What are the steps that should be taken if someone you're hiking with starts to sink uncontrollably into say a marsh? What are some good techniques and points that should be used to get them out safely and quickly? I'm not talking about times when their feet might get a bit wet, I mean when someone suddenly starts going down, it's clearly a real danger and you need to act quickly. Is there a type of rope that's good for this, good knots or anything like that? Things to practice?

Equally, what's best to do if this happens to you and you're alone?

  • 4
    I read this as "What to do if someone starts stinking", which is just a natural part of hiking :D Jan 24, 2012 at 23:03
  • 2
    @TimothyStrimple Hah, love it! Well, unpleasant as that might be I guess it's not quite as critical ;)
    – berry120
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:05
  • @xpda Well, sometimes I do as well - but there's a line somewhere between someone getting a bit wet because the ground's a bit boggy and someone taking a step and without warning rapidly descending...
    – berry120
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:51
  • What are you sinking about?
    – kevin
    Sep 17, 2018 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


If you're "sinking" that basically means you're standing on a substance that's more permeable than solid ground, but (hopefully) less permeable than the surface of a swimming pool. Probably something like thick bog mud or quicksand.

As justnS said, you want to try and distribute your weight across the surface as much as possible. Often there will be a thick film across the top of the substance -- or else just natural surface tension -- and you need to avoid breaking through that, if possible. Use plants or other things that seem to have a firm hold on the surface.

Your focus should be on getting yourself as horizontal as possible. Even if it's gross, lie down in it. Hopefully you'll feel some part of the ground underneath you that's more solid than the rest. Try to move across the surface in that direction.

Don't just freak out and try and pull your leg straight up and out -- you'll only end up pushing your other leg deeper in.

  • Sitting back or laying down backward may have a bonus if one lands on the firmer ground one just stepped off - no guarantees, of course, but it seems possible.
    – Megha
    Jun 24, 2017 at 7:18

First, make sure you don't get caught in the same situation as the person you're trying to help. Don't rush in and pull on him..

Rather, stay on solid ground and use whatever you have (rope, knapsack, your shirt, branches, you can get as creative as you need here) to pull on your friend from a distance.

As others have said, the person who is caught should avoid moving too much and try to spread their weight on a wider surface.


Try and distribute your weight as much as possible. If you are wearing a backpack, take it off and lay it in front you and use it to gain as much leverage as you can.

Use sticks, plants, anything you can get your hands on in order distribute your weight.

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