Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine

Essential for expeditions: mountaineers, hillwalkers and explorers - jungle, desert, ocean and remote areas

By Jim Duff, Ross Anderson

Written by doctors with a wealth of experience, this book covers the fundamentals of wilderness first aid and medicine. Clearly referenced chapters describe both how to minimise risks (including the preparation of first-aid kits) and how to cope with accident or illness in remote settings, from diving to high altitude and from desert to polar.

11 Aug 2017
15.5 x 10.0 x 1.4cm
  • Overview

    This conveniently sized guide is an invaluable point of reference for all who travel and take part in outdoor, wilderness and mountain activities. Written by doctors with a wealth of experience, it provides a comprehensive summary of wilderness first aid and medicine – that is, managing accident or illness in remote locations without immediate access to help – giving you confidence in your ability to deal with any situation that may arise.

    All topics are clearly referenced and easy to find, with chapters covering preparation, prevention, accident protocol, diagnosis, treatment and evacuation. From life-threatening emergencies to broken bones and sprains, infectious diseases, food poisoning, envenomation and respiratory problems, the book sets out all the crucial protocol and procedures to follow. It covers a wide range of different environments, including high altitude, desert, polar, tropical and marine, dealing with risk management and a variety of different scenarios. In addition, suggestions for first-aid kits and lists of medications and antibiotics (with dosage) can be found in the appendices.

    Minimizing risks is part of the challenge and satisfaction of wilderness travel. Now in its twelfth edition (the third for Cicerone), Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine is an indispensable companion for all outdoor activities and wilderness expeditions.

  • Contents

    Accident and illness protocol
    Acronyms and abbreviations
    Conversion tables
    Read this

    Part 1:    The fundamentals
    1.    Prevention
    2.    Positioning and moving a victim
    3.    Medications – what you need to know
    4.    Pain management

    Part 2:    Accident and illness protocol
    5.    Accident and illness protocol in a wilderness setting
    6.    Primary survey – dealing with life-threatening emergencies
    7.    Primary survey for specific situations
    8.    Shock prevention and stabilization
    9.    Secondary survey – working out what the problem is
    10.    Evacuation

    Part 3:    Problems and their treatment
    11.    Spinal and head injuries
    12.    Burns
    13.    Broken bones, dislocations, sprains and strains
    14.    Wounds
    15.    Bites, stings and nasty plants
    16.    Cold weather problems
    17.    Hot weather problems
    18.    Dehydration
    19.    Diarrhoea and food poisoning
    20.    Abdominal (belly) problems
    21.    Respiratory problems
    22.    Altitude illness – AMS, HACE and HAPE
    23.    Drowning and diving problems
    24.    Infectious diseases
    25.    Eyes, ears and mouth
    26.    Skin problems
    27.    Gender-specific problems and STIs
    28.    Other problems

    Appendix 1    Chart of medications
    Appendix 2    Antibiotics
    Appendix 3    Rescue request form
    Appendix 4    Marine envenomation
    Appendix 5    Altitude illness flowchart
    Appendix 6    Lake Louise Score (LLS)
    Appendix 7    Avalanche rescue flow chart
    Appendix 8    The skeleton and internal organs
    Appendix 9    First aid kits
    Appendix 10    Useful contacts and sources of information

    Index of diagrams
    Basic life support (BLS) in the wilderness


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    May 2018

    page 151 : 3rd box down on the right of the big box: ‘azithromycin 50mg daily..’ should read: ‘azithromycin 500mg daily..’.

  • Reviews
    A fantastic pocket guidebook that provides just enough information without going into too much depth and avoiding a lot of jargon

    G'day Jim, 

    I read the vast majority of your textbook whilst sheltering from some inclement weather in a hut on NZ's Ball Glacier. 

    The book manages to excellently straddle the divide between lay-persons (or maybe first-aiders) and clinicians who find themselves outside of the comfort zones of their surgeries or hospitals. I think it provides just enough information without going into too much depth and whilst nicely avoiding a lot of jargon.

    Jim and Ross, congratulations on a fantastic pocket guidebook that complements the Cicerone range of trekking guides well (I have a few of their other texts on my shelf).

    All the best and happy adventuring!


    If you are serious about wilderness travel, get a copy!

    When I took part in an expedition to the Antarctic I could have done with a copy of Cicerone’s ‘Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine’. We experienced teeth that required filling; frostnip; a broken knee; snow blindness; carbon monoxide poisoning; a seal bite that required 16 stitches; and a broken femur (same person who had the stitches). It was an eventful trip and we were accompanied by medics, but they were not always ‘in the right place’ when needed. 

    This book covers all these eventualities, and a lot more (and is the 3rd edition, published in August 2017). The preface sums up well its relevance to wilderness travel: “Venturing into remote areas on land or water involves a degree of risk. Minimizing these risks, while feeling confident in your ability to deal with any potential injury or illness, is part of the challenge and satisfaction of wilderness travel."

    Unlike First Aid, which is the immediate response to an accident or illness until timely medical help is available, wilderness medicine means providing First Aid, and THEN continued treatment without external help and with limited resources. This is where the pocket guide is really useful. It provides advice on specific and less obvious signs of illness, diagnosis, treatments, medications, pain management, disinfecting, dealing with immediate life-threatening situations, and useful checklists.

    A lot of information is packed into 252 pages. I would advise familiarising yourself with the contents and reading relevant sections thoroughly before setting out. When the ‘chips are down’, it is probably worth more than its weight in gold. If you are serious about wilderness travel, get a copy!

    Paul Flint

    A new edition of an acknowledged classic.

    This is a new edition of an acknowledged classic. The format is small and light enough to take on an extended trip where emergency services might be difficult to access quickly. It looks to be printed on waterproof paper.

    The advice and information given are very comprehensive, too much to assimilate on just one reading but as a reference guide it must be difficult to beat. It is unlikely that many members of the BPC will be heading off for 8000m peaks but it is more than likely that over the course of several years' backpacking some of the situations described will be encountered eg fractures or hypothermia. The advice given is spot on and should give people the confidence to act rather than just being a bystander.

    I am far from qualified to comment on the medical information given but the advice on priorities and protocols is just what is needed if the what's it hits the fan. Panic and ignorance don't help anyone,  including you the non-victim. DRABCS should be meaningful to all people who relish the outdoors.

    Stewart Brady, Backpacker

    “Every trekker and expedition member should have this first aid manual on the top of their rucksack as there is no aspect of mountain medicine and general first aid omitted.”

    Mountaineering legend Doug Scott 



    First aid and pre-hospital care in remote environments presents a serious challenge for even the most experienced outdoor professionals. While there will never be a replacement for training and experience, this recently updated and popular guide provides a wealth of information all collated into one place, and reflects current best practice.

    There are a number of books or guides on the market, but this editions pocket size and plasticised covers make it a handy reference text that can be realistically taken on a trip or expedition. The diagrams are clear, and the language avoids medical jargon for clear easily understood terminology.

    The order and progression of the text works well, and will be familiar to anyone who has undertaken a basic life support or Mountain Rescue casualty care training. The sections on primary and secondary surveys are excellent. There are appendices covering key areas such as avalanches and altitude sickness with algorithms providing a useful aide menoire to instructors and leaders working with groups in remote mountain areas. Information is also included on first aid kit contents and medication for a wide range of illnesses and conditions.

    Mike Margeson, Mountain Rescue

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Duff Jim

Jim Duff

Dr Jim Duff has more than 50 years' experience of climbing in Scotland, Norway, the European Alps, New Zealand, the Himalayas and is still an active sailor. He has taught wilderness medicine, first aid and leadership in the Himalayas, Australia and East Africa.

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Anderson A

Ross Anderson

Dr Ross Anderson is a GP and medical consultant for expedition and adventure travel companies. He holds the UIAA Diploma in Mountain Medicine and is a keen outdoor enthusiast with interests including trekking, ski touring and trail running.

View Guidebooks by Ross Anderson