hiking across a river

QUICK GUIDE TO CROSSING WATER OBSTACLES AND RIVERS

If you are hiking and camping, there is the chance you will come across a stream or river. Unless it is so small you can jump cleanly across, I highly recommend taking your time. Anything can happen when crossing any size of river, especially when you have no idea of what is under your feet.

Here are some good rules to follow whenever attempting any water crossing.

DO SOME PLANNING

If you are aware that crossing a water obstacle is on the cards, I recommend looking for the best place to cross. Get to know the river and recent weather. Check for any dangers and warnings. Find out where the best place to cross is.

AVOID RISKS

There is never any need to take any unnecessary risks when out camping and hiking. If the crossing looks difficult, look for a better place to cross. If you are lucky enough to have network coverage, your smartphone and maps will be very useful. I always carry good old fashioned foldout paper maps. They don’t need a network connection and they don’t require recharging.

GRAB A STICK

If you don’t carry your own hiking pole, look around for the next best thing. I inadvertently always end up picking up a stick and using it whenever I hike. You will need an extra long one when crossing a body of water. I recommend finding a good solid stick that is a foot taller than your own height. You need something sturdy because you might need to lean your body weight into it.

A stick will be very useful for checking the depth of the water as you cross. You don’t want to be wading across a river without checking forward with your stick. The idea is to create a triangle of you, the stick and the bottom as you cross the river checking the river bottom as you go.

CHECK THE CURRENT

River currents can be very deceiving. Current speed can and will also greatly vary in one simple crossing. You can see how fast the current is moving by throwing sticks into the river to assess the situation. Try and check as much of the area you are planning to cross as possible so you know the current and how it changes as you cross.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW YOUR EXIT

Getting in and across is half the battle. Getting out is another story. It is important that you decide on where you want to get out on the other side of the river before you get in.

KEEP YOUR FEET PROTECTED

If you are somewhere hot and dry, the idea of getting your hiking boots wet is not a big deal. When it isn’t, you might be tempted to try and keep them dry. I am a big fan of taking fishing shoes along with me anywhere when I am hiking and camping and know that there is water about. They are great for just going for a swim and they are so lightweight I can simply tie them to my backpack. Whatever the case, never cross a river in bare feet. The pain of wet boots is nothing compared to the pain and potential problems that can arise from a cut in your foot.

LOOSEN OFF YOUR BACKPACK

If you are crossing a river wearing a backpack, never wear it strapped tight. You should loosen off all the straps of your rucksack and backpack so that you can get it off quickly.

FACE THE CURRENT

You will have a better chance of controlling your position if you are facing the current. You don’t want your back to anything coming down the river at the same time.

Finally, take your time when crossing a river. There is no reward for crossing it in a rush.

 


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Bill Matthews
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Bill is as green friendly as they come. He's travelled the world, loves kayak fishing and camping.