MacGyver Survival Hacks You Shouldn’t Try at Home

If you ever saw the movie Beverly Hills Cop, you might remember the scene in which Eddie Murphy stalled out a car by placing a few bananas in its tailpipe.

Actors who played Angus MacGyver might have seen the film. The stars of the TV series named MacGyver did the same types of things. Except one of them used a potato for the tailpipe trick.

Stalling out a car in that fashion was one of many methods MacGyver used to beat the bad guys in the action-adventure series that aired on CBS for five seasons (2016-21).

The show became so popular that ordinary people started saying they were going to “macgyver” something. They meant they were going to use an unconventional strategy to solve a problem.  

Instead of employing guns or other weapons, MacGyver was known for building improvised solutions to problems using only materials he had on hand. Let’s take a look at some of them. But don’t try these at home. Or anywhere else.

Constructing a gas mask

Next time you want to render your enemies unconscious with gas, make sure you have a soda bottle handy.

That and some wet newspaper were all MacGyver needed to accomplish the task of protecting his lungs while his enemies passed out.

Just cut a plastic soda bottle to fit your face, leaving a small opening for breathing. Shove wet newspaper into the opening so gas doesn’t get through.

This method will work for some but not all gases, so choose your weapon carefully. For example, it will not protect against pepper spray or tear gas.

Starting a fire

Even if you have a fire starter when you’re lost in the wilderness, your efforts could be spoiled by damp wood.

That’s the situation MacGyver faced in an episode after crash-landing in the woods. He solved his dilemma by slicing sap from a pine tree trunk and sprinkling it over his kindling.

Say what? Yep, pine sap is highly flammable. If you build a cone of wood, place a bunch of sap into it and light it, you’ll have a fire.

Be careful not to use too much sap, though, or you may have more fire than you intended.

Making a laser microphone

Would you like to listen in on a neighbor’s conversation while they’re in their house? Here’s how to do it. 

Aim a beam so that it bounces off the window of the room they’re in and returns to hit a light-sensitive photocell wired to a speaker. It could translate the window’s vibrations back into sound waves.

When MacGyver was doing this, he got his laser from a CD player and his photocell from a solar light. To keep his laser steady, he used chewing gum to adhere it to a car.

In real life, the device might not be sensitive enough. You’d probably want to add an amplifier to the process. Not to mention a bodyguard to help when your neighbor comes out to confront you.

Designing a sky spy

When you’re squaring off with enemies on the ground, it’s difficult to get a true picture of where everyone and everything is. A bird’s eye view would be much preferable. That’s what MacGyver got after constructing a makeshift hot-air balloon.

He suspended an aluminum foil platform from a dry cleaning bag with a wire hanger. He then attached a cellphone to the bottom of the platform for live-stream video of the ground below. He also placed a can of Sterno on top. 

After he lit the flame, the bag filled with hot air and started floating up. This allowed the phone to serve as an airborne camera.

As a concept, this works. But the show’s technical consultant admitted that in reality the weight of the phone and fuel would be too much. According to Popular Science magazine, replacing the Sterno can with jellied alcohol could make it work.

Don’t count on foam in a free fall

Several of these MacGyver hacks are clearly unsafe. But none are as dangerous as this one.

He jumped out of a fourth-story window in a body bag filled with fire extinguisher foam to cushion his fall.

The show’s technical consultant said that surviving such a fall would require precise timing and plenty of luck. 

Otherwise, the more likely result would be death, destruction and dismemberment. Probably not something you want to take a chance with.

More ways to MacGyver stuff

Here are a few more ways MacGyver used his wits and materials he found to save the day. Search online to find more details if you’re interested.

  •           Constructing infrared-detecting glasses with a camera’s infrared filter, a microscope screen and an LED light array
  •           Repairing blown fuses with chewing gum wrappers
  •           Removing a stripped screw with a rubber band
  •           Using a bobby pin to open locks, handcuffs, etc.  

Have you ever “macgyvered” something? If so, feel free to let us know what you did and how you did it in the comments section at Patriot Headquarters.


  • Jim Dinsmore - July 16, 2021

    Thx-All useful invo will be in touch.!

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