There is no guarantee of rescue

National parks, (including Yosemite, where this first photo below photo was taken)
have Search and Rescue teams ready at a moment’s notice to help accident victims.

“Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) can extract an ill or injured party out of the backcountry
on crutches,
by horseback,
or even by helicopter,
but in most cases, YOSAR utilizes a litter carry out team.”

hiker on rescue litter who was injured trying to take a jumping photo to post on social media

But they can’t always get to victims in a hurry, or even get to them at all.


At the Grand Teton National Park Backcountry Camping page

There is a Backcountry Travel video

“to help plan your adventure to the high country in Grand Teton National Park.
Learn about safe travel, camping in bear country, clean camping practices and summer weather,”

that says, in part

“. . . you are responsible for your own safety when traveling in the back country.

If someone in your party has an accident or becomes seriously ill, stay calm and assess the situation. Provide first aid and establish a plan.

If you need help, rescuers will need to know the nature of the problem, and the patient’s location. Cell phone coverage is not reliable.

You may need to travel some distance to make a call or find assistance and remember, there is no guarantee of rescue.”

Be clear and detailed when you report to rescuers.
Example of nature of the problem is “the victim is unable to bear weight on a leg/ankle/foot injury”
not just . . . that the victim injured their foot/leg/ankle.


icon says plan to lose internet and cell phone reception

It can be good to plan in advance for accidents and illnesses. People who travel in the backcountry in minimum groups of four people can have one person stay with the victim, while two others go out together to get help (or find a place where their cell phone does function).

If you have a victim who has an ankle or foot injury, but can walk, you can divide the heavy items or even the entire contents of the daypack or backpack the victim was carrying among the other people in your group.

If they are still having trouble walking,

the walking assist pictured below (also known as the Human Crutch Technique),
can be used, as described in the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Manual
in the section Moving a Victim – non-emergency moves:

“either one or two lifeguards can use this method to move a victim who needs assistance walking.

1/ Stand at one side of the victim, place the victim’s arm across your shoulders and hold it in place with one hand.

2/ Support the victim with your other hand around the victim’s waist.

3/ Walk the victim to safety.”

two women on trail, one assisting the other

(Photo above taken in Grand Teton National park by Leeza Pushnof.)

You can have people assisting trade off the jobs of helping the person walk, or carrying heavy gear as you go along.

Do not expect to travel at the same speed as you would have just hiking. People should think safety by taking small steps and by stopping whenever the victim or people assisting want to or need to. If the trail has large steps, it might be best to have two people assisting, one on each side of the victim.

You could plan to stop regularly where there is a stream or lake to take the footwear off the victim’s foot/ankle and soak the injured part in the cold water of the stream / lake, just as you would apply a cold pack during more conventional first aid.

If the victim says that there is too much pain and they can not continue, they should be taken at their word. During an overnight backpack, if you can not get cellphone coverage, you might have to have an additional overnight stop since you will be moving slowly, so you should have always brought some extra food.

And note that you would not use this method to help “anyone you suspect of having a head, neck or spinal injury.”
And don’t aggravate injuries-(don’t move anything you think might be broken).


Prevention: is much better than dealing with injuries.

From National Outdoor Leadership School, (NOLS)

NOLS Common Problems

Majority of all injuries are athletic injuries, such as sprains, strains, etc. to knees, ankles and back from slips and falls around camp or when hiking

Common Causes of Athletic Injury on NOLS courses

Playing games such as hug tag and hacky sack

Tripping while walking in camp

Stepping over logs

Crossing streams, including shallow rock-hops

Putting on a backpack

Lifting a kayak or raft

Falling or misstepping while hiking with a pack (on any terrain)

Falling while skiing with a pack

Shoveling snow

Bending over to pick up firewood

1/3 of reported field incidents = wounds

Blisters are an everyday occurrence = moleskin, second skin, athletic tape

Most common illnesses are preventable gastrointestinal

Disinfect water, wash your hands, waterless soaps can be useful when water is scarce

“Hypothermia, seizures, heat stroke and pregnancy occurred but with low frequency.”

Conditions most frequently requiring evacuation were: “fractures, dental emergencies, tick fever. athletic emergencies and non-specific body pains.”


Prevention is the best medicine:

careful gear selection to keep pack weight manageable

fitness, stretching, nutrition

careful walking helping each other over obstacles

stopping before you are tired

From Mountaineering First Aid (The Mountaineers, Seattle)
contributing causes of accidents
from the American Alpine Club’s Accidents in North American Mountaineering

Bad judgment using equipment:

Climbing unroped

using inadequate equipment: no hard hat, etc.

failure of rappel

placing no or inadequate protection

Performance/judgment error:

exceeding abilities

climbing alone

loss of control on voluntary glissade

party separated, stranded

Environmental conditions:

bad weather

falling rock



Equipment failure:

chock nut/pull out

ascender breakage

cropped long narrow photo of part of the milky way

and see:

Heat illnesses (heat exhaustion and heat stroke, dehydration)

HIKING SECRETS and etiquette on the Hiking Advice webpage include hiking in the heat, preventing and/or dealing with blisters, logistics of hiking, a day hike gear list, Half Dome hiking advice, winter hiking and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?

Thunderstorm and lightning safety includes the answer to the question:
Why can’t you swim during a lightning storm? A strike on a lake doesn’t kill all the fish in the lake.

At altitude

backpacking advice has these sections:
Must bring for each large group (or perhaps for each couple or person),
Must bring backpacking for each person,
Some (crazy?) people think these are optional for backpacking,
Backpacking luxuries(?),
Do not bring these backpacking,
To keep down on weight backpacking,
Don’t rush out and buy,
BACKBACKING FOOD, Low-cook backpacking foods,
Yosemite National Park WILDERNESS PERMITS,
Leave no trace camping has these basic principles.

NPS drawing that says your cell phone is not a light source, NOT a map, not a survival kit, NOT always going to have reception

see also: Cell phones in the wilderness which has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.


NPS photo short haul rescue: National Park Service photo of a short haul rescue showing helicopter, litter and rescuer from below You can’t always expect a helicopter rescue

fatal, near fatal or close call incidents/accidents in camping, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering

GPS is not infallible

The use of cell phones for photography (with or without a selfie stick) has made preventable injury or even death by selfie common
They were just taking a selfie . . .

Wilderness first aid outline

Can a person who is prescribed an epi-pen risk going into the wilderness? and some sting prevention notes are at: Anaphylaxis quick facts