|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – October 2000
An emergency kit doesn't amount to a hill of beans unless a few feet of duct tape are included. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the sticky, miraculous fix-all.
While hiking the A.T. last summer, I slid in the mud and jammed a stick into my knee far enough to warrant stitches. I was two or three days from town so I cleaned out the stick, cleansed the area with baby wipes, rubbed Neosporin on it, and taped it with duct tape. After a few days, I pulled it off to see my wound was healing with only a little bit of a scar.
Two years ago I took a spill during a hut-to-hut cross-country ski trip in Papineau-LaBelle Provincial Reserve (northwest of Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and cut my knuckle open. It wasn't a large cut but it bled like the dickens and an adhesive bandage wouldn't stay on because of the flexing of my hand and the sticky blood. I was embarrassed that all the world could see my clumsiness in the trail of blood I was leaving, but my guide was concerned that other people on the trail might think that he wasn't taking good care of his customers. He wrapped my finger with gauze and then wrapped, really wrapped, the finger with duct tape. When we got to the hut and removed the tape and gauze, the cut was beginning to close. I keep duct tape wrapped around my canoe thwarts, my water bottle, ski poles and even a pencil at work in order to cover any possible emergency.
When my son sprained his ankle on the AT in northeastern Pennsylvania, I taped him up, then wrapped his ankle with an ace bandage. He hiked 7 miles on ultra rocky terrain to Wind Gap, where I hitched a ride to my car, and drove back to pick him up. The following week he proceeded to make the freshman football team without any ankle complications. Duct tape served our needs better than anything could have for that type of injury.
West Hartford, CT
Working as a guide in the perilous Mojave Desert, I have discovered that covering a body part infest with cactus spines with a strip of duct tape, then ripping it off is faster and more effect that scraping with a pocketknife or picking out with a tweezers. Repeat as necessary, or as long as you can stand it, since this can be petty painful on hairy legs. And prickly pear cactus fruit and beavertail cactus are the worst, with their small, almost hair-like needles that can literally cover your hand if you accidentally touch the little devils.
Las Vegas, NV