Duration Health — Field Guide: Wilderness



“Wilderness” is defined as any area that is over one hour from definitive medical care. Treating illnesses and injuries in wilderness settings can be complicated by limited resources and supplies, lack of access to phone or internet service to get real-time medical advice, environmental conditions and terrain, and the need to evacuate or transport an injured or ill person.

  • Whenever you are planning wilderness travel, you should take some steps to prepare for an accident or illness:
    • Always let someone know where you are traveling, your planned route, when you will be in touch, and when you will return.
    • Pack a medical kit containing any medications you may need, including an extra supply of chronic prescriptions, and basic trauma and first aid supplies.
    • Pack extra layers of clothing, a water purification system, matches or a lighter, and other survival equipment appropriate to your region of travel.

Heat stroke causes the same symptoms as heat exhaustion as well as confusion, altered mental status, and an elevated body temperature (over 104 degrees F). You may stop sweating with heat stroke. Heat stroke can rapidly progress to coma and death.


Deciding when to evacuate from a wilderness setting is complicated. There are risks to evacuation including worsening of an injury or illness during transport, and injuries to those that are carrying or assisting the patient. However, it may take hours or even days for EMS to arrive to remote areas, and in some settings, professional rescue may not be possible.

Your group should carefully consider the severity of the illness or injury, the terrain and weather conditions, the length of time it would take to get to medical care or for a rescue team to get to the patient, and the risk of worsening illness or injury to the patient and others during an evacuation.

Strongly consider a wilderness first aid course prior to travel which can help teach you proper carrying techniques, how to build a litter and splints, and backcountry first aid techniques for common wilderness injuries and illnesses.

When To Worry

If you are remote from medical care and someone in your group is suffering from an injury or illness that causes impaired level of consciousness, has symptoms that make them unable to walk safely, eat, or drink, or they are not improving after a day of supportive treatments, you should strongly consider evacuating or calling for rescue.


Learn What To Do In a Medical Emergency

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How to approach Wilderness Only your Duration Health provider can decide, based on your medical history and other factors, whether it is medically appropriate for you to receive prescriptions. We do not sell prefabricated bags of pharmaceuticals. Each Duration Health Med Kit that contains prescription medications is custom assembled, tailored to each individual patient's needs.

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