I injuries can happen at any time, but few are as scary as when you are at your most vulnerable, in the wilderness. Far from help, it can be a desperate time, but there is no need to panic if you know how to react. Whether you have a buddy with you or not, there are certain things to remember that can help turn a tricky situation into a manageable one.

We are going to take a look at some of the ways that a serious injury can be dealt with in the wilderness. Whether you are camping, hiking, rock climbing, or anything else, these tips can go a long way towards keeping you safe, and healthy.

What Are Some Of The Common Injuries In The Wilderness?

Some of the most common debilitating injuries in the wilderness involve drinking contaminated water. This can result in gastroenteritis and is one of the most common illnesses in the USA, leaving many with chills and vomiting among other symptoms.

In terms of physical injuries, a sprained ankle is one of the most common, as are broken bones and lacerations. Another thing to protect yourself against is heat exhaustion and heatstroke. This can develop quickly and some of the signs are heavy sweating, nausea dizziness or weakness, heat cramps, fast pulse, vomiting, and more.

So, How To Deal With Such Injuries?

When in the wilderness, there are certain ways to prepare and react to a serious injury. Here are some of the most effective:

Skin Lacerations

A nasty thing to endure, but unfortunately rather common in the wilderness. It not treated properly, things can turn nasty. The first thing to do is to rinse the area with clean water and if any debris or tissue is hanging from the cut, remove it safely before covering with a bandage. If you have prepared for the worst and have antibiotic ointment to hand, apply this before wrapping.

If it is bleeding, apply pressure to stop it and when back at base, seek a medical expert to look over the severity of the wound.

Twisted Ankle

In the uneven and unfamiliar terrain of the great outdoors, it often doesn’t matter how good your hiking boots are, a twisted ankle can happen at any time. Unfortunately, there is no short term solution to a badly twisted ankle and it is best to head home. This can be hard to do especially in the early stages of an adventure but such an injury will only slow everyone down, or make it impossible to cover much distance even with assistance.

Although it is best to rest, apply ice, and keep the ankle elevated, ice is not so easy to access in the wilderness. Wrap the ankle to restrict movement and compress the injury, and when back on home ground, apply ice and rest up.


Although it is not an injury in the same sense of the other common types, it is still something that can be dangerous and is worth preparing for. When you feel the symptoms such as a dry mouth, dizziness, heavy sweating, or extreme thirst among others mentioned above, it is best to find a cool, shady spot, and rest. From here, rehydrate and remove any clothing if they are causing you to feel hot.

Take your time before continuing but remember that any hike, especially in the heat requires the intake of more water than usual. With the combination of energy expended and heat, it is best to take more fluid than you think you might need. The best way to avoid dehydration is prevention so remember to quench that thirst.

Broken Bones

If the bone is not showing and it is a clean break, the first thing to do is find a splint to keep it stable. Even if the bone has broken the skin, it is best to cover it with a cloth rather than try to reset it. Clean it as gently and best you can before covering and make a splint to stop things from moving even more. It is possible to make a makeshift stretcher out of a blanket, clothes secured together, and some poles, but sometimes it is not possible to have such materials to hand. Also, any neck injury means this area needs to supported properly.

Sometimes it is not possible to provide help there and then so if it is a member of your party, it can be better to leave them in the shade with water and food, and go to get help. If anyone has a whistle to hand, leave it with the injured party so they can signal their location, and if it is not on a marked route, leave a way of finding your way back or pin it on a map.

A broken arm can usually be dressed on the spot and although painful, the injured party should be able to move back to camp where they can get further treatment, albeit slowly. If you can reach the emergency services from the location, try and keep the injured person calm.

Head Injury

Any concussion or blow to the skull will require immediate medical assistance. The signs don’t always involve a lack of consciousness but any difficulty concentrating, answering basic questions, forgetfulness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, vomiting, a change in behavior whether it be sadness, anxiety, or others, and differing sleeping behavior among other symptoms can be a sign of a concussion.

At this point, the victim must get medical attention as soon as possible.

How To Prepare For A Serious Injury In The Wilderness

Preparation is key for making the process of getting to help easier, but also being able to deal with the situation as best you can at the time. We mentioned having a means of stretching someone to safety, and this can mean having poles to hand is important. Otherwise, bandages and a first aid kit with antibiotic ointment among other items are all going to help.

In terms of staying safe on the trail, never take unnecessary risks, and always keep plenty of food and water to hand. Know the route, and have an exit plan in case you should need one in an emergency.