Wilderness First-aid certification (preparing for whatever happens)

As I mentioned in some previous posts, my goal for the next 12 months is to prepare myself for the Patagonia Motorcycle Tour in such a way as to be ready for anything, and become totally immersed in the trip.  Getting ready for anything means that I’ll need to take Wilderness First Aid, Motorcycle Maintenance, and Orienteering classes, as well as learn Spanish, so that while we visit with the locals in the villages, I’ll be able to converse with them.

Last weekend (Nov 2nd & 3rd, 2013) , I took one of the first steps towards realizing this goal, and I attended a Wilderness First Aid class (WFA), sponsored and delivered through Recreational Equipment Incorporated, which is commonly referred to as REI.  REI is a great store that primarily sells goods and clothing for Outdoor activities, and here in NORCAL, REI is considered to be one of the best, and most thoughtful companies of it’s kind.  So, when I signed up for the class, knowing that it was delivered through REI, I knew I was in good hands.

The WFA class includes 16 hours of instruction, delivered in two days, over the course of a weekend.  About 1/2 of the time is spent in the classroom while the other half is spent in simulated emergency situations, where each of the WFA students follows a rigorous protocol to assess, diagnose, and address the situation at hand.  As you might imagine, the class prepares you to deal with all forms of Heat and Cold induced symptoms, as well as abrasions, incisions, broken bones, anaphylactic shock, and other things.

The course costs between about $150 and $250, depending on a number of factors, such as whether you are an REI member, whether you are a high-school student, etc.  The two instructors were very knowledgeable, and between the two of them, it seemed that they’ve been through it all.  It’s nice to see that their knowledge of WFA was not academic in the least.

I guess that a good question to ask is whether a course like this is really necessary at all.  It’s certainly a fair question, but think of it like this…  I’m sure we all know people who seem to go through life expecting that nothing will go wrong, and hoping that their expectations are realized.  When something does go wrong, these people usually find themselves in a situation that they did not anticipate, and if this situation is in the wilderness, and they are all alone, they may be in grave danger, perhaps even dying out there in the wilderness. Then, there are other folks who tend to plan and prepare for everything.  These are the folks that not only studied for the test, but they also imagined what the extra credit questions might be, and they developed some outlines for these extra credit questions.  When something goes wrong in the lives of these folks, they usually handle the situation without much trouble at all.  In fact, it’s common for these folks to find themselves in the middle of someone else’s tragedy, lending a hand, and doing what they can to help

I’m probably a lot closer to the second type of person.  So, I look at the potential of getting hurt while in the wilderness as a risk, and to mitigate that risk, I’ll do several different things, one of which is to attend a WFA class.

So, in the end, was the class worth it?  Well, I spent 2 days in a classroom, learning new things, all of which might end up saving my life, or the lives of people that I know.  While I’m by no means an expert in WFA, I am confident that having taken the class, I’m much more likely to be able to quickly organize my thoughts, and begin doing an effective assessment of the patient, with the expectation that I’ll produce a better outcome for them because of the WFA training that I’ve taken.

So, yes, the answer is yes, it was worth it.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.


  1. And to think if I was still living out there this is a course I could have joined you on (not the bike ride….just the WGFA training)

    1. Ralph, when I took this class, I figured that you would have wanted to join me. A great class, but I have not had to use any of it yet.

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