Courses — 7 August 2021 at 8:51 pm

Unique Expeditions Wilderness Medicine Course, Wales – Review

Lydia Potter/ FY1/ Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Wales

This Wilderness medicine course is run by Unique Expeditions. An organisation forged from a union of military, medicine, and survival skills professionals; with over 40 years experience traveling through earth’s most inhospitable environments. Whether it’s jungles or mountains, arctic or desert, Unique Expeditions provide teaching and experiences for adventurous souls.


Key Facts

What – 5 days of medical simulation, practical learning opportunities, and plenty of outdoor adventure!

When – Wales Wilderness Medicine runs twice yearly. The next course date is September 2021.

Where – Parkwood Outdoors Dolygaer Activity Centre, a campsite in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales.

How much – £350 for a 5-day self-catered course (transport to the course not included).

Qualification/Accreditation – Wilderness First Responder Level 3 and accreditation with a Health and Safety Executive Remote First Aid At Work.

Delegates – The 30 available places are filled by candidates from all professional backgrounds; tied together by their love of the outdoors and desire for future expeditions.

the participants
The team

The Course

The course is taught by a range of Doctors, Paramedics, Expedition Leaders, and Mountain Rescue Teams, providing a wealth of knowledge and experience. A kit list, itinerary, and optional pre-reading are provided prior to the course to ensure adequate preparation; both practically and mentally. The pre-course organisation is excellent and any questions are answered in a timely manner.

On arriving at the campsite you will be met with the fantastic views over the nearby reservoir and forests. The large camping field has toilet/shower facilities, a sheltered forest area for sitting around a campfire as well as some indoor spaces for lectures. Some participants, from further afield, arrive the day prior to the course whilst others arrive the day the course commences; the organisers are very accommodating with arrival times. Being self-catered for the week encourages participants to practice and get creative cooking in a campsite environment.


Course Contents:

  • Camp craft skills – fire and shelter building
  • Preparation for and logistics of being an expedition medic
  • Navigation
  • Kit required for expeditions in various environments – mountain, jungle etc
  • Rope-work
  • Team building
  • Medical skills – trauma, c-spine, major haemorrhage, altitude medicine, cannulation, suturing, airways, BLS

All sessions (excluding some evening lectures) take place outside. Sessions are engaging and tutors encourage questions and discussions. Sessions are a mixture of full group lectures and small group activities. Delegates are split up into small groups at the start of the course, with a variety of medical experience and backgrounds. They are allocated a medical kit bag and take part in medical simulations in these groups throughout the duration of the course.

Simulations range from managing a casualty with snow blindness in the Himalayas (on a hill in the Brecon Beacons); to traumatic amputations from the use of an axe in a forest. In all scenarios you are required to work in your teams and get to practice radio communication with rescue services for extrication. Navigation is taught through practical sessions around the local hills. Evenings are spent sitting around the campfire, playing music and games with the whole group.

reservoir view
The view from the campsite

The Verdict

This was an excellent course. It was organised, fun and I gained a lot of knowledge and confidence in the field of wilderness and expedition medicine. The organisers had fantastic knowledge and real-life experience, which was clearly reflected in their teaching.

The highlights of the course for me were the wonderful people I met (both participants and staff), the real-life scenarios (both medical and outdoor skills), and the immersion into the expedition environment. Having the opportunity to spend a few days with experienced expedition medics and learn how to structure my career from them was invaluable.

One of the main benefits I feel this course has over other similar courses is the number of sessions on outdoor skills, such as starting fires and shelter building. Another great feature of the course is the huge amount of kit available to practice with, including that for expeditions in extreme environments such as high altitude, polar and remote jungles.

Everything I learnt was then practiced in real-life scenarios, which was particularly beneficial. As a result, I am now inspired to improve my outdoor skill set in order to work in wilderness medicine. I had an amazing 5 days in a beautiful part of the world, and would recommend this course to anyone!