DIY: Ice Picks

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DIY: Ice Picks
Click to view this article in the Winter 2016 issue of ADVENTURESS magazine.


Save a Life! Save Yourself!

Making your own ice rescue picks

There are several how-to’s on the Internet for making your own ice picks; however,

I couldn’t find one that stated actual details, so I made my own and included the details (you can tweak from there, if you’d like, but this gives you a great place to start). Buying the materials from the store cost $17.40, and I was able to make five pairs of ice picks out of that for my family for $3.48 each (with extra material that I could have squeezed out a 6th – $2.90 each). If you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer, you can buy pairs of ice picks ranging from about $9 to $22 each and still keep yourself safe!


– 2 pieces of wooden doweling cut to 4” in length (I used 1-1/8” poplar dowel that floats – you don’t want material that will sink in case you drop them)

– 2 stout nails (I used 3” concrete nails)

– at least 24 inches of strong cord/rope (I used 52 inches of 1/4” diamond braid

polypropylene reflective rope that is brightly colored and floats for safety)


1. Drive a nail into one end of each dowel (off-center) until it sticks out 3/4” to 1-1/4”. Optional: I pre-drilled a shallow hole (9/64” bit) to help keep it straight.

2. Use a file or grinder to sharpen the nail heads to a point.

3. In the same dowel ends, drill a hole (5/32” bit) alongside the nails so the other nail pick can rest in the hole, keeping both points covered and joining your handles together.

4. In the dowel ends opposite of the nails, drill a hole (5/16” bit) through the dowels. Feed your cord/rope through the hole and knot so a pick handle is on each end. Burn and tap the ends to keep knots in place.

5. Keep the picks in an easy-to-get-to pocket or around the body and over one shoulder for quick access if you or a companion does break through the ice.

(Don’t wear around your neck like a necklace, as this tends to come off over your head from the rush of the water when your body first plunges through the ice.)

If you Break Through the Ice

1. Extremely important – remain CALM.

2. Turn in the water toward the direction you came from (likely strongest ice).

3. Grab your ice claws and with a handle in each hand, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to help pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.

4. Once back on the ice, roll away from the area of weak ice to distribute your weight until you are at a safe place to stand.

5. Immediately get to shelter and heat, put on warm dry clothing and drink warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks to reestablish your body temperature to normal. Call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia (life-threatening drop in the body’s core temperature). ~JP