Wilderness First Responder

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Teaching WFR

A lecture in the outdoor classroom.

Have you ever been three-days from a trailhead with no cellphone reception and thought about what would happen if someone got hurt? What if a snake bit someone? What if someone fell off a cliff?  What if a member of your party suffered a heart attack? Maybe you have a sat phone or a personal locator beacon, but if you are in the real wilderness, then even with those modern conveniences an evacuation may take a very long time.

Medical professionals in urban areas identify the time period following trauma or a serious medical incident as "the golden hour."  The goal is to get patients from the accident site or from the place where the medical incident took place to the hospital rapidly, and ideally in less than an hour. Those who receive prompt medical care are statistically the most likely to survive.

The problem with wilderness medicine is that you're in the wilderness.  It is very difficult to evacuate a patient to definitive medical care in less than an hour. A fast evacuation from the backcountry may take four or five hours. A slow evacuation may take four or five days.

The Wilderness First Responder course and certification were created specifically for those who spend significant time in the wilderness, on personal trips or professionally, who might encounter a serious medical situation.  The eighty-hour course covers everything from minor medical ailments to severe trauma.  It also covers the issues that you will encounter caring for a patient over a period of hours or even days while awaiting evacuation.


Wilderness First Responder and Outdoor Education

Mountain climbing guides, river guides, hiking guides, and backcountry rangers are usually required to have a WFR certification in order to obtain employment. Most land managers in the United States require commercial guides to hold WFR certifications. And every individual that one might be responsible for in these professions expect their guides and rangers to have a Wilderness First Responder certification.


Wilderness Medicine Training Center

The American Alpine Institute has partnered with the Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC) to offer these courses. The WMTC was founded in 1997 by Paul Nicolazzo and incorporated in 2008 in Washington State. With over 35 years experience leading trips and training staff in challenging environments, Paul started WMTC because he believed there was a better way to effectively educate people in wilderness skills, rescue, and medicine. Under Paul's guidance WMTC instructors have honed their instructional techniques while keeping up with cutting edge wilderness medicine. WMTC instructors are considered to be some of the best outdoor emergency care instructors in the world. 

Wilderness First Responder


The AAI/WMTC Wilderness First Responder course is an 80-hour program that was designed to provide outdoor educators and active outdoor practitioners with the skills they need to deal with a wide array of medical issues and traumatic injuries in the backcountry. Curriculum includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Scalp Laceration

Students tending a scalp laceration and concussion..

  • Body Defenses
  • Pharmacology
  • Patient Assessment System 
  • Basic Life Support
  • Wilderness Adult and Child CPR
  • Head Injuries
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Volume Shock
  • Extremity Injuries
  • SOAP Evaluation Process
  • Splinting
  • Wound Management
  • Spine Assessment
  • Dehydration
  • Sunburn
  • Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke and Hyponatremia 
  • Hypothermia and Cold Injuries
  • Near Drowning
  • Spine Management
  • Wilderness Bites and Stings
  • Allergies
  • Lightning Injuries
  • Altitude
  • Dislocations
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes: Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia
  • Heart Attack, Angina and Stroke
  • Issues with Ears, Eyes, Nose, Throat and Teeth
  • Improvising Litters, Backboards and Litter Carries

Wilderness First Responder

Dates & Details

There are two types of programs. The first is the Standard Wilderness First Responder which runs nine days. The second option is the Hybrid Distance Learning Project (DLP) Wilderness First Responder, which requires home study and four online exams prior to attendance at a five-day practical course.

The DLP Wilderness First Responder is designed for students who are able to study the didactic material on their own using the course textbook, "the Art & Technique of Wilderness Medicine," the field manual, "the Wilderness Medicine Handbook," and the course web site. Access to a computer and the internet are mandatory; broadband/high speed access is required. If you like self-study, are disciplined, computer literate, and have limited time to attend a practical session, then a hybrid DLP Wilderness First Responder is your best choice.

The DLP Hybrid WFR has an estimated 30 - 60+ hours of pre course study, followed by 8 - 12+ hours of online testing (3 Content tests and 3 Application tests). For more information on this option, please contact the Institute.

Students looking to use Veterans Benefits (GI Bill®) to pay for their course must enroll in a Washington State-based program. The VA will not pay for courses outside of Washington. 

Standard Wilderness First Responder

  • Aug 16 - 24, 2021 - The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

The Outward Bound sessions are part of their Semester Course and we have partnered with them to make the course possible.  They have asked us to have outside students enroll as early as possible so that they know how many spots are available for OB participants.


Hybrid DLP Wilderness First Responder

    • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Hybrid courses scheduled in Washington. This will be revisited and amended as conditions evolve.



Most programs do not include accommodations. However, at some venues, they are available for an additional fee. Accommodations at each program location vary dramatically. If you are interested in a particular program, please contact the AAI office for details.


Private Programming

Any portion of this program, either the complete program or individual pieces of the program may be provided to a private group at any appropriate location. Courses are note available to individuals on a private basis. Please call the AAI office for details. 


Wilderness First Responder

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