Training Update : WRFA in the Woods

Image is of the interior of a wood building. A sign near the ceiling reads Camp Hiawatha. Below the sign is a screen on which an image from a first aid video is being projected. The room is dark.

Trail/Park: Camp Hiawatha, Deer River, MN

I want to acknowledge this course took place on the traditional territory of the Mdewakanton, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Sisseton and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.


Back in 2015 I took my first Wilderness and Remote First Aid course in preparation for a 10-day backpacking adventure. At the time it was required as part of the program in which I was participating. The course requires also holding an American Red Cross First Aid/CPR course certification. Thankfully I was able to do both with the same instructor. Paul Kautz, aka the Hiking Dude (among other monikers like CPR Dude) offers weekend courses for a variety of groups.

What I found heading out on my own hiking adventures was I felt more prepared for what might go wrong by taking the course. I’m prepared to help others or myself, if needed. Re-certification is every two years, which I consider a great investment of my time and money for the peace of mind it brings me when I’m out hiking.

This year the added bonus for this course was it set me off on the adventure to finish my goal of hiking all of Minnesota’s hikable state parks. Little did I know, taking the course at Camp Hiawatha would lead to an unexpected connection with one of my favorite Scouting families.

I arrived at the camp the evening before the course started and got settled into my campsite, set in a wooded area. I set up my hammock and took a walk around the camp. Camper restroom and shower facilities were located in a little building called The Barn. The camp sits on the shore of Deer Lake. It’s a lovely retreat center with an area for tents, cabins and a few buildings which are used for a variety of things like classes.

The next morning we were up early for breakfast served in the dining hall before heading to class. It was a chance to meet classmates as well as the staff of the camp while sitting on the deck with a view of the lake. Up the hill from the dining hall we settled into class. As we went around introducing ourselves, one of the younger members of the camp staff came up to me and said, “I know you”. She is the younger sister of a young man who’d been on my pivotal trip to Philmont. It was wonderful during our breaks and activities to catch up!

One of the things I like most about Paul’s class is the activities which make the learning engaging. The first half day is focused on attaining the First Aid/CPR/AED certification. I always find it a good refresher on basic emergency care that is useful anywhere.

In the afternoon we started on the Wilderness and Remote First Aid portion of the weekend. He’s got a great set of scenarios for the group to work through as we cover everything from minor cuts to hypothermia and impalements. Each scenario builds in complexity. Members of the class play out roles of injured and rescuer. While there is laughter and creativity involved, there is also serious business to learn. The second half-day of class culminates with a complicated group emergency requiring those doing the first aid to make choices of who to help.

Every time I take the course, I learn something new as I work with new people. Each perspective helps to understand the choices necessary to provide care. It reinforces all we can do is do our best, which is what I hope someone would do for me if I were injured. Having this training provides me a level of confidence that I can handle most situations I might possibly encounter. I’m grateful the most I’ve had to do is provide a bandage for a blister and create a sling for a person who had a broken collar bone.

What do you do to feel more confident in the outdoors? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment with your recommendation.

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GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op Rainier Full Zip Rain Pant, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, ENO DoubleNest Hammock with Atlas Straps, Guardian Bug Net and Pro Rainfly, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.

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Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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