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Expedient water crossings
Rivers and streams
Rapids
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Home / Outdoor Survival

OUTDOOR SURVIVAL

Expedient Water Crossings: Rafts

If you have two ponchos, you can construct a brush raft or an Australian poncho raft. With either of these rafts, you can safely float your equipment across a slow-moving stream or river.

Brush Raft

The brush raft, if properly constructed, will support about 115 kilograms. To construct it, use ponchos, fresh green brush, two small saplings, and rope or vine as follows (Figure 17-4):

  • Push the hood of each poncho to the inner side and tightly tie off the necks using the drawstrings.
  • Attach the ropes or vines at the corner and side grommets of each poncho. Make sure they are long enough to cross to and tie with the others attached at the opposite corner or side.
  • Spread one poncho on the ground with the inner side up. Pile fresh, green brush (no thick branches) on the poncho until the brush stack is about 45 centimeters high. Pull the drawstring up through the center of the brush stack.
  • Make an X-frame from two small saplings and place it on top of the brush stack. Tie the X-frame securely in place with the poncho drawstring.
  • Pile another 45 centimeters of brush on top of the X-frame, then compress the brush slightly.
  • Pull the poncho sides up around the brush and, using the ropes or vines attached to the comer or side grommets, tie them diagonally from comer to corner and from side to side.
  • Spread the second poncho, inner side up, next to the brush bundle.
  • Roll the brush bundle onto the second poncho so that the tied side is down. Tie the second poncho around the brush bundle in the same manner as you tied the first poncho around the brush.
  • Place it in the water with the tied side of the second poncho facing up.

Australian Poncho Raft

If you do not have time to gather brush for a brush raft, you can make an Australian poncho raft. This raft, although more waterproof than the poncho brush raft, will only float about 35 kilograms of equipment. To construct this raft, use two ponchos, two rucksacks, two 1.2-meter poles or branches, and ropes, vines, bootlaces, or comparable material as follows (Figure 17-5):

  • Push the hood of each poncho to the inner side and tightly tie off the necks using the drawstrings.
  • Spread one poncho on the ground with the inner side up. Place and center the two 1.2-meter poles on the poncho about 45 centimeters apart.
  • Place your rucksacks or packs or other equipment between the poles. Also place other items that you want to keep dry between the poles. Snap the poncho sides together.
  • Use your buddy's help to complete the raft. Hold the snapped portion of the poncho in the air and roll it tightly down to the equipment. Make sure you roll the full width of the poncho.
  • Twist the ends of the roll to form pigtails in opposite directions. Fold the pigtails over the bundle and tie them securely in place using ropes, bootlaces, or vines.
  • Spread the second poncho on the ground, inner side up. If you need more buoyancy, place some fresh green brush on this poncho.
  • Place the equipment bundle, tied side down, on the center of the second poncho. Wrap the second poncho around the equipment bundle following the same procedure you used for wrapping the equipment in the first poncho.
  • Tie ropes, bootlaces, vines, or other binding material around the raft about 30 centimeters from the end of each pigtail. Place and secure weapons on top of the raft.
  • Tie one end of a rope to an empty canteen and the other end to the raft. This will help you to tow the raft.

Poncho Donut Raft

Another type of raft is the poncho donut raft. It takes more time to construct than the brush raft or Australian poncho raft, but it is effective. To construct it, use one poncho, small saplings, willow or vines, and rope, bootlaces, or other binding material (Figure 17-6) as follows:

  • Make a framework circle by placing several stakes in the ground that roughly outline an inner and outer circle.
  • Using young saplings, willow, or vines, construct a donut ring within the circles of stakes.
  • Wrap several pieces of cordage around the donut ring about 30 to 60 centimeters apart and tie them securely.
  • Push the poncho's hood to the inner side and tightly tie off the neck using the drawstring.
  • Place the poncho on the ground, inner side up. Place the donut ring on the center of the poncho. Wrap the poncho up and over the donut ring and tie off each grommet on the poncho to the ring.
  • Tie one end of a rope to an empty canteen and the other end to the raft. This rope will help you to tow the raft.

When launching any of the above rafts, take care not to puncture or tear it by dragging it on the ground. Before you start to cross the river or stream, let the raft lay on the water a few minutes to ensure that it floats.

If the river is too deep to ford, push the raft in front of you while you are swimming. The design of the above rafts does not allow them to carry a person's full body weight. Use them as a float to get you and your equipment safely across the river or stream.

Be sure to check the water temperature before trying to cross a river or water obstacle. If the water is extremely cold and you are unable to find a shallow fording place in the river, do not try to ford it. Devise other means for crossing. For instance, you might improvise a bridge by felling a tree over the river. Or you might build a raft large enough to carry you and your equipment. For this, however, you will need an axe, a knife, a rope or vines, and time.

Log Raft

You can make a raft using any dry, dead, standing trees for logs. However, spruce trees found in polar and subpolar regions make the best rafts. A simple method for making a raft is to use pressure bars lashed securely at each end of the raft to hold the logs together (Figure 17-7).


Expedient water crossings
Rivers and streams | Rapids | Rafts | Flotation devices | Other water obstacles | Vegetation obstacles

 

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