Simple Survival Tips: Turning Your Pants Into a Life Jacket

By Suzanne Wiley

The concept is to use your pants as an impromptu flotation device by filling the pant legs with air so that you can conserve energy by floating instead of treading water.

Canoeing, boating, kayaking, airplane crash…there could be any number of reasons why you would find yourself needing water rescue…which in most of them, you should have a life jacket. However, if you find yourself in deep water without one, did you know you can turn your pants into a floatation device?

Instructions on how to use your pants as a life jacket.
How to use your pants as a life jacket.

In March 2019, while delivering a sailboat from New Zealand to Brazil, German sailor Arne Murke was struck by the boat’s boom and knocked into the water. The other sailor on board threw him a life vest but the swell was so large, Murke was unable to reach it. Remembering a video he’d seen of the U.N. Navy SEALs creating a life jacket out of pants, Murke used the trouser method of making a floatation device. With his air-inflated pants, He stayed afloat for three hours until he was rescued. Murke says, “I took a deep breath, took out my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans—pull it over water and get air inside and then push it under water—I had like an improvised life vest.” You can watch a video of his rescue here.

This method is taught to U.S. Marines and in the Navy. Follow these steps to learn how to use your jeans as a life preserver.

  1. Remove your shoes.

To conserve energy, you can float on your back for the next few steps.

  1. Take off your pants, keeping a secure grip on them.
  2. Once off, keeping them right side out, zip the zipper back up and button any buttons.
  3. Tie them in a double knot at the ankle, creating a loop in the legs.
  4. Fill the pant legs with air using one of two different methods:

“Overhead method”

Fling your pants swiftly over your head from back to front.

“Splash method”

Put the waistband under the water and quickly slap the water with a cupped hand near the waistband until they are filled with air.

Alternatively, you can blow the legs up underwater using your breath.

  1. Put the pants around your neck with the knot at the back.
  2. Tightly grasp the waistband together so no air escapes.
  3. Periodically fill back with air as needed.

Try it! It really does work!

Do you have any quick survival tips? Leave them in the comment section.