Educate Yourself Before Venturing into the Backcountry

When setting out on the trail for a long backcountry, kayak, ski trip or any adventure that sends you into the wild, the hype, anticipation and excitement run high. Adrenaline hits the veins once the crew piles out of the shuttle and sets out on the adventure. Backpacks are strapped on, rafts are rigged and set to launch, the skins are stripped off of the skis and the vastness of opportunity lies before us. In the midst of everything people often forget to prepare for every outcome both positive and negative.

This exact situation left me 43 miles into the Bob Marshall Wilderness with a bone-deep laceration to my left foot. In this moment, when I realized I was no longer was able to rely on myself for transport out, I was at the mercy of people around me. The feeling of helplessness due to lack of personal knowledge and pre-planning hits home in situations that quickly spiral out of the control. Its in these situations when pre planning and the knowledge of the people you are with, in some situations, can be the difference between life and death.

Outdoor enthusiasts are at the core of Montana’s vibrant culture. The mountains, skiing, hiking, climbing, biking, mountaineering and backpacking opportunities draw people to Montana from around the world to partake in the fun that can be had in great outdoors in our mountain state. This state has 3,443,038 acres of total wilderness area divided up into 15 designated wilderness areas. In addition to our wilderness areas the state contains two major recognized national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier, as well as 19.39 million acres of national forest. Montana is one of the leading states for outdoor recreation.

There is no denying for many people who come to Bozeman for college fall in love with this beautiful state and begin the process of finding friends have similar interest in the outdoors. For people who move from out of state, many begin the process of learning and acquiring the skills needed to be proficient in the outdoors and backcountry. One thing that is often overlooked is learning the skills needed to care for oneself once a crisis has occurred. The backcountry and outdoors are volatile and unpredictable; learning how to avoid injury is just the one of the essential skills needed before heading out into the backcountry or partaking in extreme sports.

There are various opportunities across Montana for students to learn skills that will aid them in taking care of themselves and others in situations with potential of being exposed to the elements. Basic CPR and First Aid is a great place to start. REI and the Bozeman Deaconess hospital host events to become CPR/First Aid certified at no cost or a reduced cost for students. Aerie Backcountry Medicine of Missoula offers classes in Bozeman that work around student schedules in order to allow students to gain certifications such as Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT).

The WiFR program is a 72-hour course offered in Bozeman through Aerie Backcountry Medicine a few times throughout the year. This course is a good start for any person interested in EMT certification. It is a good overview of urban and backcountry situations one may come across while hiking or any outdoor activity. If learning how to stabilize bones, perform CPR, dress wounds and take care of medical issues such as heat stroke, dehydration and hypothermia is interesting or applies to your lifestyle, this class is a perfect place to start.

The ability to care for injured and/or sick people is a skill that benefits the world and the community in many ways. When situations arise in the wilderness or in an outdoor setting, it is stressful and scary to not have the knowledge needed to take care of a person in need. Taking advantage of these learning opportunities can make a huge difference in creating a strong, knowledgeable outdoor community.