How to create a makeshift life jacket in seconds; video

This story was originally published on OFFGRID. Words by Patrick McCarthy.

If you ever find yourself near large bodies of water, it’s important to be a strong swimmer. However, even the strongest swimmer gets tired eventually, so you’ll need a backup plan in case you’re stranded in water for an extended period of time.

Having a life jacket or other flotation device on hand is wise, but if that’s not an option, you've got to make do with what you have: your pants.

This technique shows how to turn your pants into an instant life preserver, tying off the legs and scooping air in to inflate them. It has been used by the military, Scouts and lifeguards for many years, but if you’re not confident in how to do it already, you should learn ASAP.

This technique actually kills two birds with one stone: It removes an article of clothing that might otherwise weigh you down and impede you treading water, and it also provides extra buoyancy to help maintain your flotation — both things that will help conserve your energy and keep you safe.

A few extra tips not mentioned in the video:

• This technique can also be done by swinging the pants’ waistline into the water quickly from above instead of scooping air with your hands.
• The pants in this video are military-issue ACUs, made of special polyester/cotton ripstop material that’s ideal for this technique. Many other types of pants (including denim jeans) will work reasonably well, although they’ll probably leak air faster.
• If you’re wearing shorts or your pants are leaking, you can blow air into your shirt’s neck while it’s still on to achieve a similar result. Just keep the back of the neck tight against your neck, and keep the arms underwater.
• Try to keep the fabric wet by splashing water over the top, as the moisture should help prevent air from seeping out as quickly.
• It’s not as easy as it looks! Practice it while you can safely do so. You don’t want your first time trying this out to be a life-and-death scenario.

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