Last Saturday I was in Ottawa for the Outdoor Adventure Show and was interviewed by CBC Radio’s Michael Bhardwaj’s for his morning show – In Town and Out. Michael had me talking about new high tech. camp gadgets and traditional gear. It was a blast. We also decided to do a give-away of some products from both gear groups: Kelly Kettle, Goal Zero Solar Power Guide 10 kit and some SealLine dry sacks. The contest was to have listeners send in their best MacGyver story. We had an insane amount of entries and it was difficult to pick the winner. But near the end of the day we created a short list (see below) and chose Alison MacIvor – that’s right, “MacIvor.” What luck is that! Congratulations Alison.
So, just for fun, add your MacGyer moment to the blog here. I’ll send out my new film “The Happy Camper’s Wilderness Quest” to the winner.
“MacGyvering” Food Supply on an Arctic Canoe Trip by Jenifer Cepella
So, picture this. We’re sitting on the shores of an arctic lake. The canoes are stowed on shore since the waves are enormous; it’s 20C and the wind is howling. It’s been howling for 5 weeks and in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, on this 7-week canoe trip in Nunavut, it was the worst weather on record. Although we never camped in the same spot, there were days when the headwinds permitted progress of only 10 km.
The problem: we had just over 45 days of food for 11 strong, determined and hungry people. From Day 35 on, we stretched our food supply by having only two meals per day. When we fished during our wind-bound spells, we’d toss the lake trout (sometimes up to 100 lbs) into a garbage bag in the bottom of the canoe then paddle from 6 pm to 5 am each night when the winds were calmer. But as the Inuit know, fish are not fatty enough to sustain active people in cold temperatures. We needed fat!
On Day 43, we happened to cook up bacon. In the habit of saving everything, we cooled the grease and kept it. Some of us who had cracked hands, lips and faces from the constant cold winds, smeared the grease as a “beauty aid”. The main supply, however, came in handy 10 days after our food was supposed to have run out. As we were sitting by yet another maelstrom of a lake, just 40 km from our finish yet unable to proceed, we half-jokingly analyzed how long it would take any one of us to starve to death. We looked down at our lunch and laughed, for it consisted of almost all we had left in our packs: one pancake each and a good dollop of bacon grease. Back in the city, we mused, people wouldn’t clamour for such a repast!
Luckily, that was to be our final lunch, for the lake was flat-calm the next day. We finished the trip with the pride of knowing we had successfully .
It seems no matter how many times you revise your gear list, there’s always something that you’re not going to have when you’re miles from nowhere. And so it was on a summer canoe trip, a few portages into the depths of Algonquin’s interior that I experienced one of my best MacGyver moments. We were preparing to break camp when the aluminum bracket securing the center thwart broke and allowed the gunnels to open up like a limp taco. Without a new bracket and a way to rivet it, we wouldn’t be able to fully load the canoe or solo carry across the portages. I had visions of wrapping rope around the middle of the entire canoe but my fiberglass canoe already paddled like it was towing an anchor. I figured the best remedy was to cut a sturdy branch to the correct length and splint it along the broken thwart using a combination of spare duct tape that I had wrapped around my Nalgene bottle and steel wire from the handle of my cooking pot. It worked like a charm and we were able to paddle back to the put-in safe and sound. I think part of what makes a wilderness trip so satisfying is overcoming the obstacles one faces and proving necessity is the mother of invention.
Here’s to keeping your paddle in the water,
In 1975, when I was 12, our family of 4 made a cross-Canada trip, staying in provincial and national parks. Staying in Pacific Rim National Park, we were given a hefty sockeye salmon by an Aboriginal fisherman in Tofino. Returning to our campsite, we found that someone had stolen our campfire cooking pot, so my dad pried off the hub cap from our first new car (a Ford Pinto station wagon),and my mom scrubbed out the hub cap, and cooked the fish over a capmfire. I remember that salmon as the best I have ever tasted,and that trip opened my eyes to the amazing natural beauty of this country, with interpreted tours and activities in many of the parks. Our family’s camping trips, and my parents immigrant ingenuity (we immigrated in 1967- Centennial year) have equipped me well in life.
Hi In Town and Out!
I am a planner. Every detail of our camping trip had been planned regarding menu, clothing, gear and activities. I only left out one detail. One major detail. The bag that I so carefully packed with 2 days of cloth diapers and wipes got left by the front door! Our one year old was a true champ and rolled along with her modified diapering system: tea towels tied at each hip, stuffed with a sanitary pad! The tea towels were washed out after each use and thankfully were quick to dry in the sun! We did have a few leaks, but a one year old camping is partially a clothing optional experience!
It was 1974, and I was leading a trip down the Kippawa River in Quebec. We scouted a set of class three rapids and figured we could make it. Our plan was to get the kids to carry the packs over the portage, while Jim, my co-guide and I ran each of the three cedar strip canoes through the rapids. What fun we would have!
The first two trips down the rapids were terrific, but on the last, we encountered a set of three standing waves we hadn’t seen before. It was over the first wave, smash into the crest of the second, rush down its back side and crush by the third wave that rolled over us as the canoe turned askew. I was thrust to the bottom while Jim caught an eddy. He made it to one of our beached canoes at the side and came to get me at the end of the rapids. My knee and our canoe were banged up. The canoe took the worst of it. One side had folded off form. Two thwarts, the bow seat, and an outwhale were torn away.
We stayed in camp the next day to fix the canoe. We cut a new outwhale with an axe from a sapling and lashed it on with fishing wire. We brought the hull back to form by lashing it cross beam where the thwarts used to be. We gathered pine sap, rigged up a double boiler with two pots and melted the gum to a creamy texture to fill in cracks in ribs of the hull. We used a pack as a seat for the bowman to sit on the rest of the trip.
While we were doing this, the campers were off in the other canoes fishing. They caught much more than we could eat, but somehow managed to eat it all! Two years ago, I finally got that ruined knee replaced.
Thank you Dr. Douglas Ritter!
While growing up we often get some interesting pronunciations of our last name, MacIvor. Especially in the 80′s when MacGyver was a popular show. It was a good joke in our house, and to win a contest for “MacGyver-ing” something would be fantastic!
I was listening to your piece about sticky situations while camping this morning, and felt that I had to email in an entry. Not for myself, but for my parents (Debbie and Rick MacIvor). My parents have always enjoyed camping. We camped a lot as kids, and they and still get out at least a few times a year. Sometimes in their little trailer, other times in their tent. It was a camping trip to Long Point from a couple of summers ago with their tent that popped into my mind when I heard about this contest.
The thing with camping in a tent, is that there are lots of little things that you have to make sure you don’t forget. The tent, your sleeping bags, the fly, the pegs…. and especially the poles! Yes, my parents went camping and once they got to the campsite they realized that neither of them had packed the poles. Now, this would make some people get angry and decide that camping wasn’t meant to happen and head home, or to a hotel. Not my parents. They just looked in the car and decided that they would set up the tent with what they had. So with a little “MacGyver-ing-”, and using some rope, the dining tent and two golf umbrellas, the tent was set up. It was a cozy little cave, but worked all the same. They were very proud of themselves. So proud that once they got home they emailed pictures of the adventure to my sisters and I. I have attached the pictures of their “MacGyver-ed” tent to this email to complement the story. I hope that you enjoy it.
Great show this morning. Would like to say that I have preformed great MacGyver feats while camping, but alas I have only been a witness to my friend Andy’s abilities. A great example of his talents happened during his latest trip – a back country ski weekend adventure with his extended family a month ago. With five kids under 13 in the two families, the ski equipment has been used by most of the kids and now is both well loved, and well used. In particular the three-pin ski boot being used by one of the boys appeared to be fine when they left the parking lot on the first day, but after a weekend worth of challenging forest trails the sole began to split from the boot. What to do? Well duct tape would work, but wouldn’t really be strong enough to provide the structural support needed to keep skiing. Not to worry the empty beer can would do the trick – so Andy cut off the top and bottom off the can, folded the sheet of metal over the sole and boot, duct taped it on, then used his pole to recut the three holes. Worked perfectly. So did the re-engineered ski pole that was MacGyvered when the glue holding on the grip (and strap) at the top of the pole, and basket at the bottom of the pole stopped working. The grip and strap were recreated with duct tape, and the basket was replaced with a crushed beer can, again attached with Re Green’s favourite tool—duct tape.
So I nominate Andy as my MacGyver hero.