If you find yourself in deep water without a floatation device, it is time to improvise.
Without a means of staying afloat, you will be wasting precious energy while waiting for help to arrive. This method will save that energy, giving you a much higher chance of survival.
The technique itself is not new. It is taught to the U.S. Marines and is not just a valuable survival skill, but also fun to learn.
You will need to experiment as this may not work with all clothes. Waterproof or cotton clothing will work well for this purpose. Rainwear or canoeing cags are probably best.
The first thing that you are going to need to do is to start treading water. You should do this long enough to give yourself time to calm down. You will not be able to do this if you are panicking.
Get Rid of Your Shoes
Your shoes are going to weigh you down so you will need to get rid of them as soon as you have calmed down enough to think logically.
This will also help for the next step. You will need to try and be careful here as you don’t want to let your grip of your shoes go just yet as your shoe laces are going to come in handy.
If you do lose the shoes without retrieving your laces, you can just tie knots into your clothing instead.
How to Use Your Pants as a Floatation Device
When the ends of the legs to your pants are tightly tied, each leg will hold a pocket of air that will allow you stay afloat.
Remove your trousers and tie knots into the lower legs or tie the trouser legs together, and button or zip up the fly. This will allow you to raise them above the water to fill them with air which enables them to float.
Inflate your trousers with one of the methods below. Float with this buoyancy aid for 1 minute and then re-inflate as required.
- Blow air into your trousers – Put your mouth inside the collar but keep your nose out. Inhale with the nose and then exhale through the mouth into your trousers. Soon they fill with enough air to keep you afloat.
- Splash method – Hold the waistband open underwater with one hand. While using the scissor or frog kick to stay afloat, splash water and air toward the waistband opening with a downward motion of the hand. Stop the stroke at the opening. Forcing a current of water and air bubbles into the trousers straightens the pant legs. The water passes through leaving air trapped at the ends. Gather and hold the waistband together. Slip your head between the trouser legs, and place the knot behind your neck. Lie back and float.
- Sling method – Hold the waistband open with both hands behind your head. Then sling the trousers over your head, scooping in the air that is trapped when the open end of the trousers (the waistband) hits the water. Now position yourself between the legs and stay afloat.
How to Use Your Top as a Floatation Device
Make a close seal with the collar around your head. Make sure that only your mouth is inside, with your nose out above the collar.
Like the method above, breathe in with the nose and exhale with the mouth into your anorak or T-shirt.
You will notice how the air volume builds up over time and providing that you keep a good collar seal, the air will stay inside for a good while.
Another method for using your top is to take it off one arm at a time and then hook it up into a flotation device.
Using your pants as a buoy, tie off the arms and neckline of the shirt into a knot. Squeeze out any excess water and then wave it over your head to fill it up with air. Quickly tie the bottom of the shirt off to trap the air.
Assess Other Means of Making a Floatation Device
Tote bags and backpacks can be used for flotation devices the same way clothes can by filling them up with air and tying them off. Long socks can be used to tie things off, to keep your feet warm in freezing water, or as flotation devices. Sundresses can be very effective flotation devices and hold a lot of air. Even tank tops can be used to hold air. Assess what you have, and more importantly, what you can use.
Rid the Weight
To give yourself the best possible chance of floating, you need to get rid of any unnecessary objects that may weigh you down. This includes jewelry, hats, things in your pockets or other heavy items. Don’t worry about losing your favorite necklace, your life is worth much more than what jewelry you have on.