First aid techniques are critical in all instances of outdoor injury, but in many cases first aid alone is insufficient, and wilderness medicine treatment is required. Wilderness medicine involves specialized training and skills that go beyond standard first aid, and these treatments frequently involve the use of medical devices. These techniques take into account extreme circumstances such as lack of basic resources, hazardous environments, and lack of immediate access to comprehensive medical care. Conditions that can be diagnosed and treated by wilderness medicine include mild hypothermia, poisoning from plants or insects, fractures, head injuries, allergic reactions, blunt trauma, and severe bleeding.
Most basic wilderness medical kits include gauze, antiseptic wipes, adhesive bandages, and forceps. These devices are fairly easy-to-use and generally do not require specialized training for effective use in cases of minor injury. Trauma scissors are also often included in kits; these blunt-ended scissors are used to cut through clothing without causing injury to the patient, and these devices can be used as an alternative to knives. More comprehensive wilderness medical kits may include wound closure strips, SAM Splints, and first aid irrigation syringes. Wound closure strips perform functions similar to sutures, securing lacerated skin to promote healing. These devices also help keep the wound site clear of bacteria to prevent infection. SAM Splits are compact aluminum alloy splits that roll up for portability and expand when needed. SAM Medical Products indicates that these devices are highly moldable and can be used to splint almost any bone in the body. Irrigation syringes dispense fluid in order to clean a wound while preventing backsplash of fluid from the wound site, which can be harmful to the caregiver. Wilderness adventurers in regions with poisonous wildlife also carry poison extraction devices, which are purchased individually. An example of an extractor is the Sawyer Extractor pump kit, which uses suction for the removal of venoms, poisons, and stings.
Worst-case scenario planning is the last thing most people want to do when embarking on wilderness vacations. However, wilderness medicine devices generally carry a fairly low cost and are readily accessible to the average consumer. They offer an easy and affordable safeguard that can have a critical impact on the outcome of wilderness emergencies.