If you could hike with one person, living or dead, fictional or real, who would it be? Most people say their spouse or their dog, but there’s only one right answer to that question: MacGyver. Nobody would bring more to the table than this fictional hero of the popular ‘80s action-drama. Remember the episode when MacGyver survived an avalanche by using his ski pole and a piece of parachute as a signal flare? Or the one where he made a telescope out of a newspaper, watch, and a magnifying glass?
Unfortunately, there’s not much chance of MacGyver showing up at your weekly club hike. So we’ve dug up five backcountry moves that even the most resourceful secret agent would be envious of. Eat your heart out Richard Dean Anderson.
1) The Sewing Needle Compass: Ahab did it in Moby Dick and later on Anthony Hopkins tried it in The Edge. Rub one end of a needle or safety pin against a piece of silk in one direction, magnetizing the needle. Place the needle on a leaf, then place the leaf in a small pool of water. The magnetized end of the needle will point north.
2) Emergency Plant Water: Plants like bamboo or cactus contain small stores of water, but all plants evaporate water as part of the photosynthesis process (remember biology 101). In order to collect the water evaporating from the plant, wrap a clear plastic bag around a bushy branch or the entire plant. Fill the bag with air and tie it tightly around the base of the branch. In time, water evaporating from the leaves of the plant will collect at the bottom of the plastic bag.
3) The Feminine Hygiene Fire: What’s the best fire-starter found in a woman’s purse or backpack? Tampons. The refined cotton used to manufacture tampons ignites easily and burns long, making it an excellent fire-starter in a jam.
4) The Baby Diaper Boot: You’ve been sweating like a pig and crossing streams all day, so your boots are soaked. Slice a baby diaper into several strips, stuffing a single strip into each boot. The super-absorbent material will soak up the moisture trapped in your boots and by morning, you’ll have dry shoes.
5) The Trash-bag Tent: The trash-bag could be the single most important item in your backpack. It can carry water, work as an emergency blanket, become a poncho, keep wounds clean and sanitary, and in a pinch transform into an emergency shelter. Cut the edges of a trash-bag so it becomes a long sheet of plastic. Remove the drawstring from the looped ends. Get two sticks slightly wider than the ends of the bag and run them through the looped ends where the drawstring used to be, giving the bag a wood “frame.” Stake one end of the bag to the ground and tie the other end to the tree with rope (or shoe-strings) to form a lean-to cover.