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Homemade Stretchers

There are times when you need a stretcher, such as when you need to carry a body (dead or alive) or move a heavy payload. Instead of throwing your back out by carrying the person or items with your bare hands, use a stretcher. A homemade stretcher can be fashioned out of very common items. So whether you are dealing with a medical emergency or just hauling stones, there is an easier way to accomplish the task than doing it by hand.

Items Required for the Build:

  • Two Wooden or Metal Poles
  • T-Shirts, Blue Jeans, and a tarp or a heavy construction canvas
  • Rope


The first requirement is a straight metal or wooden pole, which can be quickly fashioned out of a broom stick, shovel, curtain rod, or similar item. If none of these items are available, a sturdy tree limb may work. Be sure to remove broom heads, shovel butts, and small twigs from poles to avoid snagging.

The next item required is a tarp or heavy construction-grade canvas sheet, which you will use for the webbing of the stretcher. If you do not have any of these items, you can fashion the stretcher webbing out of t-shirts and blue jeans. Align the two poles parallel to each other and lay out the fabric in order to determine how much material you have before you begin the actual construction of the stretcher.

Using T-shirts is simple, but it is not the strongest option. By sliding the two poles through the neck and waist of a shirt, you create a webbing for a person or for carrying objects. As one t-shirt will not be large enough or strong enough, several shirts will be required. Doubling up in the heavy payload areas is suggested.  A less common but very useful trick is to add blue jeans to either end of the construction at the beginning. Blue jeans are very strong and can bear more weight than t-shirts.

There are two patterns for laying out the blue jeans, crotch towards the center or crotch at either end. The ideal pattern will depend on what you are carrying and how much it weighs. The crotch in the center creates a strong seat in the middle of the stretcher, whereas the other method creates strong ends.

Lastly, rope (if available) will help hold the stretcher together and avoid slippage of material. Simply tie the rope around each pole as if you were creating a rope ladder. Four locations are key: two in the center and at either end of the makeshift stretcher. The rope can also be used to create handles by tying loops in the center and at either end of the poles to allow for easier transportation. The rope handles help to compensate for height variances among the bearers. Imagine a six-foot man in front and a four-foot woman at the rear of the stretcher; it would be very difficult to traverse any distance with such height discrepancies. To compensate, tie extra loops for the taller man in front and this will level out the stretcher.

In emergency situations, it is important not to panic and to avoid sacrificing your health and safety to help another person. Spend a little extra time constructing your stretcher to ensure a safer journey for all parties, injured or not.

– Stay Safe

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