MATERIAL: Paperback with water resistant cover
The Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook states that it is First aid for travelers, backpackers, and adventurers. It is a heavy duty book, both in durability and information. This book is 240 pages of very interesting information. I was excited to get into this book because I believe I fall right into its target audience. I am an EMT and I travel in the backcountry. Even more so, I work on a High Angle Rescue team. This book sounds right up my alley. Most recently my wife (an ICU nurse) and I traveled the John Muir Trail in 18 days. I wondered if this book would’ve been helpful for us planning that trip or other trips we’ve taken. We have also spent a lot of time overseas, from mainstream trips to the Eiffel tower to much more remote areas of Russia. Also like most good Coloradians, we have done quite a few 14ers, some involving short backcountry stays. In addition to this, I took my Rescue experience and injuries I’ve seen other people suffer, and the lessons I’ve learned from that into consideration. So I traveled in time with my mindset and looked at it like I was planning for those trips as well as future trips, such as an upcoming backcountry mountain biking hut to hut trip we are about to take. I feel like these experiences combined was fair place to assess this book from.
The first thing I noticed was the weight and size of the book. The book is approximately 9” x 5.5” and 1lb 3oz. It is going to take a lot for me to want to carry this with me. In a world where people are cutting zipper pulls off, cutting off the end of their toothbrush, and only packing one pair of underwear all in an effort to shave grams, it seems I may not be alone in that opinion. Now there may come a trip where I’d want it with me. There are parts of this book that make it seem written for the person in charge of medical care for an expedition or a large group. If those were my circumstances, I’d be much more inclined to carry it. We are willing to take certain risks for ourselves with our experience but would become much more careful if other people in our group were depending on us for extended remote travel. Either way I have no doubt this book can withstand some abuse. It has a heavy-duty water resistant cover that will keep it well protected.
My favorite part of this book was the Preparation chapter. Anyone that questions how to prepare for an emergency in a remote area should buy this book purely for the flow chart on page 12. This flow chart and the explanation of it on the following pages could solely prevent unnecessary accidents and save rescuers hours of work if people took it to heart. The part I wish they would’ve bolded was the first bullet of rescue considerations: Self Rescue. I think it is important to remember that 90% of the time, people do or don’t do something that puts themselves in harms way. So I believe that if you are willing to take such risks you should be prepared to help yourselves.
One downfall of the book could also be called an upside. There is just so much information in the book. In my opinion, too much information. Depending on the experience of the person using this book, things might be too complicated. Take for example the ABC’s: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. This easy acronym has stood the test of time making it simple for people to remember the priorities of basic resuscitation or assessment. This book has turned that into AAABCDE: adding Approach, Assess, Disability, and Environment. I think those are great considerations and very applicable. I’m just not sure the ABC’s are something I’d want to dilute or complicate. Overall I think this is a minor issue for the medically trained but it might be a hurdle for the unexperienced.
An example of one of the many flow charts in the book with further explanations for abdominal injuries
Two other issues I have a hard time getting past are trying to figure out who the book is written for and the legitimacy of some of the medical concerns covered. The book tells how to take a blood pressure as well as how to decompress a chest. If you can’t do the first one, then the second one shouldn’t even be on your radar. I understand in the backcountry operating in your scope becomes a null point, you do what you need to do to save a life. I just worry that the scope of the book is too broad. The other concern is the legitimacy of some medical concerns the book addresses. Two examples jump into mind: using a pregnancy test as an assessment tool and foreskin problems. Like I said before… a downfall of this book might be covering too much information.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. I think the two best uses for this book would be preparing for any extended travel and then leaving the book behind or a very long expedition where the person in charge of medical could use it as a reference. I know I will be glancing at it again when packing for our hut to hut mountain biking trip. I think every level of experience can benefit from this book as long as they look at it within their experience level and honestly assess what they would be comfortable doing. One thing this highlights is the wide spectrum of what people think it means to be prepared in the backcountry. Whether you prefer to travel fast and light (or slow and light like me) or if bringing more is your style, this book will help you prioritize. One last thing I‘d like to say is that this book was written by some very smart and experienced people. The information in this book is astounding.