Obtaining Your Wilderness First Responder Certification

©istockphoto/Sjoerd-van-der-Wal

For out­door enthu­si­asts, there’s no such thing as too much gear, too many hob­bies or too much knowl­edge. Most adven­tur­ers are auto­di­dac­tic by nature and love learn­ing in a hands-on set­ting sur­round­ed by peo­ple with loads of expe­ri­ence. Not to men­tion, they often want to be pre­pared should their adven­ture turn inju­ri­ous. If this sounds like you, then sign­ing up for a Wilder­ness First Aid or Wilder­ness First Respon­der course may be the next step in adding to your already exten­sive out­door resume. Here’s how to do it.

Wilder­ness First Aid Certification
Wilder­ness First Aid is more basic than the Wilder­ness First Respon­der Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, but every bit as valu­able. Wilder­ness First Aid cours­es are typ­i­cal­ly 16–20 hour cours­es and are taught in a vari­ety of loca­tions across the coun­try. NOLS, the Nation­al Out­door Lead­er­ship School, hosts WFA class­es through­out the year which are well-known for their thor­ough­ness and expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing style.

What to Know Before You Enroll

Cost: Most of these class­es range between $200-$300.

What you’ll learn: Patient assess­ment, CPR (depend­ing on the class and loca­tion), frac­ture man­age­ment, wilder­ness wound man­age­ment, etc.

Who should take it: Avid adven­tur­ers, pro­fes­sion­als who work in the out­door industry

How it can help pro­fes­sion­al­ly: Whether you’re tak­ing a sum­mer job as an out­door camp coun­selor or plan on lead­ing a com­pa­ny climb­ing retreat, adding this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to your resume says that you’re a seri­ous out­door adven­tur­er with seri­ous skills.

Wilder­ness First Respon­der Certification
This is the grand­dad­dy of cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and is typ­i­cal­ly pur­sued by those who work in the out­door indus­try such as ski patrollers, guides and rangers. How­ev­er, there’s no rea­son that an avid adven­tur­er shouldn’t feel com­fort­able and com­pe­tent in pur­su­ing this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. What you’ll need, how­ev­er, is time, mon­ey and commitment.

What to Know Before You Enroll

Cost: This course cost typ­i­cal­ly ranges between $750-$1,200

Hours: This 80-hour course usu­al­ly stretch­es over a 9–10 day for­mat but may also be bro­ken up into a 2‑week for­mat depend­ing upon loca­tion. Because of the time com­mit­ment, this course tends to be more fea­si­ble for those with sum­mers off, such as teach­ers or stu­dents, or for pro­fes­sion­als with jobs will­ing to spon­sor their certification.

What you’ll learn: CPR, chest injury man­age­ment, shock man­age­ment, evac­u­a­tion tech­niques, light­ning strike man­age­ment, and frost­bite care are just a few of the items on the agen­da for this com­pre­hen­sive course.

Who should take it:  Adven­tur­ers who engage in moun­taineer­ing, canyoneer­ing or any out­door sport where an injury is high­ly like­ly, along with pro­fes­sion­als who work in the out­door industry.

It should be not­ed that both of the pro­grams typ­i­cal­ly offer some sort of col­lege cred­it if you are a stu­dent, so be sure to check with the orga­ni­za­tion to see how this might apply to you.

Orga­ni­za­tions that spon­sor these cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in your area may include NOLS, guide com­pa­nies, and many universities.