Could I ask people's advice on what you're doing with hip-belts when crossing rivers in New Zealand these days? Do people un-clip them?
I've found myself tangled in a discussion, mostly with Americans, over at Trailspace. http://www.trailspace.com/forums/comments/topics/90080.html (the discussion's at the end of the article).
Several people are claiming that you should always disconnect your hip belt before getting in so it's ultra-easy to dump your pack if you get into trouble. This seems to contradict everything I've learned, where a pack can be a useful flotation and life-saving device, and also important for ensuring proper links in a group crossing.
Granted that one of the people saying done-up hip belts are bad is also saying mutual support group crossings are dangerous and likely to cause more problems than they're worth.
There is a pamphlet that you can download at the Mountain Safety Council site. http://www.mountainsafety.org.nz/Resources/Resource_List.asp
The current thinking is to leave waist strap done up and chest strap undone. Also loosen shoulder straps. You also want to practice unclipping that waist belt incase you do need to get out quick.
Obviously the person who thinks mutual support is not worth the bother has not practiced that method in a big river. I tend to be happier on my own in most rivers but will often use mutual support if other people are not as confident. Sometimes this is just standing in the middle and offering a hand, but could also be the proper method.
I have done river crossings, chest deep, where the upstream person is creating a bow wave like a battleship while we shuffle across, weaker people tucked in the middle, shorter people not even touching the bottom. There is no way this sort of crossing could be done alone. I can vouch that mutual support definitely works crossing a major river.
I have to also emphasise that a good run out is essential for this sort of thing, plus a mind set that you never need to cross if it is too dangerous.
Thanks pmcke, it confirms what I thought. I've known at least one person who's removed off one of the catches on their hip belt as they thought that having just one catch made it easier to undo if necessary. It does seem as if the whole mutual support idea is quite local to this part of the world, if that forum is anything to go by. If so, I hadn't realised that ideas in NZ were so different from other places.
I endorse what Pmcke says. Yes, we do do things differently here. I believe our line travelling parallel to the current is adapted from a Maori technique.
When instructing river crossings, one illustration of how easy it is to undo your hip belt is to lift up someone by their pack straps and have them undo their hip belt. Very easy.
The precaution of undoing the hip belt buckle comes from the days when we didn't have quick release buckles. I recommend everyone do a MSC or similar river crossing course at least once every decade - if not more frequently.
Thats an interesting discussion over there. I was always taught to undo my belt and until recently did this whenever crossing anything over ankle deep in the same way as putting on a seatbelt in a car whenever it is moving. Its only when I had to complete a swim with the pack virtually on top of my head that I started to question this advise so it became swim with strap done up and walk with it undone. I also started noticing that I was the only one with the strap undone.
Never thought about loosening the shoulder straps though.
When you think of it though has anyone actually jettisoned a pack and reported back the experience? Even starting with all straps undone in a raging torrent I dont know if I could get out of my pack.
On MSC courses, you practice slipping off your pack in the shallows. The pack is left on as a life raft. Of course, if you're doing this you need to have a pack liner to capture air and aid flotation and you need to place your closed cell foam pad at the top of your pack if it is strapped to the outside of your pack down low because if you attempt to pack float with it positioned as described, you'll roll over onto your face!
I've seen this happen in a pack float. Also I was carrying an incredibly heavy well-stuffed down burden one time and decided to dog-paddle across a lagoon. There was no air in my pack so the pack forced my face under the water. It was a huge pack that extended well above my head. Heavy enough so that I could only get it on by placing it on a high level, not attempting to pick it up. My mate thought it was hilarious and took a photo of my furious struggle for life and air. I grabbed hold of a log and hauled myself up then wept for my near-death experience.
I have had the experince of falling into the caples River not far from McKeller Hut.I did what MSC said undo waist belt,chest strap and loosen shoulder straps.I got half way accross and the force of the water knocked of my feet.
I was lucky i got pushed into the bank 30m from the crossing but i had a boyant pack and found that my pack tried to go over my head and push my head under water if i had keept the waist belt on this may have stoped that i dont know.
So what i do now is undo chest strap,loosen shoulder straps and loosen waist belt but keep it on i now treat all river crossings with caution
Hey lgwaddel. I'm slightly confused with the first paragraph of what you wrote. Did you get a direction from the MSC to undo your waist belt, or was that a typo? Or were you trying to slip your pack off intentionally?
I see Honora refers to carrying a closed cell foam mat at the top of a pack - OK, but can I plead with everyone - if you carry a closed cell mat on the OUTSIDE of your pack - pleasssse put it in a bag !
I'm over picking up little bits of blue (usually) foam dotting the track - sometimes I wonder if the tramper had anything left on which to sleep !
I do not touch my pack for all river crossings, that includes trout fishing where I often do dozens of crossings in a day. I never wear a large heavy pack when fishing, and never been washed off my feet unexpectedly so can not offer much experience.