What is a Wilderness First Responder Course?

A wilderness first responder course (WFR) is so much more than just a course about first aid and CPR or even emergencies. This course teaches you how to critically think, allowing you to apply your knowledge to unique situations that go far beyond just back country based trips.

One of the core components of a wilderness medical course is learning how to problem solve in a ‘wilderness setting’.  Wilderness is defined as a situation in which you have delayed access to care (you call for help but they can’t get to you right away), you have limited resources (perhaps what is on your back or what is in your boat) and a hostile environment (limited protection from, heat, cold, wind, rain etc.).  While this obviously applies to back country objectives, it also applies to front country emergencies such as mud slides, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires all of which can leave someone stranded in wilderness even in their own home.


The goal of a WFR is to make sure no matter what situation you find yourself in you have the knowledge to take helpful action.

Below are some of the big picture concepts that a WFR training will provide:


  • A clear understanding of serious vs not serious issues
  • What situations can be managed on your own, and when to call for help
  • Identifying high risk vs low risk injuries
  • Clear and simple steps for patient assessment
  • Establishing stable vs unstable problems
  • Prevention of the most common backcountry emergencies
  • Risk management and decision making for trips
  • How to communicate clearly in an emergency to get the help you need


The wilderness first responder course also trains people in 6 wilderness protocols.  These protocol are an expanded skill set for specifically for wilderness settings.  Many of them aid in turning and emergency into a manageable situation while in remote areas.

These protocols include:


  • Learn how to reduce certain dislocations
  • Be able to assess someone for a spine injury
  • Properly clean and care for wounds
  • When to start and stop CPR in a wilderness context
  • Learn how to deliver epinephrine to someone in anaphylactic shock
  • Deliver of epinephrine for severe asthma attacks

Each of these protocols are designed to give WFR participants an enhanced set of tools that are practical in real life situations.

Additional Skills taught in a WFR include:


These additional skills are useful anywhere, be it at home or off shore sailing learning more about this situations and problems will come in handy and could save a life.



  • CPR for the Adult, Child and infant at the professional rescuer level
  • Manage any type of airway compromise, such as choking
  • Controlling life threatening bleeding
  • How to tell if someone has a concussion or not
  • Lifting and moving with spine precautions
  • Determining if someone has a spine injury and next steps
  • Splinting basic and high-risk injuries
  • Heat based challenges
  • Thermoregulation and cold based injuries
  • Learning about altitude illness

How is the course learning structured? 

Of course a WFR course teaches medical concepts, but where all wilderness medical courses really shine is the hands on learning!  Practicing hands on skills in the most life like situations available is a core component of the course.  This means all participants will spend a portion of the course role playing both as a patient and as rescuer.  While participants don’t have to be an acting major, there is an element a role playing, dress up, and moulage (wounds from make up) that make the experience vivid and often intense.


This is one of the most fun elements of a course, but even more importantly it’s the part of the course that puts knowledge into practice.  No amount of learning is useful if it can’t be applied under real life stressful situations.  A WFR course helps mimic the stress of emergencies in a safe and supportive environment.  This allows students to learn the valuable process of managing their own stress and decision making. Participant will graduate feeling far better prepared to transfer their knowledge into real life emergency.


Gaining a basic understanding of medicine concepts will also be a foundational component of each course.  This means there is some science, anatomy and physiology in the core teaching.  Thankfully, the curriculum does a great job of taking complicated medical concepts, simplifying them and breaking them down into bite sized chunks.  The curriculum Gut-Z Journey licenses is provided by Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA), one of the leading educators in the business.  WMA’s has a dedicated team of doctors, physician assistants and other medical personal reviewing the latest research and updating materials for students.  It’s designed to be the best.


A WFR course can range from 10-5 days. Courses less than 7 days are a hybrid format, meaning there’s some portion of online learning prior to the  in person course start date.   All in person classes will be broken up into classroom lectures and hands on practice.   Hybrid courses provide the lectures, books and foundational learning all prior to the course so that the 5 days are focused on hands on skills.


Both full length and hybrid medical courses are great options.  Often people completely new to medicine concepts and/or experiences in remote areas enjoy the longer courses.   The 5 day courses work well for people who are coming in with some experience in the realm of emergencies and perhaps previous medical trainings.



People who will benefit from this course are:

  • Disaster Relief Personnel and Volunteers
  • Outdoor Educators
  • Outdoor Guides
  • Avid outdoors people
  • Those camping or traveling overnight into the backcountry
  • Military
  • Researchers
  • Search and Rescue Personnel and Volunteers
  • Off shore sailing and Seafarers
  • Remote field work Personnel
  • Those traveling over abroad
  • Anyone with the desire to develop skills beyond the Wilderness First Aid level


Certifications last 3 years!

This course is hands down the best investment for people who live or play in remote areas, have field work or desire to work in the outdoor industries.  It’s worth every penny of the investment.  Don’t just take my word for it, check out these testimonials!

"Natalie is an inspiration. She is very knowledgeable, including extensive Search and Rescue experience, best instructor I've ever had, and has a delightful personality!"


"...thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for showing me the kind of person I can be and empowering me in every way to help others in need. The WFR course alone has opened so many doors for me and I know that I will carry this for the rest of my life."


"I thought I had seen the best, but N.B. is right up there and earlier in her career. Top echelon of outdoor professionals. This is clearly in her blood!"


"It is because of the lessons that you taught me that I saved a life today. I can never thank you enough for passing down the knowledge that I did not think I would ever have to use. I may have responded but you are the true hero Natalie. Thank you."


"I felt insanely confident when evaluating her injuries and creating a communication/evacuation plan.. So happy to have had your amazing instruction and would take the class again in a heartbeat."

Kyle S

The class was challenging. Patient engagements often hard. And I am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn by doing; the drills are so valuable and essential. I'm a much better prepared WFR for it

Bill Voight

My satisfaction comes from the countless stories of how my students have helped someone in need and even saved lives because of this course!

Your instructor,
~ Natalie



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