Things ARE going to go wrong.

Do you have any idea what to do for big injuries when your miles away from help? Do you have your Wilderness First Aid? Don’t fall into the “It can’t or won’t happen to me” crowd. Here’s why. Two recent trips for us have ended badly. It CAN and eventually WILL happen to you.

We’ve been backcountry canoe tripping for years. Almost 10 years. We’ve done big trips, we done lots of weekenders & a few overnights. All in all, we’ve managed (luckily, hilariously and thankfully) without running into any BIG injuries. Surprising to hear I know. I’m actually more shocked than you might be. Considering that we occasionally plan trips to be challenging in terms of length, rough terrain or simply above our ability level to push ourselves further and considering who we go canoeing with …. It’s a bloody miracle we are even alive to write this.

First things first. I have a general idea on what I need to do to help someone who is injured. I am not trained, I have not taken a course and I am not a doctor (…yet). I know the majority of people heading into the wild are in the same boat as me. Same canoe as me? Anyhow. I even had the opportunity to go get my Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification earlier this year and I didn’t do. Why? … Don’t remember. Probably a canoe trip opportunity came up. Maybe I made friends with a local Llama and decided to try to saddle and ride him into battle. Who knows. It’s me – It could have been anything. My point is that I could have had it, should have it and I don’t.

In the past 2 months, I have taken two camping trips.
1. Indiana car camping with friends
2. A canoe trip through Killarney with the other boys from the ManCamping team.
Both have resulted in some serious situations that called for first aid.

On our trip down to Indiana we met up with some friends for the weekend in Lieber State Park. Considering that we were car camping (not something I like to do), I didn’t even give first aid or injuries a thought. I don’t think we even had a first aid kit with us. Poor Planning.

As a group, we went to go see Cataract Falls. Hiking around the rock faces, climbing up and down and generally having a great time. We hiked down to the bottom of the falls and spotted a way to walk up the rocky river and climb in behind the waterfall. Without so much as a glance at each other, we all headed for it. I’ll let the photos describe the rough landscape and jump to the injury part.

One of our friends, a not so small guy, took a spill. Going down on the rocky terrain and tearing his left shoulder and left knee completely apart. Now we’re in some shit. (We found out later he had actually did surgery requiring damage. Knee: Torn MCL & LCL and Patellar Tendon. Shoulder: Torn Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Suscapularis tendons and a tear in the muscle of some sort – I’m not a doctor) Johnny cannot use his knee nor his arm and we are in boulder country behind a waterfall full of slimy, slippery wet rock. To make matters worse… The park didn’t even have a first aid kit!

Time to get to work boys….


Thankfully, Johnny is ex military and a tough bastard. Seriously. In manly terms… Words wouldn’t describe the size of Johnny’s…. Er… Pain tolerance.

Three non injured guys (myself, Tim the boulder-throwing ox and David – also ex military) and my wife Meghan, held up, pushed, pulled and coached Johnny up to his feet, over and under each boulder and along a path to my truck where we could get him out. Two people holding him up, one moving is left knee and foot for him and the last person yelling encouraging things at him. Tackling each obstacle as it came up. What was a about a 1 km hike, took us almost 3 hours to get him out.

We even made a makeshift brace from my leather belt to reinforce Johnny’s knee! (Thank you David for giving me your belt to continue holding up my shorts. I love to show my ass off, but this was NOT the time lol.

Now my wife is first aid certified and she did all that she could to help Johnny without any first aid supplies. All in all the team did an amazing job helping our buddy. But having my WFA would have given me a little more direction and ensured that what I was doing was correct. Thank God for Medic Meghan.

Just so you know, we got Johnny back the campsite where he stayed instead of going to the freaking hospital! Again, this guy has a huge set of …. Pain tolerances.


The very next trip was to Killarney. 4 seasoned canoeist/backcountry campers. Johnny and Bender went up and grabbed a campsite Friday morning. Brad and I launched in the dark Friday night to go track them down and meet up with them. Night-Ops mission accomplished.

It was supposed to be a great fall trip with cooler temperatures perfect for paddling. It was not… Saturday was 39° C! Go figure! Saturday we we’re heading from Johnny Lake to Boundary Lake. A full days paddle with a few km of portages, plus multiple stops to filter and drink water!!!

On the portage to Boundary lake (500m of pure, unending, tortuous incline!) We carried our packs through first as usual, then went back for the boats. Just so we can see what we are up against with a canoe as a hat.

We were all gassed. The hot weather had taken it’s toll on us all. Brad volunteered to carry the ManCamping canoe and we figured we’d switch off if he felt he couldn’t make it. Bender took the other boat.

At the top of the seemingly never ending incline Bender and I heard a “Whoa…… Whoap!” From Brad up ahead. As Brad was dehydrated and heat stroked… He slipped and blacked out. (Impressively he balanced the canoe all the way down so he didn’t hurt it.) Off like a shot, we got the canoe off of Brad and got him sitting up. We knew he needed to get some water into him. Thank you to the two hiking gentleman that came running to help out and give him some water.

Funny side note: The hiker’s water bottle had the word Rye written on it. How fitting for ManCamping! Lol

After some rest, we got Brad on his feet and I carried the canoe to the end of the portage. Once we made it to out site…. Life jacket diapers for good float in the water cleared things up for all of us. Not mention the fact that we may have drank the lake dry to get some liquids back in us.

This trip injury wasn’t nearly as bad as the last one. However it could have been. It could have been worse.

I will always pride myself on being calm, cool and collected when reacting to bad situations, but I will take this as a sign to go get my damn WFA! The simplest trips can quickly turn into dangerous situations. You can’t plan these things, but you can be prepped for when it happens.

We all spend a lot of time talking about wearing a PFD for safety, not doing stupid things like drinking and boating/driving/canoeing, or walking on thin lake ice, but I think we should spend more time on knowing what to do when something happens. No matter how much we try to keep people safe, things happen. Be ready for when they do – This is my ManCamping Public Service Announcement ?

Have you taken a Wilderness First Aid course? What ones do you recommend?


11 Responses to “Things ARE going to go wrong.

  • My husband and I are very experienced back country campers, but of course that doesn’t mean things don’t happen, like me accidentally spraying Bear Spray in my eye (long story). Thankfully we always keep clean water on hand so he could immediately douse my left eye with lots and lots of water. All turned out well.

  • Yes…yesss…. YEEEEEESSSSSS! Thanks for writing this. It just goes to show that there is no such thing as being too manly to be prepared for an “incident”. I don’t have my Wilderness First Aid training yet, but I did get my Red Cross Standard First Aid certificate this summer. I feel a lot more confident that I know how to deal with stuff when we get out there. (Like the time my kid stepped on a ground wasp nest and her and I ended up with multiple stings.) I plan to do the Wilderness First Aid course at some point, when I can get to a course and I’ve save up the fee. For anyone who can’t get themselves to a Wilderness First Aid Course for some reason, I HIGHLY recommend starting off with a Red Cross Standard First Aid certification. The course availability is plentiful and there is even a combined online-in class option. As a side-note to this, just the Wilderness First Aid course does not provide you with a recognized Standard First Aid certificate – you still need to do that portion separately (if it isn’t offered as on option with the Wilderness course).

  • Connor Hamilton
    3 years ago

    Did the 80 hr Wilderness First Responder course. I did this for work as I guide, but it was worth every single penny. I frequently bikepack and I would be scared not having the knowledge. Not just knowing how to deal with a situation but how to prevent and prepare for one is priceless. Would highly recommend at least getting a wilderness first aid or similar. Doing the WFR course is awesome, but overkill for any casual outdoorsman.

    What’s in your wallet? Pfft, what’s in your first aid kit?

  • I think I’d rather focus on planning a safe trip, than having to do a rescue. Taking into consideration things like, who’s on the trip, what’s their level of fitness, what’s their level of experience, what are the conditions of the trek, does the difficulty of the trek match the level of experience and fitness of the participants, and does the equipment (clothing) match the requirements of the trek. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it to begin with. And save your local SAR team a whole lot of grief. Or better yet, save the SAR team for a real emergency.

    • Definitely some good ideas to think about. But again, you never know when something will happen, no matter how much you prepare for.

  • Hiking over “rough landscape” with a child, a woman in flipflops and an out-of-shape ex-militia with more pain-tolerance than intelligence.
    Sounds like the beginning of a good entry into the Darwin Awards. The second story sounded like you were disappointed at not getting to the Darwin Awards the first time, and took a second shot. Good luck, you’ll make it to the Darwin Awards eventually.

  • I almost poked my eye out on a tree branch on a recent trip (chin up challenge gone wrong). I was really glad we had a fully stocked first aid kit stock with a syringe, etc. so we could irrigate the wound. Next day we had to paddle out when it was clear an infection was setting in. ER doc took care of it and we got to finish our trip.

    • Oh no! Glad to hear you are ok! Did you know what to do for that injury other than flushing it out or was it a MUST to get to the hospital? Hopefully it wasn’t too far to the ER.

Got somethin' to say?