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Probably every Hollywoodian adventure flick out there has at least one scene where the protagonist or, better yet, the bad guy, finds himself trapped in quicksand. Film producers gave their very best to depict as gruesomely as possible what it means to become entangled in that sandy pit of death.

I have to admit that, for a very long time, I was convinced that there was no difference between stepping in quicksand and doing the mamba in a minefield. Although most of the things you see in movies are BS, not all are fictitious.

For instance, I remember seeing a screen adaption of The Hound of Baskerville, my favorite story from the Sherlock Holmes universe, in which one the main characters explain to doctor Watson how people may ‘unstuck’ themselves from quicksand by getting on their backs and swim. True to some degree, as you will find out later in this chapter, but not nearly enough to get out of quicksand.

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When it comes to movie depictions of shifting sands, the thing that irks me the most is this feeling of utter doom given off by those scenes. It’s something like “Crap! I stepped in quicksand. Well, nothing more to do than letting the sands swallow. Oh, to make things even more dramatic, I will roar like a raging lunatic and flutter my arms. That’s it! Lights out! Buh-bye! End of the line for me.”

It’s not exactly like that in real life. Sure, if you move around like crazy, that thing will eventually choke on sand or mud. That’s another thing – quicksand pits are not always made of sand, and it’s not just desert you’ve got to look out for.

Technically, any hole containing a fair amount of sand, dirt, silt or clay can become a quicksand pit it’s drenched by water and agitated by movement. I won’t bore you to death with the science behind quicksand, but I will say this – these treacherous pits can be found anywhere around the world, especially in areas that have been hit by natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, and flooding.

So, my advice to you is to watch your step and stay away from puddles or suspicious pits. Carrying a walking stick always helps, especially when you have to traverse unknown terrain. As you’re walking, the ground in front of you with your stick a couple of times. If it appears to be solid, it means it’s safe to walk.

Still, if the end gets caught and you have trouble getting it out, you should definitely avoid the area. That’s basically it for the prepping and prevention part. Let’s now see what we should do in case we end up in a quicksand pit.

Step 1. Stop and discard.

Once you step in a quicksand pit, you’ll immediately notice that your body will slowly begin to plunge in the pit. Stop! Take a deep breath! You’re not going to die here. Now, the first thing you’ll need to concern yourself with is your weights – the heavier you are, the faster you’ll sink.

So, grab your backpack and throw it as far away from the quicksand pit as possible. If you have a toolbelt or anything similar, you should throw that away as well. Your boots make one Hell of a difference when it comes to getting out fast of quicksand. For instance, rubber boots, like those used by people fishing in shallow waters, are very useful for this kind of situation since they can be removed easier compared to their laced peers.

Step 2. Watch your movements


The whole idea of dealing with quicksand is knowing exactly when to move and when to stand still. What most people don’t know is that there’s a 5 to the 10-second interval which allows a quick escape. So, if you step in one of these quicksand pits, go through step one, which is discarding your backpack and any other stuff that might weigh you down, and try to take a couple of steps forward and backward.

Small, baby steps – don’t try to rush things. If you move slowly, you’ll soon feel that less grip. Continue doing this until you manage to break free of the quicksand pit.

Step 3. Drop and swim to safety

If you miss this interval, again, stop what you are doing, stand still, and take a deep breath. Remember that every twitch or sudden movement can stir the stuff inside the pit. This will tighten the grip and make you sink even further.

Once you’ve calmed down, slowly lay on your back, just as you would do at a hospital when a nice lady doctor offers you a consultation. Keep your arms parallel to your body. You should ensure that your head and torso remain above the ground. Take a short breather, and roll on one side. Now, arch your back and swim forward. Remember the backstrokes you’ve learned in swimming class? That’s exactly what you must need to do.

The only difference between swimming in water and quicksand is the amount of friction. Obviously, it’s more challenging to swim in mud or sand compared to water, but if you put your back into it, you’ll eventually reach solid ground.

Again, everything must be done in slow motion. Don’t rush it! If you feel that the effort’s too much, rest for a couple of minutes. Yes, I know it’s frustrating to have the same speed as a garden snail, but rushing it would only make you sink even further into the quicksand.

Once you feel that the ground below you is solid, flop back, firmly plant your hands on the ground, and push as hard as you can to yank yourself loose.

Don’t worry about losing your boots or smartphone in the quicksand pit. Those can be replaced; your life cannot. Above all, don’t try sticking your hand inside the hole in a desperate attempt to recover your position. Your priority right now would be to recover your B.O.B and\or toolbelt.

Do a quick inventory to see if anything went missing. If you have an emergency phone in your backpack, use it to call the authorities. You can also switch on your personal emergency beacon if you have one.

The next step would be to check all body areas that have been in contact with the quicksand pit. Remember that the extra friction may cause some nasty bruises and even wounds.  If this is the case, get the first-kit out of your bug out bag and treat all resulting wounds before infection sets in.

Additional considerations on surviving quicksand pits

In 99.9 percent of cases, you can survive a quicksand encounter. Still, there are a couple of more things you should know about these things.

Quicksand pits are not specific to only one part of the world.

In fact, research has pointed out that these formations can appear anywhere in the world, especially in proximity to bodies of water such as lakes, underground springs, riverbanks, beaches, and marshes.

Quicksand pits are featureless.

There’s no possible way of telling if the thing in front of you is a quicksand pit or just another mud puddle or hole in the sand. Well, there actually is – by getting stuck in it!

Swimming is the best way to get out of quicksand.

Buoyancy is the only thing that keeps you from meeting an untimely demise. However, there are times when you may not be able to backstroke your way out of a quicksand pit. More specifically, the friction will be too higher for your body. If this happens, arch your back and hips more. This will allow you to equally distribute your body weight, ensuring buoyancy.

Not all quicksand pits are dangerous.

Although movies show that each encounter with a quicksand pit means certain death, in reality, you won’t sink lower than your ankles. Still, you shouldn’t take this for granted, since everything depends on how deep the pit’s in the first place.

Panicking is the leading cause of death in case of deep quicksand pits encounters.


Researchers have determined that most people who have choked to death in shifting sands, panicked and tried to latch onto anything they could find.

Remember that sudden and violent movement will only stir the bottom of the pit even more which, as you’ve guessed it, results in sinking. Stay calm, lay flat on your back, flop over, and use the backstroke to get out of the quicksand pit.

Walking sticks makes escapes a lot easier.

Escaping a quicksand pit is a lengthy and strenuous process (sometimes, it takes more than half a day to cover one or two meters). You can reduce the time it takes you to get out by using your walking stick as a flotation device.

Provided that you haven’t lost the stick or threw away with your bug out bag and\or toolbelt, lay flat on your back and place the walking stick underneath your body (it should be right below the lumbar area). In a couple of seconds, you will notice that there’s no more sinking.

Using your legs only, push slowly. After advancing a couple of inches, move the stick to a new position. It will take a while, but by combining the leg-pushing drill with the stick, you’ll soon be able to reach firm ground.

That’s basically it for my take on how to escape a quicksand pit. Again, not all encounters with this sand and water formations area deadly. The odds are you’ll probably never sink below the ankle level.

For smaller quicksand pits, it’s enough to move your legs back and forth to get out. Of course, the best method of escaping quicksand pits is to avoid them in the first place. Granted that shifting sands are featureless, but you can test the terrain in front of you with your walking stick. Avoid marshy and sandy area also helps, but you never know where life takes you.

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Probably every Hollywoodian adventure flick out there has at least one scene where the protagonist or, better yet, the bad guy, finds himself trapped in quicksand. Film producers gave their

Nowadays, I found myself having more of those “Dear, Lizzie” moments. Here’s what one of our readers asked me:

Hey, Eddie,

Kick-ass articles, by the way. You always were a good marksman. Here’s a quick one for you: what’s the difference between bugging out and hunkering down? I mean, why should I bother moving out when I have everything I need in my home? Can someone make me evacuate? Would be nice to read about this in your upcoming article. – J.”

Well, J., after giving it some thought, I believe that you’re not the only prepper who has trouble figuring out what to do in case of an SHTF situation. To put it bluntly, it all depends on the context and you “then” and “there.” Each countermeasure has its pros and cons, and, as true preppers and survivalists, it befalls on us to figure out which is the best choice.

Now, it’s not my place to create more confusions than it already is, so I’ll try my best to give you some advice on what course of action would be best depending on your situation.

First of all, in an SHTF situation, assessing the threat is crucial. I can’t say enough times. Take earthquakes, for instance. Since FEMA always advises us that it’s best to remain indoors during a quake, then the obvious choice of action would be to hunker down. Running out the door, even with your Go Bag on can only result in injury or worse.

On the other hand, if the threat comes in the guise of a, let’s say a tsunami, then bugging out would be the better choice. So, you know the first factor that will help you in figuring out an appropriate course of action – the threat itself.

The second one would be your location. As you probably know by now, every geographical area is prone to some sort of natural or man-made disaster. During one of my trips through Eastern Europe, I have come upon a most startling fact – people willing to live in buildings that could collapse at even the smallest earthquake.

Apparently, in former communist countries such as Romania, in case of an earthquake, you would be safer outside than inside even though this fact goes against everything you have learned about prepping!

So, it’s safe to assume that what works in the States doesn’t work in other parts of the globe. Another thing you should keep in mind is that geography plays a key role in survival. For instance, if you’re in an area that’s prone to flooding, high rises, like hills or large rock formations, can provide you with more cover than, let’s say a two-story building. Obviously, in this case, the best course of action would be to bug out instead of staying put.

There are, however, instances, when a course of action becomes unclear. If the authorities don’t provide you with instructions about what must be done, then your best bet would be to rely on instincts. Your risk assessment skills will come in very handy at this point. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Where I am?
  2. How safe is my location?
  3. Can I find adequate shelter?
  4. Do I have enough supplies to stay indoors until the danger passes?
  5. Has thing kind of thing happened before? If so, what was the aftermath in terms of property damages and human loses?

Think before you act! That’s the crux of our philosophy. Don’t take everything you read in manuals for granted. There are cases when those tips can be put to use and other times when those can put your life at risk.

The last factor you should consider in making your decision is your overall level of prepping. There’s no shame in admitting that you we’re not prepared to face a kind of threat. Hell, none of us can be truly ready for everything nature or our peers can throw our way. However, you should not see this as a handicap, but as a way of figuring out what you do with what little you have at your disposal.

For instance, outrunning a flood may be difficult for preppers who spent more time reading about stuff than training. In this case, hunkering down would be the best course of action. Everything about yourself will affect the odds of survival – fitness level, attitude, creativity, and how great you handle under pressure.

Just because you’ve read about stuff or trained it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ready for it. Keep this in mind the next time you’re having trouble figuring out if you should bug out or hunker down.

So, to wrap up things, there’s no sure-fire recipe for this. Your decision should be based on things like:

  1. Location. This also includes geography.
  2. Threat. Type and level.
  3. Prepping leve.

One more thing I forgot to mention – don’t discard the expert’s advice. If a police officer or firefighter told you to leave the area or to hunker down, then do it. Don’t try to be a hero or a know-it-all. They are highly-trained professionals who knows how to deal with this sort of stuff. You may later find out that the course of action you wanted to take could have gotten you killed.


Hope I managed to answer your question J. As for the rest of you, stay safe, and do write to us in case you have a question about prepping. I may not be a master prepper, but I least I know that I don’t have to take everything for granted, and, most importantly, I always find a way to nail my boots to the floor when everything goes to shit. If you have the right attitude, the rest’s a piece of cake.

To put it bluntly, it all depends on the context. Each countermeasure has its pros and cons, and, as true preppers and survivalists, it befalls on us to figure out

You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about people being caught under tons of debris from a falling building, the golden triangle, and other pleasant stuff about quakes. Let me tell you something – it ain’t pretty. Far from it! A quake can level entire cities in just a matter of seconds.

Remember that little Japanese garden you always enjoyed on the other side of town? Gone! Your favorite pub? Kaput! I kid you not when I say the earthquakes are, by far, the nastiest thing you can experience in terms of natural disasters. During one of my stays in Europe, I’ve heard this one particular tale told by a guy whom I imagined to be a paramedic or something.

Anyway, this guy said that during the 70s, a massive earthquake took an entire East European country by surprise. I’m talking here about entire neighborhoods razed to the ground, landlines disrupted, the works.

So, this guy tells me that it was not the collapsed buildings, nor the deafening sirens that got to him – it was the smell. Everywhere he went, he was followed by the same pungent aroma that turned his insides into mush: rotting flesh. It was so bad that the smell was still there weeks after firefighters and police officers managed to remove all the corpses. What do you do when you’re staring true horror in the face? Prepare and survive!

So with that in mind, I wanted to pull together this earthquake safety checklist which hopefully will point out any areas in your preps that you might need to work on. You can also find more information from FEMA’s Earthquake Safety Checklist downloadable as a PDF file and all the Earthquake information you can shake a stick at (no pun intended) on the USGS Earthquake hazard site.

How to prepare for an earthquake?

  • Know where you are at all times and how to get out of the building. This is more important if you are in a strange place like a hotel in another city.
  • Select a safe place in your home for everyone to wait out the earthquake if needed
  • Practice earthquake drills with your family
  • Keep flashlights and sturdy shoes available.
  • Bolt gas appliances to walls (water heater, oven, dryers)
  • Know how to shut off the gas in your house and have the proper tools on hand if you need to do this.
  • Keep emergency supplies/bug out bags in a safe location.
  • Have a plan for power outages before you are faced with one.

What should I do during an earthquake?

If you are indoors

  • Move to your safe place as quickly as possible; make sure your head is protected from falling debris.
  • Stay away from windows and glass.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops.
  • Use stairs instead of an elevator in case of structural damage or power outage.

If you are outside

  • Find a clear spot away from any buildings, power lines, trees or streetlights.
  • If you are in a vehicle (and notice the shaking in the first place) pull over to a clear spot and stop. Don’t pull under an overpass or anything that could fall and trap you.
  • If any power lines are down stay away even if the power appears off. Especially if there are power lines on vehicles, do not touch the vehicle.
  • If you are in the mountains or near cliffs watch out for rock-slides or unstable features. Landslides and avalanches can be triggered by earthquakes.

What do I do after an earthquake?

  • The initial shock-waves may only be the first of many that could still cause injuries. Expect aftershocks and use the time between instances to get to a safer place. If you are anywhere near the coast Tsunamis could occur so immediately seek higher ground.
  • Check your family or group for injuries and move injured people to a safe location.
  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing, footwear, and protection for your hands if there is a lot of debris.
  • Make sure any fires are extinguished as quickly as possible.
  • Check radios for the extent of the damage and any emergency notifications.
  • You should already have stored water, but if not and the water is still working, it may make sense to fill your bathtubs (providing your house is safe) to use the water for hygiene if the water is cut off.
  • Stay away from power lines and out of damaged buildings as much as possible.
  • Contact your loved ones if possible and let them know you are OK.
  • Go to your prearranged rally point if you are able to do this.

There you have it. Let me know what you think. Or if you any stories to share that we can all learn from.

You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about people being caught under tons of debris from a falling building, the golden triangle, and other pleasant stuff about quakes. It ain’t

One of the most fascinating subjects I had to study for a captain’s license was weather forecasting. Back in the late 70s there was no Weather Channel with satellite photos or live radar images to rely on. We had to learn to forecast weather by observing the sky, our surroundings, and recording the change in the barometric pressure. Wind speed is deduced by how it affects objects around us. Offshore, we could look at the wave tops to judge the wind velocity. On land we observe tree branches, weeds, or grass.

When I first started studying weather forecasting, I had several good books on the subject with a pocket weather guide the easiest reference to carry around. A guide helps with determining the different cloud formations and the type weather that would be associated them. Periodically logging, every ½ to 1 hour, the changing barometric pressure in association with the clouds added another layer to the forecast. Next was the direction and speed of the wind. Subsequently, by recording the rise or fall of the barometric pressure over time, the wind direction and speed, and the cloud formations, a forecast would come together. It is important to note that low pressure systems will produce much more wind with unstable weather conditions, where high pressure systems produce milder, more unchanging conditions.

C. Crane CC Pocket AM FM and NOAA Weather Radio with Clock and Sleep Timer

When I first started watching the Weather Channel, in the mid-90s, they focused totally on reporting the weather. If and when some storm or weather event was happening, then they sent people out into the field to cover it. Back in the studio, a meteorologist would analyze the conditions as the weather progressed. That was great for me, because I seeing what I had been studying for the past 20 years and witnessing just how far weather forecasting had advanced.

Today, as I begin my studies on prepping, I realize the importance of knowing some basic weather forecasting. After all, the worst natural disasters in America are weather related. Therefore, understanding what effects weather will have on most any disaster is of a primary concern.

Observing a wildfire, we predict how the wind and humidity affects the speed at which the fire spreads. When a chemical spill or explosion occurs, the weather will determine areas in danger from the fallout. Understanding basic weather principles helps when considering how heavy rainfall may affect a local dam or roadways. Other factors help us predict foggy conditions, hail, ice, or snow. A summer stable high pressure area tends to produce heat waves, which are the number one cause of weather related fatalities in the U.S. Here in Texas, we know all about heatwaves and droughts.

The worst disasters in America are weather related.
The worst disasters in America are weather related.

Predicting the effects of the changing weather around us, gives us the ability to prepare for it. Once the SHTF and we are left to our own instincts, the weather will be a major factor affecting our survival. Subsequently, here are some questions to think about.

  • The Weather Channel will be able help until the electricity goes out, then what?
  • Do you have an emergency weather radio; one with a hand crank or solar cells?
  • What about weather (wx) broadcast on Short Wave, AM, or HAM radio?
  • Where do you find the frequencies that broadcast weather info and at what time they transmit?
  • What about a small handheld anemometer that also displays barometric pressure?
  • A pocket guide to weather forecasting stored in your prepping gear?

All these questions are easily solvable.

As an example of local awareness, here along the Gulf Coast of Texas, we get tropical fronts in the Spring and Summer. The warm, humid Gulf air is drawn inland to the mid-Atlantic states. Cool fronts descend on this area as the jet stream comes south and the cool dry air meets the warm humid air and a front develops. Low pressure systems have a counter-clockwise rotation and high pressure rotate clockwise. Low pressure systems tend to move rapidly where high pressure will remain stationary for some extended period of time. High pressure tends to steer low pressure. Lifelong residents on the Gulf Coast know all about hurricanes and flooding and they both are associated with high and low pressure systems.

Topography also plays a huge part in how weather will affect a geographic location. Learn the local weather patterns for the different seasons of the year where you live or plan on heading when bugging out. Knowing the local weather patterns and having a basic understanding of the weather, you will be surprised at how easy you can forecast the weather. Discerning the wind speed and direction, cloud formations, and barometric pressure, you will have all the data you need at your figure tips. The data is not that difficult to collect.

Use your field guide to classify the clouds and for a reference. Purchase a small, portable, digital weather station to obtain wind speed and pressure data called an anemometer, which are readily available at a nominal price. Also, a compass to record wind direction, a good mechanical pencil, and a waterproof note pad to log readings every hour or 1/2 hour, depending on the situation. Thus, for a small investment, you can have the tools for forecasting the weather in your bug out bag. What I use cost less than a good hunting knife and takes up about the same space. I carry them when I go out shooting pictures or go to the beach just to practice. If you fish, a small weather station would be an excellent tool to forecast the quality of fishing and a good excuse to buy one.

Having some basic weather forecasting knowledge could be the difference in knowing when to seek shelter from a rapidly approaching front, or getting caught off guard trying to shelter after it hits. Weather related incidents cause the worst disasters in the U.S. Many times, just by having a basic understanding of the weather, how it is going to affect your community, and what you need to do for shelter, could save a lot of lives. Make the investment in inexpensive, easy to understanding weather forecasting tools and learn how to use them. It is an enjoyable way to gain one more step toward being better prepared when the grid goes down.

When I first started studying weather forecasting, I had several good books on the subject with a pocket weather guide the easiest reference to carry around. A guide helps with