Make Your Own Lifesaver

I know what you’re thinking. Build a survival raft—when will I ever need to do that? But before you turn the page, consider this: A hiker in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest was trapped on the far side of the Gila River last winter after it rose too high for her to wade back. Carolyn Dorn managed to survive five weeks before being rescued. In fact, crossing raging rivers is a survival situation outdoorsmen often face. Here is an easy way to build a brush raft. It’s designed to keep your gear dry while you swim and push it ahead of you. Though it’s buoyant enough to keep you from drowning, it can’t support your full weight. You’ll need a poncho or tarp, which determines its size. Tie a rope to the raft to hold on to while crossing. Step 1: Drive sticks into the ground to outline an inner and outer circle. The diameter should be about half the poncho’s width. width=300 Step 2: Weave limbs, saplings, and other wood into a doughnut shape, using the stakes as a guide. Secure it with cordage—vines, peeled bark, bootlaces, strips from your shirt. width=300 Step 3: Put the hood on the inner side. Tie the neck with the ­drawstring so it won’t let in water. width=300 Step 4: Place the brush raft on top of the poncho, and draw the sides up over the raft. Fasten to the brush via grommets or by tying cordage around small stones wrapped in the material. width=300