How to Get Out of Quicksand Alive

A single arm, desperately begging to be rescued from a vat of gooey sand. 

Moments later, it disappears along with the rest of the body it belongs to.   

The villain has been defeated. 

You’ve watched this quicksand death scene play out dozens of times in old action movies. But have you ever wondered what it’s actually like to be trapped in the stuff…or how to escape it?

In this article, you’ll learn how to get out of quicksand, what dangers you may face, and more. Let’s get right to it:

What Is Quicksand?

Combine sand and clay with water, and what do you get? A recipe for quicksand. 

Quicksand has a thick, spongy consistency. It looks solid at first, but when disturbed, it liquefies and collapses under your weight. Then, it becomes solid again, holding you trapped in its depths. This can happen in the span of a few minutes, making the name quicksand quite appropriate.  

But here’s some good news: it’s not as crazy as the movies make it out to be. A quicksand death is far from likely.

In a worst-case scenario, you’ll be covered from the waist down—not from the neck. You see, quicksand is denser than your body. While it can hold you hostage, your lungs will keep you buoyant, so you won’t be swallowed whole.   

Where Is Quicksand Found?

Quicksand typically needs water and grainy soil or sand to form. It can be found anywhere in the world, but it’s most common near: 

  • Riverbanks
  • Marshes
  • Coastlines
  • Underground springs

Earthquakes and other things that cause intense vibrations can also trigger quicksand. The shaking exerts a ton of pressure on groundwater, and as a result, it turns the sand semi-liquid. 

Can Quicksand Kill You?

Like we said earlier, a quicksand death is rare. Yet, it’s still a cause for concern. You may become vulnerable to:

  • Dehydration: You can be wedged in the soil for hours and under direct sunlight. You’re bound to feel thirsty without any drinkable water nearby.  
  • Wild animals: Out in the wild, you’ll be exposed to all sorts of animals—some harmless, others downright terrifying. Don’t provoke them if you want to avoid an attack
  • Hypothermia: Wet sand is cold, and when your lower body is still trapped after the sun goes down, you might have a brush with hypothermia
  • Drowning: You only sink until your waist. But when there’s a heavy downpour or the tide comes in, you can drown if you don’t know how to escape quicksand in time.
  • Crush syndrome: Quicksand has a strong suction that can squeeze and harm your muscles if you stay in it for a while. 

How to Get Out of Quicksand

Find yourself sinking in the wet sand? Don’t ask your buddy to pull you out. All that tugging will just damage your legs and make your friend fall in with you. 

With that said, here’s how to escape quicksand the safe way:

Don’t Panic

Those scenes in adventure movies where the hero barely made it out of quicksand alive always struck fear into your heart as a kid. So we get it—the last thing you feel like doing is remaining calm.

But guess what?

Keeping a level head will get you out of there sooner. If you keep flailing around in terror, you’re only going to bury yourself deeper in the soil.  


If you’re not in too deep, try making your way back to dry land using tiny steps. No large, swinging steps. As we mentioned earlier, big movements can make you plunge down faster.  

Get Rid of the Excess Weight

Don’t wait till you’re waist-deep in the quicksand. As soon as you realize your feet are caught in the sand, remove anything that’s weighing you down. The lighter you are, the longer it will take for you to sink.  

So, toss your bug out bag and jacket as close to solid ground as you can. You might also need to say goodbye to your shoes. Spending the rest of your journey barefoot and prone to blisters isn’t the most pleasant thought. But hey, it beats being a hungry animal’s dinner. 

Back Float

What do you do if the lower half of your body is submerged? 

First, lean back till you’re floating. This distributes your weight, letting you sink slower and making it easier to free your legs.

Then, wiggle your legs one at a time to create a space for water to flow in (if your arms are bogged down, roll your whole body). The water will loosen the sand and give you more leeway to escape. When your feet finally reach the surface, start paddling your way back to safety. This is where all your upper body workouts will come in handy.

The entire process can last hours, so stay patient. It’s back to square one if you let desperation get the best of you. Taking deep breaths throughout will help. It calms you down and increases your buoyancy at the same time.  

Bonus: Put Your Trekking Poles to Good Use

how to get out of quicksand? use trekking poles to keep you steady.

Testing the ground with trekking poles can help you avoid quicksand.

But your poles will still be useful if you get sucked in. Just think of them as a fulcrum. Lay one pole down on the quicksand, and then slowly lower yourself onto it. The trekking pole will keep you steady while you separate your legs from the soil. 

If you’re looking for a good pair of poles, you can’t go wrong with TAC9ER’s ultralight trekking poles. Each set comes with different tips and baskets to help you maneuver through different terrain. 

Final Thoughts

Quicksand is not the death trap you’ve seen in old movies. Still, you could be in serious trouble if you don’t know how to escape quicksand in time.

Luckily, you understand what to do—keep a level head, remove extra weight, and put your upper body strength to good use. It’s not going to be easy, but being patient will help you make a successful escape. 

We hope this article helped you learn how to get out of quicksand. If you wanna learn more about survival and prepping for SHTF, check out our other articles!

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