Vol. 18: MakeShift: To the Bat Cave!

The creator of MacGyver challenges you: find your way out of a pitch-black bat cave using only your wits and what's on your back.

By Lee D. Zlotoff

Photos by Jen Siska

+ Downloads & Extras:

To the Bat Cave!

The Scenario:

You and a friend, both experienced campers, are out for a wilderness weekend in one of your favorite desert areas when, around sunset you see a large, densely concentrated, directional swarm of bats sweeping low across the landscape. Intrigued by the sighting, you hike back along their flight path until you come upon the entrance to a cave from which they emanate - a cave that, as far as you know, is unknown. And the lack of any signs of human activity around the entrance seems to confirm that.

Not wanting to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some genuine adventure, you convince your friend to at least go in a little way to explore the cave. So, gearing up with packs and flashlights, you tie a guide rope to a bush near the entrance and slip through the narrow opening to have a look inside. The cave quickly widens, and once you get past the odor of the bats, you're both astonished by the undisturbed beauty of the structure. You venture deeper into this pristine geo-world until the rope runs out, but neither of you is keen to stop now. So you agree to make directional markers along the way in order to explore farther - marks cut into the cave floor or walls, piles of stones, bits of fabric; whatever they are, assume that they stick.

The Challenge:

Taking many turns through naturally formed tunnels and chambers, you're both so involved that you finally realize that neither of you has been trail-marking for some time. The flashlights make everything seem bright, but when they're off it is pitch black. A little backtracking doesn't find your last markers, and you realize you're most definitely lost. You hear the chittering of a few remaining bats and the dripping of water, but other than that and your breathing, the cave is deathly silent. So, aside from resisting the urge to panic, what do you do now?

What You Have:

Two sturdy, aluminum-frame overnight backpacks, two canteens of water, some protein bars and other durable foods, two flashlights with extra batteries, a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool, a strong, flexible 3-foot wire saw with split-ring finger-handles on both ends, some waterproof matches, a compass, a cellphone (no, you don't get a signal down here), and a GPS locator (also no signal). Besides your hiking boots, you each have waterproof nylon rain gear and a nice warm jacket. So, can you find your way out, or have you truly reached the end of your rope?

Send a detailed description of your MakeShift solution with sketches and/or photos to by Aug. 21, 2009. If duplicate solutions are submitted, the winner will be determined by the quality of the explanation and presentation. The most plausible and most creative solutions will each win a MAKE T-shirt and a MAKE Pocket Ref. Think positive and include your shirt size and contact information with your solution. Good luck! For readers' solutions to previous MakeShift challenges, visit makezine.com/makeshift.

And the next MakeShift challenge could be yours! That's right, we're throwing open the doors and offering you the chance to create your own MakeShift to challenge the world. Just submit an original scenario in the familiar format - the challenge, what you have, etc. - with some ideas of how you think it should be solved. The winning scenario will not only be published right here but will also earn you a $50 gift certificate for the Maker Shed. The deadline is Aug. 21, 2009, so get out there and start looking for trouble!


Additional content for this article, available only online.

MakeShift 18: Analysis, Commentary, and Winners

by Lee D. Zlotoff; October 20, 2009 | Technorati | del.icio.us

MakeShift 18: Maggie Widener's Most Creative Winning Entry

Maggie Widener's entry was awarded the MakeShift Master Creative award for her solution to MakeShift 18.
by Lee D. Zlotoff; October 20, 2009 | Technorati | del.icio.us

MakeShift 18: Daniel Bennett's Most Plausible Winning Entry

Daniel Bennett's entry was awarded the MakeShift Master Plausible award for his solution to MakeShift 18.
by Lee D. Zlotoff; October 20, 2009 | Technorati | del.icio.us

Join the conversation -- every MAKE article has an online page that includes a place for discussion. We've made these RSS and Atom feeds to help you watch the discussions: subscribe.