I never knew how reckless I had been crossing fast-flowing rivers and mountain streams until I heard this hack from a roommate in New Zealand who had lost her friend due to not taking the proper precautions.
Crossing a river with a backpack requires careful consideration and whether or not to unbuckle your backpack. Unbuckling your backpack allows for a quicker and easier removal of your backpack which can be crucial if you get into difficulty while attempting a challenging river crossing.
Unbuckling your backpack allows it to be easily removed in case you lose your footing or need to swim. A buoyant backpack can help you stay afloat, but it’s easier to swim without the additional weight of the backpack.
If you take a tumble in the river and you haven’t unbuckled the backpack it has the potential to weigh you down if it doesn’t have much buoyancy and if you fall with your head pointing downstream the power of the current can pin you down under the water.
Even if the river is shallow and the current is not strong you might think unbuckling your backpack is not necessary although if the area is unfamiliar you don’t know what dangers are lurking and there could be a sudden drop which you aren’t expecting. Even if the river-crossing is familiar heavy rains can result in changing river currents and riverbeds.
Also, remember to:
Keep important items, such as identification, money, and electronics, in waterproof containers or bags within your backpack.
Use a Backpack Cover
Consider using a backpack cover or rain cover to provide an additional layer of protection against water.
Test the Waters
Before committing to a river crossing, assess the depth, current, and potential hazards. If in doubt, consider alternative routes or wait for conditions to improve.
If possible, use proper river-crossing techniques, such as facing upstream, maintaining a wide stance, and using trekking poles for stability.
Always prioritize safety, and if you are uncertain about the conditions, it may be wise to seek advice from experienced hikers, guides, or local authorities before attempting a river crossing.