How to Make Clothes into Flotation Devices

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Hopefully you will never be plunged into a river, lake or ocean with only the clothes on your back. But if that does happen, you will be glad to have the garments on your back because you can make clothes into flotation devices. This knowledge could mean the difference between life and death if you ever find yourself stranded in the deep blue sea. You can make clothes into flotation devices if you stay calm and calculated and follow a few steps.

  • Tread water. Start by treading water for a few moments until you calm down and can logically begin to get into action. A panicked person is not going to be able to make clothes into flotation devices but they may drown trying. Continue to tread water throughout the entire process.

  • Kick off your shoes. Your shoes are not going to help you float and will only serve to weigh you down. They will also hamper removing your pants, which is the first item you are going to fashion into a flotation device.

  • Squirm out of your pants and adapt them to float. Once your pants are off, get them in front of you while you continue to kick your legs to stay afloat. Quickly tie the end of each leg into a knot and close the waist and zipper. Still kicking, squeeze as much water as you can from the pants and then wave them over your head to fill them with air. Once air is inside, knot off the waist area the best you can to keep it trapped and floating.

  • Follow with your shirt, pulling it off one arm at a time and hooking it up into a flotation device. Using your pants as a buoy, tie off the arms and neckline of the shirt into a knot. Squeeze out excess water and wave it over your head to fill with air. Quickly tie the bottom of the shirt off to trap the air.

  • Gauge if any other clothes items can be made into flotation devices. If you happen to be wearing shorts, you’re pretty much out of luck. But even a tank top can be adapted to float, as can a sundress, a tote bag or other items that can offer a pillow of air with the ends tied off.

  • Rid yourself of any unnecessary objects. If you happen to be in freezing water, you may want to leave on your socks. Otherwise, remove and discard jewelry, hats, things in your pockets or other heavy items that may weigh you down. This is life or death, here. Don’t worry about losing your favorite necklace.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you got yourself floating by the seat of your pants, you can arrange the devices to best support you so you can swim to shore or wave for help. If your flotation clothing is bright colors, you can also wave them if a helicopter is overhead or a boat draws near.
  • The air may need to be replenished in your devices. Untie one opening and replenish by waving the item over your head as necessary.
  • Hook yourself to the devices with shoe laces, belts, bras or other items that can ensure the devices to not float away. Make sure you are able to unhook them with ease in case they become a burden or need to be replenished with air.
  • If possible, practice these techniques in a pool or calm water before you ever have to put them into action.
  • Don’t panic. Drowning often occurs when people get so excited they inadvertently panic themselves into it. Losing hope is equally as disastrous.

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  • Photo Credit Photo of Ty Gonrowski by Ryn Gargulinski
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