Emergency Ice Picks

-- Last Updated: Jan-24-09 9:57 AM EST --

Iffin' yer be paddlin' ice bound inland waters like ah' do, yer might make a couple "ice picks" fro' a 20 penny nail glued inta de end of a dowel an' de point protected by a plastic or wooden cover. Run a lanyard fro' each dowel so yer don't loose it.

Why, yer ask?

Cuz iffin' yer need ta git yerself up on de ice an' out o' de water yer need some thin' ta jab inta de ice ta pull yer up an' yer fingers jus' ain't gon'na do de trick. Lotsa ice skeeters an' ice fisherfolks have dem jus' in case they bust through. Me'thinks yer kin buy dem commercially but dem's be so easy ta make yerself.


You’re slipping. I could sort of read
your first paragraph.

Further advice
Don’t just glue the nail into the end of the dowel, wrap the end of the dowel with something having good tensile strength to keep the wood from splitting when you use the things and put lateral force on that nail. In a pinch, several turns of tightly wound strapping tape will do the job.

Full Tang
Yup, further to that, spend the whole nickle and get a big nail, then pop it through the dowell. Attach 'em to strings so they are through the back of your jacket (like what we called idiot mitts) as two will be much more useful than one, or none, or two in the pockets.

would a pocketknife do?
That’s a good point, and I can see remembering to carry them before attempting to cross an iffy ice patch on foot. However, it seems more likely you would need them after a capsize in opn water between icy banks but I wonder if you would have the presence of mind to find them and detach the lanyards before swimming to shore?

So, I wonder, would your pocketknife that you carry attached to your PFD serve the purpose? Also, since many rescue knives have a blunted blade, is that okay or should you swap it for a pointed blade in icy weather? Further, many rescue knives seem to have fairly short blades - do you need a minimum length to help you crawl out of an icy hole?

I guess that while I’m semi-hijacking elmo’s thread (sorry, fat elmo), I might as well raise another, related scenario. What if the shore where you’re trying to climb out isn’t a solid sheet of glazed ice, but instead consists of slush on top of hard ice? Your nail boards might not work then, even with 2 big nails in them.

One more thing - what if you are stuck on an ice shore in cold water, and you have your boat at hand? How could it help you? This might be a useful pre-disaster mental exercise to work through. Keep in mind that you have very little time, before the cold water incapacitates you, so something like gathering all your short gear lines and retying them into a long piece probably would not work.

I’ll give a couple kind-of-obvious solutions. First, if you have a lightweight canoe (like my bell wildfire) and there are any stumps or similar protuberances within a boat length, your salvation is at hand - simply empty the boat, lift it out of the water and hook one end on the stump, then pull yourself out by the hull.

Second, if you are in fairly shallow water, stand the boat on end and push down until it feels firrmly planted on the bottom, with a modest lean toward shore. Then rapidly climb your hands up the thwarts and gunnels until you’re mostly clear of the water and then throw yourself toward shore. This should get you at least far enough up the ice that you don’t slip back in again, provided the ice you land on doesn’t break.

My fridge has an ice maker.
Why would I need an ice pick?

Yup - and have some kayak friends along

– Last Updated: Jan-24-09 8:50 PM EST –

took a belated New Year’s paddle with wickerbutt and kkaykk on Jan 4th. There were a couple of dams on this run, and some ice behind them. When we found ourselves on the wrong side of the river to get to the take out, one of the yakers hoped in his boat, and using ice picks, pulled himself across the river to the other sided dragging a rope behind him. He was then able to pull the rest of us, boat and all, across the river. From there, the portage was just a short walk away.

Not wickerbutt – he was ice poling and made it to the take-out on his own.

ice rescue suits

– Last Updated: Jan-24-09 9:06 PM EST –

have pockets on the sleeves for ice awls.


The commercial picks have spring-loaded sleeves around the steel tip so they're relatively safe to leave hanging from their tethers.


Hey Fat Elmo,
Maybe you could use a piece of foam as a cheap, sacrificial cover for the points of the ice picks. To answer one of the questions posed by Memphis, the points don’t have to be long, just long enough to punch into the ice to get a grip. An inch would probably do it.

I like the idea about the strapping tape around the end to keep the wood from splitting. I wonder if my wife would notice if I cut a foot or so off the broomstick? Hmmm.

Ice picks
When I had to teach a class on this for a bunch of webelos, I just found 2 old screwdrivers and cut them down to about an inch and sharpened them.

This of course was all on land,I never actually had to use them.they seem as though they would work really good due to the rough wierd shape on the plastic handle.

Lets all hope we never need them.

See Woody’s TR 2/6/2005
Some CPA members traded info on ice gear a few years back. It must have happened within their email list serve, because I don’t find it in their forums. But Woody has reports on experimenting with a few different forms of ice propulsion in one of his TRs. It is here:


scroll down to 2/6 report.

One device I think they liked were made by putting screws through the end of hammer handles.


here is a pic
from a european kayaking blog


has a good shot of where you could/should keep your ice picks…


or in your sleeves
That’s one place to keep them, but out in the open like that they could get knocked loose in the process of a capsize or falling through the ice if on foot. I see some red string that presumably is connected to them to keep from losing them, but in that event you have a sharp object flopping around on a string attached to your neck.

I saw another suggestion elsewhere that I like a little better - to keep them in your sleeves, with a line that connects them running across your chest, and another line on each end with a button that hangs out the end of your sleeve, so that you can retrieve them with your gloves on.

No… Use a kayak anchor…

Paddle easy,