This year, a Danish citizen went missing without a trace in the mountains of northern Sweden. It is not the first time; in total, ten people are registered as missing after venturing into the mountains of the Swedish county of Norrbotten, including two this year (a Polish citizen in May, and a Danish one in August). This Swedish language article describes the story of several of them.

One is the story of two Polish citizens in Sarek National Park, who went missing in the 1990s. One of the less esoteric theories is that they may have disappeared into quicksand. The local Sami inhabitants know about quicksand in the area, as it occasionally kills some of their reindeer. Quicksand might have killed one or more of the missing people — but it is far from certain.

Suppose I am hiking by myself in a remote wilderness. How can I minimise the risks of disappearing into quicksand? Can I somehow recognise quicksand in order to avoid it? If I don't recognise it and do get stuck, what can I do to get out?

Fortunately, the risk is probably very small, isn't it?


1 Answer 1


Hartley's answer on the 'starts sinking' question linked to by @berry120 has the usual guidance for quicksand as well as general boggy/marshy ground.

If you are on your own, though, the key thing is to get your rucksack off and get yourself horizontal quickly. If you are vertical, and sinking, gravity will pull you down into the quicksand, but as the human body is less dense than a sand/water mix you will float at or on the surface.

If you struggle, you are acting against high viscosity, and possibly a vacuum as you try to pull your legs out of the quicksand, but if you can relax and lie back you will float to the surface and be able to paddle your way back to safety.

So - if you feel yourself stuck in quicksand - get your pack off and placed/thrown to your side and back, then try and lie down on the surface of the quicksand and relax.

Subsequent to getting out, you will need to retrieve your pack, so keeping a length of rope or cord on you is a good plan. (I especially like the para cord bracelets) Depending on conditions, you may now need to get warm and dry, so plan for setting camp.

As for your last query - the risk is pretty low. If you feel boggy ground, you can often just fall back and be on solid ground. You'd also have to try pretty hard to end up under the surface.

  • 7
    I agree the risk is pretty low for experienced hikers, but one thing to bear in mind is if you're travelling with inexperienced folk alongside you, who will often try to "run through it" which can land them in deep water (sometimes pretty literally.) In this regard, I find that knowing how to calm someone else down and what to tell them is just as important as knowing what to do yourself.
    – berry120
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 22:11
  • 1
    That is a very good point!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 22:19
  • 4
    Last autumn (2016), I actually did get stuck in quicksand in Sareks Nationalpark, remembering your advice, I managed to "swim out" remembering your advice!
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 21:18

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