How to Escape Quicksand

  • If you get stuck in quicksand, remember it’s impossible to drown in the stuff.
  • Instead, calmly try freeing yourself by gently kicking your legs back and forth.
  • This should loosen the dense sand around you, allowing you to pull yourself free slowly.

This article is primarily transcribed from a 2017 Insider video on “How to escape quicksand — it’s easier than you might think.” Some of the information has been updated.

If you find yourself stuck in quicksand, the first thing to remember is not to panic.

It’s easy to sink deeper into this stuff if you’re flailing about, and just one mouthful of quicksand could lead to asphyxiation, per the book “Extreme Encounters.

Quicksand is not like how Hollywood traditionally portrays it. You’re not going to drown.

In fact, most quicksand pools are only a few inches to a few feet deep. Moreover, it’s impossible to drown in quicksand because humans float in it. That’s because our body’s density is lower than the quicksand’s, “Extreme Encounters” says.

What is quicksand?

Quicksand is a mix of sand and water, according to Scientific American. What sets it apart from your average clump of sand is the sand grains’ shape and how they fit together. 

“In normal sand, grains are packed tightly together to form a rigid mass, with about 25 to 30 percent of the space (voids) between the grains filled with air or water,” SciAm reports.

But if the sand’s shape is more elongated than spherical, it can increase those voids from 30 percent up to 70 percent. 

“This arrangement is similar to a house of cards in that the space between the cards is significantly greater than the space occupied by the cards,” per SciAm.

As a result, the sand looks solid on the surface but is very pressure sensitive and can easily collapse, causing the surface to sink beneath your feet.

What makes quicksand so dangerous is its viscosity. Once disturbed, quicksand becomes much more viscous, trapping whatever it envelops. Here’s how to get out: 

How to escape quicksand

Don’t ask your friend to pull you out. They’ll only be able to dislodge your top half since the pressure required to pull you out is the same force required to lift a small car, per National Geographic.

Instead, if possible, try making small back-and-forth motions with your legs, which should loosen the sand around you. Lose your shoes if you have to.

Next, if you’re not too deep, you can try lying on your back. The more you distribute your weight across the surface, the harder it will be to sink farther. Then you can try backstroking your way free.

Another option instead of laying on your back is — if you have access to firmer ground — lean forward and drag yourself free while gently kicking your legs. That’s how wilderness guide Hazen Audel escaped quicksand in a National Geographic episode of “Primal Survivor.

Roll away from the quicksand once you reach solid ground, and you should be clear of the sticky situation. 

Another tip is to never enter quicksand territory without a stick or pole. You can rest the pole on the quicksand’s surface, ease your weight, and slowly shimmy your way out, per “Extreme Encounters.”

Watch the original video here:


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