The MakeShift Challenge (or what would MacGyver do?)

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The lesson I learnt from the first one was that, if I ever go camping in deep woods by car my hand-cranked Honda portable generator will go with me (and will be tested before use). If it’s somewhere with unobstructed sunlight a solar panel will do nicely. Ah, the benefits of living in the 21st century.


It’s baling wire. Formerly used in balers, for baling hay into bales. Now obsolete, it has been replaced by baling twine. Baling twine is very useful, but in different ways than baling wire was, and much harder to cut without tools.


But you gotta admit – wire that could bail out your boat (or your brother) would be pretty damn cool ; -)

If you miss baling wire as much I used to, check out “lashing wire,” the stuff that wraps around aerial tv cable distribution lines to secure 'em to the thick “strand” cable that runs pole-to-pole.

Lashing wire is made from stainless and strong as shit in tension; also resists breaking-by-repeated-bending like nothing you’ve seen (takes about 50 sharp bends to break). Diameter is roughly 17ga AWG, typically sold on 1200’ coils for about $30; one coil lasts forever in home use. (I’ve even used it as emergency replacement for form ties when pouring concrete.)

Type 430 is low-carbon, ~18% chromium, good for everywhere except chloride/industrial environments; $30.
Type 316 is 18/10/3 chromium/nickel/molly-be-damned, holds up against anything; $60.

I worked cable construction for a few years, and ever since then lashing wire’s been standard in all my car- and tool-kits.


There’s a much simpler solution: put a spare battery (or two, if you’re paranoid) in the boot. You’ve got the car anyway, so weight isn’t an issue.

Relatedly: I do a lot of back-country solo walking, of the sort where I can easily go for a week or two without encountering any humans.

A few years ago, my Dad bought me a flint and steel, intended as a foolproof backup firestarter. It works quite well; starts fires easily.

But I never, ever carry it when I’m out walking. Why? Because the flint and steel weighs more than half a dozen disposable lighters.

What I actually carry are a few cheap lighters (to provide redundancy in case of failure), kept in a waterproof container, plus a few waterproof matches (for the unlikely possibility of me simultaneously dropping all of my lighters into a puddle or something).


Simpler so long as you remember to keep the spare battery charged and desulfated. The problem I have is remembering to do this. (I mean yes, a spare is the ideal solution and when I had a boat I had the usual dual isolated circuits and a split charger which gives you the same thing).
But, despite all the good technical reasons, I must admit I miss the starting handles on my old Land Rover and Citroens.


If the “variety of tools” includes a socket set, then use a ratchet/speed handle, extenders and socket to hand crank the engine.

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Crash the plane as hard as you can.

How can you revive your dead battery? On, and it’s a automatic transmission.

No it isn’t. That would be stupid.

An engineering firm says it will cost some $50,000 to safely deploy the Super Cow. You brag that you could easily do it for $20.

That’s also stupid. Bid $49,000.


Have you ever tried to do this? Won’t work. But taking off the fan belt and spinning the alternator would.

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You obviously never drove an Austin Ruby 7
(Normally, you’d use the supplied hand-crank anyway )

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I loved MakeShift, and was extremely disappointed when it stopped appearing in the magazine. I hope it’s really back, as that was one reason I let my subscription lapse a few years ago.

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