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Disaster Survival
in the Wild:
How to Stay Alive!

By Dan S. Defense

Every person who goes into the wild, whether hiking or hunting, needs to think about first aid. In this context, first aid isn't your little set of smiley Band-Aids and tiny packets of some cream. In the middle of nowhere you need to be able to address life threatening injuries fast and effectively. You need to be able to stabilize serious injuries and survive until help arrives. First aid in this context is serious gear that's small enough to carry and sufficiently effective in saving your life. Let's look at options for wilderness injury survival from QuikClot, my preferred serious first aid products.

When we hike in the wilderness, we want to spend time with nature and avoid other humans. With the tranquility that comes with isolation, and with isolation comes risk. Emergency survival kits or trauma kits are your insurance policy when disaster strikes and you are the only one present. Let's look at a few, "easy to produce disasters".

You climb on unsteady rocks to get a better view of an animal, then slip, fall and land on a sharp rock that tears a gap in your thigh. Or...you take a wrong step, roll down a steep ravine and tear your shoulder and hand. Or...you come across a hunter that accidentally shot himself and he's bleeding badly. In each one of those scenarios a severe injury occurred and blood is gushing out. Trauma kits are designed to address life threatening injuries.

Let's look at what happens to a body that sustains severe injuries and see why smiley Band-Aid won't suffice. After you crash land, you notice that your clothes are wet and you feel waves or pain or heat (don't ask how I know). You feel light headed and can't seem to focus. You are suffering from heavy bleeding. When your body loses large volumes of blood, you experience a condition called Hypovolemia.

As your body continues to lose blood, you feel light headed and your hearth, which works much harder to supply oxygen, races and beats faster and faster. Since less blood flows to the extremities, your hands and feed get cold as your body temperature drops and you enter into hypovolemic shock. Then, as your body shuts down you may pass out or become anxious and confused. Finally, your internal organs fail and death approaches. Without your trauma kit you'll soon hear angels singing or end up swimming in lava. In either case you'll be dead.

If you prepared, and have your first aid survival kit, you may live to tell the tale. We'll look at that emergency survival kit in a moment, but the first thing you must do is stop the bleeding. From experience I can tell you that a deep arterial wound generates a powerful flow of the blood-a gushing river of your life, leaving the body quickly and forcefully. In our scenario, you are suffering from severe bleeding from your thigh or hand. If you have QuikClot, you tear open your trauma kit and yank out the Quikclot packet. You place the QuikClot sponge/bandage directly on the wound and press as hard as you can.

If you have the older version of QuikClot, then you'll find a packet of powder and you'll need to open a bandage, pour the powder into the wound and then apply the bandage before the blood washes it away. In either case, the QuikClot interacts with the blood and slowly stops the bleeding. You keep pressing hard until the bleeding stops.

If you don't have QuikClot and can't stop the bleeding with regular bandages (which is the probable outcome), you will need to apply a tourniquet, which has several drawbacks but can save your life and in an emergency can even be made from your boot's shoe laces. I highly recommend you take QuikClot and leave the shoe laces alone.

So how does QuikClot work? From the QuikClot site: "The QuikClot agent activates platelets. Activated platelets help stop bleeding because they form a plug. This occurs in conjunction with the body's own mechanisms of platelet activation, which occur whenever there is an injury to a blood vessel. Furthermore, QuikClot® products adsorb water from the blood. Water is trapped in the zeolite and held there... This locally concentrates the cellular and large protein components of the blood further catalyzing clot formation." You can read about QuikClot and how it works in this datasheet.

Since it's better to prepare and have you trauma kit ready, let's see what to pack in your emergency survival kit. You need a few good absorbent, gauze compress bandages that are at least 24"x72" and are sealed in a water tight material. Add a few 4"x4" sterile gauze pads. Back in my Army days, I hunted for used IV packs, which make ideal covers for bandages. Today I use Ziploc or zip lock bags. I take the air out of them, to make them as compact as possible and they are the foundation of my trauma kit. I then add splint which is made from rolled, bendable metal. I keep adhesive tape and one roll of duct tape (which in an emergency can be used to stop bleeding) .

A trauma wound dressing, which is a 6" hemorrhage control bandage. Two pairs of disposable gloves assure I can help other injured hikers, without risk of contracting any blood carried health hazards. A few anti-septic wipes are good for cleaning smaller wounds or your hands; a few Band-Aids and a few pain killers.

Finally, a few light-sticks and a small knife or scissors. This all fits in a single, small pouch. I have one trauma kit ready in my car, one trauma kit in my favorite backpack, one in our bedroom and one trauma kit on stand-by. This is my wilderness insurance policy as well as my ability to assist others in an emergency.

We hope this article helps you think about self-help in an emergency. Building a good trauma kit is easy and you can even find ready-made kits. One company you may want to look at is LifeView Outdoors which makes adventure packs. Whether you build your own trauma kit from scratch, with QuikClot, or buy one that's been prepared by experts; be sure to have that readily available both in and out of your home. We never know when danger strikes, but we can always be prepared to deal with it, and a good trauma kit may save your life or the life of another person!

Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!

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