Field Expedient Pelvic Splints

One of the most challenging patients encountered in the wilderness setting is the trauma patient, as they are often difficult to move and treat in the field. Pelvic fractures, specifically open-book type fractures, often present significant pain and can have associated life-threatening hemorrhage. The goal of field management of the pelvic fracture is to minimize movement of the broken bony pelvis, thereby reducing bleeding and providing some comfort. There are a number of commercial devices available for splinting pelvic fractures. However, these are not necessarily the most practical items to carry in the field and are often expensive. Many improvised methods exist, each with their advantages and disadvantages. One of the goals of any wilderness medicine kit is to carry items that are multi-functional, light-weight, and durable. A few of these items include the SAM type splint (SAM Medical products ®), C-A-T® tourniquet, zip ties, and duct tape (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

These items can also be utilized to make a field pelvic splint. There are two methods utilizing a SAM type splint as a pelvic binder. The first method utilizes a SAM type splint (36 X 5.5 inch, although a 36 X4.25 may also be utilized) with its ends folded over approximately three inches. A vertical, approximately two inch length cut is made into the foam and aluminum, producing a through-and-through slit which allows enough room to accommodate the width of a C-A-T® tourniquet. A stick, some gauze, or any other object is then inserted between the fold and cuts. This provides stability to the splint and prevents any tearing of the splint (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2















A single C-A-T® tourniquet is then fed through one end and out the other. The tourniquet is then cinched down and Velcro fastened to itself in the same fashion as would be used to secure it on an extremity. The windlass on the C-A-T® tourniquet is then utilized to further tighten the splint (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3










We recommend that before the splint is tightened, the patient’s feet are secured to one another using either the patients shoe laces or using tape such as duct tape to secure the feet together (Figure 4).   This will cause the femurs to internally rotate further, helping to close the pelvis. Due to the narrow width of the SAM-type splints, proper positioning over the greater trochanters is essential for optimal compression.

Figure 4
Figure 4















The other method for employing a SAM-type splint as a pelvic splint involves the use of zip ties. Try to use at least 24-inch long zip ties.  Again, both ends of the SAM-type splint are folded over approximately three inches. Two holes or perforations are made through the ends in tandem, spaced approximately three inches apart to allow the zip ties to fit through. A stick, some gauze, or any other object is then inserted between the fold and cuts. This provides stability to the splint and prevents any tearing of the splint. The zip ties are then fed through and cinched (Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5

Keep in mind that all these splints should be placed low enough that they cause closure of the pelvis and are not placed high over the iliac crest, potentially causing further opening of the pelvis.

10 Common Wilderness Survival Mistakes

Drinking Urine.

Urine contains dissolved solids (urea, uric acid, creatinine and ammonia), inorganic substances (sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, phosphates and sulfates) and bacteria (often from the surrounding skin). Urea is a natural diuretic and water is required to dissolve and excrete it from the body. As dehydration increases so does the amount of urea that needs to be processed. In other words, drinking urine dehydrates you more quickly than drinking nothing at all.

Trying to snare a deer.

Imagine a 150- to 200-pound animal with its neck or leg stuck in a snare. Not only will you be causing it a lot of unnecessary pain, you’re left with a problem: How are you going to kill it? Unless you have a firearm, you’ll likely get hurt trying to put the animal down. In a survival setting, it is much safer and more efficient to focus on small game like rabbits, squirrels and rats.

Eating a raw bug.

Although bugs, like grasshoppers, can be a great food source, they are known to carry parasites and should be cooked before consumption. In addition to killing the parasites, cooking a bug usually makes it more palatable. Better to have a stew made from slugs, maggots, grubs or cockroaches than to eat them raw.

Eating food when you don’t have water.

You can live weeks without food and only days without water. Your body needs water to digest food, so eating when you don’t have water will only accelerate dehydration. In a long-term survival situation, of course, food will become necessary, so it is important to establish your camp near a location that provides both water and food.

Wearing a wet base layer.

The layer of clothing closest to your skin–which should usually be made out of a material like Polypropylene–should always be dry. Polypropylene wicks moisture away from the body, making it a great base layer. Wearing it when wet, however, is a mistake, as it will have a major impact on how quickly your body loses heat (you lose body heat 26 times faster when you are wet then when dry). For best use, keep the base layer dry. If it gets wet, change it or take it off, wring out the moisture, and put it back on.

Choosing fire over shelter.

Building a fire takes time and even if you get one going, you’ll be up all night adding fuel to the flames. Fire is the third line of personal protection (it comes after clothing and shelter) and shouldn’t be considered until a shelter that protects you from wind and moisture has been established. It is okay, however, to use a small fire to warm you during the shelter-building process.

Traveling when you don’t know where you are.

If you don’t know where you are, how will you know where to go? Travel should only be considered if your location doesn’t meet your needs, rescue doesn’t appear imminent and you have the navigational skills to get from one point to another (know where you are and where you are going).

Drinking alcohol to stay warm.

Although a sip of whiskey may make you feel warmer, it actually promotes hypothermia. Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow to the surface of the skin and allows the outside cold to pilfer heat from the body core (brain and vital organs). Instead of alcohol, drink water and wear appropriate clothing!

Believing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, relative to your position.

The sun’s path changes daily, reaching its northern and summer extremes on June 21 (summer solstice) and December 21 (winter solstice). The sun passes directly over the equator during the equinoxes (March 21 and September 23). Unless you are on the same latitude as the sun’s path, it will not rise or fall directly east or west of your location. In fact, it can be off by a large percentage, making navigation by sun next to impossible.

Taking your hat of when you are hot.

You lose 50 to 75 percent of your body heat through your head. Heat is calories and calories provide the body with the energy needed for daily tasks. It is better to slow down or remove a middle layer of clothing (between your coat and T-shirt) than to work up a sweat and waste precious calories.

The Attitude of Survival

A wilderness emergency could possibly happen to anyone, anywhere. When confronted with an unexpected survival situation man has the potential to overcome many challenges, beat incredible odds, and come out a survivor. But just what is survival anyway? Survival is the art of surviving beyond any event. To survive means to remain alive; to live. Survival is taking any given circumstance, accepting it, and trying to improve it, while sustaining your life until you can get out of the situation. And most importantly, survival is a state of mind.

Survival depends a great deal on a person’s ability to withstand stress in emergency situations. Your brain is without doubt your best survival tool. It is your most valuable asset in a survival situation. It isn’t always the physically strong who are the most effective or better at handling fear in emergency situations. Survival more often depends on the individual’s reactions to stress than upon the danger, terrain, or nature of the emergency. To adapt is to live. Mental skills are much more important than physical skills in survival situations. A person’s psychological reactions to the stress of survival can often make them unable to utilize their available resources. You most likely won’t use your physical skills if you don’t have a positive mental attitude.

One definitely must be in the proper frame of mind to survive an unplanned survival situation. Attitude or psychological state is most certainly number one. It is undoubtedly the most important ingredient of survival. With the proper attitude almost anything is possible. To make it through the worst a strong will or determination to live is needed. A powerful desire to continue living is a must. The mind has the power to will the body to extraordinary feats. Records have shown that will alone has often been the major factor for surviving wilderness emergencies. Without the will to live survival is impossible. Survival is possible in most situations but it demands a lot of a person. Humans can be very brave and resourceful when in emergency situations. The mind is a very powerful force. It has control of the body, its actions, and its reasoning. What affects you mentally affects you physically. If you think that you can’t survive, then you won’t try to survive. A commitment or goal to live, refusal to give up, and positive mental attitude greatly increase chances for survival.

A positive attitude has a very strong influence on the mentality and motivation necessary for setting a goal to live. Set goals give motivation and attitude necessary to survive pressures. When placed in an unexpected survival situation you will be forced to rely upon your own resources; improvising needs and solving problems for yourself. If you want to survive then you must ultimately decide to take care of yourself and to not count on others to help you. You must continually strive towards a goal of survival. Picture your goal in your mind and visualize yourself reaching it. A person with a stubborn strong will power can conquer many obstacles. Never give up your goal to live, because without any will to live those lost in the wilderness will likely despair and die.

While in your survival situation you will be confronted with many problems that you will need to overcome. Your brain will be your best asset but it could also be your most dangerous enemy. You will have to defeat negative thoughts and imaginations, and also control and master your fears. You will need to shift mental processes and adopt that positive and optimistic “can do attitude”. You will need to be creative and use your ability to improvise to adapt to the situation. Work with nature instead of against it. You will have the crucial task of solving the problems of staying alive. Your problem solving must be based on recognizing threats to your life, knowing their priority of influence, knowing their severity of threat to your life, and taking actions that will keep you alive. It is important to consider your safety at all times. If you sum up and analyze what you need to combat it will be easier to fight known enemies than if you were fighting something unknown. Loneliness, fatigue, pain, cold/heat, hunger, thirst, and fear are your major enemies in emergency survival situations.

To keep your body alive you must react to your body’s problem indicators and defend yourself against the major enemies of survival. Always remember to keep your positive mental attitude. Don’t add any extra burden to yourself by falling into a destructive mental state like feeling self-pity or hopelessness. Remember the important aspects of your life and don’t let the image fade. Think of being lost as an opportunity to explore a new area. With the proper attitude your experience could be interesting. Enjoy the challenge. You might as well enjoy the outdoors while you’re there and grow stronger as an individual as a product of your survival experience. Your positive mental attitude will help you combat your survival enemies. Most people have more than likely experienced loneliness, fatigue, pain, cold/heat, hunger, thirst, and fear before, but have not had to combat them all at once, and to the extent that they have been a threat to their lives. Any one or a combination of them can diminish your self-confidence or reduce your desire to struggle for life. All of these feelings are perfectly normal but are more severe and dangerous in wilderness survival situations. By learning to identify them you will be able to control them instead of letting them control you.

Loneliness is a survival enemy that can hit you without warning. It will strike you when you realize you are the only person around who you can depend on while in your situation. Nowadays modern society barely gives us a chance to test our ability to adapt to silence, loss of support, and separation from others. Don’t let loneliness gnaw at your positive attitude. Fight it by keeping busy by singing, whistling, daydreaming, gathering food, or doing anything else that will take your mind off the fact that you are alone. Also while in your survival situation, boredom or lack of interest might strike you. It must be cured to maintain a healthy survival attitude. Once again keep busy to keep your mind occupied.

Make sure to avoid fatigue. Fatigue is the overuse of the muscles and the mind and is a serious threat. It can cause you to lower your defenses and become less aware and alert to danger. It causes inattention, carelessness, and loss of judgment and reasoning. Take time to refresh and rest your brain and body. Conserve your energy. Rest, sleep, and calmness are essential. Pain is natures signal that something is wrong. When in moments of excitement you may not feel any pain. Don’t let it get the best of you; it can weaken your desire to go on.

Cold and heat are other enemies of survival. Exposure to the elements can be very dangerous. Get sheltered as best you can. If cold try and find shelter and build a fire. If in really hot weather get out of the sun. In the cold you might find it easier to sleep in the day time and stay awake at night by a warm fire. In very hot weather you might also want to seek shelter and/or sleep in the daytime.

Hunger and thirst are enemies that can really depress your positive mental attitude. Try and find some water. Food can wait. A person can survive for weeks without food. Try and conserve your body’s energy reserves. You may be better off resting than wandering around aimlessly looking for food. Even if you find food you may have depleted more energy than the food can supply you with. If you can acquire food easily then go for it. A man with a full belly can withstand more survival pressures than a man with an empty belly. Lack of nutrition could make you more susceptible to depression. Remember your positive frame of mind and keep your goal to live fresh in your mind.

Fear is a big enemy to guard against. Fear is a completely normal reaction for anyone faced with an out of ordinary situation that threatens his important needs. People fear a lot of things. People have fear of death, getting lost, animals, suffering, ridicule, and of their own weaknesses. The thing most feared by people going into the wilderness is getting lost. There is no way to tell how someone will react to fear. Fear usually depends entirely on the individual rather than on the situation at hand. Fear could lead a person to panic or stimulate a greater effort to survive. Fear negatively influences a man’s behavior and reduces his chances for successful survival. The worst feelings that magnify fear are hopelessness and helplessness. Don’t let the idea of a complete disaster cross your mind. There is no benefit in trying to avoid fear by denying the existence of a dangerous survival situation. You need to accept that fear is a natural reaction to a hazardous situation and try to make the best of your predicament.

Do your very best to control your fears. Be realistic. Don’t let your imagination make mountains out of mole hills. Expect fear and learn to recognize it. Live with fear and understand how it can alter your effectiveness in survival situations. Don’t be ashamed of any fears you may have. Control fear, don’t let it control you. Fears can be lessened by keeping the body busy and free from thirst, hunger, pain, discomfort, and any other enemies to survival. Learning basic outdoor and first aid skills may help you prevent or ease fears by increasing your confidence in yourself. If fear creeps up on you make sure to think of positive things. Maintain your positive mental attitude.

A more dangerous enemy than fear is panic. Panic is an uncontrolled urge to run or hurry from the situation. Panic is triggered by the mind and imagination under stress. It results from fear of the unknown, lack of confidence, not knowing what to do next, and a vivid imagination. Fear can build up to panic and cause a person to make a bad situation worse. In a panic a person’s rational thinking disappears and can produce a situation that results in tragedy. A panic state could lead to exhaustion, injury, or death. A positive mental attitude is still the best remedy. To combat fear and panic keep your cool, relax, see the brighter side of things, and stay in control. Keep up your positive self-talk and remember your goal of survival.

Keeping a positive mental outlook is for certain the most important aspect of survival. While in a survival situation you will practice self-reliance. You will only be able to depend on yourself and your abilities. You will have to overcome many challenges that you are not accustomed to. Modern society is conditioned to instant relief from discomforts such as darkness, hunger, pain, thirst, boredom, cold, and heat. Adapt yourself and tolerate it, it’s only temporary. When you first realize that you’re in a survival situation stop and regain your composure. Control your fears. Recognize dangers to your life. Relax and think; don’t make any hasty judgments. Observe the resources around you. Analyze your situation and plan a course of action only after considering all of the aspects of your predicament. Be sure to keep cool and collected. It is important to make the right decision at all times. Set your goal of survival and always keep it fresh in your mind. Never give up. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.


July 2016 Wilderness Survival Techniques

CCC0008$198.75 CDN

Wilderness Survival Techniques is a  2 1/2 day course designed to cover the survival basics while enjoying a wilderness setting. Participants are instructed in the principles of survival, have the skills demonstrated, and then gain hands on experience practicing these skills. All class sessions are held outdoors in the Rocky Mountain Wilderness, where the validity of each theory may be shown more effectively. Some classes may be modified as they progress due to the unpredictability of nature and weather.

Participants will meet on Friday at the Fallen Timber Creek staging area in Alberta, after a briefing session the group will then walk-in to their class area in the wilderness recreation area. Not just another cut and dried class, student participation and interaction is strongly encouraged as each skill set is introduced. Our main focus in this course is to have you listen to the theory, watch the skill, and then learn the skill by doing…

Some areas covered:

  • Pre trip planning
  • Proper clothing selection
  • The psychology of survival
  • The Mini kit
  • The Rule of Threes
  • Immediate actions
  • Effective shelters
  • Fire basics and emergency fire making
  • Water procurement and sanitizing
  • Navigation
  • Edible plants
  • Improvisation
  • Ropes and knots
  • Signalling
  • Obtaining food by snare, trap, and hook

Students will receive an introductory package beforehand containing a what to bring list. All participants receive reference guide ( actual classes will be visual and hands on), items needed for a personal mini kit, and a familiarity with the processes involved in preparing to survive. All accommodations will be tent or shelter.

As this is an outdoor course, the minimum age will be sixteen years (16), however the minimum may be waived in order to accommodate Scouts, Guides, and other youth groups. A waiver will have to be agreed upon and signed by each participant. No wildlife will be harmed during the snare, trap and hook sessions.

 Come enjoy the beautiful Rocky Mountain Wilderness with us! Contact to register, or use this link