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How to Escape from Quicksand

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Despite what every corny '70s adventure flick may have led you to believe, you’re unlikely to run into quicksand in your day-to-day life. However, quicksand is still somewhat common near rivers, estuaries, and marshes, so it’s worth knowing how to get out. If you’re hiking alone and get that sinking feeling, don’t panic. Unless the tide rolls in while you’re stuck, you should be able to escape to safety.

1) Calm Down!

Forget what you’ve seen in movies - you’re not going to be sucked into a bottomless pit. Even in the deepest quicksand, you won’t sink far past your midsection. The human body is just too buoyant. So take deep breaths. The more air you have in your lungs, the better you’ll float like a human cork.

2) Toss Your Gear

All that extra weight will make you sink faster. Ditch your backpack and try wriggling out of your shoes. They will make escaping more difficult (boots in particular become stubborn suction cups when in mud.)

3) Don’t Move

Resist the urge to wiggle your legs. Quicksand is what’s known as a non-Newtonian fluid, so it liquefies whenever there’s movement. As you sink, your weight pushes water from the sand. With the water gone, the sand thickens, creating a vacuum that tugs you down.

4) Okay, Now Move

You’re sinking because the sand around your legs has lost water. But if that water can return, the sand’s grip should loosen. That’s your route to escape—and the only way to do that is to move.

5) Put Your Back Into It

Time to redistribute your weight. If you’re ankle or knee deep, slowly sit down. If you’re waist deep, lean on your back. Don’t panic about sinking—a pit of quicksand is like a swimming pool. You’ll sink if you stand, but you’ll float if you spread out on your back.

6) Time to Shake a Leg

With your upper body now serving as a counterweight, you can start pulling your legs out. Wiggle one leg in small circles and pull. Water will slowly flood the sand around you, weakening the quicksand.

7) Perfect Your Forward Crawl

Removing your leg in one fell swoop would require as much force as it does to lift a mid-sized car, so take your time. It may take a while to remove your leg, but you’ll get it out eventually. Once both limbs are free, gently flip onto your belly and crawl to solid safety.

Now that you’re free of the quicksand, you’ve got a story that you can use to wow your friends for the rest of your life. But you’ve also earned a reward. We may be biased, but we think a cold Dos Equis would be the perfect way to cool down after all that leg-pulling work.

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How to Shave With a Straight Razor
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Our Be More Interesting series will teach you new skills to wow your friends. Today, Max Silvestri learns to shave with a straight razor. 

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How to Cross a River Without a Bridge
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Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
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Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.

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