First published 1st April 1998

This project is based upon the old army method of recognisance, a man-lifting kite.


Attention must be paid to the suitability of all the equipment. Either large bamboo canes or hollow aluminium poles can be used for the kite struts and a strong 6mm polyester rope should be used for the towing line.

  • 4 x bamboo poles (or aluminium poles) 2.5m (8ft) long
  • 2 of 5x1m of non-rip material (spinnaker sail cloth is ideal)
  • 20 x 6mm metal eyelets
  • 1 coil 6mm polyester rope
  • 1 x full body climbing harness (the type that has shoulder straps)
  • 2 x short climbing strops
  • 1 x safety harness


The design is a traditional box kite with the pilot riding inside the kite. It is best prepared in advanced so high standards can be assured.

Start by making the sail panels: all seams should be double stitched using strong polyester or Dacron thread. Each panel is made from a piece of cloth 4.1m x 1m (13.5ft x 3.3ft).

Now cut 4 pieces 0.95m x 0.12m (37″ x 4.5″) from the remaining cloth and stitch them across the main panel at 1m centres (see diagram). This will create 4 long pockets to take the spars of the kite.

Hem the sides of the panel by folding 1cm over and double stitching it, taking care to close one end of the pockets. Fit a 6mm eyelet either side of the open end of each pocket and additional eyelets at the centre, either side of the pockets. Finally, create the box section by joining the ends of the panel with a double seam.

Assemble the kite by sliding the spars into the pockets of the sail panels and use lengths of cord in the eyelets to anchor the panels to the spars.

Cut 4 x 1m long lengths of 6m cord to make the bridles for the kite. These are attached through the remaining eyelets to create two vertical loops.

Note: it is very important that the bridles are exactly the same length.

Tie the tow line to the kite about 1.5m from the top and test fly the kite. Adjust the length of the bridles and the position of the tow line until the kite flies reasonably.

No attach the climbing strops to the back spars and fit a dummy load and test the kite again. Continue the test flights with increased load until you have confidence in the kite.

Finally, select your pilot and go for it!

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls