But what if you have to cross the river with your luggage?
Even a small stream or river can challenge you.
There are some risks you need to be aware of in order to act proactively.
Today you will learn what you have to consider and which tips will help you to cross a river (without great risk).
Find the right spot
Before you wade through open water, you should first look for a bridge or something similar.
Beaver dams, stones or fallen tree trunks can be useful here.
Just make sure that the natural bridges are stable.
If the beaver dam has already broken in one place, chances are it will break again when your weight is on it.
Also, stones are not necessarily the ideal path. There is a high risk of slipping and injuring yourself. So rely on square stones with more structure instead of flat stones. Flat rocks are often slippery and won’t grip your shoes.
What to do when there is no bridge in sight?
If you can’t find a way to cross the river dry, you’ll have to jump into the cold water.
You should first take your time to continue walking and observing the river.
Pay attention to the following points:
- risk of flooding: If it has just rained heavily, there is likely to be flooding. The river is much deeper and the current is usually stronger. This levels off a few hours after the rain falls and you should definitely take this time before crossing the river.
- nature: You can’t necessarily rely on maps either. The nature of the river changes over time and the marked crossing points may no longer be up to date. So take your time to properly assess the situation. The safest point is always a straight stretch of a river. If you think of the river bends like the letter “S,” then the middle of the “S” is the ideal crossing point. If you leave the stop here, the current should sweep you to the far bank of the river.
- widest point: Look for the widest point or where the water splits into multiple channels. The redistribution of the water usually results in shallower areas and the water flows more slowly. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the narrowest part of the river. The path is shorter here, but the water flows much faster here. So take your time for the crossing and try not to rush it.
- islands: Additionally you can search for river banks and smaller islands in the water. There the current breaks and offers you protection.
Once you have found an ideal spot, run the river in both directions. So you know what dangers lurk behind and before.
Never choose a crossing just before a waterfall or rapids! Scout out a rescue plan that can get you out of the current in an emergency.
But remember: No river crossing is worth dying for. If it doesn’t feel right, the current is too strong or the water is too deep, turn back and find an alternative.
It’s getting down to business: take these steps
You have already taken the first step and are reading this article to prepare yourself for an upcoming situation. The second step is to get a “dry bag” so that you can store all the essential equipment in it.
Sleeping bag phone and fire starter must be protected from the wet. If you do go swimming, you can warm yourself up later and dry your wet clothes again.
2. Check the water depth
The next step is to determine the properties of the water. For the depth of the water, you can use stones in the water as a guide or hold a long stick in the water.
You should stand in the water up to your knees at most. This will not always be possible, but should be approximately adhered to. Make sure that you also include smaller members of your group in this calculation.
Deeper water can also be considered with little to no current.
3. Strength of the current
To gauge the strength of the current, throw a stick into the water upstream and follow it. If the pole is faster than you can walk comfortably, the current is probably too strong.
Standing waves also indicate an uneven bottom or other obstacles underwater. Be aware of this and have it on screen at the crossing.
Crossing the river – it’s getting wet and serious
Shoes on or off? In the end you have to decide how you feel more comfortable and whether you can dry the shoes afterwards.
There is a risk of injury because you never know exactly what the surface is like. I would tend to leave the shoes on.
It is only important to be sure-footed, whether barefoot or with shoes. Flip-flops are therefore not an option!
If you’re not wearing shorts, I would definitely take your pants off and put them in your backpack.
Once the choice of clothing is made, you want one find a stable stick, which gives you extra support. You can also use it to feel the way ahead and identify potential risks.
Before you start, you should loosen the hip belt of your backpack. In an emergency, you want to get rid of it quickly, as it becomes a deadly hazard when filled with water. You could lose your backpack that way, but if the backpack pulls you down, it doesn’t matter anymore.
This is how you move through the river
In the water you can then position yourself facing upstream and lean slightly into the current. Now move diagonally down the river.
You should always maintain at least two points of contact with the ground. Either foot and stick or even both feet and the stick. You lift your feet only minimally to ensure optimal support.
Your gaze goes to the shore. Similar to heights, you should not look down as the rushing water can be as dizzying as looking down.
If you are in a group, you can venture through the cool water together. You should hook yourselves and the strongest person leads in front. The lead person positions themselves slightly up, breaking the water and opening the way for everyone else.
Finally, you should always keep the option open to turn back. Never insist too much on a chosen route, but recognize too high a risk early enough and turn back!
A river crossing is an exciting undertaking. It can boost your confidence and is also conducive to group cohesion.
Crossing a river should not be underestimated, however, as overzealous action carries some dangers.
If you study the river long enough beforehand, weigh up your options well and are always vigilant when crossing, you minimize the risks and have a good chance of continuing your adventure unscathed.