyon Country Youth Corp crew

For over 30 years, Four Corners School of Outdoor Education has created learning experiences about the Colorado Plateau through programs like the Canyon Country Youth Corps. This program hires young adults to complete conservation and other service projects on public lands in order to support the health and accessibility of these lands.

Adventure® Medical Kits is proud to have supported the work of Four Corners School’s for over 20 years.

Lifetime Outdoor Enthusiast. Completely Unprepared. – Lessons in Wilderness First Aid

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Ever wonder what you’d do if a medical emergency happened while you were out in the wilderness? One of our employees recently took a course in Wilderness First Aid at SOLO Schools. She’s extremely excited to share what she learned! – Adventure® Medical Kits

My dad and I after hiking up Mt. Lafayette

My dad and I after hiking up Mt. Lafayette

An avid hiker, I grew up scaling the White Mountains of NH with my father without injury (excluding your normal blisters and scrape). Though I lacked personal experience with first aid in the wild, I knew wilderness emergencies weren’t uncommon.

I remember the day my father came home from a hike and said he’d spent 20 minutes near the top of Mt. Lafayette helping a stranger descend only a few hundred feet of the trail. The stranger fell and shattered his kneecap on the rocks, making every step excruciating. Thankfully, they bumped into a rescue team on a practice climb that quickly became real, and my dad continued down alone.

My dad and I on top of Mt. Jackson

My dad and I on top of Mt. Jackson

Since that day, I’d often wondered what I would do if faced with an injured hiker on the trail. Would I be able to offer any help at all? Miles from professional care surrounded by trees and mountains, I wasn’t equipped to be someone’s best chance at survival, and what if that someone was my dad?

This year, I was given the opportunity to attend a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course at SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine. Walking onto the campus, I was unsure of what to expect out of the next two days. If nothing else, I was excited for the chance to learn a few first aid tips from wilderness experts. I learned much more than that.

Wilderness First Aid: Day 1

“Is anyone NOT ready?”

When you have five people about to attempt lifting an injured companion, you don’t ask “Is everyone ready?” You may not here the responding “no” over all of the “yes’s.” With a possible spinal complication, missing something and dropping your injured friend is not an option.

“Okay… one, two, three, lift!”

With one smooth motion, we lifted our patient from the cold ground to waist level, all without moving his spine. Surprised at our success, we froze for a moment, before the team leader (holding the patient’s head) followed up with, “Okay, we move on three!” We traversed the rough ground and safely placed our friend onto a foam pad. Thrilled at our success, we listened to feedback from our instructor and “injured” friend on how they felt our practice had gone.

Practicing making splints at a SOLO course

Practicing making splints at a SOLO course. PC: SOLO Schools

We’d only met each other earlier that morning, but as we stood outside the main building in the afternoon sun, our group was already beginning to turn into a team, forged by a common desire to learn and to be prepared to help others. Like me, my fellow classmates were driven by this desire to take the WFA course at SOLO. None of us were disappointed.

In 2 Days, There’s a Lot You Can Learn

Over the course of those two days, I was immersed in an innovative, hands-on learning experience. I learned how to improvise splints out of coats and bandanas, immobilize a victim’s spine with backpacks and baseball caps, and treat wounds ranging from lacerations to serious burns with items like honey and rain jackets. We covered assessing both unconscious and conscious patients, including identifying and treating life threats, monitoring vital signs, maintaining a soothing presence, and making an evacuation plan.

Improvising a leg splint. PC: SOLO Schools

How often should you change burn dressings? How do you recognize potentially life-threatening infections? When should you be concerned about a spinal injury? What should you do in a lightning storm? What are the early signs of shock, and how can you treat it? These are only a handful of the questions we learned how to answer.

New Skills to the Test

 

Assessing and caring for a patient.

Working as a team to practice assessing and caring for a patient. PC: SOLO Schools

Not only did we learn though – we also did. Hardly an hour of lecture would pass before our instructor had us outside practicing our new skills, with some of us acting as patients and some as caregivers. Outside, lifting companions, assessing broken bones, and applying pressure to stop major bleeds, our class of about 20 learned how to manage difficult patients, quickly assess scenes, and rule out spinal injuries.

Course Highlights

So out of this whirlwind weekend of knowledge and skill application, what did I enjoy most? This is gonna take a list:

  • Our instructor. Seriously – she was awesome! An amazing resource for both professional medical knowledge and practical ideas for when situations actually occur. From improvisation techniques to a great sense of humor, I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. And she encouraged questions!
  • My classmates. I emerged out of that class with new friends who love the outdoors like I do, yet have a variety of experiences and backgrounds to speak out of. They asked relevant, insightful questions of our instructor that contributed to everyone’s learning. From a grade school teacher who leads the school’s hiking club to a wilderness first responder getting recertified, our differences and similarities worked together to make learning fun and effective.
  • Learning what’s left to learn. Headed into the WFA course, I knew I didn’t know enough… but I didn’t know how much I could know! Now, I have a firm grasp of what wilderness emergencies I’m equipped to handle and which I’m not, and I’m excited about the possibility of furthering my knowledge with another SOLO course in the future.
  • Packing recommendations. Ever wonder what you should be carrying for first aid supplies? Or have a first aid kit but only a vague idea how to use it? That’s part of what makes this course so great – throughout the day, we got tips from our instructor and each other on the most useful supplies to pack and when and how to use tools like an irrigation syringe, triangular bandage, tourniquet, and more.

Choosing to Be Prepared

 

Hiking down Mt. Washington with my dad

Hiking down Mt. Washington

Whether you’re a trip leader or just an outdoor enthusiast looking to become more prepared, I highly recommend the WFA course at SOLO as a great starting point to build a foundation of first aid knowledge that could save your life, a friend’s, or a total strangers. If you own a first aid kit and haven’t taken the time to look through it, this course is a must for preparing you in how to use what’s inside. A bit of advice I learned from my course: first aid supplies are only as effective as the person carrying them.

About SOLO

The oldest continuously operating school of wilderness medicine in the world, SOLO offers wilderness medicine education on a variety levels for everyone from outdoor enthusiasts to trip leaders to trained professionals. The WFA course is a 16-hour course that provides a 2 year certification and covers the basics of backcountry medicine. On the other end of the spectrum, SOLO’s Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course lasts a month, and participants who pass emerge with the national EMT certificate and thorough training in wilderness-specific medicine and long-term care. Courses can be attended on their campus in Conway, NH, or at off-site locations across the United States.

Multi-Day Wilderness Trips: Choosing a Medical Kit

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

We asked a wilderness guide for tips from his experience on how to be medically prepared for trips into the wilderness. He provided us with great questions to ask yourself before you choose a first aid kit for a multi-day adventure, as well as insight into his personal process. – Adventure® Medical Kits

Backpacker headed out on a trip.

Have you covered the other basics (food, shelter, survival)?

As I get organized to lead a group into the wilderness, being prepared fills my mind as a top priority. Once I have my bases covered on the topics of shelter, food, and clothing, I consider the smaller items that can easily get overlooked. These items cover the topics of safety and comfort and include things like lighting, cleanliness, evacuation (typically a satellite communication device), and first aid. I don’t need to bring a survival kit on my multi-day foray into the wilderness, since my tent, sleeping bag/pad, clothing, food and camp kitchen are the greatest survival kit of all times. I do, however, need to bring a medical kit.

Does your medical kit have supplies to treat common injuries?

Those who enjoy the wilderness need to have some lessons in first aid and a reliable medical kit, as the best way to know what to bring as far as first aid material goes is to first be educated in how to address a variety of medical situations in the backcountry. This will help you identify what items you need, but you also need to understand what your highest priority medical items are based on the most likely injuries to occur.

The best medical kit is the one that can manage the most common injuries that occur in the woods and mountains. Having spent thousands of days in the wilderness over two decades and having been a full time guide for the past 7 years, I have found the following issues to be the most common ones that occur and need treatment:

  • Blisters
  • Cuts
  • Scrapes
  • Burns
  • Knee/ankle injuries

To manage most of these issues, keeping them clean and dressed can be the difference between a nuisance and a major infection. A medical kit needs to be fully stocked with alcohol prep pads, sanitizing wipes, gauze pads of various sizes, and a syringe for irrigating cuts. Along with these, adhesive bandages of various sizes, as well as athletic tape, need to be included to dress a skin deep medical issue.

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Backpacker Kit

The Easy Care First Aid Organization System found in Adventure Medical Kits features injury-specific compartments with clear labels.

Can you find the first aid supplies you need quickly?

One thing that is often overlooked in medical kits is the layout. If someone is being treated, efficiency is important. To be efficient, the kit needs to have everything labeled and organized. When you head out there and review the details of your medical kit, or if you are purchasing a new one, make sure it meets the following criteria:

  • Has adequate amounts of high quality material, appropriate for your trip
  • Is organized and labeled
  • Contains a booklet for reviewing proper treatments
  • Is made of durable material
  • Is not too heavy

In an ideal world, we go out there into the backcountry many times and never touch our medical kits. In the event that we do need it though, it needs to be the right thing, so don’t hold back when preparing or purchasing this crucial wilderness item.

About the Author

Daniel Laggner has been a full-time guide and wilderness survival instructor for 7 seasons and has over 20 years experience in outdoor sports and the outdoor industry. He has conducted several long-term expeditions, spending weeks in the remote wilderness of the Colorado Rockies, Sierra Nevada, and northern Patagonia. He is currently Lead Guide and Co-owner of Treks and Tracks.

What Experts Pack: The Mountain Series Recharged

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

With over 30 years of guiding experience on the world’s greatest mountains, International Mountain Guides (IMG) is the definition of #adventureequipped! IMG guides know how to lead expeditions safely, which is why Adventure® Medical Kits is proud to have partnered with them for over 20 years. We’re excited to share this note we received from them during their Mt. Rainier season, where they’ve been testing out the Mountain Guide Kit from the Mountain Series Recharged. – Adventure® Medical Kits

Mt. Rainier

IMG climbers above the clouds on Mt. Rainier

Tye Chapman here at International Mountain Guides reaching out on behalf of our guides to say “Thank You” to Adventure® Medical Kits for the new med kits they provided this year and their continued support over the years.

Choosing to Be Prepared

With over 50 guides guiding close to 1500 climbers and trekkers on all 7 continents, on over 150 climbs, treks, and expeditions around the globe each year, you can imagine we take the safety of our climbers and guides seriously.  Simply put, that is why we work with Adventure® Medical Kits. There’s no better partner to ensure that our guides and expeditions are fully prepared for medical emergencies.

What We Pack

IMG climbers on summit of Mt. Rainier

IMG climbers on summit of Mt. Rainier

So what are we packing? Well, at the Guide level all of our guides are equipped with the new Mountain Series Mountain Guide Kit. What we like about these kits are the Find It Fast Map and the semi-transparent and secure pocket. These features make it easy to find supplies when we need them.

At the Expedition level, we carry a few different kits depending on the duration of the expedition and number of climbers or trekkers involved. A few examples include the Mountain Series Mountaineer Kit and the Professional Series Expedition, Professional Guide I, and Mountain Medic kits.

Everything We Need & Nothing We Don’t

While it’s impossible to prepare for every possible scenario, Adventure® Medical Kits has spent years dialing these kits in to provide us with exactly what we need, and equally as important in the mountains, nothing we don’t! Thanks for the continued support Adventure® Medical Kits. Although we hope never to need your emergency medical supplies, it’s nice to know you’re there when it counts!

Putting the Mountain Series to the Test

IMG climbers headed up Mt. Rainier

We’re in full swing on Mt. Rainier with climbs coming and going every day now. I’ve heard it many times already this summer, from several of the guides, that the Mountain Guide kits are perfect. They’re so well thought out and are the perfect size for our groups on not only Mt. Rainier but around the world. The kits you sent this spring have already been in Nepal, Russia, Bolivia, Mongolia, Europe, Tanzania, and Alaska with upcoming trips to Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Nepal, and Antarctica to name a few.

IMG Guide Jonathan Schrock is calling in on the radio from the summit of Mt. Rainier as I type this note. After 10 years at IMG, I still love getting that radio call!

Stay safe this summer!

Tye Chapman

International Program Director

www.mountainguides.com

Photo Credits: Austin Shannon, Senior Guide

How to Prevent & Treat Blisters

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Did you know blisters are one of the most common injuries in the outdoors and the most common injury for hikers? Within hours, a small rub in your boots can turn into a painful blister. However, with a few basic preventions tricks and early treatment, you can protect your feet and keep a blister from interrupting your adventure.

 

blister on foot

Blisters are the hiker’s #1 injury

Blister Prevention

To keep blisters from developing in the first place, eliminate as many contributing factors as possible. Simple actions taken before you hit the trail and once you’re on the trail can make a huge difference.

Before You Hit the Trail

The first step in preventing blisters it to make sure the gear you’re putting on your feet isn’t causing the problem. Here’s five steps you can take before you hit the trail to stop blisters in their tracks:

  1. Make sure your shoes fit properly. If your shoes are too tight you’ll have pressure sores, while shoes that are too loose lead to friction and irritation. Outdoor retailers like REI often will be able to measure your foot and help you find the right size using a calibrated fit device. A good check you can do yourself though is to pull the insoles out of your shoes and stand on them. You should have a thumb’s width of clearance between the end of your toes and the insole. You want that extra space in the front of the boot so you don’t end up jamming your toes against the toe box on the way down.
  2. Choose your socks with care. As a rule, avoid cotton socks and opt for water-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetics. Everyone has unique feet, making it important to find what works for you and your boots. Sock height, cushioning, and fit all contribute to giving your feet the best in-shoe experience. REI gives some great advice on choosing the sock that’s right for you.
  3. Break new boots in. Even the right footwear can still cause blisters if you don’t break it in. Before heading out on a trip, make sure to spend some time in your new boots, ideally while wearing the socks you’ll use on the trip. You might look funny walking around your home or the office in hiking boots, but your feet will thank you later. Once you’re ready to hit the trail, best practice says start with a short hike – you don’t want to find out you didn’t break them in enough when you planned a 15 mile day.
  4. Avoid prolonged wetness. Moisture breaks down your skin and predisposes it to blistering (that’s why choosing the right sock is so important). Keep your feet dry, and pack an extra pair of socks so if you’re first pair get wet (those mountain streams are everywhere), you can swap out for a dry pair right away.
  5. Protect problem areas. No one knows your feet like you do – if you are prone to blisters in a certain area, be proactive about protecting that area from harm. Before hiking, apply moleskin to sensitive areas where blisters are likely to occur. The moleskin will reduce the friction against your skin, effectively stopping blisters and hot spots before they can even start.

Even if you put moleskin on your feet before setting out, it’s always important to pack more in case the unexpected occurs. If you are prone to nasty blisters, consider adding GlacierGel to your first aid kit as well, as the hydrogel dressing is ideal for stopping the pain from and protecting fully-formed blisters. The Blister Medic contains both moleskin and GlacierGel, making it a lightweight addition to your pack that keeps you prepared. Make sure to go through your first aid kit before setting out to make sure you don’t need to re-stock blister items

On the Trail

Once you hit the trail, there are still things you can do to prevent blisters. Hot spots are sore, red areas of irritation that develop into blisters if allowed to progress. Identifying hot spots early to stop them from becoming blisters will save you miles of pain.

The key message? Pay attention to your feet. It’s easy to ignore slight irritations or brush them off in order to avoid having to stop on the trail, but take our word on it: you don’t want to ignore hot spots. If you think you feel a hot spot, take the time to stop and address it sooner than later.

Treating Hot Spots

If you catch a hot spot early on, you can easily stop it from becoming a blister by covering it with a small piece of moleskin.

covering a hot spot with moleskin

Treat small hot spots by covering them with moleskin, which is included in the Hiker kit

For more irritated hot spots, you can cover them with GlacierGel or use moleskin. Whichever you use, make sure to prep the surrounding skin using an alcohol wipe for maximum adhesion. If you use moleskin, make sure to grab a donut-shaped piece (you can get them pre-shaped here or simply cut a small hole in the center of a rectangular piece).

Position the moleskin so the hole is over the hot spot, making sure the adhesive surface isn’t touching the irritated skin. This raises the area around the hot spot, preventing further rubbing. If necessary, you can secure the moleskin in place with medical tape from your medical kit.

Blister Treatment

Sometimes blisters occur despite our best efforts. Properly treating the blister can help minimize pain and further damage to the area.

For Small Blisters

If the blister is still intact, do not puncture or drain it. Instead, follow the same steps outlined above on treating serious hot spots by protecting it with GlacierGel or moleskin. If you’re using moleskin, you may need to use several layers, as the moleskin doughnut needs to be higher than the blister to be effective.

moleskin doughnut on blister

You may need to use several layers of moleskin to get above the blister

For Large or Ruptured Blisters

If the blister is large but intact, puncture it with a clean needle or safety pin at its base and massage out the fluid. The fluid contains inflammatory juices that can delay healing.

Once you’ve punctured the blister (or if you’re dealing with one that’s already ruptured), trim away any loose skin from the bubble and clean the area with an antiseptic towel or soap and water. You should then apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a non-adherent dressing or GlacierGel to prevent contaminants from entering the wound and to promote healing.

applying glaciergel

GlacierGel dressings help protect and heal ruptured blisters

You can then use moleskin (or molefoam) to protect the wound from further rubbing. Use a doughnut-shaped moleskin to raise up the area around the blister – remember to use enough layers to raise the moleskin above the height of the blisters with its dressing. Secure the moleskin in place with medical tape.

You’ll want to change the dressing every day and keep a close eye on it for infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, increased pain, or a cloudy fluid under the dressing. If infection occurs, remove the dressing and allow the area to drain. Consult a doctor as soon as you are able.

  • Trim away any loose skin from the bubble and clean the area with an antiseptic towel or soap and water.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a non-adherent dressing or other dressings like Glacier Gel.
  • Utilize Moleskin to protect the area. Take a small piece of moleskin and cut a circle in the center approximately the same size as the area.
  • Center the oval over the hot spot and secure into place with tape. This will act as a buffer against further rubbing. Change the dressing every day.
  • Inspect the wound daily for infection-this includes redness, swelling, increased pain, or cloudy fluid under the dressing. If infection occurs, remove the dressing and allow the area to drain. Consult a doctor as soon as you are able.

Gluing a Blister

If you are far from help and must continue walking for an extended period of time, an alternative treatment is to glue the blister in place. This method is initially painful but can be effective in backcountry scenarios, especially if you’re low on typical blister first aid supplies.

Begin by draining the blister of fluid. Then, place a small amount of tincture of benzoin (or glue if that’s all you have) in the drained blister. Press the loose skin overlying the blister back into place and cover the site with a suitable dressing (if you have nothing else, duct tape can work). The extreme pain produced by the benzoin on your skin will only last a few minutes.

glueing blisters

Tincture of benzoin is included in the Ultralight/Watertight .7 kit

What do I do if my dog runs through a barbwire fence and his leg is bleeding?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

IMG_9990

Adventure Dog Series-Your Guide to Dog First Aid

Adventuring is always more fun with a dog in tow. And you know your buddy loves the adventure just as much as you do. Yet even tough dogs can get injured out on the trail. Will you know how to take care of your four legged friend? Follow our posts for first aid tips and how to’s. Your dog will thank you! Woof!

What do I do if my dog runs through a barbwire fence and his leg is bleeding?

Taken from Dr. Sid Gustafson, DVM  (Author of Canine Field Medicine and a consultant for Adventure Medical Kits’ Adventure Dog Kits

If the bleeding is External and Severe:

Severe bleeding needs immediate first aid. Severe bleeding spurts rhythmically with the heartbeat and is bright red.

Stay calm and approach the dog slowly.

Due to pain, injured or ill animals can be unpredictable. To prevent injury to yourself and others, it is recommended that you restrain the dog as appropriate. Before you can control the bleeding you need to control the dog.

Wash your hands or wear latex gloves for protection.

Don’t wash wounds that are bleeding heavily-It will make it harder for clots to form.

Apply continuous and direct pressure with a sterile gauze pad or a clean piece of cloth to the wound. Alternatively, use QuikClot® gauze  in place of a traditional dressings. QuikClot is a chemically inert material that speeds coagulation of blood, resulting in a stable clot that stops bleeding

If blood soaks through the pad, apply a second pad on top of the first (do not remove the first pad)

If you cannot control the bleeding with just your hand pressure, wrap the wound with pads still in place in several layers of roll gauze, an elastic bandage or duct tape.

If there are no broken bones, elevate the injured limb

Transport to the nearest Vet or emergency clinic.

For Minor Cuts and Lacerations with slower flowing or seeping blood that is dark red.

  • Restrain as necessary
  • Carefully remove any foreign particles from the wound.
  • Clean wound with saline solution and an irrigation syringe to prevent infection.
  • Keep bandage clean and dry if possible. Make sure to not wrap the injury too tightly. Your dog may resist the bandage or gnaw to remove. Attempt to keep covered. A dog will naturally want to lick a wound and keep it clean, so don’t fret if the bandage comes off. Just make sure the bleeding has stopped and the wound has clotted.

At Adventure Medical Kits we’ve got you covered. We’ve curated essential first-aid kits to help keep the guesswork out of what you should pack—as well as keeping costs down by minimizing the amount of items you have to buy. Our dog-specific kits include key items you’ll need for the most common injuries and also include a handy first aid handbook and reference manual to guide you through treating dog injuries and illnesses.

Dog Kits

 

 

What’s in Rebecca Rusch’s pack for Cycling

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

RRWhats in pack

By Adventure Medical Kits Ambassador Rebecca Rusch

When she’s headed out on the trail, Rebecca carries essential gear to make sure she’s ready for anything!

Red Bull: because it #GivesYouWings, Seriously I drink Red Bull to energize a hard workout, to get me out the door if I’m feeling tired.

GU Octane gel: GU is my go to nutrition for riding.

CrankBrothers multi-tool with chain breaker. Plus an extra SRAM quick link for a chain repair if needed (this is in the red packet below the tool) The bike tool is an essential item for trailside maintenance and adjustments on the bike.

Park Tool tire boot: For big tears or cuts in the tires.

Beyond Coastal sunscreen stick

Duct Tape

WD40 Bike Chain lube

Tire Lever: for changing a flat. I like this wide kind so I only have to carry one instead of two.

Petzl E-lite mini headlamp: this thing is so small and runs forever.

SRAM Shock pump

Spare tube: for flats.

Bike gloves

Thin rain jacket or vest

Crank Brothers mini bike tire pump

Surgical gloves and plastic shower cap: for emergency cold weather protection of hands and head. Yes, this does work.

Cell phone: for taking selfies, but also calling for help if needed

Camelbak pack and hydration: you can survive quite a long time without food, but not very long at all without water.

Adventure Medical Kit Utlralight Watertight .9 First Aid Kit

About Rebecca Rusch
When describing Rebecca Rusch’s athletic achievements, it may be easier to talk about what she hasn’t done, but, like Rebecca herself, we’re doing this the hard way.
Her national and world titles in whitewater rafting, adventure racing, orienteering, and cross-country skiing certainly impress, but they only set the stage; it’s the two-wheeled victories that really lengthen her resume. Rusch’s mountain bike accomplishments would strain the pixels on your screen. National wins across multiple off-road formats top the list, as well as record-setting victories at storied ultra endurance races like the Leadville Trail 100, Dirty Kanza 200, and 24 Hour MTB World Championships. Not content to wait for the race to come to her, Rusch also claimed the record on the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail, coming in more than an hour and a half faster than the previous champion. It wasn’t her idea, but it doesn’t take a professor to see why she earned the moniker “The Queen Of Pain.”

While maintaining this laundry list of accolades would be enough for most athletes, Rusch takes no such time to rest on her laurels. Her SRAM Gold Rusch Tour has been traveling to races and events across North America to help get more women in the saddle and riding their bikes through skills clinics, social events, and group rides. She created Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a grueling gravel road event in her hometown of Ketchum that attracts hundreds of riders to her backyard every year, all for charity. Organizations like the International Mountain Bike Association, World Bicycle Relief, PeopleForBikes.org, the National Interscholastic Mountain Bike Association, and the Wood River Bicycle Coalition can count her as an official ambassador and, in some cases, board member. Visit her site at www. http://www.rebeccarusch.com.