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Online Wilderness First Responder

Also valid as Wilderness-EMT upgrade.

The recognized industry standard for backcountry trip leaders, camp counselors, mountain guides, river guides, ski patrollers, and anyone else who works or plays in the outdoors.

Cost: $149


Completely online: pause, rewind, or double speed.

This is a 16-part course that teaches how to care for patients in remote locations or challenging weather, with questionable communication and support, improvised equipment, and limited time for decisions.

YouTube video

20+ Hours of Wilderness Lectures

Patient assessment, Basic Life Support, Circulatory System, Respiratory System, Nervous System, Trauma, Environmental Medicine, Animals and Insects, Medical-Legal, and more.  Course also includes textbook and 40+ hours of supplemental podcasts.

Medical Scenarios

Test your knowledge with real-life cases and challenging medical scenarios.  Make treatment and evacuation decisions based on the signs, symptoms, available gear, and environmental conditions.

Practical Skills

Improvise tourniquets, splints, bleed stoppers, spinal stabilization, litters, hypothermia wraps, and more with items around you.  Submit photos and videos to the course instructors and get feedback.  There is no need for extra equipment purchases.

Certification Exam

Final multiple-choice WFR Certification Exam and certificate (good for 3 years).  If you need the “Wilderness EMT” designation, submit proof of current EMT license.

Ready to get started?

Frequently Asked Questions

Our innovative curriculum was developed by wilderness and emergency medicine physicians at the University of Utah and Southern California, in response to an international need to improve the accessibility of outdoor education and wilderness certifications.  It is widely accepted, both nationally and internationally, including by the National Association of Search and Rescue, American Canoe Association, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, expedition and guide companies, and many more.

For more information, download the syllabus here.

You get 90 days of access to all course materials and lessons.

Certification requirements include completion of all portions of the class, passing the final written exam (>70%), and submission of all additional materials, including SOAP notes, medical cases, and practical skills.  Each component is checked thoroughly, and feedback is provided before certification is granted.

We spent all of 2021 converting the Wilderness First Responder curriculum into a virtual format to make it more affordable and accessible to those who need it.  By teaching this virtually, we save thousands of dollars on operation costs, such as travel and renting a classroom to teach it.  This allows us to charge significantly less than other WFR course providers.  It also allows us to teach a more thorough class than we could otherwise provide in-person, given the constraints and inefficiencies of the live classes.

Yes. The certification exam is included. It is comprehensive and multiple choice.

This online option is appealing for a wide variety of people. Some people are new to wilderness medicine, and they want a self-paced opportunity to learn the material. Others have extensive training and experience, and they want a refresher of their skills.  The variety of learning materials available (lectures, podcasts, textbook, practice scenarios, etc.) allow you to learn with whatever method is best for you, and at whatever pace you want.

No. There is no prior medical training required for the WFR course. However, even physicians and other healthcare providers will gain a lot from this course. The wilderness is a challenging setting, and medical care often differs from the standard hospital setting.

Yes. This course provides fantastic medical and outdoor education, and we encourage you to take it even if you don’t need the official certification.

It is completely self-paced. A motivated person could complete it in about a week.  Most students like to spread their learning out over a few weeks.  After submitting all course requirements, it generally takes a few days for us to check through it all, provide feedback, and issue the certification.  If you need expedited review, just reach out to us. 

Yes. If you submit proof of a current EMT license, we can designate your certificate as “Wilderness EMT” rather than “Wilderness First Responder.” However, this course alone has no bearing on the EMT licensure. You must submit current proof of licensure for the “Wilderness EMT” certificate.

You can use this course to re-certify as often as you need to.  The requirements are the same whether you are certifying for the first time, or recertifying.  However, students who have taken many WFR courses in the past and are very familiar with the material are able to complete it fairly quickly.

The WFR designation is the recognized industry standard for lay people (non-medical providers) who work in the outdoors. This certificate can help you gain employment with events, camps, mountain and river guide organizations, ski patrol, search and rescue, and much more. However, no matter where you earn your certification, your scope of practice and standard of care are determined by state and county laws, as well as your organization or employer and their medical director. Wilderness medicine courses alone (whether through us or any other organization) do not offer inherent legal protection or recognition by any state department of health.

There are many benefits to taking Wilderness First Responder online. You can complete it efficiently and on your own time, with minimal disruption to your school or work schedule. You can pause, rewind, and review topics you are weaker on, as well as double speed the topics if you’re a fast learner. The online format is also much less expensive. WFR courses typically cost around $1,000 plus travel expenses, and require as much as 10 days of commitment. We provide realistic cases that require you to think through scenarios in the same way you would in the in-person format. You must also demonstrate proficiency in the practical skills portions. We are also available to answer questions as you go.

This course was created by highly trained wilderness medicine physicians and outdoor professionals (see below). It exceeds the 2016 Established Minimum Guidelines and Scope of Practice for Wilderness First Responder (WFR). It is widely accepted, including by the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), American Canoe Association (ACA), National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, ski patrol agencies, guide companies, and countless more.  If you are unsure, we encourage you to send the course syllabus to your employer to verify that this course will satisfy your requirements.

Blanket (or tarp for an improvised litter); Sleeping bag (for hypothermia wrap); ACE bandage or other cloth wrap (for bleed stopper and tourniquet); Flexible splint or improvised splint material (sticks, boards, ski poles, or rolled up newspaper).


Scott Richardson
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The NOLS course was too much info, too fast. This course, being self paced, was the ticket for me. Natalie was always available to help with questions, and the lectures were well organized. I filled out the study guide as I went through the lectures and used that during the exam. As an alternative to the much more expensive 8 day courses, I would highly recommend this online course.
Kathleen Rutter
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I had been given a last minute directive to have WFR within a month or lose a seasonal job. I was about to pay MUCH more with the additional expense of lodging for a NOLS course when I found this course. I found this course engaging, stimulating, and appreciated being able to do it at home and at my own speed. Dr. Bonthius was attentive and answered my questions quickly. It was a great mix of online learning and the "personal" practical demonstration of skills. Thanks so much for helping me save money and perhaps my summer job!
Natalie H
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A strong format that highlighted important aspects but also ensured thorough knowledge of all contents. Helpful notes were given at submission of materials and easily accessible during the duration of the course!
Seth Timpano
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Excellent content and great value! I recommend this course.
Dave Learned
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Tremendous value! Great learning, great experience all around. Course materially thoughtfully conveyed via efficient and effective modules with accompanying study guide -- made self-paced learning easy. Now I'm ready to hike the PCT with confidence. Thanks Doctor Bonthius and team!
Shane Wallace
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I loved that I could do this at my own pace. Originally I planned to just pound it out and then life got in the way. If it would have been in a traditional classroom setting I might have needed to bail. The videos are great and the information is short, sweet and to the point which is how I like my information most of the time. I would recommend improving the videos Matt is in though. He lacks energy and sometimes it feels like he is rushing through things. His videos do the job though. The responses to email, questions and final submittal were fast and efficient. I loved that there were requires videos and pictures to take as well. No just sitting behind a computer monitor. Thanks for everything!
Mark Antonio
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I loved this class. The option of doing this virtually saved me so much time and money. I had to get my WFR re-certified for my job, and I was really stressed out that I wouldn't get it done in time. Dr. Bonthius helped me a lot and I was able to get it all done. She was extremely responsive and accommodating. I would recommend this class to anyone- it was lifesaving (figuratively AND literally) for me. Many of the other guides in my company have joined now. THANK YOU
Mary Heinz
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I so, so appreciated this class. I have to admit, I was skeptical of this early on. I was hesitant to do it online because I wasn't sure how it would compare to the in-person classes I've taken in the past. But this was extremely well-done. I liked being able to learn the material at my own pace. It made me realize how inefficient some of the in-person classes can actually be. I feel like I've retained much more of the information, especially the skills I'm most likely to end up using. I'll be referring the rest of my search and rescue team to this class. Thank you!
A Parker
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I really appreciated the course. I work full-time in Indiana and also guide in Grand Canyon seasonally for an REI-contract company (backcountry trips north & south rims), so WFR was an imperative for me! Being able to navigate the course without missing work (& the cost of travel to get to a course) was terrific. But, primarily, the course materials are very well done and I liked the added podcasts and video demos. (There was one podcast that said “unavailable”- I’ll try to find that for reference.) But, I was able to go back and rewatch several chapters (almost all of them actually) and that, plus the study guide, reinforced the learning in a way that live lectures crammed into a single week could not do. I am very pleased and am more than happy for you to use my submissions if it helps in your work. Thank you, again, for the obvious hard work it took to put this all together and offer it us in such a useful manner. (Frankly, I think you are undercharging for the value added/benefit of this course!).

Course Contributors

Natalie Bonthius, MD

  • Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) Candidate
  • Advanced Wilderness and Expedition Provider (AWEP)
  • Advanced Wilderness Life Support
  • International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) Board Member

Richard Ingebretsen, MD PhD

  • University of Utah School of Medicine clinical instructor
  • Program Director, University of Utah “Wild Med U” Program
  • Medical Director, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue
  • Former Associate Dean of Students Affairs, University of Utah College of Science
  • Founder of the Glen Canyon Institute
  • Vice-Chair of Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
  • Founder of Wilderness Medicine of Utah
  • Owner of River Bound Adventures

Kevin Grange

  • Firefighter/Paramedic, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and Grand Teton National Park
  • Award-winning author of Wild Rescues, Lights and Sirens, and Beneath Blossom Rain
  • Graduate of UCLA’S renowned Daniel Freeman Paramedic Program

Robert Scanlon, MD

  • Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, and Sleep Medicine
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS)
  • Owner – Somnopath, LLC-medical science consultant
  • Owner – Medical Media Consulting