A University of Utah study identified the injuries you’re most likely to face in the woods
1. Sprains and strains: 55%
Wearing a pack can throw off your balance and lead to a twisted ankle, so use trekking poles to stabilise yourself. If you cross any water, “face upstream so it hits your shins and doesn’t buckle your knees,” says Stauffer. Wipe out? If it’s agonising to press on the sides of your ankle or to take three steps, assume a fracture, says Webster. Use sturdy sticks for a splint, and exit the woods. For sprains, follow the I.R.I.C.E. prescription: ibuprofen, rest, ice, compression, elevation. No ice? Stick your foot in a stream or wrap a wet bandana around it. You’ll need to rest a full 24 hours, which is why people often opt to be evacuated.
2. Cuts, bruises and scrapes: 17%
Cover scrapes with Tegaderm, but don’t shrug off a cut as a mere flesh wound. Flush it with purified water, hold the skin together and apply duct tape, says Webster. If blood vessels are exposed, you’ll need stitches. But you may not have to make a beeline to the hospital: in a Stanford study, patients who waited 12-plus hours to get stitches fared just as well as those who sought immediate care.
3. Dental injuries: 5%
Even if you avoid rocks like they’re IEDs, you may still end up eating earth and losing a tooth in the process. Just don’t drop it in your pocket. “Rinse it off and put it back into its socket,” says Stauffer. “Use Dentemp – a paste for temporary fillings – to spackle between the adjacent teeth and cement it in. Or use dental floss to lasso it and tie it to the guy next door.” This preserves the tooth until your dentist can permanently reattach it. Whatever you do, don’t immerse it in your water bottle. “The blood vessels will basically turn to mush,” he says.