Improvised Litter Construction

Andrew’s Note:  One of the things I love about being in the Army is that there’s a manual for how to accomplish just about any task you can imagine.  The problem in applying Army solutions to Prepper problems is that our Army is so well supplied and funded that it has world class specialty equipment to accomplish any task that even the most well-heeled prepper can’t hope to match.  There are other Army manuals though that can fill that gap, these manuals and parts of manuals explain how to improvise many of the tools and equipment we use in the Army.  These improvised tools, techniques and procedures can often be of use to the preparedness minded as well.  Today we’re presenting an excerpt from the U.S. Army Combat Lifesaver Correspondence Course, IS0871 on making improvised litters.


There are times when a casualty may have to be moved and a standard litter, SKED litter, or Talon litter is not available. The distance may be too great for manual carries or the casualty may have an injury that would be aggravated by manual transportation. In these situations, litters can be improvised from materials at hand.  Improvised litters must be as well constructed as possible to avoid the risk of dropping the casualty or further injuring the casualty. Improvised litters are emergency measures and should be replaced by standard litters at the first opportunity. Many different types of litters can be improvised, depending upon materials available. Some are described in the following paragraphs:


10-61An improvised litter can be made using two tent poles [sticks, etc.] and a blanket. When the casualty is placed on the litter, his weight will hold the litter together.  Steps for improvising such a litter are shown in figure 10-6.

  1. Open the blanket and lay it flat on the ground.
  2. Place a pole in the middle of the blanket dividing its length into two equal sections.
  3. Lift one edge of the blanket and bring the blanket section over the pole so that it lies on top of the other half of the blanket (figure 10-6A).
  4. Place a second pole so that it divides the doubled blanket into two equal sections (figure 10-6B).
  5. Bring the far edge of the blanket over the second pole and place the edge next to the first pole (figure 10-6C). The improvised litter is now ready to receive the casualty. (Note that the “bed” of the litter contains four layers of material.)


10-7There are many variations of the blanket and pole improvised litter. Straight tree limbs or other similar rigid objects can be substituted for the poles. A poncho, tent half, waterproof canvas, or other material can be used instead of a blanket.  Instructions for improvising a litter using two tent poles and a poncho are given below.

  1. Open the poncho and lay it flat on the ground.
  2. Lay two poles across the poncho so that the poncho is divided into thirds (figure 10-7A).
  3. Reach in and pull the hood of the poncho toward you and lay it flat on the poncho. Make sure the drawstrings are not hanging out of the hole. (The hood and drawstrings could catch on brush or other obstacles if left hanging.)
  4. Fold one outer third of the poncho over the pole and bring the outer edge of theponcho material next to the far pole (figure 10-7B).
  5. Fold the other outer third of the poncho over its pole in the same manner (figure 10-7C). (Note that the “bed” of the litter contains three layers of material.)


10-8An improvised litter can be made using two tent poles and two or three field jackets. Tree limbs or other straight, rigid objects can be used instead of the poles. Heavy shirts or other jackets can be used instead of field jackets.

  1. Close (zip or button) the jackets (or other garments).
  2. Turn the garments inside out, but leave the sleeves inside (figure 10-8A).  NOTE:    Turning the garments inside out puts buttons and zippers on the inside. This keeps the casualty from lying on buttons or zippers (if on top) and keeps them from getting snagged on bushes or other obstacles (if on bottom).
  3. Place one garment below the other so that the sleeves are aligned.
  4. Slide the poles through the sleeves (figure 10-8B).


10-92An improvised litter can be made using two tent poles or similar rigid objects and two empty heavy fabric sacks, such as potato sacks. A sack and pole improvised litter is shown in figure 10-9.

  1. Cut holes in the two corners of the closed end of each sack.
  2. Place the sacks lengthwise so the open ends of the sacks are facing each other.
  3. Slide the poles or limbs through the holes.
  4. Overlap the open ends of the sacks about three inches to provide extra strength in the middle of the litter.




Andrew’s Note:   So, what is a Combat Lifesaver?  A combat lifesaver is like the Army’s version of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) but a combat lifesaver has about 80 hours of specialized medical training versus nearly double that for civilian EMT’s (that’s EMT-1).  Combat lifesavers offer an intermediate level of care between buddy aid and what the medic offers.


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