In remote areas, it is better to be prepared

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Last week, several Les Chèvres de Montagne ambassadors and I took the SIRIUSMEDX 40-hour course on first aid in remote areas. All the participants in this course are women who are passionate about the outdoors, daredevils and adventurers who have seen it all, but we quickly realized that we still had a lot to learn about safety and risk management. We came out of these 4 intense days with a nice little certificate of attestation, but mostly with a lot of new theoretical and practical knowledge, thanks to our incredible trainer: Renée-Claude Bastien. Here are the 5 major points that we remember from this training.

1. How far is a remote area?

When you hear the term isolated region, you may imagine yourself at the top of the Rockies or in the depths of the Gaspé Peninsula, but you don't have to go that far. So what is an isolated region? If an incident occurs and emergency services take more than an hour to reach your location (not just the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain, for example), you are in an isolated area.

Before you leave: look at the map and your itinerary, assess whether there are areas that are off the grid, far from reception or difficult to access, and analyze what your exit points would be in case of emergency.

2. A burrito, not Mexican!

One technique we've learned applies to almost any first aid situation in a remote area, especially when out in the winter: the burrito! Someone who is injured far from help will have to wait longer than a few minutes before being evacuated. We tested it ourselves, the body cools down really quickly by the mere fact of being immobile. So to protect it from the cold, we prepare a burrito with three ingredients:

  1. A fairly compact tarp, which should be placed on the snow or on the ground. You can also use the roof of a large tent. It insulates and it is very practical to move someone afterwards.
  2. A dense foam mattress that we place in the middle of the canvas and that serves as insulation with the ground, in addition to providing comfort.
  3. A small sleeping bag to keep warm.

3. A well-stocked kit is our best friend

With emergency services not arriving in the middle of the forest in a few minutes, we will often have to administer first aid ourselves. This means that we must have the necessary equipment with us, and adapt our kit to the activity we are doing. So in our Christmas stockings this year: bandages, survival blanket, foam mattress, light braces and portable saw!

4. Strength in numbers

An injured person is heavy. Evacuating someone in distress is difficult and requires a lot of energy, so doing our activities as a group is an advantage. In addition, there are several bags in which to distribute the first aid equipment.

5. Prevention is the key

After all these hours of training, we obviously feel more prepared to act in case of an incident in the field. But the goal is to use our new knowledge as little as possible, by preventing incidents that could occur. We have to prevent, make our entourage aware and ask ourselves the right questions before leaving:

  • Who am I going with? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my group?
  • What equipment is available on site? Is there a backboard, a kit, harnesses? Is it patrolled? Is there a network?
  • Are the risks taken in relation to what I can handle as consequences?

In short, it is our duty to practice the outdoors responsibly and to be aware of the risks. That's why we encourage everyone to get trained and learn about safety. If you would like to take part in a remote first aid course, please contact us at We are also offering an avalanche safety course next February: CSA 1 & guided days in Gaspésie.

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