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What are some good techniques to use (materials, knots, etc.) for building a raft by gathering wood in the local area? I'm talking about something to sail on still or slow moving bodies of water, not something which has to survive rapids and waterfalls!

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I would say it depends on what other materials you have and how cold the water is. So if the water is cold, it's really important to stay out of it. If not, you can maybe endure having your feet hanging in, for example.

It also depends on how much time you have to build the raft. If you're in an emergency situation, don't even try a burn out canoe, it's too long.

In any case, you will need:

  • Flotation: Anything you can find that floats! If you're not sure, throw it in and see if it floats. But don't forget that some things (like dead branches) can float when dry, but then you put them in the water, they soak up, become heavier, and start to sink.
  • Rope/cordage/cloth/box: something to prevent the floating objects from dispersing and becoming useless.
  • Propulsion: Take the time to make some sort of paddle. It's worth it.

As for techniques, a large piece of cloth can hold a lot of branches together without using up too much rope. Also, building an outrigger can greatly improve stability without requiring too much wood.

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