How to Gear Up Like MacGyver

BY: MacDriver

I’ve tried to observe the sort of things MacGyver carried and how he carried them so I can be equally prepared, and I’ll share it as food for thought. If you are just a fan, this probably won’t seem as interesting as if you are a Mac-wannabe who is fixing something with your SAK every day of the week.
It seems Mac was a minimalist- despite the image he has of being the guy who carries a hardware store in his pocket. The first step to thinking like Mac when loading up is keep it to a minimum. He never used the largest Swiss Army Knife (SAK) you can buy, or a fanny pack full of goodies. So, step one is to keep it light and basic.
A second principle was always having a SAK, duct tape, and a watch. The watch anyone needs, the duct tape is infinitely versatile, and likewise for SAKs. As he could plan ahead he would take more, so it’s obvious he was adaptable. If you seem to need string a lot, or lock picks (let’s hope not) or anything else, you could incorporate it into what you carry around. Just be real with yourself about whether you ever would need 1 sq. ft. of aluminum foil folded up in your wallet.
A third principle was each item had multiple uses. The watch became a magnifier, the knife became a lock pick, and the matches could become a timer. So if you add things, especially bulky things, to what you carry around, then make sure the items are worth their space in gold. He always wore a belt, too, and it came in handy more than once.

All that being said, I don’t think it’s un-MacGyver-like to carry a cell phone (calculator/phone/etc.) or a notepad, but it surprises me when people think they are MacGyver for weighing them down with a ton of worthless gear. I guess the big no-nos would be wearing stuff on your belt and having so much in your pockets you can’t quickly get to any particular thing you might need.

I personally just go with a SAK, some flattened-out duct tape, a watch, cell phone, and an LED pinch light on my key-chain. My wallet is a thin ID type that just has cards and cash in it. Other ideas I’ve had in the past included paper clips on the key-chain, a rolled up 25 ft. + piece of string, jumper leads with alligator clips on both ends, matches, lock picks (or a compact lock pick tool), a handkerchief (from flame’s end) and folded aluminum foil. I could see a USB drive being useful as well, it just all boils down to your daily needs. Oh, and only carry high quality products, Victorinox, 3M, Diamond, Photon, etc. The last thing you want is a knock-off SAK breaking off in a screw head!

MacGyver also had extensive knowledge that backed up the use of everything he had. A basic understanding of metals, chemistry (not my strong point), automotive systems, basic electrical info, and skills like lockpicking all complemented his gear well. And, for me, being hands-on was always the best way to learn. With most things, you can usually acquire cheaply things to practice building skills on. Hammering, welding, and bending metal, lockpicking, practicing electrical wiring with low current DC, etc. all are easy to do and cost little more than your time. This knowledge contributes to having the right mental mindset and approach: “Odds are, I can use what I have and the things around me to improve this situation. Every physical thing can change state and might be useful.” MacGyver never had to think about that- it was just his M.O. Think outside the box, look beyond the obvious purpose of an object and break it down to its properties.

So, if you call yourself more than a fan and seem to actually live out the life of Mac, being equipped mentally and physically both are crucial. Try to get the most out of the least amount of pocket junk. And if you really want to be extra prepared, you can expand to a bag of “sometimes items” and keep it in your car. Hopefully it will be close enough most of the time you won’t ever be left out to dry. Mac obviously had a crew standing by with what he needed for the next scene- wouldn’t that be nice?

So remember, keep it light, try to carry items with multiple uses, and adapt to what you do and don’t need.

I’d love to hear what others are doing, so let me know in the comments section.


MacGyvering Your Life is a regular series looking at ways we can incorporate aspects of MacGyer’s values, ethics and mindset into our own lives. we encourage feedback and discussion via the comments section below and if you would like to contribute with your own article you can contact us here.


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