How to Improvise and Treat Wounds When Off-Grid or Outdoors

Any kind of venture into the great outdoors surely involves risks at different levels.

They can be either physical or psychological…or even a combination of both. This is what we can define as “a worst-case scenario“.

Among all, prepared-minded individuals, or survivalists if you will, are probably the most aware of them.

Only by understanding how the world around us works, can we understand our bodies and live well in and with nature and among others.”

Julia H Sun

In fact, some of the most common injuries experienced when outdoors happen to be cuts, along with bites and abrasions.

A major source of these wounds is intrinsically connected to the employment of cutting tools. Knives (either fixed blade or folding), but also axes, saws, and hatchets, are the main source of these hemorrhages.

It can happen even to the most experienced mountain men.

What really makes the difference is the severity of the wound itself. If it is massively bleeding, in fact, this means we need immediate care.

If a situation like this occurs when we are alone, we must take care of our injury in the most efficient manner possible.

Keeping total control of the whole situation is far from being an easy task to accomplish. Most of the time shock and panic easily take over.

Undoubtedly this is amplified when we don’t have the right gear inside our medkit. Or, again, if we don’t have our medkit with us at all!

In this article, we will learn how to face a possible “Stop the Bleed” scenario by taking advantage of some items we can grab in the woods.

If we know what to look for, we can address the situation through improvisation. Again, this is never a preferred course of action. First aid is a topic that should never be improvised unless there are no other options!

Improvisation Is Always the Worst Enemy

We celebrate our ability to create machines that move as man, yet we take for granted the miracle that is the human body.

David Alejandro Fearnhead

Building a proper medkit is our first task, and the most important.

In order to do it the right way you are advised to:

  • have attended First Aid Courses
  • have attended to some Wilderness Medicine Courses
  • have a professional check your medkit
  • master the knowledge of how to use each single piece inside your medkit
  • maintain and periodically check the status of your medkit

In the unfortunate case of a very severe wound, it goes without saying that you need to treat the bleeding injury by stopping the bleed.

This is something you can research pretty much anywhere on the web, but only the proper knowledge will guide you in the right way. Seek proper training and carry proper equipment when lives are at risk.

This article provides you only the main guidelines, specifically when you don’t have the right gear with you.

For this reason, let me recommend you to look for specific courses and instruction on this topic.

What to do in Case of Severe Bleeding

Generally speaking, you should always follow the mantra “First thing’s first“.

First of all, the wound must be cleaned with clean water and soap, or disinfectant, if possible.

In order to stop the bleed, you need to apply precise and direct pressure to the source. Avoid touching it with bare hands, when possible. The potential presence of dirt and bacteria which is present on your hands could be lethal.

Direct and constant pressure may be activated by using a clean freezer bag.

This is recommended inside the manual “BUSHCRAFT: First Aid” by Dave Canterbury and Jason A.Hunt.

Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care (Bushcraft Survival Skills Series)
  • Canterbury, Dave (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 06/13/2017 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

The further step is to create a dressing by ensuring it with some Gorilla Tape.

In case of a severe injury to arms or legs, your first choice must be a tourniquet. But, are you sure to be able to apply it in the right manner? Again, seek training first!

Taking part in classes, constantly refreshing your First Aid/Wilderness Medicine skill.

Nonetheless, the worst scenarios may happen even in your backwoods.

And in case you don’t have the right tools with you, Nature offers herself to become your drugstore. In fact, Nature can provide you with some good, natural elements to treat your bleeding in a natural way.

It is time to discover what we can actually employ in an emergency situation.

Benefits of Plant Identification

Any prepper should be extremely aware of the many benefits an individual may get from mastering plant identification.

Once we knit biology to the canvas of consciousness, things get enough complicated already. Let alone culture, science and other conditionings layered on top of them.

Saroj Aryal

Some plants, in fact, can accomplish multiple and very notable tasks simultaneously. One above all, the walnut tree, as we will soon discover.

Learn How to Stop Bleeding With Plants

We’ve lulled ourselves into believing that in an emergency, someone else will always come along to rescue us

Chris McDougall


As a matter of fact, any plant with tannins can be successfully employed to stop bleeding. From this perspective, these plants can be also used as “vulnerary”.

In fact, they are good for healing wounds in a reasonable amount of time, especially if the wound itself does not happen to be too severe.

Trees like Poplar (Populus), Oak (Quercus), and Walnut (Juglans regia) happen to contain a huge amount of tannins.

Tannins, also called tannoids, consist of a class of polyphenolic biomolecules that are astringent. They can precipitate proteins and also other organic compounds, like amino acids and alkaloids.

Additionally, due to the capacity of being astringent, tannins are a great aid in encouraging clots or clotting.

It is also proven that another substance which has tannins like, for example, green tea “[…] contributes to a significant decline in bleeding of the socket caused by tooth extraction as well as reduction of oozing […]” (“Evaluation of the Effect of Green Tea Extract on the Prevention of Gingival Bleeding after Posterior Mandibular Teeth Extraction: A Randomized Controlled Trial“, Soltani and other Authors, 2014).

By getting tannins from the oak, walnut, and poplar trees you will have the chance to get a natural remedy that can cause the blood to clot because of their hemostatic effect. In fact, as mentioned above, tannins are high in astringent.

In this specific way, they cause blood vessels to constrict. Additionally, they are also antiseptic, by killing bacteria. If you apply them to your previously cleaned wound, you will lower the risk of infection.

You can employ some clean gauze to soak up the tannins and apply them to the wounds. If you have some green tea bags, you have the opportunity to use them as well. Who doesn’t carry green tea into the woods?

Getting a warm tea is not only good for your morale, but it can also provide tea bags which are still good to use (mild!) on your direct skin.

Powder and Poultice

The powder you can gain from Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and the poultice you can make out of White Oak (Quercus alba) bark have been used for a long time to treat bleeding wounds.

Native Americans, for example, made extensive use of it which has been successfully handed down till nowadays.

“[…] The German Commissioner has approved it for treating diarrhea. It has also been listed on the U.S. Pharmacopoeia since 1916 for its astringent and antiseptic qualities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designates oak bark as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe […]” (taken from Very Well Health)

You can shred Black Walnuts and get a powder out of them, which should be completely cleaned out of any maggots. You can both get a tincture or a powder (if you let them dry out).

You can store the powder inside a freezer bag, which should be clean.

The poultice made out of White Oak bark has indeed the very same benefits. If you process it in the right way, you will be sure to get some very valuable benefits out of it.

The first step is drying the bark. This is good either for immediate use or for a later one.

But be careful of how you place the bark in a well-shaded spot! Avoid overlapping in order to get proper dryness.

Put it inside a non-aluminum pot for at least twenty minutes, using just one cup of water.

Wait to cool down and submerge a gauze into it.

You can also drink it in order to treat:

  • mucus
  • sore throats and mucus
  • insomnia
  • chronic diarrhea

It is highly recommended by all the experienced herbalists all over the world not to abuse.

Nature provides us all the necessary elements and tools to fix an emergency situation and quite any potential deadly medical conditions, as indigenous populations taught us all over the centuries.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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